Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Mother's Great War diary online

The first page of a diary that Mary Martin started in 1916 about her soldier son missing during World War One (National Library of Ireland/PA)
Charlie Martin went missing during World War One (Trinity College Dublin/PA)
Mary Martin with her son Tommy, left, and daughter Marie (Trinity College Dublin/PA)

Diary entries from 1916 by a woman writing about her soldier son missing during World War One have been launched in an online database.

Students from Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork (UCC) have transcribed and digitised 132 entries from the diary of Mary Martin, a widow and mother of 12 living in south Dublin. She started writing on New Year's Day 1916 after receiving word her son Charlie was missing in action on the Salonika front in the Balkans.

Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan launched the database, compiled by students studying digital arts, with the entries also set against the backdrop of the Easter Rising.

"This online edition is a rich source for anyone interested in Irish history, military history, women's history and genealogy," said Mr Deenihan at the launch in the Trinity Long Room Hub. "It takes its place within a collection of other publicly available online resources that shed light on Ireland's complicated past and the development of the state."

Students used an original manuscript from the National Library of Ireland, which they transcribed and digitised.

Professor Susan Schreibman, director of M Phil in Digital Humanities at UCC, said the project was a model for making historical treasures available to the public.

"This project is a perfect example of a melding of interdisciplinary skills - how students with a humanities background can utilise their expertise while learning valuable state-of-the-art, hi-tech skills in the creation of online resources for cultural heritage," said Prof Schreibman.

The online resource will be available 24/7 all over the world. The students responsible hope the database will be used for future scholarly research - available online as opposed to just paper-based archives.

Ms Martin lived in Monkstown, south Dublin. She began writing shortly before getting official word her son had been killed.

"Since I heard you were missing as well as wounded, it has occurred to me to write the diary in the form of a letter. We hope to hear from you soon," she wrote in one entry. "Till then cannot communicate with you and later on when you read this it will let you know what has been happening."

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