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Unparalleled collection of historic O’Mara papers unveiled at University of Limerick

Thu, 14 Nov 2019

An “unparalleled” collection of historical papers from one Limerick’s original bacon factory families has been launched by University of Limerick.

The O’Mara Papers comprise predominantly of business and personal records created and generated by Stephen O’Mara Junior (1884-1959) during the course of his life at the centre of a thriving bacon industry in Limerick.

Launching the collection that was presented to the Glucksman Library by Stephen’s granddaughter Ms Clare Hannigan, UL President Dr Des Fitzgerald said that “the papers shine a light on the life and times of Stephen O’Mara and provide a unique insight into life in Limerick city during five significant years of conflict in the early 20th century, from private, public and political perspectives”.

Unveiled on the 60th anniversary of Stephen O’Mara’s death, the business records mainly cover correspondence in O’Mara’s capacity as director of O’Mara’s Bacon Company and later as director of the Bacon Company of Ireland.

The material within the collection provides an interesting view of the bacon industry in early 20th-century Ireland and its gradual decline from the 1930s onwards.

The personal records cover O’Mara’s political career, including his three terms as Mayor of Limerick from 1921 to 1923; the second Bond Drive to the United States, his subsequent imprisonment in 1922-1923 and the ensuing court case of 1927; and his later political involvement, particularly his role as a founding director of The Irish Press.

As well as his career as a leading industrial figure, Stephen O’Mara played a prominent role in both local and national affairs. The material in the collection provides unique insights into life in Limerick city during the five years of conflict both at private and high public levels.

One of the most significant aspects of the collection is material relating to the O’Brien family of Boru House, particularly the private correspondence of the novelist Kate O’Brien with her sisters, brother-in-law and nephew.  The letters illuminate O’Brien’s method of writing, the creative process behind each of her novels and the difficulties of her career as author.

The material also comprises an extensive photographic record of the O’Mara and O’Brien families particularly in the 1920s and 1930s. Other material of note includes extensive correspondence and architectural drawings relating to Strand House, New Strand House and Ivy Bank House, homes of the O’Mara family.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Fitzgerald added that “The papers are in good company in their new home at UL’s state of the art Glucksman Library, joining other Limerick collections such as those of the Earls of Dunraven and the Knights of Glin, as well as the Daly papers, another significant collection relating to the War of Independence and Civil War in Limerick.

“The research and teaching potential of such unique and distinctive collections is unparalleled,” the UL president explained.

Noting that a full catalogue of the O’Mara papers is now available online, Dr Fitzgerald added that the Special Collections and Archives department at the Glucksman Library is committed to open access to its collections, for the benefit of both its students and the wider public, piquing interest in local, national and international history, and increasing engagement with the physical representations of our past.