7 January 2010 Edition

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Fógraí bháis: Frances-Mary Blake

FRIENDS and acquaintances of Frances-Mary Blake will be saddened to hear of her death, aged 70, in December.
A reseacher and writer on the Irish Civil War, she was a member of the Troops Out Movement, a supporter of Irish political prisoners and their families, and an activist on human rights and justice generally
In the mid-1970s, she sorted and catalogued one of the largest collections of historical documents of the Civil War period for the Archives Department of University College Dublin. Following her work on the papers of IRA officer Ernie O’Malley, she edited his best-selling book on the Civil War, ‘The Singing Flame’. Frances also worked on and wrote the introduction for ‘Raids and Rallies’, another book extracted from O’Malley’s papers about the Tan War. Later she wrote ‘The Irish Civil War – and what it still means for the Irish people’, which outlined her own views of that period.

Frances-Mary Blake was born and lived in Rickmansworth, on the north-west outskirts of London, later moving to nearby Chorleywood.
She had a varied selection of jobs: working in a library, in broadcasting, as a purser on the Cunard Lines, as an editor for the publishers WH Allen and then with the British Waterways Board.
Her mother, Mollie, was Irish and Frances inherited from her a love of Ireland. She often spoke about the happy family holidays in Donegal and later Kerry.
Frances was an active member of the Troops Out Movement and we remember her as a passionate campaigner for human rights and against injustice.
As an ardent defender of the Republican Movement she deployed her gifts as a letter writer to challenge its critics such as politicians and public commentators in sharply-worded, clearly-argued letters. She also wrote a great many letters of support to republican prisoners, some of whom she visited during their incarceration. Many prisoners and their relatives became lifelong friends.

All her works were well-received and often inspirational to many who shared her ideals. But Frances will be best remembered as a writer, especially for her contributions to the Ernie O’Malley books.
Frances-Mary Blake was born on 29 March 1939. Last November, she was admitted to hospital after a period of illness. She died on 5 December. She was buried in Woodcock Hill Cemetery, Rickmansworth, on 14 December.
Frances was devoted to the cause of Irish independence and gave much of her time and talents in campaigning to achieve that end. We remember her with deep affection as a dear comrade and we know that there will be many people in Britain and Ireland who will wish to pay tribute to her unique contribution.

An Phoblacht
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