A number of new artefacts associated with General Michael Collins are set to go on public display in a museum in Clonakilty, Co Cork, as soon as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
Michael Collins House museum staff have catalogued a collection of papers and artefacts belonging to Michael Collins’ brother Seán and his son, Liam, leading to some incredible discoveries.
“Among this collection which will go on display are rare photographs of Collins. There are also artefacts from his office, including small envelopes which as IRA director of intelligence he used to send secret messages to his intelligence network," museum manager Jamie Murphy said.
A collection of political and historical pamphlets that belonged to Collins, including signed copies of commemorative Robert Emmet booklets, will also go on display.
"It seems from his collection Collins had an affinity to Emmet,” Mr Murphy said.
Ironically, the square in which the museum is located is named after Emmet and these booklets will be included in a new Emmet display along with other newly acquired memorabilia such as a signed letter fragment Emmet wrote just hours before his execution.
Collins lost his father when he was just six and his mother 10 years later. One of his prized possessions was her memorial card and a eulogy newspaper clipping.
These were uncovered during the cataloguing process of the Collins collection, hidden inside an envelope within one of his ‘Robert Emmet’ pamphlets.
“This will now form a central part of the new displays and adds more depth to the Collins character we know, highlighting a more fragile side of the young man,” Mr Murphy said.
One of the lesser-known figures the new research has recognised as a key influence on Collins in his formative years is his brother-in-law Patrick O’Driscoll.
Collins lodged with his sister, Margaret, and her husband, Patrick, in Emmet Square in his teenage years prior to his move to London in 1906.
O’Driscoll worked as a journalist and editor of a number of prominent nationalist newspapers in Cork before launching his own local paper. His temperament and journalistic style saw him fall foul of a number of libel cases around this time.
Among the new artefacts on display will be the tool that caused much of this trouble – O’Driscoll's personal typewriter. It's likely the young Collins also got to use it.
“In addition to this, audio visual displays such as a traditional school desk, albeit with a large touch screen, where you can sit and take a test like Collins sat for the Civil Service exams, add a challenge and some fun suitable for all ages.
"Here you can even browse Collins' actual examination paper and his tongue-in-cheek written composition discussing his love for history and how without it ‘we could not tell how an island such as Great Britain came to be the greatest power on the face of the earth,’ is worth a read,” Mr Murphy said.
The museum has also expanded its online offering with regular videos, podcasts, articles and more all available on the Michael Collins House App, website and social media pages.