Friends and acquaintances of Frances-Mary Blake will be saddened to hear of death, aged 70, in December. In the mid-1970s she sorted and catalogued one of the largest collections of historical documents of the civil war period for the archives department of University College Dublin.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 Republican 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 war for independence. 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 W. H. 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 29th March 1939. Last November she was admitted to hospital after a period of illness. She died on 5th December. After a Catholic service she was buried in Woodcock Hill Cemetery, Rickmansworth, on 14th 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.
Troops Out Movement
3rd January 2010
From Mary Pearson, Troops Out Movement.