Skip to main content Skip to main navigation

Ernie O'Malley Papers

Call Number



1643-2010, inclusive
; 1920-1957, bulk


O'Malley, Cormac K. H.
O'Malley, Ernie, 1897-1957


40.5 Linear Feet
in 27 record cartons, 5 manuscript boxes, and 12 oversize flat boxes.

Language of Materials

Materials are in English, Irish, German, and Spanish.


Ernie O'Malley was an Irish Republican Army officer during the Irish War of Independence of 1919-1921 and a senior commander of the anti-treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War, 1922-1923. During the course of the war he was wounded, captured, and participated in a hunger strike. After the war he traveled in Europe and in the United States to raise funds for the Irish Press. O'Malley was a man of diverse intellectual and artistic interests, which led him to live in New Mexico and New York and travel in Mexico. He was married to American artist Helen Hooker in 1935, the two moved to Ireland, divorcing in 1952. O'Malley died in 1957. The collection contains manuscript works of Ernie O'Malley and other individuals; correspondence, both personal and business-related; finacial and legal records; materials concerning art and art-collecting; and nationalist material including military training manuals, diaries, clippings, and financial and legal material. Of special interest are drafts and publicity related to several of O'Malley's works including On Another Man's Wound, The Singing Flame (published in the United States as Army without Banners), Raids and Rallies, and several poems. Of note is correspondence between O'Malley and the artist Jack B. Yeats. Additional series contain materials collected by O'Malley and his son Cormac O'Malley.

Historical/Biographical Note

Ernie O'Malley (1897-1957) was an Irish Republican Army officer during the Irish War of Independence of 1919-1921 and a senior commander of the anti-treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War, 1922-1923. O'Malley wrote four books, On Another Man's Wound, The Singing Flame, Raids and Rallies, Sean Connolly of Longford in addition to numerous poems, short stories, articles and reviews. A renaissance man, O'Malley was interested in art, archaeology, folklore, photography, literature and history, but also in the lives of those he fought with during the Irish Independence movement. In the 1950s he interviewed over 450 survivors of those he had fought along with, and these interviews were the basis for the episodes covered in his Raids and Rallies and Sean Connolly.

O'Malley was studying medicine at University College Dublin in 1916 when the Easter Rising took place. Although not a nationalist at the time, O'Malley having been invited by some friends to help defend Trinity College, Dublin in case the Irish Volunteers attempted to take it over, he decided his sympathies were with the rebels and thus began his military career. When he went on the run in 1917, he was asked by Michael Collins to organize IRA brigade units throughout rural Ireland and later as a Commandant General, at age 24, he commanded the IRA's Second Southern Division in Munster with 7,000 men. O'Malley was captured twice during his military career, the first time by the British in Kilkenny in December 1920 after which he was interrogated and badly beaten. With the threat of execution imminent he, and two other IRA men, escaped from Kilmainham Jail on February 14, 1921. At this arrest he had identified himself as 'Bernard Stewart' and when he escaped, his true identity was still unknown. O'Malley was captured a second time in the civil war on November 4, 1922 after a shoot-out with Free State troops in a house in Dublin. Critically wounded, he managed to survive prison for almost two years and 41 days on hunger strike before finally being released in July of 1924. Although still not well, he decided to seek a warmer climate hoping to recover both physically and spiritually and traveled in Europe spending time hiking in the Pyrenes, museum hopping and self-studying art and architecture while constantly writing. After returning to medical studies in Dublin for 1926-28, he was asked to go with Frank Aiken to the United States by Eamon de Valera to raise funds for the establishment of a new independent newspaper, The Irish Press. His notes and impressions of these journeys, 1928-1935, are included in the collection in Notebook Series and elsewhere in the Correspondence Series. O'Malley settled in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico for 1929-1932 and while there met many artists and writers and occasionally lectured on modern Irish history and literature while writing his memoirs. He also traveled extensively in Mexico in 1931 for nine months following his interests in folklore, archaeology, modern Mexican art and teaching, - all the while writing.

In 1932 during the height of the Depression, O'Malley returned to New York to finish and publish his memoir, On Another Man's Wound. With introductions from Paul Strand, met many of the city's literary, theatre and artistic circles. He continued to write articles, poems and short stories, but only his poems were published. The manuscript for his memoir was rejected many times. In the meantime with the change in government in Ireland, he became eligible for a pension for his military service and wounds, and this led to his return to Ireland to secure his pension. While in New York he also met his future wife here, Helen Hooker, a sculptor and photographer, who had travelled extensively in Europe and Russia. Helen was the daughter of Elon Huntington Hooker, a wealthy businessman and founder of Hooker Electrochemical Company from Greenwich, Connecticut. When he returned to Ireland in 1935 she followed him. They married on September 27, 1935, and he returned to medical school. The couple settled initially in Dublin and later in County Mayo, Ireland, on a farm. O'Malley continued writing and Helen continued her sculpture, photography and theatre interests. The couple had three children. After the marriage broke down in the late 1940s and Helen effectively returned to the United States, seized two of the children, Cathal and Etain, and brought then to America where she initiated divorce proceedings in 1950. O'Malley's youngest son, Cormac, remained with his father. The divorce was finalized in 1952. After being in poor health for several years Ernie O'Malley died in 1957 in Dublin.

During his lifetime, O'Malley published one critically acclaimed work about his experiences in the Irish War for Independence: On Another Man's Wound. His second volume, The Singing Flame, covering the Civil War was only published posthumously. O'Malley had published a series of articles in The Sunday Press in 1955-56 describing his and other fighters' experiences, using the interviews he had conducted with former IRA men. These were also published after his death as Raids and Rallies. The collection includes this serialization as well as reviews and publicity on these works and others in the Clippings and Publicity Series.

In 1991, Prisoners: The Civil War Letters of Ernie O'Malley was published by his son Cormac and Richard English, the latter who also went on to write his biography, Ernie O'Malley: IRA Intellectual in 1998. In 2007, Cormac edited and published No Surrender Here!The Civil War Papers of Ernie O'Malley, 1922-1924, being a compilation of anti-Treaty military communications and his father's letters from prison during the Civil War. Cormac also edited and published Rising-Out: Sean Connolly of Longford, 1890-1921 in 2007. Broken Landscapes: Selected Letters of Ernie O'Malley, 1924-1957, also co-edited by Cormac and Nicholas Allen was published in 2011.


Collection is arranged into 15 series. Files are arranged alphabetically except where noted.

Collection is arranged into 15 series, some of which are further arranged into subseries. Series are arranged either alphabetically or chronologically.

Missing Title

  1. Series I. Works, 1924-1956, undated
  2. Series II. Correspondence: Incoming, 1922-1956
  3. Series III. Correspondence: Outgoing, 1922-1956
  4. Series IV. Correspondence: Family, 1914-1957
  5. Series V. Personal, 1912-2006
  6. Series VI. Legal, 1921-1957
  7. Series VII. Financial, 1935-1957
  8. Series VIII. Nationalist Materials, 1643-1966, undated
  9. Series IX. Jack B. Yeats, 1904-1980
  10. Series X. Diaries, Notes and Research, 1922-1963
  11. Series XI. Clippings and Publicity, 1895-2002
  12. Series XII. Arts Material, 1918-1955
  13. Series XIII. Chronology Files, 1920-1957
  14. Series XIV. Subject Files, 1922-2008
  15. Series XV. Printed Ephemera, 1789-1950

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the personal, intellectual, and artistic interests and activities of the Ernie O'Malley. Materials documenting his participating in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War include manuscript material, collected military manuals, and interviews conducted with other veterans. Art catalogs, clippings, research files, correspondence with other artists, and poetry appear throughout the collection, illustrating O'Malley's keen interest in art and literature. Essays, articles, poetry, short stories, drawings, and manuscripts of his major works comprise a large portion of the collection. Correspondence with colleagues, friends, and family also make up a significant part of the collection. Further records document the personal, legal, and financial aspects of O'Malley's life. Also included are materials collected by O'Malley and his son, Cormac O'Malley, related to Irish literature and history.

Access Restrictions

Open for research without restrictions.

Use Restrictions

Copyright (and related rights to publicity and privacy) to materials in this collection created by Ernie O'Malley are held by Cormac O'Malley. Permission to publish or reproduce materials to which he holds copyright must be secured from the copyright holder. Please contact the Tamiment Library for assistance with contacting Cormac O'Malley.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Ernie O'Malley Papers; AIA 060; box number; folder number;
Archives of Irish America, Tamiment Library
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Existence and Location of Originals

Collection contains photocopies of original documents held by other repositories. The location of some originals is unknown.

Immediate Source of Acquisition Note

The collection was donated to Tamiment Library in December 2010 by Cormac O'Malley, son of Ernie O'Malley. The accession number associated with this gift is 2010.092. An addition donation was received in July 2012. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 2012.066 and 2012.089.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Related materials include:

  1. James J. Comerford Papers AIA 010
  2. Cormac O'Malley Papers AIA 019
  3. Archives of Irish American Pamphlet Collection AIA 047

Collection processed by

Rebecca Altermatt

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2024-02-06 13:55:38 -0500.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

Original ordering schemas, when present, were retained, including various alphanumeric systems to label notebooks and diaries. Not all notations on items within the collection are original to Ernie O'Malley; some are by Cormac O'Malley. Some folders contain explanatory information provided by Cormac O'Malley.

Revisions to this Guide

December 2022: Finding aid was updated by Aki Snyder to include page counts for digitized materials.
September 2023: Edited by Anna Björnsson McCormick to reflect the rehousing of materials


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012