Published: November 6, 2001
Boston College Aquires, Exhibits Major Collection of the Revolutionary Clarkes
CHESTNUT HILL, MASS. – “From the Easter Rising to the Rise of the Irish Republic: Thomas & Kathleen Clarke and their Era” — exclusively at Boston College’s Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections now through January 2002 – celebrates BC’s acquisition of the collection of famed Irish rebel leader Thomas J. Clarke and his wife Kathleen, herself a key figure in the period. Most of the materials contained in the exhibit have never before been on view in the United States.
The Clarke Collection enhances The Irish Collection at Burns Library, already regarded as the most comprehensive collection of its kind outside Ireland.
Also on display is an Irish tricolor flag given to Boston College as a token of goodwill following the tragedies of September 11. The flag is believed to have flown atop one of Dublin’s historic buildings during the Irish Civil War, and was presented as a gift by Irish antiquarian bookseller Eamonn de Burca.
“We give this as a gesture of love and goodwill to a great country and people that has so many links to Ireland,” he writes in a September 17 letter to Burns Librarian Robert O’Neill.
The Clarke Collection, preserved by their son Emmet, is rich in books, letters, photographs, newspapers, manuscripts, pamphlets and ephemera drawn from the original collection commenced by Clarke himself as well as from material contributed by his wife Kathleen, who was entrusted with the plans for the 1916 Easter Rising in case the leaders of the plot were all arrested.
The exhibit reviews political and cultural activities leading to the Easter Rising, the war for independence and the Irish Civil War. The showing also draws upon the rich holdings of the Burns Library’s celebrated Irish Collection, and includes several rdf_Descriptions made available by The Boston Public Library, including a letter from Arthur Griffith, first president of the provisional government of the Irish Free State, to noted Irish statesman Eamon de Valera, and a hand-written speech by Kathleen Clarke.
Thomas Clarke, the revolutionary leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, was the first signer of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which was read aloud on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916 during what became known as the Easter Rising. The uprising was the first of a series of events that culminated in the establishment of the Irish Free State (predecessor of the Republic of Ireland) in 1921. For his part in the Easter Rising, Clarke was executed with the first group of leaders at Kilmainham Jail in May 1916.
It also was Clarke who in 1915 had organized the funeral for Fenian leader O’Donovan Rossa in Dublin. Clarke requested that poet Padraic Pearse deliver the now-famous funeral oration, in which Pearse exclaimed, “Ireland unfree will never be at peace!”
Clarke’s wife, Kathleen Daly of Limerick, played a pivotal role in the Republic Movement and the Rebellion as well. After losing both her husband and her only brother, Ned Daly, in the aftermath of the Rising, she entered politics and remained politically active all her life, especially as a leader in the women’s movement. In 1939, she became the first woman Lord Mayor of Dublin, at which time she was quoted as saying: “I am terribly keen on the fact that women, if given the opportunity, could do as well in positions in public life as the men.”
Her contribution to the Clarke Collection at BC also traces her friendship with Countess Constance Markievicz – known as “Madame” and the “Red Countess” – who was an active participant in the Easter Rising.
Kathleen Clarke died in 1972, at the age of 94, and was honored with a State funeral.
“This exhibition celebrates a major acquisition for our historical section,” said BC’s O’Neill, “and underscores our very strong commitment to documenting the history of Ireland.
“Burns Library is especially grateful to Gil and Kathleen Lydon Sullivan, whose endowed book fund for the Irish Collection made this acquisition possible,” he added. “The Sullivans, both of whom are alumni of Boston College, have been strong and consistent supporters of the Burns Library and Irish Studies at BC.”
The Clarke Collection enhances the Irish Collection at Burns Library, already regarded as the most comprehensive collection of its kind outside Ireland. Its literary collections of Nobel laureates Samuel Beckett, William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney are ranked among the best in the world. Other acquisitions include the collected works of the acclaimed novelist Flann O’Brien and of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, considered one of Ireland’s finest contemporary Irish-language poets. In 1999, the Boston College Libraries struck a resource-sharing partnership with the Linen Hall Library in Belfast, Northern Ireland, creating between them the largest repository of Irish publications in the world.
The Irish Collection also includes BC’s Irish Music Center, established in 1998 and dedicated to traditional Irish music, especially as performed and recorded in the United States. Among its notable acquisitions is the most comprehensive archive in America documenting the career of the great Irish tenor John McCormack.
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