A Fianna Eireann physical culture class at the Fianna Hall in Barrington Street, in Limerick City, 1913.
This hall was a purpose built hall donated by Fenian John Daly in 1912. Bulmer Hobson officially opened the hall at a ceremony on December 13, 1912. The hall was used as a classroom, drill hall and also as a gymnasium.
The hall played host to many prominent republicans over the years. Patrick Pearse, Sean MacDermott, Roger Casement, Terence MacSwiney and many others gave speeches at this significant Limerick address.
The hall, which was also used by the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan at various stages, was burned down by the Black and Tans on 29th November, 1920, during the War of Independence.
Na Fianna Eireann in Gorey, Co. Wexford.
By Eamon Murphy
A ‘Sluagh’ (or branch) of Fianna Eireann, who were also known as the ‘Irish National Boy Scouts’, was officially formed in Gorey on the 11th January 1914. This was five days after a branch of the Irish Volunteers was established in the town.
Liam Mellows, with strong family connections to the area, had been a regular visitor to Gorey throughout 1912/13 with the objective of forming a unit of Fianna Eireann, and he had been working closely with Sean O’Byrne, Sean Etchingham, James Gleeson and other local republicans.
In 1914, Mellows attended the first official Fianna Eireann meeting at the Gorey Town Hall and addressed the local recruits; his speech was met with rapturous applause. He outlined the aims and objectives of Fianna Eireann. He stated that their object was to ‘re-establish the Independence of Ireland through the training of the youth of Ireland, mentally and physically, to achieve this object by teaching scouting and military exercises, Irish History, and the Irish language’.
Upon joining the new members had to declare that they ‘promise to work for the independence of Ireland, never to join England’s armed forces and to obey my superior officers’. Fianna Eireann was open to ALL Irish boys, irrespective of their class or creed.
Sean O’Byrne was unanimously elected President of the branch. Another prominent local republican, Sean Breen was appointed as its first commander.
In all ninety (90) local boys joined Fianna Eireann that day and an adult committee was formed to manage the branch. It was one of the largest branches in the country at that time, outside of the main regional capitals of Cork, Belfast, Limerick and Dublin.
The Gorey ‘Sluagh’ was named after 1798 local hero Miles Byrne.
*Photograph of Gorey Town Hall circa 1900. Photo by Robert French and available to view on the National Library of Ireland’s website.
Pilgrimage to Bodenstown in 1912
by Eamon Murphy
A large number travelled by special train from Dublin on the annual pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone’s grave in Bodenstown. On arrival at Sallins a procession was formed by the Irish National Boy Scouts (Na Fianna Eireann) and other groups (Lorcan O’Toole Band, Wolfe Tone Committee, 1798 Club, Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish National Foresters).
At the graveside Na Fianna Eireann formed a cordon, and Mr. Tom Clarke delivered a short address, having been introduced by Bulmer Hobson. Afterwards Cathal Brugha spoke in Irish to the assembled crowd. An Aeridheacht (open air festival) was held afterwards in a neighbouring farm.
This rare photograph shows the Fianna scouts in the procession making their way towards Bodenstown. Leading the scouts is Padraig O’Riain (Fianna national secretary and Ard Choiste member) and to his right, Countess Markivicz. Others of note in the photo are Eamon Martin, Percy Reynolds, Michael Lonergan and Liam Mellows.
The ‘Fianna’ cup presented to the Army boxing club at the Curragh Command by former Fianna Chief of Staff Eamon Martin in memory of his Fianna Comrades Con Colbert and Sean Heuston who were both executed in 1916.
“Na Fianna Eireann Memorial St Stephen’s Green”
In August 1966 a memorial to Fianna Eireann was unveiled in St. Stephen’s Green by former Fianna QMG and Commandant of the Dublin Brigade Garry Holohan.
In a rousing speech Garry Holohan’s son, the Rev. Fr. Colman Holohan O.F.M, spoke about how:
“The Fianna stood in the gap until the Irish Volunteers had been armed; hosts of Irish Boys – nameless and unknown – stood firm for Ireland in her hour of need.
It was not enough for the founders and organisers of Fianna Eireann to set before the boys of Ireland ideals and examples. They put methods of training into their hands, which made it possible for the boys to proceed actively towards the targets put before them.
Today when national leaders set ideals before our youth not only must they put practical means at their disposal to attain economic prosperity, but they must make available to them all the means of developing in themselves a truer participation in our cultural inheritance.
For generations, Irish people believed that it would be sufficient to get political and administrative freedom, but that was not sufficient, as we now know.
We must also take the humbug out of the written reasons for not restoring the Irish language and take measures to achieve a real target.”
The impressive limestone and granite memorial bears the inscription:
‘To honour all those who served with Fianna Eireann 1909-1916, and through the War of Independence’
Commandant J. O’Brien, representing An Taoiseach, Mrs Tom McCarthy, Brigadier Garry Holohan and his son Rev. Fr. Colman O Huallachain, OFM.
A parade consisting of former members of Fianna Eireann, the IRA and Cumann na mBan marched to the event. Notable attendees at the ceremony were Alderman Eugene Timmons, Lord Mayor of Dublin; Frank Sherwin, National Association of Old Fianna; Mrs. L. O’Connell, President of Cumann na mBan; Eugene Kelly, Fianna Memorial Committee; Liam Cosgrave, Leader of Fine Gael; An Taoiseach was represented by his A.D.C, Commandant J. O’Brien. Former Fianna Chief of Staff Eamon Martin was unable to attend, and a letter of apology was read out.
Fianna veterans from Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Nenagh, Waterford, Belfast, Dundalk and Dun Laoghaire were also in attendance.
“Fianna Eireann veterans re-enact the Howth gunrunning on 30th July 1961”
By Eamon Murphy
Members of Sluagh Muiri (Irish Naval Reserve) are onboard the original ‘Asgard’, which was used in 1914. They are unloading some of the original ‘Howth’ rifles. Surviving members of Na Fianna Eireann, who took part in the original gunrunning, are standing by the harbour wall receiving the historic rifles.
On 26th July 1914, 900 Mauser M1871 single shot rifles, which became known as the ‘Howth Mauser’, and 29,000 rounds of ammunition were landed by the Irish Volunteers and Na Fianna Eireann.
The ‘Asgard’ had been purchased by the Irish Government in 1961 and refurbished; it was subsequently used for sail training until it was moved to Kilmainham Gaol in 1974. It is now on permanent display in Collins Barracks Museum after another period of restoration.
‘Surrey House’, Leinster Road, Rathmines.
By Eamon Murphy
This photo is of ‘Surrey House’, on Leinster Road in Rathmines, which was once the home of Countess Markievicz. Countess Markievicz and her husband Caismir moved here in October 1911, following her ill-fated commune ‘experiment’ at Belcamp House in Raheny. The house is a semi-detached building situated at the corner of Leinster Road and Grosvenor Lane. Anne Marreco described it as a “tall, gabled, narrow villa, joined to its twin which stands on the corner of a road leading to Grosvenor Square, built of red brick and with a strip of garden leading to the broad stretch of Leinster Road”.
It was at ‘Surrey House’ that the Countess built up a small ‘clique’ around her that consisted of her most loyal boys in the Fianna. Some of these had even taken to ‘moving in’. They took over part of the house and used it as a regular meeting place. Some of the older Fianna officers, particularly the IRB members, advised her not to encourage this new elite group and said it would bring unwanted attention to the organisation. However this did not deter the Countess and she used ‘Surrey House’ as a 2nd home for her close Fianna circle. Some of this ‘Surrey Clique’, as it came to be known, included Harry Walpole, Jack Shallow, Louis Marie, Ed ‘Eamon’ Murray, Andy Dunne and Patsy O’Connor.
*Patsy sadly passed away in 1915, eighteen months after receiving an injury during the great lockout of 1913. He never fully recovered from the baton-inflicted wound and he finally succumbed to his injury in June of 1915. Patsy had been a prominent member of the Fianna and was once the editor of the short-lived ‘Fianna’ magazine.
‘Surrey House’ became a hive of activity and visitors included well known republicans, labour activists, journalists, artists, and others from Markievicz’ social circle. A visiting French journalist once remarked that ‘Surrey House’ was “more of an army HQ than a home”. It was also carefully watched by G-men from Dublin castle which led to another visitor claiming that it was the best-guarded house in Dublin, with “detectives on the outside and Fianna boys on the inside”.
The presence of detectives was likely due to the unusual activities taking place, not to mention the caliber of guests visiting. On one occasion in 1914, one of the Howth rifles was tested in the back garden. Unfortunately this incident attracted the attention of the well-to-do neighbours. Rathmines at that time was a majority unionist middle class neighbourhood and they didn’t take too kindly to these undesirables intruding on their locality. Sean Prendergast recalled ‘Surrey House’ and its inhabitants “being looked on with condemnation and disgust by the law-abiding and respectable neighbours”. He remembers that they particularly didn’t like the nationalist songs coming out of the house, which “disturbed the peace and quietude of RAWTHMINES. By the same token, songs were written and sung (by us) in honour of the same RAWTHMINES, immortalizing it as a district of Britons, Shoeens and Castle-hacks”.
Another activity, which regularly took place at ‘Surrey House’, was the printing of seditious and nationalist material. Markievicz got hold of a small hand held printing press and anti-British posters and handbills were printed and distributed by the Fianna. These were mostly of an anti-enlistment nature but others included pro-Fianna Eireann posters, one of which was “Be True To Ireland And Do Not Join The Baden-Powell Scouts”.
‘Surrey House’ was where James Connolly had stayed and recuperated after his imprisonment and hunger strike in 1913. Connolly, and his family, ended up staying at Surrey House on and off for the next three years. It was also the location of the first meeting between Connolly and Liam Mellows. Connolly later said of his encounter with Liam that he was the “finest of all the young republicans” and remarked to his daughter Nora that “I have found a real man”.
Connolly and Markievicz used ‘Surrey House’ as a base and office for the printing and editing of ‘The Worker’s Republic’ and ‘The Spark’.
Others to visit the house during the period included John Devoy, Jim Larkin, Helena Moloney, Eamon Martin, Con Colbert, Jack White, Bulmer Hobson, Margaret Skinnider and Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington.
‘Surrey House’ was also known as a place of refuge for the young and poor. Many young Fianna boys who had taken ill, were brought to recover at Markievicz’ Rathmines home. It was also said that she took in young girls who had lost their jobs in the Jacobs factory in 1913.
Often the gas supply was cut off due to unpaid bills, and Markievicz also struggled to feed her many visitors but it was still a place of warm hospitality where one could feel welcome and get a bite to eat, even if it was just bread and butter.
The Republic flag flown at the GPO in 1916 was apparently made in ‘Surrey House’, however according to a different account it was only stored there for the week prior to the Rising.
The house was raided several times prior to 1916 and was then totally ransacked by the military in the days after the Easter Rising. They had trashed the interior, including the antique furniture, paintings, sculptures and ornaments. The British soldiers also destroyed the well-stocked library. They then dug up the garden looking for guns. Whatever was left, that was salvageable, was subsequently looted.
There are not many references to ‘Surrey House’ in the years following the Easter Rising, in fact according to Diane Norman, Markievicz never had a proper home again after the destructive raids in 1916. However a witness statement from Moira Kennedy O’Byrne claims that Michael Collins warned Countess Markievicz of an impending raid on ‘Surrey House’ during the ‘Tan War’. If true then Markievicz most likely remained as a resident at her Rathmines address for the duration of the War of Independence despite being imprisoned for a good deal of that period.