Made in Manchester has produced a one-off documentary for BBC Radio 4 about a unique collection of letters brought together in Ireland to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
In the programme, Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole takes a look at some of the 2,000 letters crowdsourced by Susan Schreibman and her team at Maynooth University in County Kildare.
Producer Ashley Byrne says: ‘The correspondence paints a unique portrait of Irish people coming to terms with monumental events but, at the same time, getting on with everyday life. This isn’t the Ireland of 1916 as seen through the history books – it’s the Ireland of 1916 seen through the writings of the people as they lived it.
There are love letters penned by a couple starting a romance amid the backdrop of the troubles in Dublin, there are letters from soldiers on the Western Front confused at the events back home, there are lost letters and there are last letters from people eventually condemned for their part in the Rising.’
It was a time when letter writing was at its height. But with the main Dublin post office building at the centre of the Easter Rising, there was a temporary hiatus and some post couldn’t be sent for days. As a result, people turned their letters into diaries as they added to their correspondence with updates on events as they happened.
Postcards also took an interesting turn following the Easter Rising. Suddenly photographs of the mayhem were being sent around the world – a bit like Twitter or Instagram today.
Meanwhile, we discover, life went on. Soldiers worried about the welfare of their children back home and George Bernard Shaw was at the height of his playwrighting fame.
You can hear the programme via the BBC iplayer here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b074vx8y
The letters were sourced from the Letters of 1916 project and there are thousands of more letters to be found at letters1916.ie