These brilliant scans below are a selection of pages from a 1921 autograph book belonging to Andrew O’Neill. Born in Dublin in 1897, O’Neill hailed from Asylum Yard, in the heart of working class Dublin. Andrew would see action during the Easter Rising at Boland’s Mills as a member of the Irish Volunteers, serving with the 3rd Battalion. Andrew would also partake in the War of Independence which followed the rebellion, and was interned during this period. Later, with the foundation of the Irish Free State, O’Neill would join its new emerging armed forces, although he would leave the Free State Army in 1924, going on to work a number of other jobs including a period as a porter in the Customs House, one of the symbols of the Irish revolution owing to the IRA attack upon it during the War of Independence.O’Neill left a wife and three children behind him at the time of his death, and among his personal items was a priceless collection of autographs from other republicans he had been interned with.
The entries I have posted here are a selection of entries from fellow republican internees. Some have penned poems in tribute, while others have drawn illustrations of life inside and outside of the camp. The most striking entry in the autograph book for me is this one, showing prisoners and guards inside of the camp. It appears to be signed ‘P.C’:
This scan shows another drawn illustration, this time showing two figures in discussion about the status of the prisoners. On the other page Liam O’Reilly, giving an address in Tuam, has signed Andrew’s book:
One further drawing appears in the autograph book, this time coming from “P.Byrne”.
In addition to the drawings, the autograph book contains several poems, including a poem in honour of Irish republicans who were executed at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
Man do you hear them shooting
The women moan and sigh
But the lads themselves are laughing
God that’s the way to die
In another poem, one fellow Dublin republican writes
You ask me to write in your album
But I don’t know where to begin
There is nothing original within me
Not even original sin
These kind of brilliant family mementos are to be found across Dublin, and with so much emphasis on historical commemoration and the business of centenaries, these are the kind of items that have great value to young historians and those with an interest in the past.
My sincere thanks to the O’Neill family, Una Wogan, Tom Geraghty and others who have assisted with getting this selection of pages from Andrew’s autograph book here online. The book remains in family ownership.