School Resource Packs: Cork 1912-1918

2 Cork City & County Archives: Through War and Rebellion: Cork 1912-1918 Resource Pack 7: 1916 Wakefield Prison Letter

Year: 1916: Year: 1916: PR6/11 Letter from Seamus (Jim) Fitzgerald imprisoned at Wakefield Prison to his mother at Cobh (June 1916).

Background After the 1916 Rebellion more than 3,500 Irish Volunteers were arrested throughout Ireland and interned in British prisons under the Defence of the Realm Act. As they were clogging up the English prison system it was decided to intern many of them in an old distillery which had been used to hold German prisoners of war at Frongoch in North Wales. By 28 th August most had been released with slightly less than 600 remaining. The leaders of the rebellion, such as Eoin MacNeill and Eamon DeValera) were kept separately in Reading and Dartmoor prisons before being eventually moved to Lewes prison. The remaining Irish internees were released in December 1916 after the Chief Medical Officer had inspected Frongoch and declared it unsafe. The leaders of the War of Independence (including Michael Collins) always described Frongoch as the ‘University of the Revolution’. The Document This is a letter from James (Seamus) Fitzgerald to his mother in Cobh, County Cork. He is writing from Wakefield Prison where most of the Cork internees had been taken, and from which many are about to be transferred to Frongoch, described as a ‘concentration camp’ (a term deriving from the Boer War). He mentions the loss of Patrick, his brother, who was lost at sea. He also speaks of his and the prisoners’ reliance on supplies and parcels from family and friends. Fitzgerald, like many prominent Irish Volunteers, was arrested in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising, but, despite mobilising, had not been active in it. His papers include several prison letters and accounts of his military service and internment. He was elected Sinn Fein TD for East Cork in 1921.

Instructions: 1. Read through the document. 2. Highlight the names of people, sentences, or words you do not understand. 3. Highlight any words you cannot read. 4. Fill in the recording sheet supplied and attach it to the document.

5. Optional: The Bureau of Military History recorded the stories of veterans of the War of Independence. These are available online from the National Archives of Ireland. This one from Colonel Lawless goes into great detail about Frongoch. Read through it and pick out three incidents which show how the prisoners dealt with the prison regime. If you were the British what would you have done. 6. Store the completed work as directed by your teacher. 7. Outline how you would arrange to visit the Archives to view the original document

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