A Manohamilton businessman has purchased a rare letter written by 1916 signatory and Kiltyclogher native, Seán MacDiarmada at auction last week.
The item was part of a rare book auction, organised by Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, on December 5 in the Tara Towers Hotel, Dublin. The new owner of the letter, John MacManus, is a pharmacist who has businesses in Manorhamilton, Arva, Ballyconnell, Belturbet and Cavan town.
Seán MacDiarmada is described as one of the main architects of the Rising of 1916. He, along with John Clarke - whose father hailed from Carrigallen, Co Leitrim - were instrumental in planning the Rising and also key in introducing the main players and bringing them together as a group during the 1915/16 period.
The letter is addressed to 'Cathal', (possibly Brugha) and is dated January 26, 1915. It is on a single page featuring the header The National Daily Bulletin - a Republican newsletter at the time. The letter speaks of plans for an Emmett celebration.
"I was talking to a few of the Com[mittee] and we think it would be a mistake to drop the celebration", and proposing a meeting for Thursday night.
"Tom [Clarke] (another 1916 Signatory with connections to Leitrim), [Seán] McGarry & myself are notified. I’ll send word to Peadar McNally. Could you let the others know".
It is signed "Do chara / Seán MacDiarmada", and includes a postscript: "Could you get that small a/c. for [Irish] Freedom".
Significant documents in MacDiarmada’s hand are now very scarce and this letter is believed to be of great historical significance.
Speaking to the Leitrim Observer, the new owner of the historic document, John MacManus, said has been collecting memorabilia linked to Seán MacDiarmada for over 10 years.
“This letter could be very important because Seán MacDiarmada always wrote in code. While the letter talks about an Emmett celebration, it is very possible that this may be a coded letter. The rebellion didn't just happen overnight and this letter could be one of those blocks building towards the rebellion of 1916,” he pointed out.
John's family has strong links with that of the 1916 signatory. When Sean MacDiaramada went to Belfast in the early 1900s he worked in John's Great Grand Uncle's pub for a time.
“I am very proud to have this letter coming back to Leitrim and especially to north Leitrim, where Seán MacDiarmada was born and raised. He was such an important man. He was the only one of the signatories that worked as a full time revolutionary and I think that the role he played in planning the revolution, is often undervalued.
“I am lucky enough to own some other items belonging to Seán MacDiarmada but this (new letter) is very special as letters or any items linked with him are just so rare,” he said.
“I think it is very important that we respect our history and it is vital for ourselves as a community to value our culture and heritage.
“To be able to bring something back to north Leitrim, something with such a link to Seán MacDiarmada, is an honour for me. These items should be kept for the community, seen by the people, not just locked away in private collections.”
John has already taken a number of items from his collection of Seán MacDiarmada artifacts to show school children in the north Leitrim area and he hopes to put his latest acquisition on display in MacManus' Pharmacy, New Line, Manorhamilton in the New Year.