In 2013, Maynooth University Library was fortunate to acquire the archive of renowned Irish poet and broadcaster Pearse Hutchinson (1927-2012). This fascinating and vast collection contains the papers from Hutchinson’s long and extremely varied career, from his childhood writings to his last draft poems.
Fortuitously the collection also contains Hutchinson’s family archive, including photographs and memoirs and the papers of his parents, Henry Warren Hutchinson and Caitlín McElhinney. While every family’s archive contains treasures with insight into the family history, what makes Hutchinson’s family history of particular interest is that his parents were involved in the republican movement throughout their lives, were members of Sinn Féin and counted the likes of Eamon DeValera and Constance Markievicz as friends.
Some of my favourite items from these family papers are letters between Henry and Caitlín, during his internment in Mountjoy prison in 1923, where he was held without charge after being deported from his home in Glasgow for refusing to give up his republican activities.
In March 1923, Hutchinson’s home was raided for the 15th time and he was arrested and dispatched overnight on a Royal Navy destroyer to Dublin. Despite calling to the local police station, Caitlín was not told that her husband and the other Scottish detainees were sent to Ireland. In his memoire Henry records writing a letter to his wife and leaving it to be found in the hope that someone would post it. On the page, with no envelope, he wrote ‘The finder might kindly put in envelope + post to address on other side – God will bless you’. The letter arrived, thanks to some unknown person and is now preserved in the Hutchinson Archive.
Caitlín and Henry’s letters during his detention were heavily censored by prison authorities, with sections cut out of the letters. In her letter of the 16th of March 1923, Caitlín writes; ‘The kidnapping created a most extraordinary sensation here. Huge headlines in all the papers’. He remained incarcerated for three months.