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16 October 2014
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Ballykinlar Collection

A brief look at some the collection of the Kilmainham Gaol Archive

Sketch of Ballykinlar Camp in 1921

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Article by Niamh O'Sullivan

Hugh Deery from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, was interned in Ballykinlar Camp, Co. Down, for twelve months during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921). His presence there makes the episode rather more personal for the staff in Kilmainham Gaol Museum, as he is the great-grand uncle of one of our guides, Sean Browne. Sean tells a familiar story - Hugh Deery never spoke much of his time in Ballykinlar, leaving his family then and now to wonder what conditions must have been like for the various men held in this "barbed wire cage" as many inmates referred to Ballykinlar.

Sketch of Ballykinlar Camp from Henry Dixon's autograph  - Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Archives

Sketch of Ballykinlar Camp from Henry Dixon's autograph book
(Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Archives)


We are instead left hoping for any manner of surviving evidence - solid material which has lasted the course of time and which will speak for itself of events that occurred in the camp. In the Kilmainham Gaol Archives, we are fortunate enough to possess a quantity of such evidence, in the form of three internment orders sending prisoners Ernest Noonan (19LG 1C26 08), John Hopper (19LG 1K42 30), and Peter Byrne (19LG 1K53 14) to Ballykinlar; two old school-type exercise books containing a Roll of Men in Camp Two Ballykinlar 1921 (19MS 1B41 06) and a School Roll (19MS 1B41 05). There is an essay, Barbed Wire Photography (How it was done in Ballykinlar) (19MS 1B41 10), with accompanying smuggled photographs.

There are also a number of autograph books, owned and circulated by the prisoners themselves, with their usual contents of prisoners' names, cheery lines, quotations (in a swift overview quotes by PH Pearse, Thomas Davis and Eamon de Valera can all be located), much needed humorous observations and drawings both in black and white and colour.

Sketch of prisoners' chapel from Henry Dixon's autograph book -  (Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Archives)
Sketch of prisoners' chapel from Henry Dixon's autograph book (Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Archives)
One particularly striking autograph book in the Kilmainham Gaol Ballykinlar Collection is that which was presented to Henry Dixon (19MS 1C25 11) by his fellow prisoners in Ballykinlar. A Dublin solicitor, Henry Dixon had also been interned in Frongoch Camp in Wales after the 1916 Rising - he was the Frongoch Camp librarian and already then over 70 years old.

Although many pages of his autograph book are blank, there are some lists of prisoners, detailing their names and addresses, among whom 'our' Hugh Deery from Ballyboe, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, can be found. There are names representing Down (James McGlennon, Loughinisland), Dublin, Tyrone, Clare, Cork and even Liverpool (James McClean, Victoria Square). This larger than average autograph book contains many fine colour illustrations, including several views of the Camp itself and one of the altar made by the prisoners in their chapel in No 1 Camp.

A good example of the type of verse written by the prisoners can be found in an autograph book belonging to James Warren (19 MS 1C25 03) from Ballineen, Co Cork, who describes himself as
'Prisoner of War No 350, Hut 26 ...Ballykinlar Co Down, 1920 & 1921'. Warren's fellow inmate John Bonner from Summerhill, Donegal, who was held in Hut 19, writes in the book:

Just a line dear Comrade
Your memory to recall
The time you spent in prison
With the Boys from Donegal
I want you to remember me
To all the boys from Cork
Who made the name of Erin ring
From Paris to New York
I want to be remembered
To comrades one and all
Who fought to free old Ireland
From Cork to Donegal.

on to page two >>


Your Responses

Mark Donnelly
John Hopper was my wife tanya hoppers grandfather his son tom hopper is alive and living in walkinstown and has his internment letter and a copy of the camp news letter the barbed wire we would love to share or recieve info on john


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