Taking Names
from the Darkness

Five thousand new files are being released online from the Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection (MSPC). The MSPC is one of the most important archival collections relating to Ireland’s revolutionary period.

Image: I.R.A. flying column, Co. Galway (undated).
Courtesy: Collins Papers, Captured Photographs, Military Archives.

A Vast Archive

The MSPC is held at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin. This vast archive contains almost 300,000 application files for pensions for service during the period from the 1916 Rising to the end of the Civil War in 1923.

New & Unique Information

The files in this release relate to claims lodged by 1,576 individuals or their dependants. Archivists say they contain new and unique information on the revolutionary period.

Image: Letter informing the father of Patrick Hogan of his son’s execution in Wexford on 13 March 1923

The new files include: 300 claims lodged by women who were active during the War of Independence and Civil War; 343 IRA Civil War casualties; 66 individuals executed during the Civil War; 352 claims lodged by dependants of deceased participants; five veterans of Easter Week 1916; 510 applications for service from the War of Independence and the Civil War.

The release brings the number of files available online to approximately 20,000.

It is in the unknown files that you find the stories. To me, it’s about taking one name from the darkness of the box and making that person relevant again.

- Cécile Gordon, Project Manager, Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Project

The British Army Deserter

Reginald Walter Stenning deserted from the British Army and joined the IRA. This letter of application from his parents details how he “espoused the Irish cause and went out with the boys against the infamous Black and Tans.” He was captured and executed as Reginald Hathaway in Tralee in 1923. The application was unsuccessful.

This is so surprising because we don’t expect to see somebody from Stenning’s background, with no obvious connection to Ireland. It is very, very unusual.

- Michael Keane, Project Archivist, Military Service (1916-1923) Service Collection

This is the fourth release of files from the MSPC since the first documents were made available online in 2014. Each release provides a window into every parish and townland in the country, as well as the activities undertaken by ordinary people from 1916 to 1923.

Archivists say the collection is also a testament to the diligence of public officials in the early years of the State who collated and verified these records.

The Youngest Civil War IRA Casualty in the MSPC

Edmund Quirke was an IRA despatch carrier. He was killed on 18 February 1923 at Ashgrove, Bansha, County Tipperary. He was 10 years old. An application from his father was unsuccessful, as no dependency could be proven.

Hidden Gems

Archivists describe the thrill of discovering “hidden gems” amidst the array of administrative files. This file relates to Ellen Carroll's receipt of a military service pension in respect of her service with Cumann na mBan.

"Keeping vigil night after night in a house knowing yourself to be guardian of some soldiers life, waiting the creepy crawl of the armoured car and the rush of the soldiers from the lorries and the rat-tat on your door is a nerve-wracking experience..."

An excerpt from a letter of reference for Ellen Carroll. Cécile Gordon describes it as having “a depth of emotion which is uncommon in the collection”.

The bigger the archive gets, the more the different pieces speak to each other. So you are getting a more complete sense of Irish society during a very turbulent period.

- Eunan O'Halpin, Professor of Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin

Work Continues

The painstaking work of cataloguing and digitising the MSPC continues. You can search the database of files at www.militaryarchives.ie.