Thursday 11 February 2016

Countess Markievicz prison committal form to go on display in Clare Museum

Funding has been received for the exhibition at Clare Museum of a form committing Countess Constance Markievicz to prison in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

As one of twelve local authority museums, the museum will benefit from a grant of €25,000 to be made to the Local Authority Museums Network for a joint 1916 exhibition under the network’s banner.

Markievicz was second in command of the Irish Citizen Army in St Stephen’s Green in Dublin during The Rising and later, when the position in the Green became untenable, this force occupied the Royal College of Surgeons.

After the surrender, Markievicz was tried by Court Martial, which the form indicates was held in Richmond Barracks on 4th May, 1916. Her crime is recorded as ‘Did take part in an armed Rebellion and in waging war against His Majesty the King’, and states that her sentence was ‘Death commuted to Penal Servitude for Life’. She apparently escaped the firing squad at the last minute because of her gender.

The framed and glazed document features images of an exhausted Countess and gives a physical description of her appearance, distinguishing features and height on 7th May, 1916. Intriguingly, her date of birth is given on the form as being in 1873 when in fact all of the sources consulted by the Clare Museum curator have given her year of birth as 1868.

The document’s connection to County Clare is a mystery. It is not clear how this prison form, possibly from Mountjoy Prison, came to be in Clare and it is one of the more enigmatic items in the museum collection. It was transferred to Clare Museum from the de Valera Library and Museum in 2000 and may originally have been part of a collection that was transferred to the library from a short-lived Ennis Urban District Council-run museum that existed in Bindon Street in the mid-1960s. Research for the exhibition has still to be completed and if anyone can provide any information about the provenance of the form, it would be gratefully received.

An image of this unusual and unique document was forwarded last year to the producers of 1916: The Irish Rebellion. This landmark documentary series, which is funded by the University of Notre Dame and narrated by Liam Neeson, features many previously unseen images and will be shown initially on PBS across the United States followed by worldwide distribution. It is currently being shown on RTE.

The Markievicz Prison Commital Form is expected to go on display at Clare Museum during the summer of 2016.

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