The Belfast Charitable Society at Clifton House, whilst preparing for its autumn series of lectures, has uncovered a suitcase of letters and material from the Great War relating to the Dixon family of Dublin.
What has been uncovered is over 180 letters, most in pristine condition, which tell the story of an Irish Officer’s life at the front during WW1 and his correspondence with his parents in upper middle class Dublin.
Paula Reynolds, CEO of the Belfast Charitable Society,
“This was such a great and timely find given the 100th anniversary of the end of Great War and Armistice Day next month. Our colleague and volunteer, Jim Ferran, has been tirelessly working his way through the Dixon family papers ensuring they are all documented and sorted appropriately.
“When our Archive and Heritage Officer unearthed the letters we were astonished at, first of all the amount of the material, as well as the condition of it. There are many aspects within this find that are so very interesting, from the numerous letters from Lieutenant Patrick Dixon detailing his experiences on the Western Front, to his delight at his regular food parcels from home.”
Aaron McIntyre, Archive and Heritage Officer at Clifton House added,
“These letters and material are of great importance and we are very excited about their significance. It is rare to see so much detail and well written legible letters which gives us a fantastic insight into the Dixon family and Patrick’s life at the front.
“Within these letters we see Patrick discuss Irish political developments such as the 1918 Conscription Crisis, the impact of the Spanish Flu pandemic in Ireland and the torpedoing of the RMS Leinster (the Irish mail boat) off the Irish coast. He also describes his excitement at the signing of the Armistice, in a letter dated 11th November 1918, and the long wait for demobilisation.”
Highlights from the collection include a soldier’s pantomime programme for January 1919, emergency issue Francs, a German Disabled War Veteran Fund ticket picked up at the front and never before published photographs of the front, taken by Patrick himself.
Speaking about the origin of the material Paula Reynolds added, “We believe Patrick’s sister, Margaret, who became a GP in the Dunmurry area, married a Mr Wynne, who was involved with the Belfast Charitable Society and thus the material deposited in the Society’s attic for safekeeping.
“This is all very timely as Clifton House is hosting an Autumn series of Historical Lectures, including a Symposium on 15th November 2018 to mark the Ending of the Great War: Philip Orr (playwright and historian) and Dr Éamon Phoenix (historian and broadcaster) will deal with the Irish contribution to the war and its impact on this island. This event will now include an exhibition of the Dixon War Letters, unveiled to the public for the first time!
“We’d also like to find the descendants of Patrick Dixon and we would like any assistance in tracing members of the Dixon or Wynne families who may be able to shed light on this incredible collection of War Letters.
“We have been unable to identify if Patrick had any children but, potentially, his sister, Dr Margaret Wynne (referred to as ‘Buttercup’ in Patrick’s war letters), did and there is a chance of locating Patrick’s descendants.”
Any information should be forwarded to Aaron McIntyre, Archive and Heritage Officer at Clifton House on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0) 2890 997022.