A New Collection In The Letters 1916 Project Coming Soon

This is my first blog post regarding my practicum with the  Letters of 1916 project. As one can deduce from the title, my practicum will be related to a new collection of letters, which has been identified by Professor Susan Schreibman, the Project Director and Editor-in-Chief of the entire project. The collection is housed in the (http://www.jesuitarchives.ie/) and includes almost 100 letters from 1916 to 1919. However, before discussing these letters, lives, and work, I would like to draw attention to some facts regarding the initial stages of my involvement in the project.

During the first discussions I had with my supervisor, Susan Schreibman, and my mentor, Neale Rooney, they described a new collection of letters concerning  Belgian refugees. These would be the letters that I would be digitalizing, so the team working on Letters 1916 and I started researching them. The result was of great interest. Belgian refugees began to come to Ireland and Britain in 1914, after the start of the WWI, since Belgium lay in the epicentre of the global conflict (1). The first appointment at the Irish Jesuit Archives had already been arranged; my mentor and I, our camera and tripod all were there to photograph the letters. Damien Burke, assistant archivist to the Irish Jesuit Province, was also there to help us with the letter manuscripts and give us ample helpful and useful information. As the photographing process flowed smoothly, we noticed that some of the letters were written in 1914. This time period was outside the time limit in which the current project was focusing on. Thus, we discussed the issue with the supervisor and we decided to leave this collection and start from the beginning with a new one. The Belgian refugees will have to wait for another researcher, unfortunately!

Fr John Fitzgibbon
Fr John Fitzgibbon

The senders and the receivers, Fr John Fitzgibbon, Fr Thomas Nolan and Fr Frank Shaw, constituted a team of priests and soldiers who lived and active during World War I (WWI). As a result, the new collection refers to priests who had left their flocks and joined the army during the WWI and more specifically the letters written by Fr John Fitzgibbon SJ, Fr Thomas Nolan, and Fr Frank Shaw SJ. Fr John Fitzgibbon SJ was born in 1882 and died in 1918. His adopted name was Jack. The name of his father was John Fitzgibbon and we know that he was a successful draper and subsequent Member of Parliament (PM) the time period from 1910 to 1918. His brother, Michael Fitzgibbon, was captain in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and was killed in the Battle of Gallipoli.  Jack was educated at Clongowes and was ordained a priest on 31st July, 1915. Subsequently, he served in the 6th Division of the British Army, and enlisting shortly after the death of his brother. He was promoted to senior chaplain in 1917, and in the same year he was gassed at Loos on 5th September and was awarded the military cross. Next year, on 18th September, Jack was killed in action by an artillery shell at Attilly and buried at Trefcon, St. Quentin, Picardie.

Fr Thomas Nolan was born in 1867 and died in 1922. From 1912 to 1922 he became the Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus. Besides that, he was a Distribution Committee member responsible for the welfare and distribution of the Belgian refugees who had found refuge in Ireland on account of the WWI.

Fr Frank Shaw

Fr Frank Shaw SJ born in 1881 in Ennis, country Clare, and died in 1924. He was ordained on 31st July, 1916 at Milltown Park in Dublin. However, he joined the war earlier in 1916, working in the 16th General Field Hospital at Le Tréporte. In 1917, Fr Shaw was dispatched to India, and later to Mesopotamia, possibly due to his nationalistic views. At the same time, he got into trouble for republican views, as it was reported he had confronted a room full of officers in Mesopotamia, making “disparaging remarks about the 1916 men.”

To date, Neale and I have been to Irish Jesuit Archives, taken pictures of the letters’ collection and spoken with Mr Damien Burke, assistant archivist, who has significantly helped us ever since the first meeting that we had with him. Except for the information regarding the letters, he has shared with us valuable details for the lives of priests and their actions and brought us old books, also belonging to the collection of the archives, in order for us to extract additional information. I think that this would be an appropriate time to thank him for all his help he was extended us and to the project in general.

However, taking pictures is not enough. I now have to edit them and then follow the appropriate procedure which will lead to the final publishing of each letter. So, an entirely new and fascinating collection awaits me which brings a deep sense of responsibility towards the team of Letters 1916. Hope to reciprocate their trust!

(1) Mulvagh, Minute book of the Belgian Refugees’ Committee,http://historyhub.ie/belgian-refugees-committee-minute-book

McNally, An Irishman’s Diary on the Belgian refugees of 1914-18, http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/an-irishman-s-diary-on-the-belgian-refugees-of-1914-18-1.2135190


Burke, Damien, Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the First World War, Messenger Publications, 2014

Irish Quarterly Review Studies: The Pity of War 1914-1918, Summer 2015, Volume 104: No. 144

Data Game

According to Oxford Dictionary, data is a noun which is used to describe ”facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis”. In addition, data is used in a philosophical context as ”things known or assumed as facts, making the basis of reasoning or calculation.”  However, for the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the meaning associated with computer science that defines the data as ”the quantities, characters, or symbols on which operations are performed by a computer, which may be stored and transmitted in the form of electrical signals and recorded on magnetic, optical, or mechanical recording media.” To understand the follower example we should keep in our minds this definition. In the example, the data is visualized giving so that the result is conveyed more clearly especially for visual learners.

Data visualization is a different way to present data. The main goal is to communicate information clearly and efficiently. So, visualization has to be informative and useful to be successful. Besides, data visualization hide a question which has to be answered such as a small story which slowly unfolds with the help of the visual element. Where we to use a formula a to describe this, would be the following: Question + Visual Data + Context = Story (Shapiro).

Below is presented an example of data processing and visual representation to show how data, through the right combinations, has the potential to produce a meaningful result and not just information, thus contributing to the creation of knowledge. The software Tableau (https://www.tableau.com/) was used for the creation of this chart, a data visualisation software which can help someone see and understand what results could arise from their data. It is user-friendly and can connect to almost any database. It is the database of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) (http://www.cso.ie/webserviceclient/DatasetListing.aspx) that is used here.  From this dataset, one could select a topic and a subtopic that the are interesting in and the available data tables will be displayed. On this occasion,  the name “Recorded Crime Offences by Garda Station, Type of Offence and Year” is used, taken from the main category of “People and Society” and the secondary category of “Crime and Justice.”  From this diagram, are exported data about how many and what kind of crimes are reported were reported to the police stations in Ireland from 2003 to 2016.

As can be seen in the pictures, there is one main illustration and an appendix. In the first one,  are showed the different types of offences, in which police station they took place, what year and how many there were.

printscreen 1

The appendix presents the categories of the offences, how many they are and the color in which they can found in the illustration.

printscreen 3

When the cursor is on one of the different circles, the following statistics appear: Garda Station, Type of Offence, Year and Value. The bigger circles have a bigger value number and the smaller have a smaller one, respectively. Ιn this way, simply by moving the mouse over the chart, everyone is able to be informed about the basics without getting losing themselves in long lists of endless information such as in the database used here.

printscreen 5

The world of data and the way it is organized and visualized may be resemble confusing, but after appropriate processing and construction it could reveal something that we had not imagined before. It is something like Lego, where there are many pieces in different shapes, colors, and sizes and through consecutive and different combinations they have the ability a new result can be produced very different from the previous one. Thus, the data, like small Lego pieces, can be combined in many different ways to produce the results we want to present each time.  However, when we talk about data, imagination is not enough. A key role is played by the wording of the question we want to answer through the elaboration of appropriate data. We should experiment with the available data and try to create new combinations and versions. Through all that, we could realize the potential data hides. So, let’s start the data game!


Shapiro, M., Once Upon a Stacked Time Series,  Beautiful Visualization, Edit. by Steele, J. and Iliinsky, N., http://simpte.ch/ebooks/OReilly.Beautiful.Series/9781449379872%20-%20Beautiful%20Visualization.pdf, Web, Accessed on 16/2/2017

Oxford Dictioneries, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/data, Web, Accessed on 16/2/2017

Recorded Crime Offences by Type of Offence and Quarter, http://www.cso.ie/webserviceclient/DatasetListing.aspx, Web, Accessed on 16/2/2017