Collins enjoying a game in a joyful moment
An important part of understanding Michael Collins's desire to purge Ireland of the British counterintelligence system is recognizing what kind of files were kept. Collins did have the opportunity to examine some of the files housed in the Dublin Metropolitan Police Station and the content is quite eye-opening. There is not only the excitement of hidden information being revealed but of history coming to life. The recent book Michael Collins: The Secret File by A.T.Q. Stewart contains approximately forty pages of commentary by the author and over 100 once secret documents pertaining to the life and times of Michael Collins. If you are at all interested in what the British intelligence machine knew about Collins and his cohorts, this is a book you should not pass up. But exactly what kind of hush-hush information exists on Collins? The files have information on everything from his physical appearance to his political activities. The following passages are only small tidbits of what the British knew about Michael.
Regarding his physical appearance:
“He is a young man of fair complexion, clean shaven, strong jaws and features, may be 28 years of age."
"His description is 28 years, 5ft. 10 ins. high, well built, square shoulders, dark brown hair, round face, clean shaven, pale complexion, wears grey tweed suit and brown trilby hat."
Regarding his background:
"He belongs to a family of ‘brainy’ people who are disloyal and of advanced Sinn Féin sympathies. They are of the farming class."
"This man is a native of Cork, but he has not resided here for years past. He was employed in Dublin prior to the rebellion and was arrested and interned from there. His address in Dublin was 16 Rathdown Road. Collins has a sister residing at Sunday’s Well Cork. She is married to a man named Powell, an Excise Officer serving in Cork."
"There is no doubt Superintendent Love’s report on this matter is in accordance with the facts. The Collins family to which this man Michael Collins belongs is a very disloyal and (if they could) a dangerous family. John Collins with whom Michael has resided since his liberation is an ardent Sinn Féiner and even his wife had a brother in the Dublin rising who died in hospital of his wounds . . . Every member of the Collins family is…disloyal…"
Regarding his political activities:
"…I beg to state that Michael Collins was appointed paid Secretary to Irish National Aid in January, 1917 and in June last he became a member of the Executive Council of Sinn Féin."
"I beg to report I attended a Sinn Feinn [sic] meeting in Ballinalee on 7:10:1917 accompanied by Sergt. Casey. Rev P. Markey P.P. Clonbroney was appointed chairman [and] addressed the meeting and said he was proud to see such a crowd present before him that day. He referred to the lamentable death of poor Thomas Ashe who addressed them here not long ago and was arrested and tried by Court Marshal in Dublin. You all know the rest may his soul rest in peace. – The Irish party were only afraid the[y] were us[e]less. So join the Sinn Feinn [sic] movement. You know what it is now and please God we will have a free and limited Ireland from sea to sea."
"Capt Collins addressed the meeting and spoke at first in Irish. He then referred to the death of the late Thos Ashe and said he was there with Ashe the day he made his last speech there for which he was sent to Gaol and died. He said he would tell them how Ashe was convicted and sent to Gaol and died. He said the first of it was that he made a speech there which was reported by two police who were at the meeting. Those police did not (he said) swear the truth. He said he was present and heard what Ashe had said. He said one of the police contradicted the other, with reference to a statement made by Ashe about the alleged conveyance of a d[i]spatch from the late Rebel leader Pierce [sic] to Ashe before Pierce’s [sic] execution. He said the cause for which Ashe died for should be carried on until they had won and he was sure from what he saw there that they would carry on the fight. He said that although Ashe was dead that his spirit remained. He told them [they] are to organize and join the Sinn Féin movement and that the case would be put before the Peace Conference when the war was over. He wound up his speech by quoting from some man who said long ago that 'You will not get anything from the British government unless you approach them with a bullock’s tail in one hand and a landlord’s head in the other.'"
Speaking of files, have you ever wondered how closely the signature used for the typeface of the title for Michael Collins resembles Collins's own? Take a look below and compare the examples.
1 and 2 Collins's own signature of his name in Irish Gaelic, 3 Collins's own signature of his name in English, and 4 the movie rendering.