by Leah O’Sullivan, BA History Student
The scrapbook of Winifred Barrington, compiled between the years 1912 and 1915 is full of vibrant images, drawings and poems collected and drawn by Winifred and those she knew. Born on 5 July 1897, Winfred was the only daughter of Sir Charles Barrington of Glenstal, Murroe, County Limerick. Her scrapbook represents a colourful youth at Glenstal. Her artwork, full of imagination, also remains as a memorial to a girl who would tragically lose her life in an IRA ambush in Coolboreen, Newport, County Tipperary, a few miles away from her home.
The scrapbook itself is a delicate book made up of pink, blue and white coloured paper. Signs of discolouration have crept into the edges of the pages; however, the drawings have been immaculately kept and look as if they could have been drawn yesterday, even though they are over one hundred years old. The front of the scrapbook is a dark leather, worn at the sides and containing the word ‘album’ in gold lettering in the centre. Each page in the scrapbook is unique; many of the pages are filled with drawings and pictures, however there are also some that contain verses of poems, songs and signatures.
A universal favourite amongst all
Winifred was well-liked amongst the residents of Murroe, Co.Limerick. Although she grew up surrounded by wealth, she mixed freely amongst the residents of Murroe. Her humour and friendliness are said to have shone through to everyone, never seeing herself superior to those of the lower classes 1. She would go on to volunteer as an Ambulance Division Assistant at Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Hospital, Roehampton, during the first world war and was the type of person to always want to lend a helping hand.
In her scrapbook, we can see that many of the drawings were in fact done by many different people, possibly members of her friends and family; each page has a signature of the person who created it. There are also pages filled with signatures of those Winifred encountered during this time.
The Coolboreen ambush
In 1921, the Irish Civil War was ongoing, and the guerrilla tactics of the IRA meant that ambush attacks aimed at policemen and military personnel were frequent. The Coolboreen Ambush was sprung by the IRA when a motor car containing 5 people was driving between Glenstal and Newport. In the car were: District Inspector Major Harry Biggs of the Royal Irish Constabulary, Captain William Gabbett (or Gabbitt) of Mount Rivers near Newport, Miss Winifred Barrington, the only daughter of Sir Charles and Lady Barrington of Glenstal Castle, a Miss Coverdale, and Lieutenant Trengrouse of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. On reaching Coolboreen Bridge near Newport the motor car was ambushed by a party of armed IRA men led by Sean Gaynor. Winifred and D.I. Biggs were fatally wounded. She was dressed in what was said to be a mannish fashion in a riding outfit and cap. As a result of this, she was mistaken for a man and shot dead. She was just twenty–three years of age.
An ‘amiable young girl’
Winifred’s funeral took place in Abington cemetery, Murroe, Limerick, on Wednesday 18 May. The Limerick Chronicle published a report of the funeral, describing Winifred as an ‘amiable young girl’ 2. The people of Murroe and beyond gathered to mourn the well-liked girl, the newspaper stating that:
‘Passing through the village of Murroe all houses were closed, and blinds drawn. The bell of the Catholic Church tolled mournfully until the end procession passed out of sight.’ girl’ 2.
For Charles Barrington, the death of his only daughter proved to be too much for him. He subsequently left Glenstal for England with his family. The Barrington residence at Glenstal House become Glenstal Abbey in 1927, after the house was taken over by the Benedictine order of monks. The monastery survives to this day, surrounded by guesthouses and a boarding school for boys.
Winifred Barrington’s scrapbook is collection of culture enjoyed by a young girl living in a time of political unrest, turmoil and darkness in Ireland. Each page is filled with vibrant images that revisit the youth of a girl who enjoyed art and colour. Given her untimely death less than a decade after this scrapbook was started, it remains a poignant memorial to a young life cut short.
- The Old Limerick Journal, Winter 1988
- Limerick Chronicle, 19 May 1921