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"Still the battle rages": Dublin mother's WWI diary goes online

The diary gives a fascinating glimpse into life in Ireland in 1916 for one mother whose son has been declared missing in action.

The first page of the diary
The first page of the diary

EVER WONDER WHAT life was like in Ireland during the time of World War I?

Today’s launch of the online publication of the diary of a woman alive during that time means that we can get a glimpse into everyday life in wartime Ireland.

The diary of Mary Martin, who lived in Monkstown, gives a look at the desperate wait for families who had children fighting in WWI, as Martin’s 20-year-old son Charlie went missing in action on the Salonika front. She started writing the diary for him when she got news that he was missing.

The site was launched today by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan.

Mary Martin

Mary Martin was a widow and mother of twelve children, living in the affluent Dublin suburb of Monkstown.  The site, A Family at War, contains Martin’s digitised diary, which was developed and produced by students on Trinity College Dublin’s M Phil in Digital Humanities and Culture, and the Digital Arts and Humanities PhD in UCC, using a manuscript from the collections of the National Library of Ireland.

The diary contains 132 entries that Martin wrote from 1 January 1916. The diary ended on May 25 of the same year, shortly before official word came that Charlie had been killed. The entire diary has been transcribed and digitised and is available online now.

The Easter Rising

The diary shows how news travelled about the Easter Rising, which began on Monday 24 April. The entry for Tuesday 25 April reads:

A very quiet peaceful day here but we hear (no newspapers published or mails arriving) that the Sinn Feiners are still in possession of GPO, & Westland Row & are defying the military. They say several people have been killed & that the GPO has changed hands a couple of times.

On the Wednesday, she wrote that there was “Still no authentic news but it appears the Sinn Feiner still hold the City”.

It is predicted food will get very scarce so ordered what I can conveniently get. No mail boat came in so there is no tidings of the boys. In the afternoon I went to the Tea Rooms we had a good many soldiers & sailors mostly of Staffordshire regiment. This has been a glorious day it is too terrible to think how it is being desecrated with murders & pillage for of course the mob is looting the shops.

The Friday 28 April entry shows the stark differences between the military and domestic events of the day:

It is reported that Connolly & Countess Markievicz & Sheehy Skeffington have been shot. The boys marked out the Tennis Court so I presume play will now begin for the Season.

Read: Scars of the Easter Rising you can still see on Dublin streets>

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