Who are the library men of WW1?

Who were the library men?​​

'The library men’ were 11 members of staff from Belfast Public Libraries who enlisted
in various regiments of the British Army during WW1. 

Between 1914 and 1919 over 200 letters were exchanged between these men
and the Chief Librarian. The letters were written as a condition of employment, in order
to receive the half-pay that Belfast Public Libraries continued to pay to their staff during
war service.

The voices of ordinary men 

Through the unique collection of letters 'the library men' have given us their own
individual accounts of the Great War, beginning with life in the training camps,
the brutal reality of trench warfare right through to demobilisation and eventual
return to civilian life. 

Read the letters >>​

What we know – in brief​ 



Where they lived in the years before the war


Robert James Alexander​


​Edinburgh Street off the Lisburn Road

​Lending Department, Belfast Central Library​

William Brown​

*killed in action*


​Lichfield Avenue, off the Bloomfield Road

​Lending Department, Belfast Central Library

Matthew Butler


​Dunstan Street, Springfield Road area, later Pisa Street, Grosvenor Road area.

​Falls Road Branch Library

Thomas Coulson

​South Shields, England

​Springfield Parade, off the Springfield Road. During the war his pay goes to his sister in England and he doesn’t appear to come back to or have a link with Belfast again

​Branch Manager Falls Road Branch Library

​Joseph Frederick Eagleson


Greenville Road, off the Upper Beersbridge Road​

​Donegal Road Branch Library

Joseph Fitzsimons

​Ballycastle ​

​Clonard Gardens, near the Springfield Road/Falls Road

​Lending Department, Belfast Central Library

Samuel Freeland


​Meadowbank Street, off the Lisburn Road

​Museum and Art Gallery in Belfast Central Library

​John McCausland

​Dungannon (family where originally from Dunmullan, near Omagh)

​Moorfield Street, off Ravenscroft Avenue.

​Lending Department, Belfast Central Library

​Patrick O’Rourke

​Co. Monaghan

​Clonard Gardens, near the Springfield Road/Falls Road

​Belfast Central Library

Alexander Stewart Roy


​Canning Street, near North Queen Street

Oldpark Branch Library​

Matthew Augustine Warren


​River Terrace, near the Ormeau Road

​Ballymacarrett Branch Library​

Chief Librarians​



Where they lived in the years before the war

George Hall Elliott​



​John Bewick Goldsbrough​


​Fitzwilliam Street, off Lisburn Road

If you can supply any information about these men please email feedback@librariesni.org.uk




Email Libraries NI

If you can supply any information
about these men please email feedback@librariesni.org.uk​