In 2005, a most impressive private library of Irish history was uncovered in Mayo at the instigation of Mayo County Council. This collection was amassed during the life of one man, Jackie Clarke (1927–2000).
In 2005, in accordance with her late husband’s wishes, Mrs Anne Clarke gave the Jackie Clarke Library and Archives in perpetuity to Mayo County Council on condition that the collection remains permanently in Ballina, County Mayo. Its breadth and importance, once only known to its creator, is now being made available to all.
The material spans 400 years. The earliest item dates from 1617. It comprises many rare and important books on the history of Ireland, manuscripts, photographs, legal papers, pamphlets, hand-bills, newspapers (including a third edition of what is described as ‘the first newspaper’ the Oxford Gazette dated December 1665), news-sheets, circulars, reports, political autograph books, letters, periodicals, cartoons, maps, minute books, theses, articles and proclamations (including 1916 and the rarer 1917 proclamation). The sheer range of this collection is breath taking. The library also contains many volumes and manuscripts in the Irish language.
In the coming years as we mark the centenary of the founding of the state, 2016–2021, this repository of Irish material will become a site of central importance as documents in this collection will shed new light on these past events.