About the Collection
The Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, 1916 (PLIC) was established in June 1916 to assess claims for damages to buildings and property as a result of the destruction caused by the 1916 Rising. The Committee succeeded the Dublin Fire and Property Losses Association, which had been established in May 1916 by business interests and property owners who met on 8 May 1916 in the Mansion House, Dublin. Led by well-known businessman William Martin Murphy, the Association exerted pressure on the Irish Parliamentary Party and the British government to provide compensation to those who had lost their business or property and to provide for the associated costs of rebuilding in the wake of the Rising.
The PLIC operated as a three man committee, composed of one businessman, Sir William Goulding of the fertiliser and phosphates company W and HM Goulding, along with two individuals with wide-ranging experience of insurance assessment, William E Osborn of Messrs Selfe and Company of London and Samuel Pipkin, general manager of the Atlas Assurance Company Limited of London. The secretary of the Committee was James J Healy of the Commissioners of Public Works.
Originally, only uninsured or partially insured businesses or individuals were to be included in the Committee’s terms of reference. Following pressure from businessmen, including Murphy, this rule was relaxed. It was argued that uninsured individuals were better off because they were effectively indemnified by the British government, whereas many insurance companies refused to pay for damage sustained as a result of acts of war. Despite lobbying, the Committee refused to entertain claims for consequential loss, including claims for fresh produce that had rotted and could not be sold.
The series of PLIC/1 consists of 6,567 files that have been digitised in their entirety. The files consist of applications on a standard application form from individuals and businesses for compensation for damage to buildings and property, including loss of personal property sustained as a direct result of the fighting, or subsequently as a result of fire and looting. A number of applications have further correspondence and police reports attached. There is also a small number of architectural plans included with claims where a building was completely destroyed. For example, see PLIC/1/1458, a claim for the complete reconstruction of 71 Abbey Street Middle. The majority of the claims relate to small items, however, such as jewellery left in for repair in one of the jewellers in Sackville Street [O’Connell Street] or personal items belonging to those employed in many of the businesses in the areas affected by the destruction, such as chambermaids who lived in staff quarters in hotels destroyed by fire.
There is also a large number of claims from artists whose works were on display in the Royal Hibernian Academy, located in Abbey Street Lower, which was completely destroyed. These include some renowned artists, such as Jack B. Yeats, who lost three paintings (PLIC/1/738) and Sir John Lavery (PLIC/1/1225), who lost a painting entitled Girls in Sunlight. The destruction of a number of book binding and printing businesses, including Alexander Thom and Company Limited and Maunsel and Company Limited, resulted in the loss of manuscripts by writers and artists, including the stained glass artist Harry Clarke, who lost cover designs and illustrations in Maunsel and Company Limited (PLIC/1/1061), Jack B. Yeats, who lost an original drawing in Maunsel and Company Limited (PLIC/1/1542) and the writer Stewart Lennox Robinson whose manuscript of a novel was lost (PLIC/1/1930).
The collection also includes a large number of claims from businesses that sustained loss, not only to their premises but also to their stock, which had to be listed at item level in order to be assessed for compensation. These include the main department stores Arnott and Company Limited (PLIC/1/2082) and Clery and Company Limited (PLIC/1/1784). Another example is Brooks Thomas (PLIC/1/39), a builders’ merchant that had reportedly been stockpiling glass at their premises in Beresford Place, beside Liberty Hall, due to rationing of material as a result of the First World War. The proximity to Liberty Hall resulted in damage from artillery fire from the gunboat HMY Helga. Brooks Thomas and a number of similar businesses also appear in other applications in which they have provided quotations for materials and repair work, reflecting a boom in the building trade and associated professions in Dublin in the wake of the Rising.
The collection provides a valuable insight into the level of destruction sustained in the wake of the Rising to the area around Sackville Street [O’Connell Street] and Henry Street. It also includes a substantial number of claims for destruction and looting in Wexford and Galway. A claim by John Shackleton, caretaker to Lady Ardilaun of Moyode Castle, County Galway, describes the negative reaction in the locality to his decision to proceed with a claim for the sale of his personal possessions, and his contention that he was left with no choice but to move away from the district (PLIC/1/2348). The collection allows researchers to determine the military tactics of both sides, particularly the British army. Many claims for compensation relate to household furniture removed by the British army for use as barricades against the rebels. The concentration of fighting in a number of areas is reflected in the level of destruction sustained by buildings in those areas.
The collection also provides a unique and interesting perspective on the social and political history of the time. The loss of all their belongings by those living in staff quarters is underlined by a letter accompanying a claim by Lizzie Walsh, a chambermaid in the Metropole Hotel (PLIC/1/1537). She complains that the amount of the award she has been granted is insufficient to purchase a new uniform, which will prevent her from obtaining a new job. The claim by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, widow of Francis Sheehy Skeffington (PLIC/1/3210), provides details of the raid on her house in Grosvenor Place, Rathmines. A claim by Sergeant Edward Henry (PLIC/1/3180) provides an interesting account of his capture by rebels and his time as a prisoner in the General Post Office (GPO).
The Final Report of the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, 1916 was submitted to the British government on 7 April 1917 and signed by the three-man committee of Sir William J Goulding, William E Osborn and Samuel J Pipkin, along with the secretary to the committee, James J Healy of the Commissioners of Public Works. The report provides details of the procedures adopted by the Committee following its establishment in June 1916, the reasons behind its decisions and the practical outcomes in terms of the monies paid to claimants, including large businesses seeking the reconstruction of buildings and the loss of stock, as well as individuals seeking the replacement of small personal items. The report includes a table of buildings in Dublin City that were completely destroyed and rebuilt and the justification for the expenditure of large amounts of money, including the withdrawal of the police and the fire brigade from the streets in the days following the outbreak of the Rising with the result that ‘nothing could be done in most cases to check the fires, or to salve any of the property in the buildings affected’. The report underlines the prolific work rate of the Committee during its 10 month existence and sets out the details of the number of claims assessed (7,001 of which 6,236 were admitted), the categories under which claims were assessed and the amount of money paid, including the final total of £1,844,390, an enormous sum at the time.
The report forms part of a file that originally formed part of the Chief Secretary’s Office Registered Papers, but was accessioned by the National Archives as a Department of Justice central registry file (NAI, JUS/H277/120), into which the report was transferred after 1922. This file also includes the minutes of a deputation by members of Dublin Corporation and Irish members of parliament to meet the Home Secretary, Herbert Samuel, at Dublin Castle on 5 June 1916. This document includes details of the discussions about the proposed reconstruction of Dublin City, including the potential to widen streets and proceed with public housing schemes, and the introduction of planning legislation for the first time. The deputation was anxious that any money paid to building owners would be subject to conditions that reconstruction did in fact take place and the money could not be used for any other purpose. The issue of a grant to Dublin Corporation was also proposed. The Home Secretary stated he was willing to consider the deputation’s proposals and encouraged them to consider legislation similar to the Town Planning Act of 1909, which he had first-hand knowledge of from his former role as president of the Local Government Board in England. During this time, he ‘formed the opinion that looking to the future generations there is nothing more important at the present time than to see that our urban conditions are improved’. He was unwilling to consider any form of grant aid, however, and consideration could only be given to some form of loan to Dublin Corporation as if a grant were given ‘what would all the towns in England say, many of which have got very bad housing conditions’.
Following the completion of the work of the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, 1916 and the submission of the final report, the case files and associated administrative material were transferred to the Chief Secretary’s Office in Dublin Castle. The archives of the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, 1916 were subsequently transferred to the State Paper Office for long-term preservation. The State Paper Office was abolished under the terms of the National Archives Act, 1986, and the material was transferred to the National Archives, where it is now housed in Bishop Street.
The associated material consists of a series of registers (PLIC/2), correspondence between the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee and the Chief Secretary’s Office (PLIC/3), financial records (PLIC/4) and correspondence (PLIC/5). The registers were compiled to keep track of the level of award to each claimant. The series of correspondence between the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee and Chief Secretary is largely routine in nature, and the financial records are also largely routine, comprising monthly accounts, related papers and material relating to the reconstruction of Dublin city centre from April 1917. The final series of correspondence is varied, but mainly consists of letters seeking information about the status of an application. This material has not been digitised but has been fully catalogued and the lists for PLIC/2 - PLIC/4 are available to researchers in the Reading Room of the National Archives. Information on visiting the Reading Room is available on the website of the National Archives (www.nationalarchives.ie).
Conservation was an essential element in preparing the material for digitisation. Creases, tears and surface dirt were the most common issues affecting the files. These issues had to be addressed to ensure clear images could be captured. Due to the size of the collection, a phased approach to the conservation management was taken. This work was carried out by preservation assistants and conservators. The preservation assistants made a note of damaged files as they worked through the boxes. These lists were then given to the conservators who undertook the appropriate treatment, including repairing tears and flattening badly creased pages. Architectural elevations that had been folded in envelopes within files required more time. Most elevations were on resin based tracing paper supports, which were brittle and damaged from being folded. For more information on the conservation work see:
- How we cleaned and housed 6,567 PLIC files to archival standard
- How we unfolded and conserved tracing paper building plans in the PLIC files
The files of the Property Losses (Ireland) Commission (PLIC/1) were digitised to preservation standard. This work involved creating scanned copies of the 6,567 files. The individual images of the contents of each file were then converted into a multiple page PDF file which allows the researcher to view a digital image of the whole file.
The collection has been fully indexed and is searchable by surname, location or business name. For information on how to use the website, please consult the How to Search page.
The National Archives gratefully acknowledges the Board of Trinity College Dublin and the National Museum of Ireland for the use of photographs from their collections on this website.