By Dylan Mangan
MICHAEL Collins’ diaries can be seen in West Cork ahead of the centenary of his death later this month, following the unveiling of a new display at the Michael Collins House in Clonakilty last week.
The diaries – which cover the critical time period of 1918 to 1922 – were loaned to the National Archive by Collins’ family, and have undergone significant conservation, preservation, archival processing and digitisation.
Speaking to The Southern Star, Helen Collins, grandniece of Michael, said that the family are incredibly proud that the diaries are available to the public. ‘It was very important to us, my siblings and I, because these diaries of Michael Collins were returned to my grandfather Johnny Collins when Michael was killed.’
Visitors to the museum will be able to view all five diaries on touchscreen devices, while the 1921 and 1922 diaries in physical form will be on public display for the month of August. Members of the public will able to flick through pages and read Collins’ writing for themselves year ‘round, and Helen said that while the science dictates that the 100-year-old diaries be carefully preserved, it was important for them to be shared.
‘We knew our father would’ve wanted to have the diaries and the digitalised versions on display in Michael Collins House in Clonakilty,’ Helen said. ‘Our agreement with the National Archive was that these original diaries would come annually to Clonakilty so that they could be enjoyed in West Cork, by West Cork people and visitors to West Cork.’
The diaries contain a record of meetings, often secret in nature. County mayor Danny Collins (Ind) said that it was only right that the first time they were shared with the public was in Clonakilty.
‘These pocket diaries give a unique and fascinating insight into the man himself,’ Cllr Collins said. ‘The diaries also allow us to learn more about the events leading up to, and in the years following, the foundation of the State.’
Orlaith McBride, director of the National Archives, said that they were delighted to unveil the diaries. ‘In returning the diaries to the place of Collins’ youth, a place that shaped and formed the young revolutionary, we are introducing them to the wider public as an important new primary source material to further our understanding of this significant national figure.’
The museum will be open seven days a week until September 4th. Admission to the diaries is free.