The Midst of It All

In this age of the digital, online cultural heritage exhibitions help to open up unique and distinct collections to a global and international audience. UCD Archives, not only uses platforms such as Google Arts & Culture Institute, to showcase it’s historically rich collections to the world, but also Twitter by creating timelines. These timelines act as an online exhibition, pulling in images from a diverse range of collections giving a much richer account of a time in history.

The Midst of It All is one such timeline.

Michael Moynihan was an Irishman who fought and was killed in France during WW1. He was born on 3 February 1891, the eldest son of Maurice and Mary Moynihan, he was educated at the Christian Brothers’ School in Tralee where he won many academic prizes and awards. In 1908 he went to Dublin to study at what subsequently became University College Dublin, one of the constituent colleges of the new National University of Ireland. He won a number of major scholarships and exhibitions and in January 1910, after successfully sitting the competitive exams for the Inland Revenue, he joined the civil service. He worked in Dublin until 1913 when he was promoted and moved to the Inland Revenue offices at Croydon, near London.

In March 1914 he joined the Civil Service Rifles, a unit of the British Territorial Army. When war broke out, he remained with this unit and did not return to the civil service. As a territorial unit, the Civil Service Rifles were restricted to home duties within the United Kingdom. But in 1916 Moynihan decided to sign up for foreign service despite his mother’s opposition; and he went to France at the end of June 1916 as a private in the London Regiment.

Michael’s papers are housed in UCD Archives and give a unique insight to life on the Front. The collection consists of a small number of personal documents relaying to Michael’s outstanding school career, his university studies, his employment career and his military service. The bulk of the collection by far consists of correspondence between Michael and his mother and his brother John, later known as Seán. Every day topics are discussed with his mother while the correspondence between Michael and John is entirely unpredictable and encyclopaedic in its range of reference. For example it covers Kerry, Irish, British and international politics; religion; church and state; Unionism; the Easter Rising; the trial of Roger Casement; medieval history; contemporary authors; war and military training amongst others.

In 1917 he received a commission as a second lieutenant and joined the 8th (Irish) Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment which was fighting in north-east France around Ypres. He was killed on 3 June 1918 and is buried in Doullens Cemetery, just north of Amiens. His father had died just six months before him, in January 1918. Michael Moynihan was survived by his mother Mary, his younger brothers John (to whom he was especially close), Maurice, Denis, Thomas, and by his sister Johanna.

Through Michael’s letters and other contemporary documents from a variety of UCD Archives collections, we are able to shine a light on to a specific life at a particular time in Ireland’s history.  To find out more visit UCD Archives Twitter timeline The Midst of It All.

  • This post was researched and written by Sarah Poutch and Meadhbh Murphy, Archivists, UCD Archives.

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