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).
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).
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.
OTHER PAPERS IN THE SEAN LESTER PAPERS
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.