March 8th 2023

Title ‘A Time to Risk All’
Speaker: Clodagh Finn
Time: @ 7:45 PM
Location: Iona Pastoral Centre

Mary Elmes: image from Clodagh Finn’s book ‘A Time to Risk All’

Book Introduction


Clodagh Finn has travelled throughout Europe to piece together the story of this remarkable, unknown Irish woman, meeting many of those children Mary Elmes saved. Here, in a book packed with courage, heroism, adventure and tragedy, her story is finally remembered.

The children called her ‘Miss Mary’, and they remember her kindness still. She gave them food and shelter and later risked her life to help them escape the convoys bound for Auschwitz.

Turning her back on a brilliant academic career, Mary Elmes ventured into a war zone to help children in the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, she fled Franco’s forces but continued to work with refugees in France when the Second World War broke out. In 1942, when it became evident that Jews were being deported to their deaths, she smuggled children to safety in the boot of her car. She was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo, but went straight back to work after her release.

When the war was over, Mary married and settled down, never speaking about what she had done. Her story was forgotten. In A Time to Risk All her remarkable story is finally remembered as it should be.

From left: Patrick Danjou, son of Mary Elmes; Charlotte Berger-Greneche; Clodagh Finn, journalist and author; Georges Koltein and Sally and John Wilkes at the ceremony to mark the official opening of Cork’s newest bridge, the Mary Elmes Bridge on Sept. 27, 2019.
The bridge was named in memory of Mary, who, along with co-workers, rescued over 400 children from deportation to Auschwitz from a holding camp in South West France.
Pic: Brian Lougheed

Please click on any image below to open a photo gallery.

About the Author
Excerpt from:

Clodagh Finn
Photo by Nick Bradshaw.

Author Clodagh Finn has always been inspired by stories, particularly around the landscape that she grew up in, in Kerry. Her family, particularly her dad and her Auntie Mary, were wonderful storytellers and it was perhaps because of their gift of the gab that Clodagh became more fascinated by story writing.

‘They brought the places we visited to life with tales of haunted castles and piseogs but they also told the real stories of shipwrecks and missing treasure, ancient saints and holy wells, sacred places and others marred by massacre and cruelty,’ she tells me.

Writing and reading became more than just hobbies and Clodagh went on to study journalism in Dublin. She worked as a journalist for the Irish Examiner, the Sunday Independent, the Irish Independent and as a freelance writer and editor in Paris.

Recent publication

Through Her Eyes
by Clodagh Finn

Told through the prism of the lives of 21 extraordinary women, this remarkable book offers an alternative vision of Irish history – one that puts the spotlight on women whose contributions have been forgotten or overlooked.

From a Stone Age farmer who lived in Co. Clare more than 5,000 years ago to the modern-day founder of a 3D printing company, this book opens a fascinating window onto the life and times of some amazing women whose stories were shaped by the centuries in which they lived.