Never-before-seen pictures of the final hours of IRA leader Michael Collins have emerged after spending 90 years forgotten in an attic
4 December 2012
**More photos onsite
Hours before death: This newly-uncovered image is the last one taken of IRA leader Michael Collins (in the back of the car, left) before he was shot dead
A photo of Michael Collins, taken just hours before his assassination rocked the country, has turned up after more than 90 years.
Killed in an ambush later that evening, Collins is seen in the back of a touring car outside a hotel in Bandon, Co. Cork.
The remarkable photograph taken on August 22, 1922 by 18-year-old Agnes Hurley, has only come to light after being discovered in the attic of a Dublin house.
Until now, the last photograph of ‘The Big Fellow’, as IRA leader Collins was known, had been assumed to be one taken in Bandon the day before, on August 21.
Hurley also captured the scene of the shoot-out near Béal na Bláth the next day, showing a scrap of cloth on the ground believed to be Collins’s shirt collar.
Until now, historians assumed no photo of the scene was taken.
Agnes ‘Aggie’ Hurley, from Mallowgaton in Bandon, used a brownie box camera and her remarkable collection of hundreds of photos spans 20 years dating from 1921.
Her niece Mim O’Donovan, also from Bandon, brought the pictures to the Revolutionary Decade Roadshow in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, organised by the History Department at University College Cork on Saturday.
‘Aggie went to Béal na Bláth to see what had happened because they’d heard gunshots the previous day,’ she said.
‘She was well informed of current affairs and if something was happening she would be there. She took hundreds of photographs over the years and she dated the back of every single one.’
Béal na Bláth the day after the death of Michael Collins. The scrap of cloth (centre right) is believed to be the blood-stained collar from Collins' shirt
Cork City and County Archivist Brian Magee described the find as ‘extraordinary’. ‘The fact that it survived is remarkable,’ he added.
Collins is an influential figure in the history of twentieth century Ireland. He was born in Clonakilty, County Cork, and, after working in a number of roles in London, returned to Ireland to take part in the Easter Uprising.
He was elected as an MP for Sinn Fein for South Cork and Tyrone at the general election in December 1918.
During the Anglo-Irish war he was a key part of the IRA's military campaign.
After the controversial treaty negotiations with Britain, he was appointed Chairman and Minister of Finance of the provisional government which was responsible for the establishment of the Irish Free State. He played a decisive role in devising a constitution, creating security forces and appointing a civil service.
He was murdered while on an inspection tour of Munster and searching for a basis for peace with IRA leaders opposed to the Treaty.
The photos will be scanned and archived to form part of the public record of a crucial period in Irish history.