Monthly Archives: April 2014

Patsy O’Connor (1897-1915)

Patsy O'Connor (1897-1915)

Patsy O’Connor

On June 15th, 1915 Fianna member Patsy O’Connor died of wounds he brutally received two years earlier from the police during the ‘1913 Lockout’. He was hit on the head by a police baton while giving first aid to a wounded old man. Patsy, from Harold’s Cross, had shortly before passed his first aid exams and had received a certificate from the St. Patrick’s Ambulance Association.

Patsy was very active and prominent in the Fianna organization. He was involved in the production of the Fianna newspaper until shortly before his death. Patsy was also very close to Countess Markievicz and, as part of her ‘Surrey House’ clique, spent most of his free time at her Rathmines residence. He was Lieutenant in command of the Fianna Inchicore Sluagh at the time of his death.

In 1917 Liam Mellows wrote a fitting tribute to Patsy in the Gaelic American newspaper:

“Poor Patsy O’Connor died very suddenly in 1915. During the great Dublin strike of 1913, Patsy received a severe blow on the head from a police baton while trying to administer first aid to an old man who had been badly hurt during one of the baton charges. After superficial treatment at a hospital Patsy thought he was all right as the wound healed up rapidly. But two years later he arrived home one evening complaining of a pain in his head and after drinking a cup of tea suddenly collapsed and died almost immediately. A clot of blood had congealed on the brain and two years after the blow, had burst.

His comrades felt Patsy’s death badly. He was a most promising boy and had been in the Fianna since he was twelve years old. Full of fun and laughter, but brave as a lion and true as steel, his whole heart was bound up in the cause of Ireland and his death robbed it of one whose only thought was ‘The Day’ he never lived to see. His comrades gave him their first Fianna military funeral (on 17th June 1915) and marched with sorrowing hearts behind his coffin draped with the Irish Republican colours to Glasnevin”


Liam Mellows (1892-1922)

Liam Mellows (1892-1922)

One of the earliest known photos of Fianna Eireann hero Liam Mellows in 1911.
The photograph was published in the “Dublin Brigade Review” in 1939. It was taken just after Liam joined the Fianna Eireann in September 1911.

Irish Citizen Army Scouts (or Boys) Corps

John Kelly

John Kelly of the Irish Citizen Army (back centre), and what appears to be young ICA scouts at the front.

I have come across reference to several scouting groups during the revolutionary period and the ICA scouts are one of them.

There were a number of active (and some not so active) groups, nationalist and non-nationalist including Irish National Guards, Imperial Cadet Corps, Baden Powell Scouts, Boys Brigade, Fianna Phadraig and ICA scouts. There might have been others that I don’t know of. As far as I know the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) Scouts were formed in June 1914. The inspiration for these scouts was also Countess Markievicz. The hall she rented at Camden Street for Na Fianna Eireann was also used by both the ICA and the ICA scouts at various times.

In June 1914 Markievicz, Michael Mallin and Seamus McGowan organized a get together of young boys at Croydon Park. They were mostly sons of ICA and union members. Markievicz spoke to the young boys and suggested the formation of an ICA scouting corps. They would train at Liberty Hall (and also Camden Street) and be the ‘youth wing’ of the ICA. As far as I know about twenty boys signed up that day or soon after. Walter Carpenter was appointed as the first captain or O/C of the ICA scouts, Charlie D’Arcy and Paddy Carroll were his senior officers. Drilling and first aid training was held, with some help from the Fianna for the drilling and Dr. Kathleen Lynn was asked to hold first aid classes. The uniform consisted of slouch hats with a Red Hand badge, red ties and two rows of buttons. Their equipment usually included haversack, belt and jack-knife.

Although Walter Carpenter was the first O/C, Seamus McGowan was seen as the real influence and inspiration. Apart from the original Beresford Place/Liberty Hall branch of the ICA scouts, another unit was apparently set up in Dún Laoghaire at one stage in 1915. The average age of the ICA scouts was fifteen and nearly all of them were involved in the Easter Rising. They were divided between the GPO and Stephen’s Green.

Three of the ICA scouts were killed in action during Easter week. Fred Ryan, who had been a Fianna member originally, was by 1916 an ICA scout. However he is wrongly referred to as a Fianna casualty in many publications and books. He became close to James Connolly in 1914 and ‘defected’ to the ICA scouts. Another one labelled as a Fianna casualty was James Fox, who also had been a member of Fianna Eireann in 1913 but then joined the ICA scouts and was with the ICA in Stephens Green. He was shot dead on the Tuesday outside the United Service Club. Senior ICA scout Charlie D’Arcy was also sadly killed in 1916.

As far as I know the ICA scouts discontinued after 1916 but I will research a bit further….

The photograph is available to view on John Kelly’s pension file at the Military Archives.

Click to access docs%5Cfiles%5C%5CPDF_Pensions%5CR2%5CMSP34REF59639JOHNKELLY%5CWMSP34REF59639JOHNKELLY.pdf

Please note this is not a comprehensive account of the ICA Scouts and I am sure there is a lot more available material on that group, particularly prior to 1916. I would welcome any more information (or corrections) on the ICA Scouts so I can add to this short account.
You will be given full credit for any material provided.


Eamon Murphy

Limerick Na Fianna Eireann group photograph.

Limerick Na Fianna Eireann group photograph.

Limerick Na Fianna Eireann group photograph.

Captain Joe Dalton is front centre. Dalton, who had rose up through the ranks of the Fianna since it was formed, became the ‘leader’ of O/C of the Limerick Fianna after Sean Heuston had left for Dublin in the autumn of 1913. Joe Dalton was secretary of the Fianna Munster regional council and was also on the national Fianna executive as Limerick representative. Dalton was instrumental in bringing about the ‘military’ re-organisation of the national Fianna structure in 1915.

Taken in 1913 at the ‘Fianna Hall’ in Barrington street, Limerick. The hall was situated behind Fenian John Daly’s house.

Na Fianna Eireann at the Bachelor’s Walk funeral in 1914

Na Fianna Eireann at the Bachelor's Walk funeral in 1914

Film still of Na Fianna Eireann marching as part of the funeral procession for the three victims of the Bachelor’s Walk massacre. This massacre occurred a number of days before on 26th July 1914 following the successful Howth gunrunning earlier in the day.

The funeral was held on 29th July 1914 and was one of the first (if not the first) public occasions that the Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Eireann and Cumann na mBan marched side by side.

‘Joseph Robinson and Fianna Eireann’

'Joseph Robinson and Fianna Eireann'

‘Joseph Robinson and Fianna Eireann’ by Eamon Murphy

Joseph ‘Joe’ Robinson was born in Belfast in 1887. His grandfather, a Fenian, had been forced to leave Ireland in 1848, for France. Joseph’s father was subsequently born in France but after a number of years in exile the family eventually made their way back to Ireland and set up home in Belfast.

In 1902, at the age of fifteen, Joseph, and his younger brother Seamus, joined a newly founded youth organization called Na Fianna Eireann. This pioneering group was set up by a young Belfast Quaker called Bulmer Hobson. Hobson had felt that there was a scarce supply of Irish cultural and sporting activities for young nationalist men in Belfast. With the help of some like-minded friends, he set up Na Fianna Eireann, which was to have a focus on Irish sports, culture and language. The Robinson boys were among the first recruits to this new organization. There was great excitement among the new recruits and Hobson said that “here was something we could mold into a strong force to help in the liberation of Ireland”.

One of the success stories of the new Fianna organisation was its very own hurling league. Each local area in Belfast was to have its own separate club; the Robinson brothers subsequently joined ‘Oscars’ club. Joseph became the Fianna hurling league’s organizer shortly after it was set up and he later recalled that there were about “150-200 members in the league at the beginning”. Unfortunately the initial period of popularity didn’t seem to last that long and within a year or two the Belfast Fianna ceased to exist.

Despite this set back, Joe had by this stage, developed a ‘spirit of nationality’ and an appetite for Irish culture and heritage; and would shortly join the Gaelic league. Not long after this, however, Joseph’s family left Ireland for a new life in Glasgow, Scotland. Joseph joined them for a short period but was soon back home in Ireland.

A few years after Joseph returned to Ireland, another attempt was being made to set up a Fianna group. Bulmer Hobson, now living in Dublin, was assisted by Countess Markievicz in setting up a new Fianna Eireann organization. It was to be somewhat different to the previous model, with more of an emphasis on scouting, drilling, camping and so on. However the cultural and language aspects would remain a strong element. This new organization also had the independence of Ireland as one of its stated objectives.

Joseph, who had remained close friends with Hobson since the days of the original Fianna in Belfast, was asked to help with establishing the new organization. Joe was at the inaugural meeting of ‘An Cead Sluagh’ in Lower Camden Street on August 16th 1909 and was elected to the first committee as treasurer. He was also elected as vice-president at a later date. Without a doubt, the success of the Fianna in the early months of its existence was due in part to the dedication and commitment of Joe Robinson.

Shortly after the establishment of the Fianna, Joe was asked to go to Belfast (in 1910) to set up and organize new branches/sluaite. This he achieved with great success. He also briefly went to Dundalk to set up a branch there, and then Glasgow, where his family were still residing, to promote and organize new units of the Fianna. He then based himself in Scotland and was appointed O/C of the Glasgow Fianna, however he was still on the National Fianna Executive Council (or Ard Choiste) as Belfast representative, where he maintained close links, and was frequently back and forth between the Belfast and Glasgow branches. He also continued as National vice-president until 1913.

Joseph’s younger brother Seamus was also a member of the newly formed Glasgow Fianna; other prominent early members included Eamonn Mooney and Seamus Reader.

While in Scotland, Joe was one of those responsible for establishing the Irish Volunteers and was captain of the original company. When the split with the Redmondite faction came in 1914, three out of the four local companies went with Redmond however Robinson’s dedicated company sided with MacNeill’s Volunteers. He immediately set about re-organizing and recruiting for the Irish Volunteers.

He was back and forth between Ireland and Scotland on a regular basis now. On his visits he would attend senior Fianna and Volunteer meetings. He would usually stay at the Markievicz home; Surrey House in Rathmines. He was in Dublin for the Howth gunrunning in 1914 and was a key participant in that event.

Joe was also prominent in the Glasgow Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the secret Fenian organization, which his grandfather had once been a member. Joe had been a member of the IRB since 1911, when he joined in Ireland. He now used this experience in the local Glasgow IRB circle. He would subsequently become ‘centre’ of that circle.

Robinson’s importance for the independence movement really took off from this point; and under orders from Dublin, he began to train Volunteers for the upcoming rebellion. In Glasgow, Robinson, and his faithful band of Fianna and Volunteers, started to raid for arms, ammunition, and explosives from surrounding munition factories and local mines. He later said of these activities that his men were “engaged in the highly dangerous and important task of obtaining and shipping munitions and explosives to Ireland for the purpose of the Rising”. These were sent to Dublin, often via Belfast. Margaret Skinnider was one of those who took part in a raid on a local shipyard.

In January 1916 he received orders to send twenty eight of his best men to Kimmage in Dublin for further training for the approaching rebellion. He, himself, was due to leave for Dublin shortly afterwards but was, along with Seamus Reader arrested by local police, who were acting on a tip off from Dublin detectives. He was sent to Duke Street prison in Glasgow on a charge of “burglary of explosives, raiding admiralty works and importing arms from Germany”, which were all destined for Ireland. He was then transferred to Edinburgh Castle and following the Dublin ‘Rising’ at Easter, he was sent to Reading jail in England. He was never sentenced for his initial charge and was released on Christmas Eve 1916.

Following Joe’s release from prison he resumed his Fianna and Volunteer activities. He immediately began to re-organise the local units and was again appointed as O/C of the Irish Volunteers in Scotland. In early 1918 he was arrested again on a similar charge of raiding for munitions. He was sentenced this time to ten years penal servitude. He was not released until March 1922.

During Joe’s time in prison his younger brother Seamus was moving up the ranks of the IRA. Seamus had already proved himself in the 1916 Rising as O/C of the ‘Hopkins and Hopkins’ post in the city. In the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers/IRA in the aftermath of the Easter Rising, Seamus was involved with the Tipperary IRA. He subsequently became O/C of the South Tipperary Brigade. He was the organizer of the IRA unit, which included Sean Treacy, Dan Breen and Sean Hogan, which carried out the Soloheadbeg Ambush on 21st January 1919. It was regarded as the first major action of the ‘War of Independence’. In 1920 Seamus was elected TD for East Tipperary and Waterford. From 1921 to 1923 Seamus Robinson was O/C of the 2nd Southern Division of the IRA.

In April 1922, Joe Robinson, having recently been released from his ‘penal servitude’, was appointed by Cathal Brugha and Rory O’Connor, as Divisional Commander of the Scottish IRA, which now covered two Brigade areas, no.1 Glasgow and no. 2 Dundee. He was also appointed as political organizer for Scotland by Eamon de Valera.

He was arrested by the Scottish authorities in early 1923 and deported to Ireland, where he spent eleven weeks in Mountjoy.

Following the Irish Civil War, he gave up all his revolutionary activities and settled in Ireland. He married and became a painter and decorator in Bray, Co. Wicklow. He died on 14th May, 1955 at the age of 68.

Joe Robinson was one of the pioneers of the Irish Independence movement; Bulmer Hobson later said that Joe was probably one of the most “active workers in the national movement since 1902”; in fact you could say his distinguishing and lengthy involvement was almost unique for that period. He was there right from the beginning and he was, apart from Bulmer Hobson, the only link between the original 1902 Na Fianna and the later 1909 version. He went on to play a vital and significant role in the growth of the Fianna organisation, in both Ireland and Scotland. He was particularly useful in his capacity as an Irish Volunteer organizer in Scotland; in providing valuable well trained men for the preparation of, and taking part in, the Easter Rising. He set the wheels in motion for so much of the revolutionary movement and he was an inspiration to so many of our revolutionaries in the 1909-23 period; people such as Con Colbert, Michael Lonergan, Countess Markievicz, Eamon Martin, Seamus Reader and above all, his brother Seamus, who worshipped him and always dedicated his achievements and later success to his big brother ‘Joe’.

May we never forget our Fianna and Irish patriot Joseph Robinson.

Photo and article by Eamon Murphy

Fianna Eireann ‘Ard Fheis’ 1913

Fianna Eireann 'Ard Fheis' 1913

Fianna Eireann ‘Ard Fheis’ (Annual Convention/Congress), July 13th 1913, Mansion House, Dublin.

Some notable personalities in this photograph:

2nd row 4th from left Michael Lonergan, then Eamon Martin.

Liam Mellows seated to the Countess’ righthandside. On the Countess’ left side is Padraig O’Riain, then Con Colbert, then Nora Connolly.

Row behind, 2nd from right, standing Garry Holohan with arms folded.

Bulmer Hobson standing behind and in between where Eamon Martin and Liam Mellows are seated.

Paddy Holohan is back of photo far right with Percy Reynolds next to him.

Representatives from the female ‘Sluagh Betsy Gray’ from Belfast, including Nora Connolly (front next to Colbert), are also featured in this photograph.

“Sinn Fein Boy Scouts”

“Sinn Fein Boy Scouts” – Daily Sketch, 15th May 1919.

Na Fianna Scouts incorrectly referred to as Sinn Fein scouts by the Daily Sketch.

The Mendicity Institution and the 1916 Rising

The Mendicity Institution and the 1916 Rising

In 1916 Sean Heuston and a small group of young Irish Volunteers took over the Mendicity Institution on the Dublin Quays. Sean was captain of ‘D’ Company of the Irish Volunteers 1st Battalion but he was also still a senior Fianna officer. Sean held various senior posts in the Fianna organisation at that time; Captain of No. 6 Company, Vice-Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and also Director of Training at Fianna GHQ.

Several other Irish Volunteers at the Mendicity Institution with Heuston were also members of Fianna Eireann including P. J. Stephenson, Sean McLoughlin, Liam Staines and Dick Balfe.