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Rare 1917 autograph book donated to Clare Museum

A rare autograph book containing the signatures of many of the key figures from Ireland’s revolutionary period including Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Countess Markievicz has been donated to Clare Museum.
 
The autograph book was once owned by an Ennis woman who campaigned during the 1917 East Clare by-election that spawned the political career of 1916 Rising participant and future Taoiseach and President, Eamon de Valera. The by-election was triggered by the death of East Clare MP Willie Redmond during the Battle of Messines in Flanders, Belgium, during World War One.
 

AUTOGRAPH2
Arthur Griffith’s autograph as contained in a rare autograph book containing the signatures of many of the key figures from Ireland’s revolutionary period including Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Countess Markievicz.
 
AUTOGRAPH3
Austin Stack’s autograph as contained in a rare autograph book containing the signatures of many of the key figures from Ireland’s revolutionary period including Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Countess Markievicz.
 
AUTOGRAPH4
Michael Collins’ autograph as contained in a rare autograph book containing the signatures of many of the key figures from Ireland’s revolutionary period including Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Countess Markievicz.


Kathleen Griffin from Ennis was an 18 year-old member of Cumann na mBan when she participated in de Valera’s election campaign in July 1917.  In the days of before the by-election, Kathleen kept the autograph book with her, recording the signatures of prominent republican figures who came to campaign for de Valera.
 
Names recorded in the album include future national figures such as Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, Austin Stack, Count Plunkett, Countess Markievicz and Alice Milligan, as well as local republicans such as Meelick’s Michael and Patrick Brennan who would go on to become key figures in the War of Independence. Eamon de Valera’s signature was also recorded in the album but was later removed by a priest who kept it as a souvenir.
 
‘The album is a welcome addition to the Clare Museum collection, especially during this centenary year of the by-election,” said John Rattigan, Museum Curator.

“It joins a number of other items from the by-election already in the collection and complements Patrick Brennan’s Frongoch autograph book which is currently on display in the museum.  Some of the names appear in both albums, with many giving their prison numbers in Kathleen Griffins album indicating their imprisonment after in the aftermath of the Rising,” he added.
 
It is intended to display the autograph book in time for the centenary of the by-election in July 2017.
 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Kathleen Griffin does not appear to have had a prominent role in Clare during the War of Independence but she did rescue a teenage boy from some drunk Black-and-Tans who were about to shoot him by pretending to be his sister.   She emigrated to Liverpool to work but moved back to Ireland to marry an Englishman in the early 1920s and raised a family in Ennis.  She returned to the UK however, when the whole family emigrated to London in the 1960s.  Kathleen took the autograph book with her, eventually leaving it to her granddaughter Marian when she passed away aged in her 90s.
 
The album came to the museum by a circuitous route involving the Museum at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin.  A relative of Niall Bergin, a curator at the museum met Marian Trevillion, a granddaughter of Kathleen Griffin from Cornwall, while walking the Camino de Santiago.  Marian told the man about the autograph book and he put her in contact with Niall.  During the summer of 2016 Marian took the autograph book to Kilmainham on a visit to Dublin where there is a large collection of autograph books from the period.  However, Mrs Trevillion was keen for the book to come to the birth place of her grandmother and Niall deposited the autograph book with Clare Museum earlier this year.  It is thought that the album has never been viewed by a historian.

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