Dublin diocese putting WWI chaplain’s diary online

For the first time in its history, the Archdiocese of Dublin is making documents from its archive digitally available to researchers throughout the world. The documents are taken from the papers and diaries of Dublin priest, Canon Francis Gleeson, chaplain to the Munster Fusiliers in World War I.

On the evening before an attack by the battalion in Northern France in 1915, Fr Gleeson, on horseback, gave a general absolution to the soldiers in front of a roadside shrine, which the painter Fortunino Matania later immortalised.

In his diary, Fr Gleeson recalled how after the battle he had “spent all night trying to console, aid and remove the wounded”. “It was ghastly to see them lying there in the cold, cheerless outhouses, on bare stretchers with no blankets to cover their freezing limbs”.

Canon Francis Gleeson spent his final years as parish priest of St Catherine’s Church in Meath Street in Dublin. When he died in 1959, his papers were left in the parochial house and later given to the Dublin Diocesan Librarian.

Thanks to a unique collaboration with the UCD Digital Library, Canon Gleeson’s papers will now be universally accessible.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will officially launch the Digitised Gleeson Papers next week in Holy Cross Diocesan Centre in Clonliffe.