Ireland: Priest's WWI diaries go online


Fr Francis Gleeson

Fr Francis Gleeson

For the first time in its history, papers from the Dublin Diocesan Archive have been made digitally available for scholars, researchers and members of the public.

Experts in the Dublin Diocesan Archive and the Digital Library in University College Dublin have worked together for over a year and a half transcribing and digitising diaries and papers of Fr Francis Gleeson, a Dublin priest who ministered to soldiers in World War One.

The new digitised collection was officially launched on Monday evening (27th April) by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin at a reception in Holy Cross Diocesan Centre, in Clonliffe.

The event was attended by members of Fr Gleeson's family as well as the British and French Ambassadors to Ireland. Father Francis Gleeson, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin, was Chaplain to the Royal Munster Fusiliers as they faced battle on the Western Front.

He was the priest depicted in the world famous painting, The Last General Absolution of the Munsters at Rue du Bois by Fortunino Matania, where he is seen mounted on a horse, giving absolution to the troops on the eve of the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915.

Fr Gleeson kept meticulous handwritten diaries of his time with the Munsters. They contain vivid, emotional and very often tragic accounts of his time with the troops near the battlefield. He was often the only person in a position to communicate with the families of soldiers missing or killed in action.

After the Battle of Loos in September 1915, Fr Gleeson asked to be relieved of his duties. He wrote to his superior: "I am sorry to be leaving the dear old Munster lads, but I really can't stand it any longer. I do not like the life though I love the poor men ever so much."

Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin said the most extraordinary thing about Fr Gleeson was that he returned to the front in 1917, despite the horrors he had witnessed. Archbishop Martin said Fr Gleeson's sense of humanity continued after the war when he served as parish priest of Meath Street in Dublin.

Fr Gleeson's papers can be seen at: www.digital.ucd.ie/view/ucdlib:36570

Source: Archdiocese of Dublin


Tags: Fr Francis Gleeson, Fr Gleeson's diaries

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