Irish Archive letters feature on BBC Radio 4 documentary

A collection of letters from the archives of London Metropolitan University’s Irish Studies Centre were featured on BBC Radio 4 in 2014.

From the Inside: the Guildford Four is based on the previously unheard letters home of Paul Hill, written during his 15th year incarceration for the Guildford Pub Bombings. Hill was one of the Guildford Four, who were subsequently found to have been wrongly convicted of IRA pub bombings in 1974. After a lengthy campaign, their convictions were quashed and they were released in 1989. Martin McNamara presents this collection of passionate, evocative, angry and poignant letters written by Paul Hill to members of his family, especially his mother, sister and uncle.

The collection of over 600 letters written by Paul Hill of the Guildford Four constitutes one of the most historically significant deposits in the Archive of the Irish in Britain. Located within the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, the archive is consulted on a regular basis by students, researchers and the media. The manuscripts chronicle Hill’s 15-year incarceration in British prisons from his conviction in 1975 to his release in 1989. The collection also includes Hill’s heavily annotated prison bible.

The donation was made to the Archive on the Belfast man’s behalf by his uncle, Errol Smalley, in 2001. This was a major coup for the Archive, which was established in 1984 and moved to the Irish Studies Centre at London Metropolitan University five years later. Director of the Irish Studies Centre and senior lecturer in English Literature at London Metropolitan University, Dr Tony Murray, says: "These letters are a very significant body of evidence for not only historians of British-Irish relations during the late twentieth century, but more generally researchers interested in miscarriages of justice and human rights abuses."

Hill was one of four people wrongfully convicted for the Guildford pub bombings of 5 October 1974, in which five people were killed and over 60 people injured. The Guildford Four were finally released from prison after a long campaign on their behalf. Subsequent acquisition of the collection, the contents were preserved for posterity. Dr Murray believes that the digitisation of the letters would help make them more available to researchers and members of the public. He says: "We do not currently have the resources to digitise the collection, but are seeking funding to do this. Forty years on from Hill’s original conviction, it would be fitting if this moving personal story and vital slice of British-Irish history was made more widely accessible."

From Inside the Guildford Four was broadcast on Saturday, 4 October 2014 and is available on BBC iPlayer Radio.

The Paul Hill Prison Letters are available for viewing by contacting the Archive at irishinbritainarchive@londonmet.ac.uk.