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Canon Dwyer collection on display at Clare Museum

PERSONAL correspondence from a former rector of St Columba’s Church of Ireland in Ennis and his relatives dating from 1880 to 1919 has gone on display at Clare Museum.


The collection, which will be exhibited until the end of the month, relates to Canon Philip Dwyer and displays a number of letters that have been donated to the County Archives by his descendants.

Canon Dwyer was a prominent figure in County Clare during the late 19th century. As rector of St Columba’s from 1864 to 1883, Canon Dwyer oversaw a major redevelopment of the church in 1871. The canon and his family left Ireland in 1883 for Canada, where they remained until 1887. Upon leaving Canada, the family moved to England, where they remained.

The canon died in 1905 having never returned to Clare, where he had lived for 38 years.

The Dwyer collection contains 41 letters relating to correspondence between Canon Dwyer; his wife, Anne Sather Crowe; his daughters, son-in-law and grand-daughters and his son, William and his wife, Molly. William had remained in Canada following the departure of his father, mother and sisters from Canada in 1887. The letters were discovered by a descendant of Canon Dwyer while clearing out an attic in Canada, where the letters had lain in-situ for almost a century.

Professor Deirdre Hunt, a descendant of Canon Philip Dwyer this week joined the Clare county archivist, Rene Franklin and Mayor of Ennis, Councillor Mary Coote-Ryan, for the unveiling of the collection. “The letters give a vivid portrait of family life during this period, the sadness of emigration, the changing role of women in society and the effects of war upon a family,” explained Ms Franklin.

In a letter from William’s mother, she expressed her concern that she may never see her son again in writing. ‘I wish I would see you all and more but I suppose I never shall, it costs too much travelling such a journey…’

The canon’s son-in-law, Selwyn Lawson, provides an interesting and sometimes amusing description of life in England in the immediate aftermath of WW1, November 26, 1918. ‘We have been rationed for practically everything… food for pigs and cattle, has almost been unobtainable and I have reduced my stock down to almost nothing…’ he continues. ‘Personally I never lost a minute’s sleep from anxiety as to the result: I knew we should come out top dog… and I am now looking forward to that Kaiser being extradited and brought over here and hanged.’

He tells of his son Fred, ‘Fred, as you know, went out at the very commencement and was invalided home in about six weeks, with dysentery and shell shock and finally discharged the army but is now pretty well again, though not absolutely all right.’

The Canon Philip Dwyer Exhibition will remain on display until Saturday, August 31 in Clare Museum, from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9.30am to 5pm.

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