Sub-Fonds - Lester, Sean

Open original Digital object

Identity area

Reference code


Lester, Sean


  • 1929- (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Context area

Name of creator

Administrative history

When Lester returned to Ireland in 1947, he brought with him much written material covering his 18 years of service abroad: a diary in various forms, as well as correspondence, texts of talks he had given, reports and documents, and a vast number of press cuttings. (This material joined a pre-1929 collection, not included in the Sean Lester Papers). His intention had been to write up something of his experiences, particularly as High Commissioner in Danzig at a crucial period, and as last Secretary-General of the League of Nations. This intention was not carried out.

The papers were scattered during a number of house-moves after Lester died in 1959. They were placed in various "safe places" of which track was not kept, and the family came to believe that all were lost: the diaries and the voluminous mass of other material. However, over a number of years, in the eighties, all the papers were found, in five batches. They were filed chronologically and constitute the present collection of Sean Lester Papers.

Lester's diary is at the heart of the collection. Entries vary between half a page and 8 pages; at times made on a daily basis, or even more frequently, then nothing for months or more. Altogether they may total 1200 pages. The subjects covered are mainly political events and personalities, some gossipy items, occasionally family affairs and fishing, etc. The whole is unexpurgated.

The diaries come in two parts (mainly because of the time at which they were found).

  1. A series of notebooks, hand written, covering the period September 1935 - end of 1946. This part of the diary, when found, was copied for the family, and bound (together with some non diary material, slipped into the note-books).

  2. A large quantity of loose-leaf pages, typed by either Lester himself or his secretary, covering the period 1934-1946, thus also overlapping the notebook period in the bound diary. The initial page shows date, often the place where written, and variously headed Private Diary or Extracts from Diary, or Diary-Secret and Confidential, or Semi-Official Diary. The reason for these different inscriptions is not now clear. Many of these diary notes were forwarded to the Secretary-General, or occasionally to other correspondents, some were for Lester's eyes only, or as aide-mémoires for annual reports on his activities.

The remaining papers making up the collection of papers include correspondence, talks given by Lester, a number of reports and documents and a large quantity of press cuttings (many more such cuttings are still in family hands), and miscellaneous material.

All papers, whether diary entries or correspondence, etc., have been filed in chronological order and integrated in the Sean Lester Papers, the only exception being the bound diary, which is available separately.

A chronological detailed list of the 1929-1946 materials has been made and attached to the Sean Lester Papers. This is a rough listing drawn up for family use.

Archival history

A full set of the collection is with the League of Nations Archives, Palais des Nations, Geneva - other sets remain with the family - and is freely available for consultation by researchers. The collection was donated to the Archives over a period of five years, starting in 1980, by Sean Lester's daughters, Dorothy Mary Gageby, Patricia Kilroy and Ann Gorski.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

S. Lester's Diary (1935-1941) consists of two bound volumes.
Vol. I contains a typescript copy of pages 1-753 and a copy of an article on S. Lester published in "UN Special", July 1959;
Vol. II contains photocopies of pages 754-978 (including annexes and an index to the diary).

The collection of Lester papers (including some pages from the diary, private and official correspondence, reports, many press cuttings,relating particularly to the Danzig period when he was targeted by the Nazi press, etc.) covers essentially the period 1929-1946, but also includes some post-retirement material running up to 1959, as well as some photos and family letters.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access


Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

    Script of material

      Language and script notes

      Physical characteristics and technical requirements

      Finding aids

      Generated finding aid

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

      Related units of description

      Related descriptions

      Notes area


      Creation date remarks: Some notes, correspondence and newspaper clippings were written or added by S. Lester's daugthers at a much later. Some photographs were taken before 1929.

      Alternative identifier(s)

      Scope ID


      Access points

      Subject access points

      Place access points

      Name access points

      Genre access points

      Description control area

      Description identifier

      Institution identifier

      Rules and/or conventions used



      Level of detail

      Dates of creation revision deletion




          Archivist's note

          Protection period duration: 60

          Archivist's note

          Protection period note:

          Archivist's note

          Permission: No permission necessary.

          Archivist's note

          Physical usability: Without limits

          Archivist's note

          Term of protection: None

          Digital object (Master) rights area

          Digital object (Reference) rights area

          Digital object (Thumbnail) rights area

          Accession area