ON THIS DAY: 31st May 1916: PATRICK CLARKE’S LETTER TO DUBLIN CASTLE
On the 31st May 1916, Patrick Clarke wrote to Dublin Castle from Letterkenny with the following words:
“Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, May 31st 1916
The Hon. Undersecretary, Dublin Castle Hon. Sir, I have a boy 14 years of age, although he would pass for a boy of 15 years, is strong and healthy, but has a horror for school, will do anything before going. His teachers say he has plenty of brains if he would only use them, my business takes me from home all week with the result the mother is unable to keep him from company that is not healthy for him. I wrote the Recruiting Offices Naval Department, Londonderry if I could get him on board a Training ship, he replied saying the boy was too young but advising me write you, your honour, stating my case and in all probability you would advise me how to get my boy on board the Training ship. I can refer you to the Recruiting Officer here, will also forward any references you may require.
I am sir, your obedient servant, Patrick Clarke”
Looking at the 1911 Census we find a Patrick Clarke, 42 years old, Roman Catholic, living at Slate Row. He was originally from Co. Wexford and was married to Mary Agnes Clarke with 10 children – Mary Agnes (15), Jane Sarah (14), Elizabeth (12), Teresa (10), Patrick James (8), Isabel (6), Annie Josephine (6), Aileen Bridget (2) and Joseph (4 months). Given that this is the only Patrick Clarke living in Letterkenny at the time and that his son is 8 in the 1911 census (making him 14 by the writing of the letter) we know that this is our man.
Patrick James Clarke, the boy of 14 years of age in the letter, never did join the British Army as requested by his father. Instead he joined in the struggle for Independence against the British in the War of Independence and later emigrated to America.
His sisters Isabella and Aileen Clarke though, eventually became the proprietors of a well-known local business. This shop was once Carr’s Confectionary but when Nurse Scanlon became the owner, the two Clarke sisters took over the running of the shop, and thus “Clarke’s Newsagents” was born. The current proprietor, Paddy Delap, is the son of Aileen Clarke and is named after his grandfather who wrote the letter, his full name being Patrick Clarke Delap.