Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bureu of Military History by Ronan Killeen

Time after time on this blog (and on others of mine) many of you would have seen the words witness statements and Military pensions. There is a great source for historians known as the Bureu of Military History. I have summarised what the Bureu of Military of History is about for readers who thoroughly enjoy military history.

On the 1 January 1947 the Bureu of Military History was established by Oscar Traynor the then Minister for Defence and former Captain of the Irish Volunteers. The objective of the BMH (Bureu of Military History) was ‘to assemble and co-ordinate material to form the basis for the compilation of the history of the movement of independence from the formation of the Irish Volunteers on 25 November 1913 – 11 July 1921’. (Courtesy of the Bureu of Military History) Over a period of ten years the BMH contains the following;

• 1,773 Witness Statements (WS)

• 334 Contemporary Documents (CD)

• 42 Photograph’s (P)

• 12 Voice Recordings (VR)

• 210 Action Sites Easter Week (ASEW)

• PC



All of the above was collected for the Bureu by individuals that took part in the activites of that time. Well known figures who helped compile documents for the BMH were High Court Judge, Cahir Davitt (Son of agriarian agitator Michael Davitt), Sean T. O’Ceallaigh former president of Ireland 1949-1959 and Kathleen Clarke (Widow of Thomas Clarke) and of course the ordinary men and women involved in the indpendence movement.

Many of the papers in the BMH cover the Howth Gun Running, Easter Rising, formation of the first Daíl, and the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence.

The voice recordings give researchers an opportunity to hear the stories of individuals in their own word an example of this would be Áine Ceantt, widow of Eamonn Ceannt recounts the first meeting of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in her homt at Dolophin’s Barn, in Dublin.

During the 1950’s the Air Corps took photographs of action sites Easter Week to illustrate aspects and thinking behind the positions taken by the rebel garrisons in the rising. The BMH is a magnificent source for historians. The Bureu also illustrates the complexity of a number of Volunteers who had serving in the British Army and the later became involved in the Nationalist movement, while the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) Officers assisted the Crown’s enemies.

Individuals involved with events of the time were given a chance to record their ovwn stories, members of the group were the Irish Volunteers, IRA, Cumman Na mBan, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), Sinn Féin, the Irish Citzen’s Army, relatives of deceased individuals and people not associated with any organisation were sought out to give a broad range of as possible to the collection.

In 2003 the Witness Statements of Co. Galway became publicly available for academic research as you will notice the statements are used in Dr. Fergus Campell’s book Land, Revoultion and Nationalist Politics in the West 1891-1921. This book can be got in Athenry Library.

The people who’s witness statement that are apart of Athenry area are the following:

James Barrett, Member of the IRB, 1913, Officer IRA, Galway, 1920-1921

Sean Broderick Officer IV, Galway, 1916; Officer, IV, and IRA, Galway 1917-1921

Stephen Jordan Former TD, Member IRB and IV, Galway, 1906-1916; Member IRA, Galway, 1919-1921

Daniel Kearns Captain of the IRA, Galway 1921

Paddy King Captain IRA, Galway, 1921

Gilbert Morrissey Officer IV and IRA, Galway, 1913-1921

I will be reading more into this during the week. Two more articles and I will be on my 60th article (bar 3 articles which are more 'How to's' than anything else. Will be lighting things up as we come into the Christmas season and I am trying to escape from my 'dark toned' articles.

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