James Hanratty was 32 when he was arrested by British forces and lodged in Richmond Barracks in Dublin, before being shipped to England.
His young wife had died at the beginning of 1915, and their little daughter was being raised by her grandmother, with the help of her aunt and her uncle. In letters home, he constantly sent messages to his little girl, whom he missed very much.
He was a member of the Dundalk Battalion ‘A’ Company that, on Easter Sunday, marched to Ardee and Castlebellingham, and on to Slane.
The battalion returned to Castlebellingham on Easter Monday and, on Tuesday, marched to Ratoath, where James was arrested. He was taken to Slane Castle and then to Dublin.
About 3,000 men and a number of women were arrested following the Rising, but the majority of these were released soon afterwards.
Following short periods of time in Wakefield, Wormwood Scrubs, and other British prisons, James was eventually sent to Frongoch Internment Camp in North Wales, where around 1,800 Irishmen were incarcerated.
About half of this number were released and sent home to Ireland in July 1916 following the Sankey Inquiry. James was not released until Christmas Eve, 1916.
The men in Frongoch did not want to remain idle during their detention there, and their leaders organised various educational classes and other activities for them — so much so that the camp came to be known as the University of Revolution.
They also produced many items such as Celtic crosses carved from animal bones, and other artistic pieces.
One of the pastimes of the men was to record their names, and various messages in small ‘autograph’ books. James Hanratty’s entry in the Frongoch autograph book is pictured above.
The custom of autograph books was still in operation in 1920/21, during the War of Independence. In Belfast jail, a book (Ballygullion by Lynn Doyle) was used by James Hanratty and his colleagues to record their names.
Many of his 1916 co-internees appear in a photograph that was taken in 1956 at the unveiling of a plaque in Dundalk commemorating the 1916 Rising — evidence that James and his comrades remained in contact all during that time.
James Hanratty died in 1962.
Lelia O’Flaherty, a former editor in Irish University Press, is James Hanratty’s niece. This article is adapted from an entry in Trinity College Library’s 1916 blog, Changed Utterly: www.tcd.ie/Library/1916
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