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Michael Davitt's Diary

Davitt's life was defined and shaped by profound challenges: his family's eviction when he was aged four and their subsequent emigration to England, the loss of his arm at the age of eleven and periods of imprisonment in his adult life. These events helped motivate Davitt's campaigning activities in land reform and workers' and prisoners' rights. However, this photograph has a much more personal significance for Davitt. While travelling to Australia for a lecture tour in 1895 he received the devastating news that his daughter, Kathleen, had died suddenly of tuberculosis. His wife encouraged him to proceed with the tour, and he did not return home for another seven months.

In this single image one can therefore read the whole tragedy of a father grief-stricken at the loss of his young daughter. Throughout 1896 Davitt carried her likeness close to his person, within this poignant little diary.

Shelfmark: TCD MS 9567 folio 50 (diary, 1896); TCD MS 9477/4425 (telegram, 1895)

Andrew Megaw

Andrew Megaw is Senior Book Conservator in the Preservation and Conservation Department. He treats rare and unique material from the Library's special collections, in addition to training and supervising preservation assistants working within the Old Library. He was a visiting conservator in the conservation project at St Catherine's Monastery Sinai. His research area is 19th-century books illustrated with original pasted-in photographs.