Jackie Clarke Library

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 3 (May/Jun 2006), News, Volume 14

The Jackie Clarke Library spans nearly 400 years of Irish history and contains over 15,000 items: rare books, manuscripts, photographs, legal papers, pamphlets, handbills, newspapers, autograph books, news sheets, circulars, reports, letters, periodicals, cartoons, maps, minute books, theses, articles and proclamations. And it was put together during the lifetime of one man, Jackie Clarke, an ordinary man with an extraordinary passion for Ireland’s history, and particularly its revolutionary tradition.
Jackie Clarke was born in Ballina in March 1928 into a well-to-do merchant family, the eldest of three children of John and Loretta Clarke. His life’s work began while he was still a pupil at Blackrock College, Dublin. After leaving school Jackie established a successful fish-processing business. In the 1950s he was one of the pioneers of the smoked salmon industry, establishing a worldwide brand.
This library contains many rare and important items, and much that is unique or previously unknown. The earliest item dates from 1617, a letter from William Sarsfield of Cork conferring lands on William Penn.  Other important seventeenth-century items are two letters from the earl of Tyrconnell, secretary of state to James II. The earliest book dates from 1641. There are also newspapers from this period, including a copy of the London Gazette (8 October 1691), which has a report of a camp on the Clare side of the Shannon just before the siege of Limerick.
Jackie Clarke was particularly interested in 1798 material and his collection includes many documents issued during the Rebellion, including a rare handbill. Two of five extant Wolfe Tone manuscript letters are in the collection, as well as the cockade worn at his trial. Other unique and exceptional items are an autograph book signed by members of the First Dáil and the plenipotentiaries sent to negotiate the Treaty in 1921; a collection of intelligence material gathered by the Westmeath battalion of the IRA during the War of Independence; documentation on the publishing of An Phoblacht; material relating to the fatal shooting of Barney Casey in the Curragh Camp in the 1940s; lectures and political speeches; and even a copy of a late draft, with corrections, of Bowyer Bell’s The secret army. There are also over 250 pamphlets, a number of which were published privately or only available by subscription, which will provide new source material for scholars. There is a substantial collection of 327 political cartoons dating from 1881 to 1896.
Within this library there are the libraries of others, including the books and papers of Ernie O’Malley. There is also a substantial collection of material that once belonged to Douglas Hyde, including his own New Testament Bible, translated from Greek to Irish, dated 1816. There is a vast newspaper archive with extensive runs of periodicals such as Shan Van Vocht, Nationality, The Volunteer (1914–16), Claidheamh Soluis, Macaomh, The Spark, the Achill Missionary Herald, the Penny Journal and The Republic. There is also a complete collection of the London Evening Post, 1714–15. In addition, there are Jackie Clarke’s own scrapbooks and press cuttings from 1944 until his death in 2000.
The 1916 material in this collection is outstanding. The Proclamation is there, but so is a rarer 1917 version. Each of the signatories is represented by personal items, including Thomas MacDonagh’s diary, written in French; handwritten and unpublished poetry of Joseph Mary Plunkett; the unpublished le Roux manuscript of the life of Seán MacDiarmada; and important documents written by Eamonn Ceannt from the South Dublin Union garrison, which were used as evidence against him at his court martial.
The library will open in the historic and iconic Moy Hotel, Pearse Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo, later in 2006.

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