A rare autograph book containing the signatures of key figures from Ireland’s revolutionary period has been donated to Clare Museum.
Among the signatures collected by Ennis woman Kathleen Griffin in the autograph book were those of Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Countess Markievicz.
As an 18 year old member of Cumann na mBan, Kathleen campaigned for Eamon de Valera during the 1917 East Clare by-election. In the days leading to the by-election, Kathleen kept the autograph book with her, gathering the signatures of prominent republican figures involved in the election campaign. Others recorded in the album include Austin Stack, Count Plunkett, Alice Milligan and Clare republicans including Michael and Patrick Brennan from Meelick.
According to museum curator John Rattigan, “The album is a welcome addition to the Clare Museum collection, especially during this the centenary year of the East Clare by-election. It joins a number of other items already in the collection and complements Patrick Brennan’s autograph book from Frongoch which is currently on display. Some names appear in both albums, in Kathleen Griffin’s album many give their prison numbers indicating their incarceration after the Rising.”
It is intended to display the autograph book in time for the centenary of the by-election in July 2017. During the War of Independence Kathleen Griffin rescued a teenage boy from drunken Black-and-Tans who were about to shoot him by pretending to be his sister.
She emigrated to Liverpool for work but returned in the early 1920s to raise a family in Ennis. When the family emigrated to London in the 1960s, Kathleen took her autograph book. Eventually it was left to her granddaughter Marian when she passed away aged in her 90s.
In 2016 Marian took the autograph book to Kilmainham Jail while on a visit to Dublin where there is a large collection of autograph books from the period. Marian explained that she was keen for the book to return to her grandmother’s birthplace and to was deposited in Clare Museum earlier this year. It is thought that the album has never been viewed by a historian.