How many times have you been somewhere you know is rich in history and thought, “if only these walls could talk”. I was thrilled, therefore, to have a copy of this letter from the house. I don’t yet have the original but I’m told it’s in safekeeping with the neighbor. I’m only the third owner of the cottage in more than 100 years which is pretty amazing in this day in age. The house was originally subsidized by the Dublin town council and I’m told by one of the neighbors that she purchased hers from the council in the ’60s for 300 punts — not more than $600. So, the reference to the penny rent is probably accurate for 1916.
The letter makes reference to April of that year which is a pretty historic date in Irish history to those who are familiar with it or who have seen the movie “Michael Collins”. April 1916 was when the Easter Rising occurred from Easter Monday 24 April to 30 April 1916. Members of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army seized locations around Dublin and proclaimed Irish independence from Britain. The Rising ended in an Irish surrender but it helped to garner the sympathies of the Irish public as 15 of the participants in the siege were executed by firing squad. I’m not suggesting Joseph Armstrong was killed in the Easter Rising – but it is an amazing parallel to a lot of upheaval in the country at that time.
The letter says:
“Sir, I beg to inform you that my husband, Joseph Armstrong, is dead since last April 1916 and I am trying to earn a livelihood for myself and my five children – none of them able to earn for themselves. My husband left us very poor without any means. As it was his savings that bought the house, it is not in my power to give a penny. I only wish I could.
I remain respectively, Mrs. A Armstrong”
Thanks, Mrs. A., for talking to me just a little bit.