One of the great disadvantages of achieving high office in Ireland it that it opens a person to all kinds of correspondents, cranks, beggars, and the merely confused. Jack Lynch’s files provide an example. In September 1971 his department received a letter from an Irish-American lady, addressed to “The Honorable John Byrnes, Prime Minister of Ireland”.
She explained her call on him. “This is the first letter I have ever addressed to someone in the land of my ancestors, and I tremble with joy upon finding myself writing to the honorable Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland.
She explained that by profession she was a writer and “the history of Éire has interested me for many years”.
She was completely enthralled by one of the ancient Ard-righ’s of Ireland, Macha Mongrudh, or Macha of the Golden Hair. Her research had revealed that she had been the 76th monarch to rule Ireland (about 377 BC) and was the daughter of Aed Ruadh. She was the founder of the Palace of Remain.
She lived in New Jersey and in trying to find more information about this ancient Irish queen she had reached “a dead end”.
She was unable to start her historical novel until her research was complete.
“My dearest wish is to come to Ireland personally, but that seems to be financially out of the question at the present time. It is a shame that it is impossible to visit Ireland now, particularly with the trouble the British are again causing. If I could only go there to help. Certainly the blessings of every American who is a Gael are with you. The British must be expelled from Irish soil.”
She also wished to obtain information about her husband’s ancestors, who were descendants of Cummuscach, son of King Aed MacAinmirech. This too would be researched when she came to Ireland. She seemed to imagine that the position of Taoiseach was not a very onerous one, and that he could look into this matter for per personally. “Thank you for whatever information you can send to me. God speed you in your fight for a united Ireland. It must not be any other way.”
The Taoiseach’s personal secretary answered her. “The Taoiseach Mr John Lynch has received your letter” and had referred it to the director of the National Library. “Thank for your good wishes on the outcome of the present troubles in the North of Ireland.”
Jack Lynch was not alone. In 1985 Dr Garrett Fitzgerald received a letter from an Irish American in South Carolina, who sought information from him about his ancestor, whose name had better be left unprinted, from County Monaghan. He provided very full details and requested a copy of the list of passengers who sailed from Newry on in May 1764.
“Not knowing the cost of photocopying documents and postage from there to here, I am enclosing four dollar notes hope it will cover the postage.”
The research officer, the now well-known Joycean Vivian Igoe, acknowledged the letter, and passed the whole matter on to Dr Donal Begley, the Chief Herald of Ireland, at the Genealogical Office. What happened the $4 is not revealed.
Reading letters one wonders would they these correspondents have written in similar terms to the president of the United States. (2016/51/240)