Friday 20 December 2013

It was Christmas Day (1921) in the Gaol House...

Dundalk County Museum is looking to gather information about the men who signed their names and home town in a Belfast Prison Missal on Christmas Day 1921.

The prayerbook has been handed into the care of the Museum by Aidan Rogers, son of Frank Rogers who owned the Missal. It is thought that all Frank’s fellow inmates at the Crumlin Road Prison signed the Missal on Christmas Day and New Year's Day, as they awaited release following the agreement on the Anglo Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921.

Most of the signatures are written in Irish and a number use traditional Celtic lettering.

Along with the signatures are the home town and counties of the men, with addresses including Louth, Monaghan, Tyrone, Belfast, Sligo and Cork.

Aidan Rogers explained how his father came to have the Missal: 'My father and his brother, Tom, were involved in the IRA at that time. There was a secret room in the family home where they stored weapons but they were eventually found and the two brothers received 15 years penal servitude.

'My father was sent to the Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast and it appears that he got hold of the Missal from the prison library and got all the inmates in the prison with him to sign their names and their home town or counties.

'It has the stamp of Belfast Prison but inside the stamp he has signed it Christmas Day 1921 and his own name is signed below the stamp.'

Both Aidan and museum curator, Brian Walsh, hope to gather more information about the signatories. 'This Missal records a moment in time in many people’s histories,' said Walsh. 'Surviving families who may know that their father, grandfather, uncle or other male relative may have been an inmate in the Belfast Prison but have nothing more to go on, should find this very interesting.

'The signatures in this Missal are a vital connection for all the families concerned. We would love to hear from them and piece together their histories and the reasons they were in Belfast Prison on those days to sign the Bible.'

Copies of the pages have been uploaded to the Museum's website. The images are a good size for downloading for easier scrutiny. They are also available to view at the Museum. If anyone identifies a familiar name they should contact Brian Walsh on +353 (0)42 9327056.