The National Archives building stands on the site of the former Jacob’s biscuit factory, a Dublin institution from the 1850s until it was destroyed by fire in 1987. To mark Archives Awareness month this year, we are featuring a small online exhibition relating mainly to the occupation of the factory by a republican garrison during Easter Week, 1916. The majority of the documents used are from the witness statements made to the Bureau of Military History, which were released by the Military Archives in 2003 and have transformed the study of the period from 1913 to 1921.
Charles Townshend, author of the best-selling new history of the 1916 Rising, Easter 1916; The Irish Rebellion (2005), writes about the statements in his preface to the book: “The biggest change in recent years has been the final release of the participants’ accounts assembled by the Bureau of Military History…suddenly, instead of a few dozen accounts, we have many hundred. They suffer from all the problems to be expected in accounts written thirty years after the event, but they are a remarkable source nonetheless.” For a full account of the origins and activities of the Bureau, see Diarmaid Ferriter’s essay in The Dublin Review, Autumn 2003.
We have reproduced only extracts from the chosen statements relating to the authors’ time in Jacob’s. Many of the statements are much longer than the extract reproduced.
The Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6, has custody of the original 1,770 witness statements, 66 annexes to witness statements, 54 collections of documents relating to people who did not contribute statements, 322 collections of original documents, 178 collections of press cuttings, 12 voice recordings, and 246 photographs. A set of duplicate statements was deposited in the National Archives, to allow for the great public interest in the material, which could not be met by the limited reading facilities in the Military Archives. The statements are reproduced with the kind permission of the Military Archives.
An account of the occupation of Jacob’s from the perspective of its employees is provided in Séamas Ó Maitiú, W&R Jacob: Celebrating 150 Years of Irish Biscuit Making (Woodfield Press, 2001).
The National Library of Ireland’s excellent 1916 exhibition, http://www.nli.ie/1916/1916_main.html also gives a good account of the occupation of Jacob’s, as well as all of the other events during the Rising.
Photographic and other graphic images used are reproduced with the kind permission of the National Photographic Archive, and the Jacob’s Archive. The images are individually acknowledged. Our thanks are due to Sara Smyth and Sandra Mc Dermott of the National Photographic Archive and to Douglas Appleyard of the Jacob’s Archive.