Irish priest’s WWI documents available online

Wartime documents belonging to an Irish priest known as “the saint of the trenches” have been made digitally available for researchers worldwide.

In the first ever collaboration between UCD Digital Library and the Archive of the Archdiocese of Dublin, the papers and diaries of Dublin priest Canon Francis Gleeson, who served as chaplain to the Munster Fusiliers during the First World War, will be the first documents from the archdiocesan archives to be so released.

The papers, according to diocesan archivist Noelle Dowling, testify to the “profound and simple faith of the men who served”, describing “men found dead clutching rosary beads” and how crowds could assemble at a moment’s notice “to attend Mass in a bombed-out barn”. 

Speaking at the official launch of the Gleeson papers, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin described Fr Gleeson as “a humble priest whose faith allowed him to do extraordinary things in war and in peace”.