Category: Asset 8News & Views

NYU acquires Ernie O’Malley papers

April 4, 2012

By Staff Reporter

Ernie O'Malley.

New York University’s Division of Libraries and Glucksman Ireland House have jointly announced the acquisition of the papers of Ernie O’Malley (1897-1957) by NYU’s Archives of Irish America.

According to NYU, the Ernie O’Malley Papers, a collection of documents, correspondence and poetry from O’Malley’s life, “seeks to give insight into the complex soul of one of the key figures of both the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.”

Of particular note is a series devoted to works and correspondence between O’Malley and the artist Jack B. Yeats. The papers were donated to the Archives of Irish America in New York University’s Division of Libraries by O’Malley’s son, Cormac O’Malley.

“After my dad traveled to America, he was able to transition seamlessly between his nationalist feelings and a more literary thinking,” Cormac O’Malley said.

“As he traveled, Ireland became more of a romantic memory for him, with his poems glorifying its beauty rather than focusing on the war.”

The Ernie O’Malley Papers, according to NYU, will play a significant role in the Archives of Irish America as they shed light on the Irish and American aspects of O’Malley’s life and include his manuscripts and correspondence, diaries and notebooks, and much other personal information. The manuscripts for three of his other books, “The Singing Flame,” “Raids and Rallies,” and “Rising Out: Sean Connolly of Longford, 1890-1921,” are also included in this trove.

Born in Castlebar, County Mayo, but raised in Dublin, O’Malley joined the fight for Ireland’s independence in 1916. Supporting a revolutionary rather than constitutional approach, from 1916 through the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, O’Malley rose quickly through the ranks of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army to become a Commandant-General at twenty-four years of age.

During the subsequent Irish Civil War (June 1922 until May 1923) O’Malley opposed the Treaty and fought the Irish Free State government that supported it. He was captured and imprisoned until the end of hostilities, and his prison sojourn gave him time to read voraciously about art and history. His forty-one days on hunger strike had severe and lasting consequences for his health.

In 1928, O’Malley traveled to the United States as a fundraising emissary for Eamon de Valera’s nationalist newspaper, The Irish Press. Nine months later, he distanced himself from Irish politics to draw inspiration from artistic communities in California, New Mexico, Mexico and New York while drafting a memoir about his experiences as an Irish soldier.

America would remain influential in his life for the next thirty years, especially through his relationship with the sculptor Helen Hooker, the daughter of a wealthy electrochemical industrialist, whom he married in September 1935.

The O’Malleys settled in Ireland on the strength of his military pension and her inheritance, raising three children together before a bitter separation in 1950.

During this period, O’Malley published his memoir, “On Another Man’s Wound,” to great literary acclaim, then pursued writing professionally. He became well known for his art criticism, was an editor of The Bell magazine, consulted with John Ford on two of his Irish motion pictures, and undertook a major project interviewing more than 450 survivors of the Irish War of Independence which today is a prized historical resource for scholars.

The O’Malley papers are now part of NYU’s Division of Libraries and Glucksman Ireland House’s Archives of Irish America and the exhibition of selected works is on view there through April 23.  The accompanying exhibition of the Ernie O’Malley Papers will be on display through the same date at the Tamiment Library, 10th floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South, (at LaGuardia Place).

The exhibition is free and open to the public. A valid state-issued photo ID is required to enter Bobst Library. More information on the Ernie O’Malley Papers at http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/aia_eom.html.

The Archives of Irish America, established in 1997 as part of NYU’s Division of Libraries, is a repository of primary research materials that support original scholarship in the emerging field of Irish-American Studies.

The Archives of Irish America is always interested in acquiring personal and organization papers, photographs, home movies, printed materials, oral histories, and ephemera. The archives has an archivist who works on its materials. Inquiries can be directed to [email protected]


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