Books and documentaries to tell the story of Cork hero Mary Elmes

Books and documentaries to tell the story of Cork hero Mary Elmes
At the Cork Literary and Scientific Society opening lecture by Bernard Wilson on Mary Elmes of Cork held in the Crawford Art Gallery were (from left) Bernard Wilson, the guest speaker; Dr. Alicia St. Leger, hon. secretary of the society and Mark Elmes, a cousin of Mary Elmes. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Cork woman Mary Elmes was an unsung hero for many years after showing tremendous bravery during World War II smuggling Jewish children into Spain but a series of talks, books and a documentary are set to bring her story to wider attention.

Born in Cork City in 1908, she studied at Trinity College before moving to London. In 1937 she joined the University of London Ambulance Unit and was sent to Spain as an aid worker in the midst of civil war in the country. 

Jill Hingston, Passage West, Maeve Fleischmann, Cork city centre and Anne Fleming, Blackrock, at the Cork Literary and Scientific Society opening lecture by Bernard Wilson on Mary Elmes from Cork held in the Crawford Art Gallery. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Jill Hingston, Passage West, Maeve Fleischmann, Cork city centre and Anne Fleming, Blackrock, at the Cork Literary and Scientific Society opening lecture by Bernard Wilson on Mary Elmes from Cork held in the Crawford Art Gallery. Picture: Denis Minihane.

From there she moved to France and when the Nazi death camps began, she worked to smuggle Jewish children out of the camps to safety. She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and spent six months in prison.

It was only in the last decade that the story of Mary Elmes has come to light, thanks to research by a number of people, including one boy she had saved from the Holocaust when he was 18 months old.

On Thursday night, British college lecturer Bernard Wilson gave a talk about Mary Elmes’ life and story at the Crawford Gallery.

There are also two books on the subject being released this month - A Time to Risk All by Clodagh Finn and The Extraordinary Story Of Mary Elmes by Paddy Butler.

Mr Butler is also the executive producer of a documentary about the Cork woman, called It Tolls for Thee. The film, narrated by Winona Ryder, has been screened at a number of film festivals this year and is being aired on TG4 on November 8.

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