It was, Ryan Tubridy admitted, like shaking hands with a ghost – examining a letter written by his own great-grandmother sent to Roger Casement to thank him for helping to feed her poverty-stricken students in the heart of Connemara.
The letter only came to light during research into an upcoming documentary – the second episode of Ireland’s Rising, which goes out on Sunday week, December 6 on RTÉ One.
Ryan’s great grandparents, Jane and Patrick Tubridy, were the teachers at Scoil Mhic Dara in Carraroe at the turn of the 20th century.
Originally from Clare and Mayo, they had settled in Beal a’ Dangan and would have been what their famous great-grandson euphemistically called ‘sympathetic to the land’ – and not in an agricultural sense!
Roger Casement had travelled to Galway and Connemara frequently prior to 1916 and was dismayed at the poverty he witnessed there. This saw him become involved in setting up a fund for the children to provide them with a meal every day.
And Jane Tubridy wrote him a detailed letter thanking him for his efforts – a letter only revealed by historian Cormac Ó Comhraí to her great-grandson during filming of the documentary.
“I’d never known anything about the letter, and when it was revealed to be in An Cistin in Carraroe, it was hugely emotional,” said Ryan this week.
“When you see a letter like that, in Jane’s handwriting, the only way I can describe is it that it’s like shaking hands with a ghost.
“If you love history and respect the past, like so many of us do, when you get something like that, it is truly remarkable.”
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune. Ireland’s Rising goes out on RTÉ One on Sundays at 8.30pm.