One Hundred Letters From Ireland
Copyright 2000-6 by Seán P. Sculley, Sr. All Rights Reserved.

In 1922, a young Irish wife and mother, Belle Murphy Barker, sailed to Ireland from New York with her two daughters to visit relatives. Her husband, Leonard, an Englishman, remained in New York where he worked in a sugar house. She and the girls planned to stay but a few months, but their return home was disrupted by the Irish Civil War, which began in June 1922 and lasted for 11 months. Belle and her daughters stayed with Belle's mother in a rural village in County Cork called Knocknalomon, which was near the border with County Kerry.

During their separation, from April 1922 through September 1923, Belle and Leonard exchanged 239 letters, of which 100 were written by Belle. Six birthdays passed during this time, two each of Belle and Leonard, and one each of Nancy (the elder daughter) and Sheila. Belle and Leonard also celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary during this separation.

Belle and her daughters survived the war. They were reunited with Leonard in September 1923, more than 500 days after they last saw him. Leonard and Belle had a third child, a daughter Mary, in 1924. The were married for 51 years until Belle died in April 1965.

Leonard died a year later, almost one year to the day after Belle's death. He had kept Belle's letters, every one, and gave them to Sheila, with whom he lived his last months. The whereabouts of Leonard's letters are not known at this time.
Belle Murphy was born in County Kerry, Ireland on May 5, 1888. She was the daughter of James Murphy and Jude Suggrue, who together had four daughters and two sons.
Leonard Charles Barker was born in Essex County, England on August 22, 1882. He had five brothers and three sisters and was the son of John Barker and Ann Maria Hearne. From 1899-1909, Leonard served as a general servant and waiter aboard British Royal Mail ships on voyages to New York and the far corners of the British Empire: Cape Town, Bombay, and Australia. Leonard also worked out of New York as a waiter aboard United States ships from 1903-1910, traveling to New Orleans, Panama, and Southampton, England.
Belle and Leonard were married July 23, 1913 and traveled to the British Isles for their honeymoon. They settled in the Borough of Edgewater, Bergen County, New Jersey. Belle gave birth to Ann Maria (Nancy), the first of three daughters, in April 1917. Julia Mary (Sheila) was born to them in January 1921. Mary, the youngest, was born in October 1924, a year after Belle's return from Ireland.
Photograph (from left to right): Nancy, Belle, Leonard, and Sheila Barker taken in a New York City studio before the girls' voyage to Ireland, 1922; digitally colorized.

About the Letters
After my mother Sheila's death in 1998, I discovered a bundle of old-looking papers tied with strings among her personal effects. They were letters written in ink and in pencil--no envelopes--neatly arranged and intact. Most of the letters were numbered and apparently none was missing. Only a few had minor water damage. I have since transcribed Bella's letters and created this site to preserve the information contained in them. I also did this to allow others, espcially my family, to enjoy the wonderful story these letters tell.

I have taken very few liberties in transcribing the letters. To aid in the reader's understanding, abbreviated words are spelled out between brackets immediately afterward. Misspelled words are so noted. Belle did not use punctuation marks often, especially periods. I have added punctuation to enhance readability, not merely to correct mistakes. In all cases, it is clear as to what Belle wrote versus what was edited.

Anecdotal information (both historical and personal), photographs, maps, and definitions of unfamiliar words Belle uses have been added to enhance your reading experience. I have added footnotes (within-page hyperlinks) for words or phrases that require explanatory text or graphics. They are accessed by clicking the linked word (it may be a different color, underlined, or both, depending on your browser settings). To return to the letter which you were reading after visiting one of these links, use the Back button on your browser.

Bella always wrote "+" to mean and, except when they stood for kisses at the end of the letter. I have substituted and for the plus sign in these transcriptions but left the kisses intact.

You may read the letters in chronological order by following the link at the bottom of each page (starting with this page) or you may use the Site Map to browse another area or the Table of Letters to jump to a particular letter.

Also please visit the Dedication Page, for whom this site was developed.

An excellent written and pictoral history of the Irish Civil War was written by Tim Pat Coogan & George Morrison entitled The Irish Civil War (1998, Roberts Rinehart Publishers).

Seán P. Sculley, Sr.
Grandson of Bella Murphy Barker
Son of Sheila Barker Sculley
Sailing for Ireland
Your questions or comments are welcome