The search is on for a list of signatories contained in a historic Belfast Prison Missal dated Christmas Day 1921.
The prayerbook has been handed into the care of the County Museum, Dundalk by Aidan Rogers, son of Frank Rogers who owned the Missal.
It is thought that all Frank’s fellow inmates at the Crumlin Road Prison signed the Missal on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, as they awaited release following the agreement on the Anglo Irish Treaty on December 6th 1921.
Most of the signatures are written in Irish and a number use traditional Celtic lettering.
Along with the signatures are the home town and counties of the men, with addresses including Louth, Monaghan, Tyrone, Belfast, Sligo and Mayo.
Aidan Rogers explained how his father came to have the Missal.
“My father and his brother, Tom, were all involved in the IRA at that time. There was a secret room in the family home where they stored weapons but they were eventually found and the two brothers received 15 years penal servitude.
“My father was sent to the Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast and it appears that he got hold of the Missal from the prison library and got all the inmates in the prison with him to sign their names and their home town or counties.
“It has the stamp of Belfast Prison but inside the stamp he has signed it Christmas Day 1921 and his own name is signed below the stamp.”
There are a number of Dundalk signatures including a Michael Shields, Michael Copas, Matt Lennon, Paddy Hughes, Patrick Byrne, Hugh Kieran, Pat Farrelly and William Lawless.
Both Aidan and museum curator, Brian Walsh, hope that they can gather some more information about the signatories.
Aidan said: “I’ve always felt that something should be done to find out more about the men who signed their names here. At one time a few years ago I considered going around the various counties but never got around to it.”
As for Frank Rogers, he was again imprisoned during the Civil War and was sent first to Mountjoy, then to Dundalk. However, he escaped and was on the run until the end of the war before returning to Dundalk where he settled down and lived a full life until his death in 1988, aged 96.
Brian Walsh said he hopes to uncover a great deal from the publication of the signatures. “This Missal records a moment in time in many people’s histories. Surviving families who may know that their father, grandfather, uncle or other male relative may have been an inmate in the Belfast Prison but have nothing more to go on, should find this very interesting.
“The signatures in this Missal are a vital connection for all the families concerned. We would love to hear from them and piece together their histories and the reasons they were in Belfast Prison on those days to sign the Bible.”
Copies of the pages will be uploaded on the Museum website at www.dundalkmuseum.ie or they can view the Missal in the museum. If anyone sees a familiar name they can contact Brian Walsh at 042 9327056.