Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916

Prelude to the Easter Rising of 1916
The Signatories of the Proclamation

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

John “Jack” Devoy

Born: 1842 Died: 1928

Revolution has usually been a young man's game. John Devoy was definitely an exception to this rule; -- a man who lived to a very old age, through times which would have thrown a saint into despair, the fire in his revolutionary soul never flickering. Few outside of the very well read among Irish history enthusiasts know much of the accomplishments of this tireless worker for Irish independence. As such, a memorial committee has been set up to erect a monument to John Devoy in his home town of Naas, Co. Kildare. John Devoy was considered by many including Padraic Pearse to be the most determined and greatest of the Fenians.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Edward “Ned” Daly

25 February 1891 – 4 May 1916

Daly's battalion, stationed in the Four Courts and areas to the west and north of Dublin center, saw the most intense fighting of the rising. He surrendered his battalion on 29 April. In his trial, he claimed that he was just following orders, but was executed by firing squad on 4 May 1916, at the age of 25.

The men in his battalion spoke of him as a good commandant. This opinion was also shared by a British officer that Daly's battalion had captured.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Richard “Dick” Mulcahy

10 May 1886 – 16 December 1971

He was second-in-command to the late Thomas Ashe (who would later die on hunger strike) in an encounter with the armed Royal Irish Constabulary at Ashbourne, County Meath during the Easter Rising in 1916. In his recent account of the Rising Charles Townsend principally credits Mulcahy with the defeat of the RIC at Ashbourne for conceiving and leading a flanking movement on the RIC column that had engaged with the Irish Volunteers. Arrested after the rising he was interned at Knutsford and at the Frongoch internment camp in Wales until his release on the 24 December 1916.

Cornelius “Conn” Colbert

1888 – Executed May 8, 1916

During Easter Week, he fought at Watkin's Brewery, Jameson's Distillery and Marrowbone Lane. Thomas MacDonagh at 3.15 p.m. Sunday, 30 April surrendered to Brigadier-General Lowe. He was then allowed to return to the other garrisons to arrange for their surrender.

Colbert surrendered with the Marrowbone Lane Garrison along with the South Dublin Union Garrison, which had been led by Eamonn Ceannt. When the order to surrender was issued, he assumed the command of his unit to save the life of his superior officer, who was a married man.
They were marched to Richmond Barracks, where Colbert would later be court-martialled.

Transferred to Kilmainham Gaol, he was told on Sunday 7 May that he was to be shot the following morning. He wrote no fewer than ten letters during his time in prison. During this time in detention, he did not allow any visits from his family; writing to his sister, he said a visit "would grieve us both too much."

Cathal Brugha

18 July 1874 – 7 July 1922

Reinforcements were sent to Dublin from England, and disembarked at Kingstown on the morning of 26 April. Heavy fighting occurred at the rebel-held positions around the Grand Canal as these troops advanced towards Dublin. The Sherwood Foresters were repeatedly caught in a cross-fire trying to cross the canal at Mount Street. Seventeen Volunteers were able to severely disrupt the British advance, killing or wounding 240 men. The rebel position at the South Dublin Union (site of the present day St. James's Hospital), further west along the canal, also inflicted heavy losses on British troops trying to advance towards Dublin Castle. Cathal Brugha, a rebel officer, distinguished himself in this action and was badly wounded.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Helena Moloney

Helena Moloney
Born: January 1, 1884 - Died: January 28, 1967

Helena Moloney (1884, Dublin, Ireland - January 28, 1967, Dublin, Ireland) was a prominent Irish republican, feminist and labor activist. She fought in the 1916 Easter Rising and later became the first woman president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In 1903, inspired by a pro-nationalist speech given by Maud Gonne, Helena Moloney joined "Inghinidhe na hÉireann" (Daughters of Ireland) and began a lifelong commitment to the republican cause.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Countess Markiewicz

4 February 1868 – 15 July 1927

They were taken to Dublin Castle and the Countess was then transported to Kilmainham jail. There she was the only one of 70 women prisoners who was put into solitary confinement. No doubt, she fully expected to be executed.

On May 3rd she sat in her cell and heard the three volleys of the first executions, each followed by a single pistol shot as the commander of the firing squad put one bullet in their heads. Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh, and Patrick Pearse were dead, though she had no idea whom the victims might have been. As prepared as she may have been to die, alone there in her cell, the sounds must have been chilling.

At her court martial she told the court, "I did what was right and I stand by it." Her conviction was assured, only her sentence was in doubt. She was sentenced to death, but General Maxwell commuted this to life in prison on "account of the prisoner's sex." Given a choice she would probably have been added to the list of those dying for the cause. She told the officer who brought her the news , ".... I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Francis “Skeffy” Sheehy-Skeffington

Francis “Skeffy” Sheehy-Skeffington

23 December 1878 – 26 April 1916

He supported Home Rule but was not a supporter of the Irish Volunteers, preferring civil disobedience. Skeffy and Hanna took opposing positions towards the Easter Rising - he sticking to his pacifist principles. Hanna brought food to the rebels located at the General Post Office and the Royal College of Surgeons.

During the week of the Easter Rising, Sheehy-Skeffington, who had been living at 11 Grosvenor Place Rathmines Dublin, was concerned about the collapse of law and order. On the evening of Tuesday, 25 April, he went into the city centre to attempt to organise a citizens militia (police) to prevent the looting of damaged shops.

He was arrested for no stated, or indeed obvious, reason while returning home, by members of the British 11th East Surrey Regiment at Portobello Bridge along with some hecklers who were following him, and, after admitting to having sympathy for the insurgents' cause (but not their tactics), he was held as an enemy sympathizer. Later that evening an Anglo-Irish officer of the 3rd battalion Royal Irish Rifles, Captain J.C. Bowen-Colthurst (a member of a County Cork landed gentry family), sent Sheehy-Skeffington out, with his hands tied behind his back, as a hostage, with an army raiding party in Rathmines with orders that he would be shot if the raiding party was attacked.

Bowen-Colthurst sought out "Fenians"; he also took captive a young boy, two pro-British journalists — Thomas Dixon and Patrick McIntyre — and a Sinn Féin politician, Richard O'Carroll, all of whom he had shot. Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington was never told either of his detention or death. She only discovered what happened four days later when she met the chaplain of the barracks. Bowen-Colthurst attempted a cover-up and ordered the search and ransack of Skeffy's home looking for spurious evidence. This event resulted in a Westminster-ordered cover-up, and Captain Bowen-Colthurst was detained in an asylum for eighteen months as a result. He would later be retired to Canada on a full pension.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sean MacBride

7 May 1865 – 5 May 1916
MacBride, unlike the other Rising leaders, was not a member of the Irish Volunteers, and happened to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice, but he offered his services to Thomas MacDonagh and was appointed second-in-command at the Jacob's factory. MacBride, after a court martial under the Defence of The Realms Acts, was shot by British troops in Kilmainham Jail, Dublin.

He was executed on 5 May 1916, two days before his fifty-first birthday. Facing the British firing squad, he refused to be blindfolded, saying "I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence." He is now buried in Arbour Hill Cemetery (Dublin). Yeats, who had hated MacBride during his life largely because of Yeats' unrequited love for Maud Gonne and who had heard negative reports of MacBride's treatment of Gonne in their marriage, gave him the following ambivalent eulogy in his poem "Easter 1916":

"This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vain-glorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eamon De Valera

Eamon De Valera

Born 14 October 1882(1882-10-14) Manhattan, New York
Died 29 August 1975 (aged 92) Dublin, Ireland

On 24 April 1916 the rising began. De Valera occupied Boland's Mill, Grand Canal Street in Dublin, his chief task being to cover the south-eastern approaches to the city. After a week of fighting the order came from Patrick Pearse to surrender.
De Valera was court-martialled, convicted, and sentenced to death, but the sentence was immediately commuted to penal servitude for life. It has been argued that he was saved by two facts: firstly, he was held in a different prison from other leaders, thus his execution was delayed by practicalities; had he been held with Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and others, he probably would have been one of the first executed; and secondly, his American birth delayed his execution, while the full legal situation (i.e., was he actually a United States citizen and if so, how would the United States react to the execution of one of its citizens?) was clarified.
The fact that Britain was trying to bring the USA into the war in Europe at the time made the situation even more delicate. Both delays taken together meant that, while he was next-in-line for execution, when the time came for a decision, all executions had been halted in view of the negative public reaction. Timing, location, and questions relating to citizenship may have saved de Valera's life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Michael Collins

Michael Collins 16 October 1890 – 22 August 1922

Michael Collins first became known during the Easter Rising in 1916. A skilled organiser of considerable intelligence, he was highly respected in the IRB, so much so that he was made financial advisor to Count Plunkett, father of one of the Rising's organisers, Joseph Mary Plunkett, whose aide-de-camp Collins later became.

When the Rising itself took place on Easter Monday, 1916, he fought alongside Patrick Pearse and others in the General Post Office in Dublin. The Rising became (as expected by many) a military disaster. While some celebrated the fact that a rising had happened at all, believing in Pearse's theory of "blood sacrifice" (namely that the deaths of the Rising's leaders would inspire others), Collins railed against it, notably the seizure of indefensible and very vulnerable positions such as St Stephen's Green that were impossible to escape from and difficult to supply. (During the War of Independence he ensured the avoidance of such sitting targets, with his soldiers operating as "flying columns" who waged a guerrilla war against the British, suddenly attacking then just as quickly withdrawing, minimising losses and maximising effectiveness.)

Collins, like many of the other participants, was arrested, almost executed and wound up at Frongoch internment camp. By the time of the general release, Collins had already become one of the leading figures in the post-rising Sinn Féin, a small nationalist party which the British government and the Irish media wrongly blamed for the Rising. It was quickly infiltrated by survivors of the Rising, so as to capitalise on the "notoriety" the movement had gained through British attacks. By October 1917, Collins had risen to become a member of the executive of Sinn Féin and director of organisation of the Irish Volunteers; Éamon de Valera was president of both organisations

Joseph Mary Plunkett

Joseph Mary Plunkett November 21, 1887 - May 4, 1916

Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed. As such he may be held partially responsible for the military disater that ensued, though one should realize that under the circumstances any plan was bound to fail. Shortly before the rising was to begin, Plunkett was hospitalized following a turn for the worse in his health. He had an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and had to struggle out of bed to take part in what was to follow. Still bandaged, he took his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising's leaders such as Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevented him from being terribly active. His energetic aide de camp was Michael Collins.

Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham Jail, and faced a court martial. Hours before his execution by firing squad he was married in the prison chapel to his sweetheart Grace Gifford, whose sister had years before married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh.

I see His Blood Upon the Rose

I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.
Joseph Mary Plunkett

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thomas MacDonagh

Thomas MacDonagh

Born at Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, 1878; Executed May 3, 1916

Born in County Tipperary; educated at Rockwell College and University College, Dublin; joined the Gaelic League, 1901; assisted Pearse in the foundation of St. Enda’s, 1908; When the Dawn is Come, produced at the Abbey, 1908 and Metempsychosis, by the Theatre of Ireland, 1912; Assistant Lecturer at University College, Dublin, 1911; co-founded the Irish Review, 1911, and the Itish Theatre, 1914; founder member of the Irish Volunteers, 1913, and its Director of Training, 1914; organized the O’Donovan Rossa funeral, 1915; signatory to the Proclamation; executed Kilmainham, 3 May 1916. Poeticl Works and Literature in Ireland appeared posthumously, 1916.

During the Rising, Thomas MacDonagh commanded the garrison at Jacob's Biscuit Factory and all the forces in Stephens Green, the College of Surgeon's and Harcourt Street Station. His second in command was Michael Mallin, and one of his chief operation officers was the Countess Markievicz, who operated from the College of Surgeons with Mallin.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The O'Rahilly

The O'Rahilly was born Michael Joseph O'Rahilly (Irish: Mícheál Seosamh Ó Rathaille), (22 April 1875 - 29 April 1916). He was a Irish nationalist and took part in the Rising.

The O'Rahilly was part of the Volunteers that did not want to be part of an armed uprising. He was also left out of the planning for the Rising. However, after it started, he felt he needed to be part of the fray.

During the Rising, he led a force out of the GPO to locate a route to Williams & Woods, a factroy on Great Britian Street (renamed Parnell Street). He and his force met with machine-gun fire from the British force on Great Britian and Monroe Street. He was severely wounded, but ran across Sackville Street to get shelter from the machine-gun; however, he met with more machine-gun fire.

In Gaelic tradition, chief of clans were called by their clan name preceded by the determinate article, for example Robert The Bruce. O'Rahilly's calling himself "The O'Rahilly" was purely his own idea, and not a general recognition that he was the head of the O'Rahilly (or O'Reilly) clan. In 1938, the poet William Butler Yeats defended The O'Rahilly on this point in a well-known poem, which begins:

"Sing of the O'Rahilly,
Do not deny his right;
Sing a 'the' before his name;
Allow that he, despite
All those learned historians,
Established it for good;
He wrote out that word himself,
He christened himself with blood.
How goes the weather?"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Eamonn Ceantt (Kent)

Eamonn Ceantt (Edward Thomas Kent) was born in Ballymoe, County Galway, one of seven children. His father was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. When he retired in 1892, he moved his family to Dublin.

In 1913, he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was also a founding member of the Irish Volunteers. He was a member of the Military Committee and one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation.
During the Rising he was in charge of the Fourth Battalion. He took over the South Dublin Union , James Street, and Marrowbone Lane Distillery. Kent's defense of these were impressive, as only he and Eamon de Valera's post were the only 2 posts that were not taken by the British. Maybe it had something to do with the name Eamonn.
Kent was held at Kilmainham Jail until his execution on 8 May 1916 at age 34.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eoin (John) MacNeill

Eoin (John) MacNeill along with Roger Casement started the Irish Volunteers. He was adamantly opposed to an armed rebellion. In fact, Patrick Pearse kept MacNeill out of the loop as to the plans for the Rising. He was a Home Ruler and wanted to wait until the end of the war in Europe to begin Home Rule. He was utterly aghast when the Rising started. He countermanded what Pearse had started leaving those in Dublin to fend for themselves. Pearse attempted to countermand the countermand, but MacNeill's orders went out before Pearse found out about the countermand by MacNeill.
MacNeill went to prison for his part in the Rising, but was released in 1917. He was elected to the British Parliament, but being in agreement with the Sinn Fein policy of abstentionism, he refused to take his seat in the House of Commons.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Roger Casement

Roger Casement, along with Eoin MacNeill, formed the Irish Volunteers. Casement's job in the Rising was to get the Germans to send arms and soldiers to help in the Rising. Casement was sent by John Devoy to garner support from Germany. He negotiated a declaration from Germany stating that the Germans would not invade Ireland.

During his time in Germany, he recruited from the Irish prisoners of war that had fought on the side of the Bristish during WWI. He called them the Irish Brigade. He was unsuccessful in acquiring, only but a handful, any Irish prisoners of war.

It took some time, but he convinced the Germans to let him have a U-Boat to help land on the shores of Ireland. He landed at Banna Strand, Tralee Bay, County Kerry.

Casement was said to have 2 set of diaries, the White Diairies and the Black Diaries. The White Diaries put Casement in a good light. The Black Diaries are rumored to have explicit sexual content regarding his fascination with younger men. After an unsuccessful appeal against the conviction and death sentence, he was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on 3 August 1916, at the age of 51.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sean McDermott

Sean McDermott was one of the original signatories of the Proclamation. Tom Clarke was his mentor and both were members of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood). During the Rising, he also was staioned at the GPO. He was crippled and executed the same day and just prior to James Connolly.
A poem:
Awaiting freedom from my mother's womb
At Resurrection time, some glint of rebel steel
Pierced deep my soul, so deep
That fifty years have not erased the thrill
The names of Pearse and Plunkett, Clarke, MacDonagh, ConnollyCeannt and Sean Mac Diarmada arouse,
Of freedom born in blood.
Wresting freedom from a tyrant's hand
Had often been essayed on Ireland's soil.
Essayed at cost, at bitter cost
By men of eager hearts and giant mind, yet still
Each century brought fourthThe poets, princes of pen,
To thrill with their philosophy
A nation's captive hearts.
No lust of blood inflamed the freedom verse
To turn the ploughshare to the sword;
They unlocked hearts, e'en timid hearts
To dreams undreamt of within captive breasts,
And set vast floods of liberty afloat
Upon a sea too long content
With anchored hopes,
And flotsam fears.
Who can recall an Emmet or a Tone,
A Mitchel or a Davitt or Devoy,
Without a glorious surging of the blood
And anticipation of emancipation
From the long-remembered wrongs
Upon a nation's rights?
Just tribute must be paid by
Freedmen to felon's heirs.
Half a century ago our resurrection came
Heralded by another name, the name of Pearse,
An Apollo with a quiver of words,
Music-tipped arrows to reach the very souls
Of those who longed and longed for freedom's balm;
Gentle leader of a quiet fewWho braved a tyrant's might
To make a bondman free.
Let me praise him who close by Rossa's grave
Praised the virtue of a valiant man
From a heart and tongue pregnant then
With death-decision made for
Freedom's urgent birth;
A man whose spiritual eye could see the joy
Of a ladybird upon a stalk,
Or a rabbit in a field at play.
There were no deaths in Dublin on that
Easter day some fifty years ago-
Such music makers cannot die
As many mercenary soldiers do
With battles lost or won.
They have but set the music to a song
That ever holds us bound,
Yet leaves us ever free.
Like Pearse or Plunkett, MacDonagh and Mac Diarmada, Ceantt and Clarke,
And Connolly

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

James Connolly - the strategist

James Connolly was a Marxist and yet a Catholic. He tried to reconcile the two. He was born in a poor Catholic neighborhood in Ulster. He was put down and even fired from his job for being a Catholic. Communism provided an ideological solution to his hatred of the Protestant majority in Ulster. Yet, he received commiuunion regularly from the Church. He believed he could be both. However, to his dying breath, he remained a devout Marxist Catholic. He attempted to convince the priest administering confession to James prior to his execution. James' ideology was the forerunner of what is now called liberation theology. He never waivered.

During the Rising, James led the Headquarters Battalion from Liberty Hall to the General Post Office and commanded military operations there throughout the week. He supervised the construction of defences, determining and adjusting strategy, summoning reinforcements, and deciding on the disposition of his forces. He was the brains of the Rising.

He was wounded and had gangrene in his legs. No one would have thought that General Maxwell would execute a wounded soldier, surely the articles of war prohibited such a thing. However, the British dealt differently with the Irish. The French and German soldiers captured during WWI were not executed, only the Irish from the Rising.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thomas Clarke, the Brave

Thomas Clarke was a member of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood forerunner to the IRA) when he was 18 years old. He was the eldest member of the Rising and the first signatory of the Proclamation. Patrick Pearse felt that for all Clarke went through (spending 15 years in prison of a life sentence), Clarke should be the first to sign the Proclamation.
Thomas was stationed at the GPO during the Rising. Thomas Clarke was a mentor to Sean McDermott. Both were executed after they surrendered to the British Army under General Maxwell.
  1. Thomas Clarke Tower in Ballymun was named after him. The top floor was used as a short stay hotel before its demolition in April 2008.
  2. Dundalk railway station was given the name Clarke on 10 April 1966 in commemoration of Clarke's role in the 1916 Rising.
  3. He is also featured on postage stamps in 1966.
  4. Dungannon Thomas Clarkes, a successful Gaelic Football team from East Tyrone in the North of Ireland, are also named after him.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Brothers Pearse - Willie on the top and Padraic on the bottom. Willie religiously followed Patrick wherever he went and did whatever Patrick did.

Patrick went against the norm of the day and deceived Commander-in-Chief MacNeil of the Volunteers to set up the Rising. Patrick, even after knowing the Germans were not coming with the arms for the Rising, decided to go through with it anyway.

Patrick, on Easter Monday 1916 shortly after noon, stood at the GPO and read the Proclamation:


Irishmen and Irishwomen:

In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State. And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irish woman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provision Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.
We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government,

All of the above men were executed by the British Government for their efforts in trying to secure a free Ireland!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916

The Easter Rising of 1916 was instrumental in getting the Irish to obtaining freedom from the British. Although, it did not ultimately take place until the 1920's. It turned the tide of Irish opinion in favor of the rebels. General Maxwell's arrogance in executing the rebels caused more to turn the tide than the rebellion itself.