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Suffolk County

1916 Easter Rising


Edward "Ned" Daly

February 25, 1891 - May 4, 1916

Ned Daly was born at 26 Frederick Street (now O'Curry street) in Limerick as the only son among the ten children of Edward and Catherine O'Mara Daly. He never knew his father who was a member of the Fenians and died five months before Ned was born. He was raised by his older sister Kathleen. His uncle, John Daly, was also a Fenian and had taken part in the rising of 1867, so a nationalist upbringing was in the cards for young Ned.

His uncle John had brought a young man named Thomas J. Clarke into the Fenians and, while later imprisoned for Republican activities, he became closer friends with his protege, Tom Clarke, who had also been imprisoned at the same time. Upon his release, John Daly went to live with the family of his late brother in Limerick. He often spoke of his admiration for Clarke whose dedication and endurance in spite of torture seemed superhuman. When Clarke was finally released, John Daly invited him to recuperate with the Daly family where Ned's sister Kathleen, though 20 years younger than Tom, was already enamored with the larger than life persona that she came to love and would eventually marry.

Young Ned was educated by the Christian Brothers at Roxboro Road and a local commercial college. He spent a short time as an apprentice baker in Glasgow, before returning to Limerick to work in Spaight's lumber yard. He later moved to Dublin where he worked with a wholesale chemist firm. He lived in Fairview with Kathleen and Tom Clarke who had returned from America in 1907. There was more than a little nationalist influence in that house and Ned was soon a member of the IRB. He worked for some time in Clarke's shop with his sister.

In November 1913, Ned joined the newly founded Irish Volunteers in which he soon reached the rank of captain. He was diligent in his study of military manuals and the professional performance of his company gained the admiration of senior officers in such actions as the Howth gun-running of 1914. In March 1915, he was promoted to the rank of Commandant of the First Battalion and the men in his battalion spoke of him as a good commandant. He helped to organize the funeral for O'Donovan Rossa and in the weeks leading up to the Rising, at Seán Mac Diarmada's request, he began working full time for the Volunteers.

During the Rising, Daly's battalion was assigned to garrison the Four Courts and areas to the west and north of Dublin center, a strategic position on the River Liffey, as it controlled the main routes leading from various military barracks west of the city into the city center. As a result, his was the area that saw the most intense fighting of the rising. With Father Matthew Hall on Church Street as his HQ, Daly took the Four Courts and raided the Bridewell Barracks, capturing 24 members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police hiding in their cells. He also captured the Linenhall Barracks, a building which housed the Army Pay Corps. They did not have enough men to defend the barracks so James Connolly sent an order to burn it down, rather than let the British recapture it. By Thursday, the fire was out of control and Daly was afraid that surrounding houses would burn down so he sent men to put out the fire. Under constant danger of being shot by the machine guns on the roof of the Jervis Street hospital, they managed to get the fire under control. Ned Daly and his men also fought pitched battles with the British around the narrow streets of Smithfield and the Market area of Dublin.

After the eventual surrender of Daly's the First Battalion, British soldiers moved into the area and battered their way into houses along North King Street shooting male residents indiscriminately. They broke into 170 N. King Street and killed three men, then into number 172 N. King Street and killed two men, in number 174 two more were shot dead and in 27 North King Street four men were shot dead. The authorities maintained that the civilians were killed in the crossfire, but the women in the houses who were witnesses to the atrocities contradicted that statement. It was only when the bodies of two more men in number 177 N. King Street were found buried in the cellar, that General Maxwell admitted responsibility. There was an inquiry but no one was ever punished for the killing of 13 men in their homes. It became known as the North King Street Massacre and helped the decisive shift of public opinion against the British forces. On the other hand Col J.P. Brereton, whom Daly had captured and held in the Four Courts, commended the rebel garrison for their behavior and said "he was treated with kindness by the insurgents."

Ned Daly surrendered his battalion on 29 April upon orders from Padraig Pearse. He was tried with the other leaders at Richmond Barracks and remanded to Kilmainham Jail. While he held the honor of being the youngest man to hold the rank of Battalion Commandant, he also held the dubious honor of being the youngest to be executed. Edward "Ned" Daly was stood against the wall at the young age of 25 and executed on the 4th of May 1916.

Seán Heuston

February 21, 1891 - May 8, 1916

Seán Heuston (1891-1916) was born at 24 Lower Gloucester Street, Dublin, the son of John Heuston, a clerk, and Maria McDonald. He was educated by the Christian Brothers at O'Connell's School on North Richmond Street. At 17 years of age, he joined the Great Southern and Western Railway (GSWR) Company as a clerk and was stationed in Limerick for six years. While there took an active part in Fianna Éireann, the boy's scouting club revived by Bulmer Hobson and Countess Markievicz and became an officer. He organized a branch in Limerick and devoted most of his spare time to lecturing, drilling, marching and promoting a high level of proficiency. He arranged for members who could not afford to buy their uniforms to do so by paying small weekly sums. Under his guidance the Fianna in Limerick had courses not only in signaling, scouting and weapons training but also on Irish history and Gaelic language.

In 1913 he was transferred to Dublin by GSWR and assigned to the traffic manager's office at Kingsbridge railway station. He was also transferred to the Dublin Fianna. He went on to join the ranks of the Irish Volunteers, but continued to work with Fianna Éireann where he met Con Colbert and Liam Mellows. He was given command of a branch in north Dublin and promoted to vice-commandant of the Dublin Brigade. He also became director of training. Colbert and Padraig Pearse engaged him for Saint Enda's, where he provided training in drill and musketry for the students. On the landing of arms at Howth in July 1914, he led a contingent of the Fianna who brought a consignment of guns safely back to Dublin. Heuston joined the Irish Volunteers soon after their formation in November 1913, eventually becoming a captain in Ned Daly's First Battalion. He worked hard with his company, organizing marches and field maneuvers and procuring arms and equipment.

On Easter Monday he was assigned to command 26 Volunteers at the Mendicity Institution (now called Heuston's Fort), on the south side of the Liffey west of the Four Courts. He was ordered by James Connolly to hold that position for 3-4 hours to control the road between the Royal Barracks (later Collins Barracks) and the Four Courts to delay the advance of British troops. The delay was to give headquarters time to prepare their defenses and to allow Daly's First Battalion time to settle in around the Four Courts. He not only held the position for a few hours, but for more than two days. As his position became untenable against considerable forces surrounding the building, he sent a dispatch to Connolly informing him of their position.

Séamus Brennan, one of the Garrison under Heuston, later told author Piaras F. MacLochlainn:

"Our tiny garrison of 26 had battled all morning against three or four hundred British troops. Machine-gun and rifle fire kept up a constant battering of our position. Seán visited each post in turn, encouraging us. But now we were faced with a new form of attack. The enemy, closing in, began to hurl grenades into the building. Our only answer was to try to catch these and throw them back before they exploded. Two of our men, Liam Staines and Dick Balfe were badly wounded doing this. We had almost run out of ammunition. Dog-tired, without food, trapped, hopelessly outnumbered, we had reached the limit of our endurance. After consultation with the rest of us, Seán decided that the only hope for the wounded and, indeed, for the safety of all of us, was to surrender. Not everyone approved but the order was obeyed and we destroyed as much equipment as we could before giving ourselves up."

According to Brennan, the British troops were infuriated when they saw the pygmy force that had given them such a stiff battle and caused them so many casualties. "They screamed at us, cursed us, manhandled us. An officer asked who was in charge and Seán stepped out in front without a word. We were forced to march to the Royal Barracks with our hands up behind our heads. In the Barracks we were lined up on the parade ground. Here we were attacked by British soldiers, kicked, beaten, spat on." Brennan never saw Seán again after being transferred to Arbour Hill Detention Barracks.

Heuston was transferred to Richmond Barracks and on 4 May 1916, was tried by Court Martial. On Sunday, 7 May, the verdict of the Court Martial was communicated to him that he had been sentenced to death and was to be shot at dawn the following morning. Prior to his execution he was attended by Father Albert, O.F.M. Cap who wrote:

"I had a small cross in my hand, and though blindfolded, Seán bent his head and kissed the Crucifix; he then whispered to me, 'Father, sure you won't forget to anoint me?' I had told him in his cell that I would anoint him when he was shot. Having reached a second yard I saw there a group of military armed with rifles. A soldier directed Seán and myself to a corner of the yard, a short distance from the outer wall of the prison. Here there was a box (seemingly a soap box) and Sean was told to sit down upon it. I scarcely had moved away a few yards when a volley went off, and this noble soldier of Irish Freedom fell dead. I rushed over to anoint him; his whole face seemed transformed and lit up with a grandeur and brightness that I had never before noticed." Father Albert concluded, "Never did I realize that men could fight so bravely, and die so beautifully, and so fearlessly as did the Heroes of Easter Week. On the morning of Seán Heuston's death I would have given the world to have been in his place, he died in such a noble and sacred cause, and went forth to meet his Divine Savior with such grand Christian sentiments of trust, confidence and love."

Sean Heuston was executed on 8 May. Dublin's Heuston Station, where he once worked in the Manager's Office, is named in his honor as is the nearby Seán Heuston Bridge.

Michael O'Hanrahan

March 17, 1877 - May 4, 1916

March 17th is known the world over as St. Patrick's Day, but there are many other things for which March 17th should be remembered. One is that it is the birthday of Michael O'Hanrahan, one of the Martyrs of Ireland's Easter Rising of 1916. He was born in New Ross, Co. Wexford, to Mary and Richard O'Hanrahan, a veteran of the 1867 Fenian Rising. The family moved to Carlow where Michael was educated at the Christian Brothers' School and Carlow College. On leaving school he worked with his father in a cork-cutting business where he received a nationalist slant to his education. Immensely proud of his heritage, he joined the Gaelic League in 1898 and within a year founded the League's first branch in Carlow and became its Secretary. He also taught Irish at the Catholic Institute and began to use the Irish form of his name Micheál Ó hAnnrachain. By 1903 he was working in Dublin as a proof-reader for a Gaelic League publisher. He wrote articles in several nationalist newspapers, including Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteer. Politically aware from his youth, O'Hanrahan became involved in some of the more radical nationalist campaigns of the day.

His writings brought him to the attention of nationalist leaders Maude Gonne and Arthur Griffith and in 1903 he became involved with them in a campaign against the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland. His friendship with Griffith led him to join the newly-formed Sinn Féin political party founded by Griffith in 1905 to provide a focus for Irish nationalism. He also became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He was among the first to join the new Irish Volunteers, a military organization established by Irish nationalists. It included members of the Gaelic League, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Sinn Féin, and, secretly, the IRB who had organized the formation meeting. The Volunteers would be the main force to fight for Irish independence in the 1916 Easter Rising and, with the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Éireann, they formed the Irish Republican Army. The Volunteers were formed on 25 November at the Rotunda in Dublin and O'Hanrahan was there to hear the key speaker, IRB member Patrick Pearse.

While expanding his nationalist activities and writings, O'Hanrahan authored two novels A Swordsman of the Brigade (1914) and When the Normans Came (published posthumously in 1918). He became an administrator on the Volunteers headquarters staff, was made quartermaster general of the Volunteers' 2nd Battalion where he and Battalion Commandant, Thomas MacDonagh became close friends. It was as second in command under MacDonagh and later third in command under Major John MacBride that he fought at Jacob's Biscuit Factory during Easter week. While there, he fell down a flight of stone steps and received a concussion. Fearing that MacDonagh might send him to hospital, he played the incident down.

After the surrender on April 30th many were arrested by the British. In a note sent by General Sir John Maxwell to Prime Minister Asquith, the following description was provided for Michael O'Hanrahan, "This man was employed at the office of the Headquarters of the Irish Volunteers. He was one of the most active members of that body, took part in all their parades and was a constant associate with the leaders of the rebellion. He was arrested in uniform and armed, and there had been heavy fighting and casualties amongst the British troops in the neighborhood of the place where this man with others surrendered. He was an officer in the rebel army."

O'Hanrahan was tried by General Courts Martial on 3 May 1916. A witness, Major J.A. Armstrong, stated, "The British troops were fired upon and there were several casualties. The fire came from the neighborhood of Jacob's Factory. I saw the surrender being arranged by Mr. MacDonagh. Over 100 men arrived from Jacob's Factory as a result of the surrender and another large body arrived from the same direction. The accused belonged to one of the parties, was in uniform and armed. After his removal to Richmond Barracks, he said that he was an officer." O'Hanrahan stated, "As a soldier of the Republican army acting under the orders of the Provisional Government of that Republic duly constituted, I acted under the orders of my superiors."

The leaders of the Rising were all sentenced to death at Richmond Barracks and remanded to Kilmainham Jail. On 4 May 1916, 39-year old Michael O'Hanrahan was murdered by firing squad in the stonebreaker's yard at Kilmainham on the same day as Joseph Plunkett, Willie Pearse, brother of Padraig and Ned Daly, brother-in-law of Tom Clarke. Their remains were buried at Arbour Hill cemetery.

The County Carlow museum has a section dedicated to their adopted son and Carlow GAA club honors his name as does his birthplace with Wexford's O'Hanrahan Railway Station and a road bridge over the River Barrow at New Ross.

John MacBride

May 7, 1865 - May 5, 1916

John MacBride was born was born at The Quay, Westport, County Mayo to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill. He was educated at the Christian Brothers' School, Westport and at St. Malachy's College, Belfast. He worked for a period in a drapery shop in Castlerea, County Roscommon. He had studied medicine, but gave it up and began working with a chemist firm in Dublin. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association which Cusack had founded. He also joined the Celtic Literary Society in which he came to know Arthur Griffith who was to remain a friend and influence throughout his life. Beginning in 1893, MacBride was termed a dangerous nationalist by the British government. In 1896 he went to the United States on a fund raising mission for the IRB.

On his return he emigrated to South Africa. He took part in the Second Boer War in which he raised the Transvaal Irish Brigade to fight the British. The Brigade was given official recognition by the Boer Government and MacBride was commissioned with the rank of major in the Boer army and given Boer citizenship. The one-armed Irish Land League founder, Michael Davitt, who had resigned as an MP due to the Boer War, visited MacBride's Brigade in Africa to provide encouragement. Meanwhile, back in Ireland pro-Boer support, whipped up by Arthur Griffith and Maud Gonne, became the most popular and most violent of the European pro-Boer/anti-British movements; it proved to be a 'dry run' for 1916. After the Boer War, Britain accused him of aiding their enemy and MacBride traveled to Paris to avoid prosecution. There he met Maud Gonne and he took her with him on a lecture tour of America in 1901. In 1903, he married her much to the distress of poet W.B. Yeats, who had courted her for years. The following year their son Sean MacBride (future Nobel Peace Prize Winner) was born. In 1905, MacBride and Maud separated and MacBride returned to Dublin.

After returning from Paris, MacBride played an important part with other Irish nationalists in preparing for an Insurrection. Because he was well known to the British however, the IRB thought it wise to keep him out of the secret military council. As a result, he knew nothing of the planned rising, but found himself in the midst of it anyway. He was in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning to meet his brother Dr. Anthony MacBride. Walking up Grafton St, he met Thomas MacDonagh in full uniform. Tom told him what was happening and MacBride offered his services. He was appointed second-in-command at the Jacob's factory garrison. The factory was difficult to assault since it was surrounded by a labyrinth of streets and small houses. It was occupied by up to 150 Irish Volunteers, Fianna Éireann and Cumann na mBan, led by Thomas MacDonagh, Michael O'Hanrahan, and now John McBride. The garrison also included Peadar Kearney, who wrote the lyrics to the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann. MacDonagh posted men in buildings on several streets in the area making the factory more difficult as a target for the British. A company of military traveling from Portabello Barracks to strengthen Dublin Castle was put to flight by MacBride's men, otherwise they saw little action but sniper fire.

On the Sunday after the surrender, Father Aloysius, a Capuchin priest, came to the factory with the surrender order signed by Pearse. MacDonagh, refused to accept the order as binding since Pearse was a prisoner. He went with the priest to confer with Pearse in person. Before he left, he told the men to get away if they could, as there was no use of lives being lost; many left at this point. On his return, he conferred with O'Hanrahan and MacBride, confirming the surrender order and breaking down with the words, "We must surrender, we must leave some to carry on the struggle." He called the men to the ground floor level and told them, "We are about to surrender but we have established the Irish Republic according to international law by holding out for a week. Though I have assurance from his reverence here that nobody will be shot, I know I will be shot, but you men will be treated as prisoners." The men declared that they did not trust the word of the British, and some urged to continue the fight. Vincent Byrne, a 15 year old Volunteer who would later become a member of Michael Collins' Squad, remembers being lifted out of a window to escape and was taken into a house by a local woman to brush the telltale flour off his clothing.

John McBride was court-martialed and sentenced to death. He was executed on 5 May 1916, two days before his forty-eighth 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 now, please carry out your sentence. He was buried in a quicklime grave with his accidental comrades in the cemetery at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin. Yeats, who hated MacBride during his life for marrying Maud Gonne, gave him the following ambivalent eulogy in his poem "Easter 1916",

"This other man 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."

Michael Mallin

December 1, 1874 - May 8, 1916

Michael Mallin was born to John Mallin, a carpenter, in a tenement in the Liberties area of Dublin in 1874. He grew up knowing the poverty of a time when whole families lived in a single room. To escape that poverty, at 14 he joined the British army as a drummer boy and served for years in a British Army Band in India. His experiences there radicalized him and his political beliefs developed dramatically. He began to sympathize with the Indian rebels that the British were fighting for he saw the parallels between their existence and the poverty of his own Dublin roots. He came to believe that British rule in Ireland could only be removed by physical force. He also learned the silk trade.

Back in Dublin at the turn of the century, Mallin was short and dapper, a music teacher, a devout Catholic and a teetotaler who spoke in a gentle voice. He loved reading history, but he was also strict, impatient and frustrated by those whose commitment and discipline fell short of the high standards he set for himself. He had a strong sense of right and wrong, disliked swearing and his political and religious beliefs were easily offended. He worked in various jobs, including a chicken farm and even opened a cinema, but his work as a silk weaver proved most fruitful. He earned a living as silk weaver and shop owner and he helped the Silk Weaver's Trade Union strike for four months until their demands were met. In 1909, he became Secretary of the Silk Weavers Union. His shop went out of business in 1913 at the time of the Great Dublin Lockout, but he found a new job in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union as a band instructor. Mallin also accepted the post of second in command and chief training officer of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) under James Connolly. The ICA was formed after the 1913 Dublin Lockout in order to protect workers from the the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and employer-funded strike-breaking gangs of thugs.

On the eve of the 1916 Rising, Michael Mallin played the flute in the four-piece Workers' Orchestra during a recital for the Irish Citizen Army in Dublin's Liberty Hall. The next morning, Easter Monday, the planned rebellion began and Mallin was assigned to command a garrison in St Stephen's Green and, later, the College of Surgeons. As he prepared to lead out his men, Mallin turned to James O'Shea, one of the men in his command, and said, "We will be dead in a short time."

Mallin's lack of military training made him the least effective of the Rising leaders. He commanded the garrison at St. Stephen's Green with Constance Markievicz as his second in command. Occupying St Stephen's Green, an open park with almost no shelter and surrounded by tall buildings, was militarily questionable, yet he ordered his men to dig trenches which was pure folly. In no-time at all, the serene city park was transformed in a wasteland with hastily raised barricades and criss-crossed with trenches. Remarkably, they did not attempt to seize the nearby Shelbourne Hotel or other buildings. When the British occupied the Shelbourne building, they poured rifle fire down on the rebels in the Green. It is not surprising that Saint Stephens Green was the first outpost to collapse on the third day of the Rising, forcing the Republicans to withdraw in the adjacent Royal College of Surgeons. Michael Mallin held the College and it took a direct order from James Connelly to persuade him to surrender on Sunday 30 April. Countess Markievicz kissed her automatic pistol before handing it over.

At his court-martial Michael tried to downplay his involvement, no doubt because he was a young father of four and his wife was pregnant. He projected himself as a mere band leader who had by chance become involved in the ICA and the Rising. He sought to exculpate himself from blame by suggesting that he was merely obeying orders. He stated, "I was under the impression that we were going out for maneuvers on Sunday."

However it didn't work and he was convicted in Richmond Barracks and remanded to Kilmainham Jail where he was executed by firing squad on 8 May. In his last letter to his wife, Mallin wrote, "I find no fault with the soldiers or the police and he requested that she pray for all the souls who fell in this fight, Irish and English." He commented, "so must Irishmen pay for trying to make Ireland a free nation."

Today, the Dublin Area Rapid Transit station in Dún Laoghaire has been named Mallin Station in his honor.

William "Willie" Pearse

November 15, 1881 - May 4, 1916

William "Willie" Pearse was born at 27 Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), Dublin in 1881, five days after the second birthday of his brother Padraig Pearse. The two brothers developed a close friendship in which William was completely devoted to Padraig. In this respect the brothers Pearse can be compared with another pair of Irish patriot brothers: Thomas and Robert Emmet.

Willie had inherited his father's artistic abilities and chose to follow in his father's footsteps as a monumental sculptor. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School and he studied at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin under Oliver Sheppard. He also studied art in Paris. While attending the Kensington School of Art he gained notice for several of his artworks. Some of his sculptures are to be found in Limerick Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. Eunan and St Columba, Letterkenny and several Dublin churches. He was trained to take over his father's stonemason business, but gave it up to help Patrick run St. Enda's School. In 1908 William Pearse left the workshop of his father to become a teacher at Padraig's Scoil Éanna, or Saint Enda's School, and eventually became involved in the arts and theater at St. Enda's and aided the overall running of the school.

Like his brother, William was a founding member of the Irish Volunteer Force (IVF) and member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). When Padraig became more and more involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) William took over the day-to-day routine at Saint Enda's. William never achieved a rank of significance in any of the nationalist organizations to which he belonged, nor was he a member of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, yet he remained a close associate of his more active brother.

On Easter Monday 1916, Willie Pearse joined his brother in marching to the General Post Office (GPO) and stood by his side as Padraig read the Poblacht na hÉireann proclaiming the Irish Republic. The rank of Willie during the Easter Rising is disputed. According to some he was an officer. British General Sir John Maxwell described Willie as acting as an officer. However, when Willie pleaded guilty at his trial, he stated that he was only the personal attaché of his brother without direct command. In any case, he took part in the Rising and was always at his brother's side in the GPO. After the surrender Willie spent Saturday night on the lawn across from the Rotunda Hospital with all the Irish soldiers who had surrendered. He was marched to Richmond Barracks on Sunday morning with the rest of the men where he was tried by Court Martial. It has been said that as he was only a minor player in the struggle and it was his surname that condemned him. However, at his court martial he rather exaggerated his involvement and perhaps condemned himself. Then he was transferred to Kilmainham Jail.

On 3 May, Willie Pearse was granted permission to visit his brother in Kilmainham Jail, to see him for the final time. However, while Willie was on the way to Padraig's cell, he heard shots ring out from the Stonebreaker's Yard and his beloved brother was no more! William Pearse was later visited by his sister and mother. They spoke in his and he told his mother that he had not seen or spoken to his brother since the surrender. Willie was shot dead in the same spot as his brother in Kilmainham's Stonebreaker's Yard at dawn the next day. His body was taken to Arbor Hill cemetery and thrown into the pit beside his brother Padraig and covered in quick lime.

There are many public commemorations which people think honor Padraig Pearse while in fact they honor both. In 1966, Dublin's Westland Row railway station was renamed Pearse Station to honor Willie and his brother. Pearse Square and Pearse Street, in Dublin, were renamed in honor of both (Pearse Street having been their birthplace). Many streets and roads in Ireland bear the name Pearse and there is even a Pearse Brothers Park in Rathfarnham where the brothers taught school.

Thomas Kent (Tomás Ceannt)

August 24, 1865 - May 9, 1916

Tomás Ceannt (Thomas Kent) was was born in Bawnard House, Castlelyons, Co. Cork in 1865. His family had a long tradition of fighting against the injustices suffered by small farmers and fought particularly during the Land War. When Thomas was 19 he emigrated to Boston where he remained for some years working as a church furniture maker until he was forced to return to Cork due to deterioration in his health. As part of a prominent nationalist family he became a member of the Irish Republian Brotherhood and Sinn Fein. The Kent family was supportive of the 1916 Easter Dublin Rising and would have traveled to Dublin had they been aware of events unfolding in the capital.  When news of a planned Rising in Dublin reached the Kent brothers, they waited in some neighboring houses for orders to mobilize. As members of the local IRB, the Kent brothers knew they would be on a wanted list and did not reside at the family home for a few days. The orders to rise never came; instead Volunteer leader Eoin MacNeill sent J.J. O'Connell to Cork with the order to stand down. Meanwhile the Rising went forward in Dublin and by April 30 was over. The Kent brothers slept at neighboring homes but upon learning that the Rising was over, four of the brothers, Thomas, William, Richard and David returned home to Bawnard House on the night of 1 May only to be awoken in the early hours of the morning of 2 May with the sound of gunfire.

After the Rising, the RIC had been sent to arrest all well-known sympathizers throughout the country including, but not limited to, known members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Sinn Fein, and the Irish Volunteers. They were to be brought to the local barracks for interrogation. At dawn, the police came to the Kent house with orders to arrest the whole family. They surrounded the house and called for the four brothers to come outside.

They were met with resistance from the brothers and Mrs. Kent, aged 84 at the time, who reportedly called out, "We are soldiers of the Irish Republic and there is no surrender." A gunfight ensued which lasted for four hours, in which an RIC officer, Head Constable William Rowe, was killed and David Kent was seriously wounded. After three hours of gunfire that resulted in David Kent losing two fingers and a nasty side wound and Constable Rowe being killed, the Kent's ammunition ran dry and the battle ceased. The police, supported by the army, finally took the Kent's into custody. Richard attempted an escape on foot to the woods but was cut down with a hail of R.I.C. bullets and died two days later at Fermoy military barracks from his wounds.

William and Thomas Kent were taken to Victoria Barracks (now Collins Barracks) from Fermoy and both were sent for court martial on 4 May. In the gunfight, an RIC officer was killed, David Kent was seriously wounded, Richard was shot while fleeing and died of his wounds, and Thomas and William were tried for murder of the officer. William was acquitted, but Thomas was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad in Cork on 9 May 1916. David Kent got five years penal servitude. David Kent was brought to Dublin where he was charged with the same offense, found guilty and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted and he was sentenced to five years penal servitude. In 1966 the railway station in Cork was renamed Kent Station in his honor.

Thomas Kent is buried somewhere in the grounds of Collins Barracks, Cork (formerly Victoria Barracks). The Kent family and Cork members of the Organization of National Ex-Servicemen (ONE) have tried with no success to get information from British archives as to exactly where he is buried. The British say the information on Thomas Kent will not be released until 2016, after a 100 year embargo ends. The Kent family has long campaigned for Thomas's grave to be identified in the Cork Prison yard so that his body can be re-interred in the family plot in Castlelyons. The Cork branch of the ONE has been campaigning to have the body repatriated for over a decade now but the exact burial place within the prison is not known. In the meantime, campaigners and family are hoping that a type of hi-tech radar which can penetrate ground can be employed in the search as it's felt that it would be a fitting tribute to the man that laid down his life for his country to be re-buried with the dignity he deserves in his native parish on or before the 100th anniversary of 1916.

Thomas Kent and Roger Casement were the only two of the 1916 leaders executed outside of Dublin, but Thomas Kent is the only one of the 1916 leaders whose body has yet to be properly interred with honor.

Sir Roger Casement

September 1, 1864 - August 3, 1916

Roger Casement was born in Antrim on September 1, 1864 to a Protestant father and a Catholic mother. At 17, he went to work for the Elder Dempster Shipping Company in Liverpool; three years later he was sent to west Africa. There he joined the British Colonial Service and was gradually advanced to a position in the British Consulate there. Always a fair and honorable man, he was horrified at the inhuman treatment of native workers in the Congo, and wrote a report exposing those conditions. The story was published and when Casement returned to England in 1904 he was celebrated. In London he met Alice Green, a historian who denounced England's exploitation of the Irish. Her argument impressed Casement and when he returned to Ireland he looked up her friends: Bulmer Hobson, Eoin MacNeill, and Erskine Childers. He soon became a confident of these men and other nationalists as well.

Casement's diligent service earned him the post of Consul General at Rio de Janeiro and he sailed off to assume that enviable post, but even there his sense of fair play was to guide his actions. He wrote a scathing report on the cruelties practiced by whites on native workers on the rubber plantations along the Putamayo river. It became an international sensation. He returned to England in 1911 and was Knighted for his public service. Casement retired from the Colonial Service in 1912 and returned to Ireland where his sense of fair play was again aroused, this time by the conditions of his own people under the rule of the Crown.

A man of strong nationalist sympathies, he joined the National Volunteers in 1913. When he visited London the following year, he was on a different mission, to arrange for the Irish Volunteers to bring 1500 Hamburg guns into Howth Harbor. History shows just how successful he was for many a man marched into Dublin on Easter Monday morning shouldering his old Howth gun. When more money was needed to secure more arms, Casement was sent to New York on July 4, 1914 to see John Devoy who had been raising funds for that purpose among the American Irish. While in America, World War I broke out and Casement immediately contacted the German ambassador to America seeking aid to win Irish independence. On October 15, 1914 Casement sailed to Germany, carrying a small fortune to purchase more arms.

His persistence paid off and the Germans dispatched the ship AUD with a cargo of arms to be landed in Co Kerry; these arms were to be used in the rising planned for Easter Week, 1916. Casement followed in a submarine, landing on Banna Strand in Tralee Bay on Good Friday, April 21, 1916. Those who were to meet him there did not. A delay of 24 hours had been radioed to the AUD, but the ship's radio was inoperative. The Gaelic American newspaper stated that American President Wilson knew of Casement's intentions to land arms in Ireland and warned the British government (New York Times, April 27, 1916, pp. 1 & 4). The British, alerted to the plans, went instead to meet the bewildered Casement who decided to wait on the beach until his contacts arrived.

Thinking that MacNeill, as President of the Volunteers, was in charge of the Rising, he sent word to him that the shipment wasn't the amount they expected. MacNeill confronted the IRB, who had actually planned the rising and issued a cancellation order, thereby insuring the failure of the Rising on a nation-wide scale. Casement was captured and hurried away as a prisoner to London. At the same time the AUD, disguised as a Norwegian timber ship, was stopped by the British Navy. Rather than submit, she was scuttled by her own crew as Casement was on his way to England to stand trial. Found guilty of high treason, he was sentenced to be hanged. A world-wide furor erupted over the severity of the sentence. Here was a just man, recently praised and knighted by the Crown for his efforts on behalf of persecuted natives in far corners of the world, sentenced to death by that same Crown for daring to challenge the exploitation of his own downtrodden people. In an effort to reverse public opinion, the British circulated copies of diaries alleged to be Casement's, which recorded homosexual practices. Much controversy surrounded these Black Diaries, but they had the desired effect. The public furor died down, and Casement was hanged and buried in Pentonville Prison on August 3, 1916, the last of the 1916 patriots to die.

For many years after the Irish government finally won its limited freedom from England, official requests were made to have Sir Roger's remains returned to Ireland. It was not until 1965, that England finally relented, but only after circulating the despicable Black Diaries once more. This time they didn't reckon on modern analytical methodology and the diaries were proven to be forgeries. In spite of English efforts to sully the name of this dedicated Irish patriot, Casement's remains were respectfully received by the Irish people, given a huge state funeral, and re-interred in Glasnevin Cemetary on March 1, 1965 - just one year before the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Editors Note: Years later, in conversation with another great patriot, Joe Cahill, who had once been apprehended bringing arms into the IRA. He asked if I knew the name of the ship he was caught on. I replied, "Yes, it was the Claudia." He smiled and said, "drop the first two and last two letters and what have you?" He just loved the irony!

The Men of the 1916 Easter Rising

by Mike McCormack, Ancient Order of Hibernians National Historian

​Thomas J. Clarke

March 3, 1857 - May 3, 1916

Every nation honors the memory of Patriots whose personal sacrifices contributed to their freedom. In our United States, George Washington looms up larger than life as the personification of the American Revolution, although Sam Adams was its architect and Nathan Hale a martyr for its cause. In Ireland's struggle for independence, the Easter Rising of 1916 is the landmark rising that led to today's Republic of Ireland. It is the Lexington and Concord of Irish history, when a handful of hopefuls stood firm against the might of England for the principle of freedom. Padraig Pearse is the personification of the Easter Rising to many, yet the architect of that rising who gave his life in its cause was Thomas J. Clarke.

Born in 1857 and raised in County Tyrone where the landlord-dominated Irish population had been reduced to serfdom, in 1878 he joined the ranks of the Fenian Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a secret revolutionary organization not unlike our own Sons of Liberty. In 1881, his activities caused him to flee to America. He settled in New York, and became active in Clan na Gael, the American branch of the Fenian movement. On a trip to England in 1883, he was captured and sentenced to life for Fenian activities. Prison existence was so severe for Irish prisoners that a Court of Enquiry eventually released him in 1898 after accusations of torture had been verified. He returned to the U.S., married Miss Kathleen (Kattie) Daly, and settled in Brooklyn. Clarke returned to Fenian activities and was employed by an Irish-American newspaper edited by John Devoy, the most powerful figure in Clan na Gael. Respected for the suffering he endured for Irish freedom, Clarke became one of the Clan's most trusted members.

In Sept, 1906, he moved to Manorville, NY in Suffolk County, Long Island. In December 1907, he was sent to Ireland by Clan na Gael to rejuvenate the IRB. He was appointed to the Supreme Council of the IRB and was one of its most powerful advocates of revolutionary action. He replaced inactive members of the Council with young militants and attracted new blood to the movement. In 1913, he heard a young schoolteacher speak at a commemoration and invited him to deliver an oration at the grave of Irish patriot, Wolfe Tone, an annual event of considerable nationalist significance. Within a few weeks, the young schoolteacher, Padraig Pearse, had joined the IRB.

As the strongest advocate of revolutionary action, Clarke set the course that led to the Easter Rising. With the start of the Irish Volunteer movement in 1913, Clarke insured that IRB men were on the Volunteers committee and he made Pearse the critical link between the two groups. In May of 1915, Clarke established a Military Council of the IRB; by year's end, he had set a date for a rising. Clarke brought labor leader, James Connolly into the Council, thereby insuring the support of the Irish Citizen Army, a group formed to protect workers during strikes. In February, Clarke informed the Clan that a rising would take place in Dublin on Easter Sunday and signal the start of a nation wide rebellion. The confusion of events caused by Volunteer Chief of Staff McNeill's late discovery of the secret plans, upset the original schedule and caused the historic decision to rise on the following day, Easter Monday. It was not the rising that Clarke had planned, but a braver and more hopeless one in military terms since hope had vanished for a subsequent rising on a national scale. Yet, it altered the course of the Irish nation, for Irish resentment to the brutality with which the rising was crushed led to her War of Independence. The Easter Rising was led by the foremost patriots of the day, all of whom were executed for their dreams. Yet, the respect of those patriots for their mentor was paramount. Just prior to the rising, when the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up, the man given the honor of having his name affixed first was the veteran Fenian, Thomas J. Clarke.

In 1983, a single sentence in an old biography of Tom Clarke led to a remarkable search. It referred to his relocation to Suffolk County, Long Island and the AOH County Historian was given the task of finding his home site. An intensive search through old books, records, and conversations with recognized experts in the field, revealed little. Finally, a search of thousands of deeds in the Town of Brookhaven archives produced not one, but two deeds showing that Thomas J. Clarke of Brooklyn, New York, had purchased 30 acres in Manorville in 1906, and an adjoining 30 in 1907. The name on those deeds is the same as that found in the primary position on the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It was a find of considerable historic significance.

The AOH Historian lobbied Brookhaven Town politicians to declare the site a Historic Landmark, and began a national fund-raising effort to erect a suitable monument. Former Irish Taoiseach Charlie Haughey arranged for an obelisk of Wicklow Granite to be quarried, carved and engraved in Ireland and sent to New York. Then the Irish-led labor unions got involved. Teddy Gleason, head of the Longshoreman's Union donated the time and manpower to unload the monument and hand it over to the teamsters who trucked it to the Manorville site where Charlie Duffy's Operating Engineers Union erected it. On May 8, 1987, 71 years after his execution, a 2-ton obelisk of Wicklow Granite was erected on the land Tom Clarke walked in life. It stands today as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice of one man for the welfare of many just as this monument will stand for the sacrifice of the many he led and those who espoused his cause.

Padraig H. Pearse

November 10, 1879 - May 3, 1916

Patrick H. Pearse was a poet, lawyer, playwright, linguist, educator, author, and military leader. Born on Nov 10, 1879 in Dublin, his father's firm belief in liberty left a deep impression on young Patrick Henry. During his formal education at the Christian Brothers School he attained honors in Gaelic each year, and at ages 16 and 17, wrote prizewinning books in the language. He was amply encouraged in his pursuit for he had come to manhood during a period of intense Irishness known as the Gaelic Revival. Pearse joined the Gaelic League whose prime purpose was the revival of the national language, but its impact on the rise of nationalism was far more significant. Years later, Pearse wrote, "The Irish revolution really began when the seven original Gaelic Leaguers met in O'Connell Street. The germ of all future Irish history was in that room." In 1896, the Gaelic League was 3 years old, Pearse was 16, and the end of his life was still 20 years away. Despite a heavy schedule of studies, Pearse joined the Gaelic League, became a member of its governing body and President of the New Ireland Literary Society as well. He began to write the ancient language in modern form, discarding the traditional format of the sagas and using the form of short stories, plays, and novels. His pioneering contributions were so significant that the Encyclopedia of Ireland notes that, "He brought Irish literature into the 20th Century." In 1901 he was accepted to the Bar. In one of his few cases, he defended a client who had been fined for putting his name on his cart in Gaelic - a crime in British-controlled Ireland. Though commended for an ingenious, interesting, and instructive defense, he lost the case. He never practiced law again, and described the profession of an Irish lawyer in an English court system as the most ignoble of professions.

More and more Pearse's writings came to reflect the growing nationalist influence of the Gaelic Revival. In 1908 he founded St Enda's College as a bilingual secondary school. He became an outstanding orator, and spoke at many nationalist functions. Tom Clarke, the veteran Fenian who was sent to rejuvenate the IRB, heard Pearse and invited him to deliver the 1913 oration at the graveside of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown, an annual event of considerable Republican significance. Pearse publicly identified himself with the nationalist cause when he began his speech, "We have come to the holiest place in Ireland." In that same month he began contributing articles to the IRB newspaper, Irish Freedom. By the end of 1913, Pearse was not only a member of the IRB, but of the newly formed Irish Volunteers as well, and he rose to prominence in both organizations. He became the principle speaker for the Volunteers and its Director of Organization, and, as such, had authority to issue orders on behalf of Volunteer's Chief of Staff Eoin MacNeill.

He became part of a 3-man IRB committee set up by Clarke, with Joseph Plunkett and Eamonn Ceannt, to draft a plan for a military insurrection. This committee later became the Military Council with the addition of Sean MacDiarmada, James Connolly, and Thomas MacDonagh. It was as a member of this group and the Supreme Council of the IRB that Pearse ordered the Volunteers to training maneuvers on Easter Sunday, 1916 without MacNeill's approval. Tom Clarke's IRB was the agent of the rising, but with no more than 2,000 members it needed the support of the Volunteers. Hence, the key role of Pearse and the deception of MacNeill. It was Pearse's conviction that a blood sacrifice was essential to stir his generation of Irish to action - a theme evident in his later plays. He maintained that the Gaelic Revival had bred a new generation of revolutionaries and forged the weapon that could topple the crown. All that was needed was one significant, bold action to arouse the people to a sense of their rights and put that force in motion. He was willing to initiate that action at the risk of his own life and, on Easter Monday, led his men into a rising to test that theory, even though he was acutely aware that he would not survive.

In 1915 he wrote, "We must be ready to die, even as Emmet died, so that others may live." He told his mother just before the rising, "The day is coming when I shall be shot, swept away, and my colleagues with me." After his surrender, he wrote from his jail cell, "This is the death I should have asked for if God had given me choice - a soldiers death for Ireland and freedom." True to Pearse's estimation, his execution and the execution of the other leaders set the Irish population into a seething rage that lit the fuse for the War of Independence.


The groundwork of Pearse was the foundation of Irish freedom. Some 6 months before his execution Pearse wrote to those who did not share his vision, in a poem he called The Fool: The Lawyers have sat in Council, the men with the keen long faces, and said

"This man is a fool, and others have said he blasphemeth;
and the wise have pitied the fool who strove to give a life to a dream
that was dreamed in the heart and that only the heart can hold.
O Wise Men, riddle me this: What if the dream come true,
What if the dream come true and millions unborn shall dwell
in the house that I shaped in my heart?"

James Connolly

June 5, 1868 - May 12, 1916

On June 5, 1868, a boy was born of Irish parents in the section of Edinburgh, Scotland known as Little Ireland. That boy would become one of the most beloved leaders of his time and one of Ireland's greatest patriots; his name was James Connolly. The drastic class distinction and poverty due to anti-Irish discrimination in 19th century Scotland was a heavy influence on young James. Working as an apprentice printer at the age of 10, he became an avid reader, and by the time he was 14 had read most of the literature of Michael Davitt's Land League on its war against the landlords in Ireland. It is no surprise that he grew extremely nationalistic, and citing the Fenian example of enlisting to learn military tactics, he joined the King's Liverpool Regiment. He was sent to serve in Ireland which was then entering the Gaelic Revival and there was no shortage of historical and nationalist oriented material for Connolly's hungry young eyes. Stationed in Dublin, he became aware of the close parallel between his Edinburgh environment and the pitiful conditions of the Dublin working class.

Taking a note from history, he swore that as the Land League had successfully organized farmers against landlords, he would organize workers against the managers of industry. After his discharge, he returned to Edinburgh, and began organizing workers. He was eventually blacklisted in Scotland, but was invited to be a labor organizer in Ireland where his knowledge of Irish history made him one of the most popular speakers of the Gaelic Revival. His popularity was so great he was invited on speaking tours of Scotland and England, and in 1902 was invited to America.

He toured the U.S. lecturing labor unions and rallies and settled in Troy, New York. He started a monthly paper called The Harp to enlist Irish-American support for the labor movement and filled its pages with news from Ireland. The news brought Connolly closer to Irish affairs and he realized that was where his heart had always been. He returned to Ireland, and settled in Belfast in 1910 to help Jim Larkin organize the Irish Transport Workers Union.

In a year, he moved to Dublin to continue organizing Irish workers into the new Union. In 1912 he helped to form the Labor Party to legislate for worker's rights. Business magnate William Martin Murphy responded by forming the Dublin Employers Federation in 1912 to destroy the union and more than 400 merchants joined, agreeing to dismiss any worker who belonged to the Union. Larkin and Connolly fought back by calling a strike and the greatest labor struggle in the history of Western Europe the "Great Dublin Lockout" began. Violence was rampant, and Connolly formed a force to protect the workers from attacks by management-controlled police; thus the Irish Citizen Army was born. Though the lockout ended in favor of management, their attempt to destroy the union failed, the Labor Party exists to this day and the workers had made it so costly that a lockout would never again be used as a weapon against organized labor.

Convinced that ties with England were hampering the labor movement, Connolly began to preach open rebellion. Unknown to him, Tom Clarke and the Irish Republican Brotherhood were already planning such action. Clarke was afraid Connolly would unknowingly tip their hand and on Jan 19, Connolly left for lunch and disappeared. For three days, his kidnapping so infuriated the labor movement that his followers almost started a rebellion without him. On the third day, Connolly returned. It was learned that he had been taken by the IRB to be briefed on the coming rising; Connolly was now a member of the IRB Military Council. He pledged the support of the Irish Citizen Army and was thereafter one of the leading figures in the march toward rebellion. When the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was drawn up, it was Connolly who had it printed in Liberty Hall, his union headquarters. On Easter Monday 1916, Connolly addressed his Citizen Army for the last time. There is no longer a Citizen Army and a Volunteer Force, he said, there is now only the Irish Republican Army.

The date of the Rising was set, but several mishaps occurred during the week prior, like the capture of Roger Casement and the loss of an important arms shipment. MacNeill, realizing he had been deceived, cancelled the maneuvers that were to be the rising, but Connolly was determined to prevail and voted to rise anyway. Yet, when Connolly was asked as they left Liberty Hall on Easter Monday morning, Is there any chance of success? Connolly replied, "none whatever." At 11:35 AM he led his men into the streets of Dublin, and the pages of history.

In one bloody week it was over. Despite a wounded shoulder and a shattered ankle, Connolly remained (in Pearse's words) the guiding brain of our resistance to the end. With the surrender, Connolly was taken to Dublin Castle as the executions began. Day by day, the noblest men in Ireland were assassinated by a British firing squad. On May 12, after 13 had been killed, Connolly was carried on a stretcher into the yard at Kilmainham Jail because he was unable to stand on an ankle that had been allowed to gangrene! Then, he was painfully tied to a chair and propped up to receive his majesty's lead! In death Connolly became an even greater inspiration than he had been in life. Within two months, he and the other leaders took their place with Tone and Emmet; and the Irish people, their fury finally aroused, picked up the cause left to them and carried it through the War of Independence!

Sean McDermott (Seán Mac Diarmada)

February 28, 1883 - May 12, 1916

One of the lesser known, yet major figures in the 1916 uprising is Sean McDermott. If you don't know who he was, don't feel alone. He is so little known that you can't even find him on the internet. You'll find Sean McDermott the Broadway actor, Sean McDermott the singer, Sean McDermott the NFL star, Sean McDermott the missionary, and even Sean McDermott the U.S. Navy C2/E2 pilot of the year 2005. The only way to find our Sean McDermott is to look up his name the way he signed it on the proclamation of the Irish Republic, in the Irish language: Seán Mac Diarmada, a name that was on secret British police files however, for years until his death.

Seán Mac Diarmada was born on February 28, 1883 in Kiltylough, Co Leitrim, near the Donegal border, and where there now stands a monument to his memory. Seán went to school there, but he ran away at age 15 and went to Glasgow where his uncle was a gardener. He worked for a time with his uncle, but soon took a job as a conductor on the Glasgow trams. After 2 years, he went to Belfast and worked as a tram conductor, and later as a barman.

In Belfast, he joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) which was closely associated with the Irish Parliamentary Party. While the AOH was then considered to be the custodians of Irish nationalism, Mac Diarmada looked for and joined other Irish nationalist organizations as well, including Sinn Féin and the Gaelic League. He gave a speech at a Sinn Féin convention in Dublin that made a deep impression on all who heard it. Described as "strikingly handsome and earnest, speaking with natural eloquence and a sincerity which held his audience", he was also lighthearted with a gift of telling a humorous story and a tongue that was witty without being malicious. Then, in 1906, Mac Diarmada took the oath of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and it changed his life forever.

He moved to Dublin in 1908, and met the veteran Fenian Tom Clarke who had been sent back to Ireland from America to reorganize the IRB! Mac Diarmada was tireless in his efforts to spread the IRB across the country. As a result Tom Clarke took the young dynamo under his wing, and made him a national organizer for the Brotherhood. A strong friendship developed and, over the years, Mac Diarmada and Clarke became nearly inseparable. Then tragedy struck. Mac Diarmada was afflicted with polio. After a long recuperation, however, he threw himself back into the nationalist movement. Though now forced use a cane just to walk about, his infirmity never slowed him down nor dampened his nationalist spirit.

In 1910 he became manager of the newspaper "Irish Freedom", which he founded with Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. In November 1913, he was one of the original members of the Irish Volunteers formed at the Rotunda with Padraig Pearse, and worked tirelessly to bring that organization under IRB control. Sean became Secretary of the IRB and in May 1915, he was arrested in Tuam, County Galway, under the Defense of the Realm Act for giving a speech against enlisting into the British Army for WWI. Released in September, he was invited to join the IRB's secret Military Committee, to plan a rising against the Crown. Indeed, it was he and Clarke who were most responsible for planning the Easter Rising of 1916. And, in spite of his handicap, Seán Mac Diarmada limped into that milestone of Irish history, carrying his cane not as a crutch of dependence, but as a scepter of authority, as part of the HQ staff of James Connolly. It was Mac Diarmada who sadly read Pearse's letter of surrender to the IRA men after the Rising had failed.

After the Rising was put down by the British and the rebels were taken captive, a sneering British officer remarked as Seán Mac Diarmada limped by, "No wonder the Sinn Féiners lost, with such cripples in their army." Mac Diarmada made no reply. In fact, he almost escaped execution by blending in with the crowd of prisoners until a British officer named Lee Wilson, pointed him out saying, "take the man with the stick, he's the most dangerous man here after Tom Clarke." Lee Wilson was later killed during the Irish War of Independence on the orders of one of Mac Diarmada's closest friends - a big fella by the name of Michael Collins.

On May 12, 1916, Seán Mac Diarmada was murdered by the Crown in the Stonebreaker's Yard of Kilmainham Jail; the same day as his comrade, James Connolly. They were the last two to face the firing squad. In 1922, poet Seamus O'Sullivan wrote,

"They have slain you, Seán Mac Diarmada; never more these eyes will greet
The eyes beloved by women and the smile that true men loved;
Never more I'll hear the stick-tap, and the gay and limping feet,
They have slain you, Sean the Gentle, Sean the valiant, Sean the proved."

Today, in addition to his monument in Kiltylough, Co Lietrim, Sean Mac Dermott Street in Dublin is named in his honor, as is Mac Diarmada rail station in Sligo and Seán Mac Diarmada Park and GAA stadium in Carrick on Shannon.

Joseph Mary Plunkett

November 21, 1887 - May 4, 1916

Joseph Mary Plunkett was born in 1887 in Dublin, son of George Noble, Count Plunkett, and educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, Stonyhurst, England, and UCD. His family name had been prominent in Irish history for 600 years. St. Oliver Plunkett, who had been martyred by the British in 1681, was of their family and they had always remained loyal to Ireland and the faith, as evidenced by his middle name in honor of the Mother of Jesus.

Joseph had been sickly with tuberculosis since childhood and, as a result, was always a youth of frail health. After his graduation he spent some years recuperating in the dryer climates of Italy, Egypt, and Algeria. He returned to Dublin in 1911, where he renewed his friendship with Thomas MacDonagh, another UCD graduate. Always creative and bright, he and MacDonagh launched the Irish Review and helped Edward Martyn to found the Irish Theater in Hardwicke Street. The sincere nationalism that he inherited from his family soon emerged in inspired nationalist poetry in which Joseph damned the conquerors of his land and praised the glories of her heritage. His poetry was published in two volumes: "The Circle and the Sword" in 1911 and the "Occulta", published posthumously.

His patriotism was not only oral and written - young Plunkett was willing to work for his beliefs. He was one of the founders of the Irish Volunteers and a member of its first Executive in 1913. He joined the IRB, and was sent on several secret and dangerous missions. He went to America as a liaison to the AOH and Clan na Gael -- organizations that were actively raising funds for an insurrection. He was sent to Germany in 1915 to assist Roger Casement in his attempt to secure that country's aid for Irish independence. It was Joseph who approved the purchase of German arms for the IRB. On his return to Ireland he was made a member of the IRB Military Council and became Director of Military Operations. When a rising was decided upon for Easter Sunday, 1916, it was Plunkett who drew up the strategy and plans for the occupation of Dublin. He was a tireless worker in spite of his ill health, and his efforts were an inspiration to all.

Then, early in 1916 as plans were reaching fruition, Joseph fell seriously ill. The many exertions on his frail frame in the cause of Ireland's freedom had taken their toll. He was taken to hospital to undergo throat surgery. He was recuperating from that surgery on Good Friday 1916 when he learned of Casement's capture. He knew the blow must be struck at once or the opportunity would be gone forever; he also knew that he had to be a part of it. He left the nursing home in which he was convalescing, and joined his comrades-in-arms.

Tom Clarke was delighted to have Plunkett back, especially at so critical a time. In the noble company of Pearse, Connolly, his good friend Tom MacDonagh and the rest, Joseph Plunkett proudly affixed his signature to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, he was the last to sign. The die was cast! On Easter Monday, Plunkett and the other leaders assembled their men and marched to the General Post Office in Dublin and into the pages of Irish history. For one short but glorious week, the patriotic band of little more than 3,500 men and women with small arms held off more than 16,000 seasoned troops of the most powerful army in Europe equipped with artillery and machine guns.

After the Rising, Plunkett and the other leaders were taken to Arbor Hill barracks (now Collins Barracks) where they were court-martialed, sentenced to death, and remitted to Kilmainham Jail to await execution. Broken in health, but not in spirit, on the wall of his cell Plunkett scratched his most memorable poem; it stands today as mute testimony to the virtue and caliber of these men.


"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."

On the night of May 3, as Joseph awaited his fate on the coming morning, the prison Chaplain arrived with his sweetheart, Grace Gifford whose sister had already been married to Tom MacDonagh. In fulfillment of their wishes, they were married in the prison chapel with two guards as witnesses. Then, with a group of guards in their cell, they were allowed 10 minutes together before Grace was cruelly ushered out. Six hours later 29-year-old Joseph Mary Plunkett added his name to the glorious list of Martyrs who have given their all to free Roisin Dubh.

Edward Thomas Kent (Éamonn Ceannt)

September 21, 1881 - May 8, 1916

Edward Kent was born in 1881 in the town barracks of Ballymoe, County Galway, where his father, James Kent, was stationed as an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary. The Kent family moved to Dublin when his father retired from the force. It was there, in the O'Connell School run by the Irish Christian Brothers, that young Edward took his first steps on the road to becoming a nationalist. The majority of the leaders of the 1916 rebellion were former pupils of the Christian Brothers. There he developed an interest in Irish culture, especially in Irish language and history. He was also a musician and a talented uileann piper. After graduating the O'Connell School on North Richmond Street, he attended University College Dublin.

Two major events that evoked nationalism at the end of the 19th century were the commemoration of Ireland's 1798 Uprising and the Boer War in South Africa. Young Edward took part in the commemoration and supported the Boers in their conflict with the British.

Now a fluent Irish speaker, he joined the Gaelic League in 1900 where he met Patrick Pearse and Eoin MacNeill and adopted the Irish form of his name Éamonn Ceannt. He also founded the Dublin Pipers' Club in 1900 and acted as the club's Secretary. An entry in the minutes book of the Club, dated 14 October 1913 is a request from Padraig Pearse through Éamonn Ceannt for pipers to play at a feis in aid of St. Endas, Pearse's bi-lingual school. Ceannt served as Secretary until he retired upon his marriage to the club's Treasurer, Frances Mary  O'Brennan in June 1905, in a ceremony conducted in the Irish language. Their son Ronan was born a year later in June 1906. To support his new family Éamonn worked as an accountant in the Dublin Corporation Treasurer's Office with a reported salary of 300 a year.

Ceannt joined Sinn Fein in 1907, was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1912 and joined the Irish Volunteers upon their formation in November 1913. He was later elected to the Volunteer's provisional committee, becoming involved in fund raising for arms. He was now also a master of the uilleann pipes and performed in Rome for Pope Pius X, who was accompanied by a group of elderly Irish priests who had been long living in exile from Ireland.

After being recognized as one of the more dedicated of its members, he was given command of the Fourth Battalion of Irish Volunteers. He was soon made an original member of the Military Committee and thus became one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. In that position, he was important in the planning of the Easter Rising. When the rising started, as Commandant of the Fourth Battalion of the Volunteers, he was assigned to take the Marrowbone Lane Distillery and the South Dublin Union which is now the site of St James's Hospital. With more than 100 men under his command, Cathal Brugha (Charles Burgess) as his second-in-command and William T. Cosgrave, future Chairman of the Irish Provisional Government, among his forces, they commandeered both facilities.

Ceannt's battalion saw intense fighting during the week. At one point, Cathal Brugha, was seriously wounded. He became separated from his unit, but still managed to hold off a large body of British troops despite multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds. Ceannt came to his rescue and found him propped up against a wall in a pool of his own blood, pistol in hand and defiantly singing "God Save Ireland" to taunt the attacking British troops. He was moved to Union Hospital and survived the rising. The Fourth Battalion held out for the entire week and surrendered only when ordered to do so by Padraic Pearse.

Ceannt was taken to Kilmainham Jail where he was court-martialed and sentenced to death. His young life was taken by a British firing squad on 8 May 1916. After Éamonn's execution, his wife founded the Irish White Cross to help the families impoverished by British actions or by the loss of their breadwinners in the War of Independence.

Today, Galway City's Ceannt Station, the main bus and rail station in his native county of Galway, is named in his honor, as well as Éamonn Ceannt Park in Dublin. Éamonn Ceannt Tower in Ballymun, which was demolished in 2005, had also been named for him.

Thomas MacDonagh

February 1, 1878 - May 3, 1916

Thomas MacDonagh, born in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary in 1878, grew up in a household filled with music, poetry and learning and was instilled with a love of Irish culture from a young age. Both his parents were teachers who strongly emphasized education. MacDonagh attended nearby Rockwell College as an intern in preparation for a missionary career. However, after a few years he realized that it was not the life for him, and he left.

In 1902, he published his first book of poems, Through the Ivory Gate and secured a position as a teacher in Fermoy, County Cork, where he joined the Gaelic League. He then published April and May (1903) and The Golden Joy (1904) and won a prize at the 1904 Feis Ceoil with a sacred Cantata entitled The Exodus. He relocated to teach in Kilkenny for several years and eventually moved to Dublin. There, he established strong friendships with Eoin MacNeill and Patrick Pearse. His friendship with Pearse and his love of the Irish language led him to join the staff of Pearse's bilingual St. Enda's School upon its establishment in 1908, taking the role of the French and English teacher and Assistant Headmaster. He was one of the founders of the teachers' trade union ASTI (Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland). He was essential to the early success of St. Enda's and, on his marriage he took the position of lecturer in English at the National University, though he continued to support St. Enda's. MacDonagh remained devoted to the Irish language, and in 1910 he became tutor to a younger member of the Gaelic League by the name of Joseph Plunkett. The two were both poets with an interest in the Irish literature and theater and they formed a lifelong friendship.

MacDonagh was one of the most gregarious and personable of the rising's leaders. Geraldine Plunkett Dillon, a sister of Joseph Plunkett gave a description of him in her book All in the Blood: "As soon as Tom came into our house everyone was a friend of his. He had a pleasant, intelligent face and was always smiling, and you had the impression that he was always thinking about what you were saying." In Mary Colum's Life and the Dream, she wrote of hearing about the Rising while living in America with her husband, poet Padraic Colum. She remembered MacDonagh once telling her: "This country will be one entire slum unless we get into action, in spite of our literary movements and Gaelic Leagues it is going down and down. There is no life or heart left in the country." A prominent figure in the Dublin literary world, MacDonagh was commemorated in several poems by W.B. Yeats and in his friend Francis Ledwidge's Lament for Thomas MacDonagh.

In January 1912, Thomas married Muriel Gifford and their son, Donagh, was born that November and their daughter, Barbara, in March 1915. Thomas introduced Muriel's sister, Grace, to his friend Joseph Plunkett and they fell in love almost immediately. Grace Gifford ended up marrying Joseph in Kilmainham Jail Chapel just hours before his execution in 1916.

In 1913 both MacDonagh and Plunkett attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers and joined its Provisional Committee. MacDonagh was later appointed Commandant of Dublin's 2nd battalion, and eventually made Commandant of the entire Dublin Brigade. Though originally a pure constitutionalist, as a result of his dealings with Pearse, Plunkett and Sean MacDermott, he developed stronger republican beliefs, joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) during the summer of 1915. Around this time Tom Clarke asked him to plan the funeral of the great Fenian, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, which was a resounding propaganda success, largely due to the graveside oration delivered by Pearse.

Though he was one of the Easter Rising's seven leaders, MacDonagh didn't join the secret Military Council that planned the rising until just weeks before the rising took place. His close ties to Pearse and Plunkett may have been why he was brought in as well as his position as Commandant of the Dublin Brigade. Nevertheless, he was one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic. During the rising, MacDonagh's battalion was assigned to the massive complex of Jacob's Biscuit Factory. On the way to this destination the battalion encountered the veteran Fenian, John MacBride, who joined the battalion on the spot and was given the position of second-in-command. MacBride assumed part of the command throughout Easter Week, even though he had no prior knowledge of the Rising and was only in the area by accident. MacDonagh's original second in command was Michael O'Hanrahan.

Despite the fact that MacDonagh's command was one of the strongest battalions, they saw little fighting since the British Army consciously avoided Jacob's factory. MacDonagh received the order to surrender on 30 April, though his battalion was fully prepared to continue the engagement. Following the surrender, MacDonagh was court-martialed, and executed at Kilmainham Jail by firing squad on 3 May 1916. His widow, Muriel, died of heart failure a year later on 9 July 1917.

The Thomas MacDonagh Tower in Ballymun, Dublin, demolished in June 2005, had been named for him, as is MacDonagh Train Station and MacDonagh Junction shopping center in Kilkenny. The Thomas MacDonagh Heritage Centre in Cloughjordan was opened in 2013 and hosts an annual Summer School. Gaelic Athletic Association clubs and grounds are also named for him in County Tipperary (Kilruane, Nenagh and a North Tipperary amalgamation).

Con Colbert

October 19, 1888 - May 8, 1916

Cornelius Colbert was born in Moanleana, Castlemahon, County Limerick in 1888. He was the fourth youngest of thirteen children. The family moved to the village of Athea when Con was three years old. He attended Athea National School and for a brief period the national school at Kilcolman. He left Athea at the age of sixteen and went to live with his sister Catherine in Ranelagh, County Dublin where he received his secondary education at a Christian Brothers school in North Richmond Street. After graduating, he was employed as a clerk in the offices of Kennedy's Bakery on Parnell Street. Con's family was deeply nationalist and religious and while he refrained from smoking or drinking, he became politically aware at an early age.

He joined the Gaelic League and became a member of Fianna Eireann, (Irish National Boy Scott Movement) founded by Countess Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson to drill and train Irish youngsters in the nationalist cause. He applied himself and became proficient in drill, marching, scouting, signaling, map-reading, first aid and small arms. His diligence was rewarded by his promotion to Captain of his branch.

In 1913, he joined the Irish Volunteers at its inception and put all he had learned to use as one of its first drill instructors. He was quickly appointed captain of F Company in the 4th Battalion, a position he held until the rising. Despite his youth, he was an inspiration, and was appointed to Volunteers Headquarters staff. In the years before 1916 he devoted his time to organizing the men and boys who were to participate in this historic event. His wages were small, but he spent almost every penny on the advancement of the movement. Pearse asked him to become a drill instructor at St. Enda's. In spite of his mounting commitments he agreed and when it was suggested that he be put on the payroll he declined and Pearse apologized for insulting his dedication.

Con became a drill instructor at St. Enda's School and it wasn't long before he became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In the weeks before the Rising, he was assigned as a personal bodyguard for Thomas Clarke. In the week before the rising Colbert was convinced he was going to die but knew it would not be in vain. He was glad of the opportunity to play his part in so historic an event.

During Easter Week, he fought at Watkin's Brewery, Jameson's Distillery and Marrowbone Lane. On Sunday, 30 April, Commandant Thomas MacDonagh surrendered to Brigadier-General Lowe, and then was 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 Éamonn Ceannt. When the order to surrender was issued, Colbert assumed 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-martialed. 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 that such a visit "would grieve us both too much".

The night before his execution he sent for Mrs. Ó’Murphy who was also being held prisoner. He told her he was "proud to die for such a cause. I will be passing away at the dawning of the day." Holding his bible, he told her he was leaving it to his sister. He handed her three buttons from his volunteer uniform, telling her "They left me nothing else," before asking her when she heard the volleys of shots in the morning for Éamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin and himself would she say a Hail Mary for their souls. According to Mrs. Ó’Murphy the soldier who was guarding the prisoner began to weep and said "If only we could die such deaths." Con Colbert was held in such high esteem that the British soldier who was ordered to tie his hands before his execution asked for the privilege of shaking his hand. On the 8th of May 1916, Captain Cornelius Colbert was executed in Kilmainham jail for his part in the Easter Rising to free his country.

His name remains in the hearts of the Irish as it does on Colbert Railway Station in Limerick city which is named after him as are Con Colbert Road in Dublin and the Fianna Fail Cumann in University of Limerick. Colbert Street in his native Athea, County Limerick is also named after him, as is the local community hall.


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