Introduction to the Collection
Now numbering over 11,000 catalogued items, the collection began in 1966 during the 50th anniversary of The Easter Rising. On a first visit to Dublin I purchased some commemorative postcards of the 1916 Rebellion. The collecting started to become serious a few years later with the advent of the Civil Rights campaign in the north and the subsequent proliferation of (often small) political support groups in England in general and London in particular.
I became aware that the history I had learnt around the firesides of my extended family and which I saw on the very walls of Derry, differed completely from that which I had been taught in the schools of London and which was being spelled out in the English newspapers. It seemed to me that, once again, history was being written by the "victor". As the war in the north grew in intensity so did the outpourings of the various support groups. The quality of many of the posters, badges and murals was such that I came to recognise them as important propaganda tools in themselves; showing clearly that the conflict was not just a messy sectarian affair, but part of a wider liberation struggle.
In the early seventies I could not conceive that the struggle would last as long as it did or, indeed, that it would have a positive outcome. I never thought that the people would ever "out-propagandise" the British media but that is what I believe has happened. If the struggle was to have a negative outcome then I considered it important that the creativity of that struggle, embodied in its images, should be preserved and not be allowed to be written out of the history books.
The elements of the collection come from a wide variety of sources and countries. However, though I have endeavoured to cover all groups producing ephemera related to the political situation in Ireland, the collection may appear unbalanced as only some 12% reflects the Loyalist and Unionist perspective. It is not that the collection has been "selective" but rather that it represents the sheer volume of ephemera produced by groups with Republican inclinations. Also, Loyalist material was simply not as accessible.
The earliest piece is a leaflet from 1886 calling for a conference in London against Home Rule. There are a large number of postcards covering the pro and anti Home Rule stance at the beginning of the 1900ís as well as a good sample of postcards relating to the 1916 rebellion in Dublin. The preponderance of the collection deals with the period from 1969 to 2004 covering elections, Bloody Sunday, the prison struggles, the hunger strikes, peace initiatives and campaigns against plastic bullets, internment, extradition, censorship and the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Parts of the collection were made use of in the following films and plays:
A great number of family and friends have made significant contributions to this collection over the years. I would wish to give especial thanks to Brian Anson, Liz Curtis, Bernadette Doherty, Alan Gallery, Marguerita Gillespie, Alison Haworth, the late Nina Hutchison, Tom McLaughlin, Moira Rafferty and Aly Renwick, and my daughters Kate and Suzanne for the sterling efforts they made with typing up the catalogues. I owe a special thanks to Martin Melaugh and his colleagues for making the collection available on the CAIN website.
I have endeavoured to attribute items within the collection to the particular groups, organisations or publishers that produced them, some I am may have gotten wrong and many I do not know. Please accept my apologies for any unintended errors or omissions.
© Peter Moloney