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Pauline Henley Collection: Home

The Collection was acquired by UCC Library in early 2021.

About the Collection

Collection Ref.:             IE BL/PC/PH
Title:                            Pauline Henley Collection
Dates:                            1916-1945 
Level of description:     Item
Extent:                          20 items
Administrative History:

The Collection was acquired by UCC Library in early 2021.

Biographical History:

Pauline Henley was born in Cork in 1883.  She attended school at the Ursuline Convent in Waterford and received her BA from UCC in 1913.  She worked in Stranmillis Training College in Belfast for a period, before returning to Cork to complete her MA in history at UCC.  From the late 1920s she taught at the University College Cork, firstly in the Department of Education, and later as an assistant lecturer in the History Department.  She retired in 1948. 

Pauline Henley is noted as being among some of the first female teachers in the NUI, joining the History Department at UCC in 1931 as an assistant lecturer in undergraduate history. This made her one of only four women teaching History at third level in Ireland at the time. Her seminal book on the works of Edmund Spenser "Spenser in Ireland" was published in 1928, was responsible for challenging the academic scholarship of the poet's time in Ireland to date. She made the acquaintance of many important figures of the Irish War on Independence, not least Terence MacSwiney and his sister Márie (Mary) MacSwiney. 

Terence James MacSwiney (28 March 1879 – 25 October 1920) was an Irish playwright, author and politician. He was active in the Easter Rising, and was elected as Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork during the Irish War of Independence in 1920. He was arrested by the British Government on charges of sedition and imprisoned in Brixton Prison. His death there in October 1920 after 74 days on hunger strike brought him and the Irish Republican campaign to international attention.


Collection, primarily, of the Correspondence of Pauline Henley, including six letters from Terence MacSwiney. The earliest item is a letter from the British Home Office to Pauline regarding her request for permission to visit MacSwiney. This is followed by MacSwiney's letters, from October 1916 to July 1918, most of which are from prison or internment, and are mainly personal and descriptive, rather than strongly political. Three are from the period of MacSwiney's hunger strike in 1920 and includes one letter from Mary [Máire] MacSwiney, [Terence's sister]. One of the final items is a letter by MacSwiney, to 'Sean', either Sean O'Hegarty, [Cork Volunteers and Cork No 1 Brigade colleague], or Sean MacSwiney [his brother], bidding farewell from 'your old comrade'. The earlier letters illustrate MacSwiney's personality and friendship with Henley and provide interesting information on his time in prison and internment. The later letters shed light on his final days on hunger strike, and the activities and feelings of family and friends. It is noteworthy that Henley continued to correspond with Mary [Máire] MacSwiney whilst the latter was incarcerated in Mountjoy in the years following Terence MacSwiney’s death. Also included in the collection is a series of newspapers from the 20th century commemorating Michael Collins, Terence MacSwiney, and the 1916 Rising. This is a small, but invaluable, collection for those interested in the study of early 20th century Irish Politics generally. And more specifically, an insight into the life of one of the key players in the Irish War of Independence.

Access & Use


Finding Aid: Descriptive list (see separate tab above, next to 'Home' tab)

Additional Collection Information

Language: English

Related Material: 

Cronin Papers 1905-1945 National Library of Ireland 

Copyright: UCC Library (in the main). Publications may rest with original copyright holder, please check with Archivist.

Collection Image

 Terence MacSwiney in uniform (BL/PC/PH/14)