In this removed County Mayo town, Ballina, at the mouth of the River Moy, the widow of a local fish merchant decided one day to share her husband’s collection of Irish miscellany with the public. Better to have it on display here in his beloved Ballina, as he had always wished, than to lose it, God forbid, in a fire in the family home above the family shop, Clarke’s Salmon Smokery.
The six-week job of selecting the best items for an exhibition fell to Sinead McCoole, an author and historian who came the 150 miles from Dublin…. Six weeks became six months, and then a year, and then — well, Ms. McCoole is still in Ballina nearly eight years later, still immersed in what is now known as the Jackie Clarke Collection: an astounding treasure of more than 100,000 items that provide an intimate retelling of Ireland’s long struggle to free itself of English rule. Fragile maps and rare newspapers, political posters and editorial cartoons, books, diaries, photographs, films, and even a scrapbook that Clarke began as a boy.