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1916 signatory tells wife she'll be a "widow before these lines reach you" in letters released online

The letters Éamonn Ceannt wrote to his wife show a very loving side to his character, describing her as his “sweetheart of the hawthorn hedges”.

PERSONAL LETTERS AND photographs of the seven signatories are being released online as part of The National Library of Ireland (NLI) 2016 programme launched this week.

The papers are being released alphabetically, with the documents of Éamonn Ceannt the first to go public.

Capture Source: National Library of Ireland

One of the letters in the collection was written just hours before he was taken out to be executed, it read:

My dearest wife Áine … not wife but widow before these lines reach you. I am here without hope of this world, without fear, calmly awaiting the end.

“What can I say? I die a noble death for Ireland’s freedom. Men and women will vie with one another to shake your dear hand. Be proud of me as I am and ever was of you.”

ceannt letter Source: National Library of Ireland

Ceannt was often described as a proud and aloof man but the private letters to his wife show a very loving side to his character, describing her as his “sweetheart of the hawthorn hedges”.

Ceannt two Source: National Library of Ireland

It’s understood that most of the papers have come from the families, who gave them to the National Library of Ireland for safekeeping.

The digital collection includes diaries, postcards and photographs that tell the stories of the family and working lives of each signatory.

It took staff two years to catalogue and digitise more than 20,000 documents relating to the seven signatories.

Next month the library will release material related to Tom Clarke and James Connolly. While in February papers of Seán MacDiarmada and Thomas MacDonagh will become available, and finally material related to Patrick Pearse and Joseph Plunkett will be put online in March 2016.

The 1916 Digital Collections will be fully available by April 2016, to commemorate the centenary of the rising.

Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library said:

At the heart of the National Library’s plans for 2016 is our core mission: collecting and making available Irish memory and heritage for people everywhere.

“Our 1916 programme is ambitious and includes digitisation, exhibitions and events, and I am delighted that we will be adding to our archive of the Irish internet by capturing websites related to the commemorations for people to explore as a record of this momentous year.”

Details of the NLI’s full 2016 program of events is available on the NLI’s website www.nli.ie.

Read: 40 children were killed in the 1916 Rising but they are barely mentioned in our history>

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