Preserving our history for the next generation


FASCINATING FIND Some of the old family posessions found by Pat Chambers.

Anton McNulty

As they carefully sift through the artefacts of local history that were discovered in a humble jam jar of Pat Chambers’ shed, the team from the Michael Davitt Museum feel privileged to be part of the discovery.
They have helped Pat to decipher some of the words in the handwritten letters and bring some order to them, as some can be difficult to read given their age.
“We are here to help in any way we can,” explained Yvonne Corcoran-Loftus, the curator. She informs Pat that they will supply special acid-free poly pockets to ensure the documents do not deteriorate further.
As the country commemorates the War of Independence and the Civil War, John Reid said that finds like this are extremely important, as they add to the knowledge of this period.
“It is timely because we are going through the decade of centenaries at this point … it is also very varied because it includes local information, details of the Irish community in America, and The Mayo News is also brought into it.
“The owners of The Mayo News were heavily involved in the nationalist movement themselves. William Doris was an MP for a number of years, and I believe he was pro-Treaty, while his brother Patrick was anti-Treaty. It brings a lot of strands together, and so is a very interesting story and a lovely project,” he said.
The Michael Davitt Museum in Straide is part of the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland, which was set up by the Heritage Council to benchmark and promote professional standards in the care of collections. John explained that the museum in Straide is a very safe space to store documents like those found in the Mulchrone’s shed.
“It has been a pleasure for us to put it together. It is what we do in the museum. We are part of the Museum Standards Programme for Ireland, so we have a special emphasis on preserving culture for future generations.”

‘Part of who we are’
Unfortunately, other documents like those found in the Chambers’ jam jar may have been inadvertently thrown out of old houses by people who may not have realised their significance. Reid is encouraging anyone who may find something to contact the Michael Davitt Museum or other institutions so that local history can be preserved.
One of the important aspects of the find he feels is that it shows the part that ordinary people who are not well known played during the struggle for independence.
“This find is extremely important because it is part of who we are. These are important stories at the formation of our state when incredible sacrifices were made by people and we cannot imagine what they went through. It is important that we illuminate figures like Jim Moran and the Mulchrones and so on who might not be well known to a wider audience outside their own villages or west Mayo.
“There is a fear that these stories could be lost, and that what they have done will be forgotten. We are all familiar with the big names like Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera and so on, but the bravery and the self sacrifices shown by these groups of people in Newport and surrounding areas is beyond comparison. This comes out through the documents and it really is something special.”