Thanks to the descendants of Custom House Fire Brigade Man Daniel L. Rooney of 5th Battalion (Engineers), we are delighted to present two brilliant historic documents.
Dan’s story appears here.
He was just a teenager when locked up in the intimidating and tough regime of Kilmainham Gaol. He (hopefully) managed to celebrate his 18th birthday just over two months into internment.
But luckily he was in good company with other young guys and a few slightly older men, some veterans from 1916 who’d spent time in many Jails.
After the Truce, they were able to amuse themselves in simple ways to relieve the boredom and frustration of confinement and to keep up their spirits.
Several decided to get their comrades to make entries in autograph books. Such books were in widespread use in the past. Indeed, some Readers may have had one in their youth.
Dan managed to get two books filled up and his family has proudly preserved them over the decades since 1921.
They have very generously shared their treasures for publication and copies can be viewed in .pdf format as follows (NOTE – large files, may take a little time to open):
Without giving too much away, there is a mixture of rousing political statements, patriotic hopes and fighting words; witty and creative verses; sarcastic (or wise) lines about prison walls; one or two mentions of drink; a couple of romantic thoughts – and some classic slagging and banter between cellmates. There’s also a couple of cartoons and a fine drawing too. Altogether they give a fascinating insight into the thoughts and characters of the Custom House Fire Brigade, some fellow political internees and a few others.
Most entries give a name, date and cell number. Many are marked “CHFB” – the Custom House Fire Brigade arrested on 25 May 1921. Other signatures are by men arrested in different situations and dates. For example, we believe ‘The Fanners’ were a group taken prisoner at The Forester’s Hall, 41 Parnell Square on 27 October 1920. Cumann na mBan members also signed Dan’s books, two at “Xmas 1922”, as well as his younger sister May.
His own mother Margaret began one book by writing birthday wishes to him on 6 August 1921. It appears Dan’s autograph books were a present from that brave and courageous Irish Mammy.
Finally, we can thank Dan for clarifying the date that the Custom House Prisoners were transferred from Arbour Hill to Kilmainham. It was 22 June 1921.
With many thanks to Dan Rooney’s great grandson Daniel Breen, his mother Sharon and his auntie Olivia.
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