The most important year in the history of the survival of the diaries was 1961. That year our grandfather James Oram 1890-1964 took us (Chris and Carolyn) and a family party to Mayo to show us where he was born and and lived until 1906 before he moved to Devizes in Wiltshire. Then ‘Wilford’, the house in the header photograph was a mossy ruin and as he stood on a particular spot he announced in his soft Irish brogue “This was the room that I was born in”. Our mother, Daphne became enthralled with the reminiscences of James and his brother Arthur and was determined that the family memories should not be lost. Over the next decade she took on the role of family archivist as the then elderly grandchildren of John were delighted to give her family photographs and memorabilia. Daphne was enthusiastically supported by our father, another John Oram.
We, Chris and Carolyn think that Arthur’s diaries came to Daphne via his daughter Gretta. Arthur probably kept earlier diaries covering 1873 to 1888 that have not survived. Arthur’s diaries were kept in a dry garage in Bedfordshire before being taken to Yorkshire by Carolyn who, following Daphne’s death, took over the mantle of family archivist. Carolyn, in her quest to learn more about the family’s background in Ireland attended a series of WEA lectures on the history of Ireland. Her knuckles were firmly rapped, so to speak, when she mentioned the diaries to the lecturer. She was told that they were much too valuable to be at risk to a fire in her house and suggested contacting Professor Mary Daly at University College Dublin.
When Gretta’s daughter Catherine died Carolyn received more photographs and memorabilia including the ‘carte de visite’ photograph album of Arthur’s wife Catherine that Gretta had annotated.
During this time John’s diaries were at the home of our Uncle Arthur in Surrey. We can only guess at how he came to have them, no doubt via his father James who had taken us to Mayo in 1961. John’s daughter Jane, who lived with her parents during their last years will have been aware of James’ love of history and he would have been an obvious recipient for John’s diaries. In his will our Uncle Arthur left the diaries to one of his daughters who was pleased to hand them to University College Dublin so that they could be safely kept with Arthur’s diaries.