Identity Statement for Frances-Mary Blake

  • Reference code: IE P244
  • Title: Papers of Frances-Mary Blake (1939–2009)
  • Dates: 1922–2008
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 10 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Additional Material

Biographical history

Frances-Mary Blake was born in London on 29th March 1939 and lived in Rickmansworth, on the north-west outskirts of London, later moving to nearby Chorleywood. While her father, Charles, was British, her mother, Mollie, was Irish and Frances inherited from her a love of Ireland. As a child she visited Ireland frequently.

She worked at various jobs in her early adulthood, including working in a library, in broadcasting, as a purser on the Cunard lines, with the publisher W.H. Allen and also with the British Waterways Board. However, it was as a writer that she found her passion and this was particularly evident on the topic of the Irish revolutionary period, and on the life of anti-Treaty IRA commandant and writer Ernie O’Malley in particular.

Due to this interest, in the mid-1970s she helped with the initial sorting and cataloguing of the Ernie O’Malley papers, one of the largest collections of historical documents of the Irish Civil War period, for the then Archives Department of University College Dublin. Following her work on the O’Malley papers, she edited his best-selling book on the Civil War, The Singing Flame.

Blake also worked on and wrote the introduction for Raids and Rallies, another book extracted from O’Malley’s papers about the War of Independence. As part of her research Blake interviewed and corresponded with many figures from the Irish republican struggle, such as Maire Comerford, Peadar O’Donnell, Liam Deasy, Kathleen Barry Moloney, and Sighle Humphreys, as well as members of the O’Malley family.

Later she wrote The Irish Civil War – And What it Still Means for the Irish People, in which she outlined her own views of that period.

She died on 5th December 2009 after a short illness, and was buried in Woodcock Hill Cemetery, Rickmansworth, London.

Archival history

These papers were deposited in UCD Archivs by Frances-Mary Blake’s estate in 2010.

Material relating to Blake’s editing and writing including: extensive research notes, some in shorthand; interviews with various named people about Ernie O’Malley, their recollections of him and the events for which he was well-known; contextual research material.

Blake’s correspondence with various people requesting their memories of Ernie O’Malley and their replies, as well as other correspondence.

Other material such as press cuttings (original dates are given unless copying date is known), books and miscellaneous items.

Frances-Mary Blake arranged this material herself into numbered files, one hundred and forty eight in total. While the files have been rearranged into the thematic sections as outlined below in the system of arrangement, the contents of each file have generally been left intact to reflect Blake’s intent and original order. The titles of each file come from her original list of the numbered files.

This original file list was not always accurate and some files are missing. 

All remaining files have been noted in the descriptions. Only one file was discarded: file number 132, which contained disparate newspaper cuttings on people other than Ernie O’Malley; these were figures connected to the Irish republican struggle and the cuttings were personal in nature, i.e. death notices etc. which are readily available outside of this collection.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCDA reader’s ticket. Produced for consultation in original format.Original material will be retrieved at 11am and 2pm only.
  • Language: English.
  • Finding Aid: Descriptive catalogue.
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