Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Souvenir Programme, 1st August 1915 The funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa was held on August 1st 1915 and a souvenir booklet was published. This was a remarkable and noteworthy publication. It featured many patriotic and inspiring articles from the most prominent republican and nationalist figures of the day.
Patrick Pearse wrote a dedication to Rossa entitled ‘A Character Study’; Arthur Griffith penned an article on ‘The Influence of Fenianism’; A fascinating account called ‘Rossa – Arch Rebel’ was contributed by William O’Leary Curtis; James Connolly wrote about ‘Why the Citizen Army Honours Rossa’ and Thomas MacDonagh delivered a rousing account of ‘The Irish Volunteer in 1915’. However of particular interest was the wonderfully descriptive commentary on the establishment, background and objectives of Na Fianna Eireann by one of the principle initiators of the National Boy Scout organisation, and original committee member, Sean McGarry.
It read as follows: “Someone has said that every Irishman is born a rebel; this assertion may seem rather sweeping, but it is undoubtedly a fact that nearly every Irish boy is instinctively a rebel. All over the country, even in districts untouched by Fenianism, and in which are no traditions of the sacrifices and struggles of local Fenians, we find Tone, Emmet, Dwyer, Rossa, and men of their stamp figuring as heroes in the conversations and confidences of the boys, who may have no knowledge of the particular deed or deeds of any of them, little or no conception of their aspirations or their hopes, but one thing always is clear to the youthful mind all of their heroes fought for Ireland and against England. This National instinct in the boys of Ireland is truly wonderful; it guides them unerringly and without apparent reason; their knowledge of the men whose names are linked together in their imaginations being, in most cases, gleaned from fragments of conversations overheard, from snatches of ballads sung willy-nilly by their elders, or mayhap now and then from the lips of a forlorn ballad singer; the latter not being nearly so common now as was the case a dozen years ago. It is unfortunate that until quite recently no very serious attempt was made to guard and guide our young rebels through their school days, and through that period of transition between boyhood and manhood, that period during which so many dreams are forgotten, so many illusions shattered; during which one might almost say the man of the future is made. There were many endeavours to capture the young minds for the nation by the establishment of language and history classes, by the format on of juvenile football and hurley clubs, they all met with some success, but in the main the boys tired of the routine, and were lost in the tide of anglicisation.
About five years ago Na Fianna Éireann was started, in a very modest way, in Dublin, and since then the organisation has spread in a wonderful manner throughout the whole country. The boys of the Fianna have solved the difficulties which attended previous effort in this direction, they have done this by combining work and play, by completely controlling the organisation themselves, thus making each individual by feel that he himself is more or less responsible for the success of their work. The boys make their own laws, elect their officers, smooth over their difficulties and settle their differences with surprising tact and diplomacy; so each one feels that he himself is the organisation. The effects of the training in the Fianna on the boys who will form the next generation of the men of Ireland cannot be over-estimated. The discipline of camp, parade and drill-hall will remain throughout their lives; the independence of thought, action and initiative acquired in the conducting of the routine work of the different corps will result in manliness and self-reliance, and lastly, the physical training and outdoor life will give them what some English chronicler said were possessed by their forefathers “strong bodies” as well as a healthy outlook. It is not, however, in the camp and on the march that the most important work of the Fianna is accomplished, for from the National aspect it is much more important that the spirit of the Fenians should be kept alive, that the national instincts of the children should be transformed into national convictions before they reach the age of manhood, and it is here the Fianna have triumphed. Their history classes give them mote intimate knowledge of the men who figured as heroes in their childish imaginations; they learn with undiluted joy of the glorious deeds of Owen Roe and Hugh O’Neill, of the supreme heroism of the men of ‘98, and the men of ‘67, who gloried in the service of Ireland and their language classes bring them into closer touch with the spirit of the Gael – the spirit of the Fianna of Fionn, of Cuchullan and Fergus, whose deeds are recounted with enthusiasm, and whose lives stand forth as models of perfection for Irishmen. And if the effect of the training of the Fianna is such on the individual who shall estimate the effect on the nation, when the hundreds of boys who are how in the different corps come to take their places in the National fight? Imbued with a belief in the righteousness of their cause, fired with a love for Ireland implanted in their hearts from childhood; with the example of great lives and great endeavours before them; we can look forward with confidence to that day which is surely coming; when the final struggle the consummation of the hopes of Rossa and the others will take place. We know that the boys of the Fianna will be in the forefront of the fight, and we know that the boys of another generation will recount their deeds with the same prides the boys of to-day recount the deeds of the Fianna of Fionn.” Signed by “Sean Mac Gadhra” *It is interesting to note that of the illustrious ‘O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Committee‘, five members were also members of Na Fianna Eireann. They were Bulmer Hobson, Padraig O’Riain, Countess Markievicz, Eamon Martin and Con Colbert.
The full funeral souvenir booklet can be downloaded from here: http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/bitstream/10599/9030/4/ODonovanRossa.pdf
“A report is given of the demonstration held to mark the first anniversary of the Howth gun running [and Bachelor’s Walk Massacre]. Around 150 Sinn Féin Boy Scouts [Fianna Eireann] under the command of Countess Markievicz, Patrick Ryan and Herbert ‘Barney’ Mellows marched from Camden Street to Bachelor’s Walk where a wreath was erected on a pole.” – National Archives of Ireland
The report stated that:
“About 150 Sinn Fein Boy Scouts assembled at 34 Lr. Camden street yesterday at 12.40pm and subsequently in charge of the Countess Markievicz, P. Ryan and Herbert Mellows marched via Sth. Gt. Georges St., Grattan Bridge, along Ormonde Quay to Bachelor’s Walk. Two of the Scouts in advance fixed a wreath to an electric pole at the corner of Liffey Street but beyond this there was no further demonstration, and no attempt was made during the day to lay down the Memorial Tablet.”
The full report can be read here courtesy of The National Archives of Ireland: http://www.nationalarchives.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/CSO_JD_2_44.pdf
“Young Heroes’ Notable Deeds”
“The National Boys Scouts [Fianna Eireann] distinguished themselves in more ways than one on Sunday in connection with the gunrunning coup. They were commanded by Lieutenants Padraig O’Riain and Eamon Martin; and every one over 15 had orders to accompany the Volunteers.
They turned up in strong force in the morning and throughout the day they behaved like thorough soldiers. They bore the long march to Howth remarkably well. When the first attack was made by the soldiers, the Scouts showed up manfully. One of the older of them was seen to engage a Scottish Borderer who was armed with a fixed bayonet. With a stroke of his rifle he brought the soldier to the ground, and then coolly took possession of his rifle and bayonet. One Scout was wounded above the loft ear, blood flowing profusely down his face. One of the commanders of the Scouts mounted a wall, an opened fire with an automatic pistol on the attackers. In the melee, another rifle was captured from a Scottish Borderer.
When the order was given to the Volunteers at the rear to get away with their rifles and ammunition, the Scouts, in addition to getting safely away with a large quantity of ammunition which they had carefully stored away in their trek cart, brought the captured rifles with them. They are now safely stored with the rest of the rifles.
A witness of the occurrence said to an ’Irish independent’ representative that the Scouts were even pluckier then some of the Volunteers. “Every one of them held his rifle as he would hold his life’.”
Irish Independent, July 28th 1914.
Photos courtesy of the Erskine Childers Collection held at Trinity College Archives and Eamon Murphy
“When the 6th Battalion Pre-Truce Old Fianna held their annual commemoration parade from Dun Laoghaire to Dean’s Grange Cemetery the Battalion was presented for the first time with a Battalion flag by Mr. Eamon Martin, former Chief of Staff of Fianna Eireann, who was accompanied by Mr. J. Reynolds, his Adjutant-General.
Present at the handing over ceremony that was watched by a big crowd at Dun Laoghaire wharf was Mr. Sean McGarry, one of the founders of the Fianna in 1909.
The Flag was received by Comdt. Nicholas Kelly, of the 6th Battalion.
Afterwards the parade, which comprised the Old Fianna, Old IRA men and Cumann na mBan, marched with bands to the cemetery where wreaths were laid on the 1916 plot, and a firing party drawn from the Fianna, and the Volunteers, under Comdt. Kelly paid military honours.
The 1916 Proclamation was read by Mr. J. Reynolds and a Decade of the Rosary recited by Mr. L Cosgrave, Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach. Also present were: Dr. J. P. Brennan, T.D., and Mr. B. Brady, T.D. Mr. Sean McGarry was Chief Marshall at the parade.”
Irish Independent, March 26th 1951
Photograph Courtesy of Deirdre Kelly
The Fianna Eireann Golden Jubilee Medal was issued by the Fianna Veterans Association to holders of the Fianna Certificate of Service. The medal was launched in 1960 to mark the recent Golden Jubilee of the organisation.
The following report appeared in the Irish Press on May 6th 1960:
“The heroic part played by Fianna Eireann in the War of Independence will be recalled in Clery’s restaurant in Dublin on Monday Night (May 9th), when Golden Jubilee medals will be presented to Fianna veterans.The only people entitled to receive a medal are those holding registered certificates of service. About 1000 people hold these certificates and 300 medals will be presented at Monday night’s function.
Founded in 1909 by Constance Markievicz and Bulmer Hobson, the Fianna were the first uniformed and trained Irish military body since Grattan’s Volunteers.Having preceded the Irish Volunteers by some years, they supplied that body with drillmasters and officers. Two Fianna officers, Con Colbert and Sean Heuston, were executed in 1916. The first blow struck in the Rising was by the Fianna, at the Magazine Fort.
At a press conference in Dublin last night, which was attended by Mr. Eamon Martin, former Chief of Staff of the Fianna, Mr. Jimmy O’Connor, secretary of the Jubilee committee, Mr. Harry Walpole, Chairman of the committee, and Mr. Cathal O’Shannon, one of the leaders of the Fianna in Belfast, details of the function were given and the medals were put on display.”
The subsequent presentation and unveiling event at Clery’s Restaurant was a resounding success.
Mr. Harry Walpole, Fianna veteran and Chairman of the committee, presented Fianna Chief Eamon Martin with a specially commissioned gold replica of the Jubilee medal in honour of his services and commitment to both Ireland and the Fianna.
Following the special presentation, Mr Martin himself then presented over 300 members of Fianna Eireann with Golden Jubilee medals.
The attendance included representatives of the Old Fianna from Armagh, Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Derry, Louth, Limerick, Tipperary, Mayo and many other areas.
Former pupils of Patrick Pearse’s St Enda’s School, which was closely associated with the Fianna and its IRB circle, were also present. They included Frank Burke, Fintan Murphy, Desmond Ryan, Seosamh O Buachalla, Fred Doherty and Major General Joseph Sweeney.
The Dublin Metropolitan Police files detailing the movement of ‘extremists’ in Dublin, reported on 12th July that the Fianna Eireann Ard Fheis took place.
The file read as follows:
“William J. Langley, (Sinn Fein) Tuam, arrived at Broadstone at 9.50pm and went direct to 12 D’Olier Street but the place being closed he continued his journey to 49B Leinster Road, the residence of Countess Markievicz, where he stayed overnight. The Annual Congress of the Sinn Fein Boy Scouts took place yesterday at 12 noon in the Oak Room of the Mansion House. Those observed in attendance included: Countess Markievicz, Bulmer Hobson, P. Ryan, C. Colbert, Wm. Mellows, and W.J. Langley, Tuam. 75 Boy Scouts in uniform were also present. As far as can be ascertained the meeting was chiefly engaged in organizing work and the question of providing further equipment with up to date rifles for the Scouts.“
DMP Files – Click to enlarge
The Ard Fheis, which took place on Sunday 11th July, was one of the most important gatherings of the Fianna in its relatively recent existence.
A resolution proposed that the Fianna adopt a Rifle as standard equipment for all third class scouts and a musketry test applied to recruits.
More significantly, the Congress voted on a radical restructuring of the Fianna organisation from a scouting body into a more military style outfit. A resolution proposed by Eamon Martin called for the title of ‘President’ to be abolished and replaced with a Chief of the Fianna. He also proposed that the Ard Choiste be replaced by a GHQ staff and for a new National Executive with County members. It was put forward by Martin, that the Fianna were by now essentially a military grouping and thus required a military hierarchy. Bulmer Hobson and Con Colbert argued against the motion saying that the educational role of the Fianna and also the scouting, civil and cultural side of the Fianna was more important. Barney Mellows responded by saying that the cultural and educational aspects would remain an important component of the Fianna organization under a restructuring. Colbert eventually came around and supported the proposal, which contained some minor amendments.
The office of the President remained and the Countess was appointed in this position however, it was claimed that it was a political move to ensure she stayed off the new GHQ staff. Markieivicz was also elected to the new National Executive but did not win a place on the new GHQ Staff.
A week after the Ard Fheis the Headquarters staff was elected as follows:
Chief of the Fianna – Padraig O’Riain Chief of Staff – Bulmer Hobson Adjutant General – Percy Reynolds Director of Training – Sean Heuston Director of Organisation and Recruiting – Eamon Martin Director of Equipment – Leo Henderson Director of Finance – Barney Mellows
It was this body which wielded the real power of the organization. Many of the Senior officers commented that this organization reshuffle was merely bringing the Fianna into line with the Volunteers in its structure, something which had been unofficially in place for the previous 12-15 months.
Story and Research by Eamon Murphy
DMP Files copyright of The Irish National Archives http://www.nationalarchives.ie/report-of-12-july-1915/
On July 4th 1922, 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Aloysius Hurson, ‘A’ Company 2nd Battalion Belfast Brigade Na Fianna Eireann, was shot in the head by a sniper at Regent Street in Belfast. He subsequently died in hospital.
Joseph, son of Mathias and Ellen Hurson, lived at No.87 Unity Street in Belfast, and was an apprentice cabinetmaker. He was only 16 years old at the time of his death. Joseph had been a dedicated and active member of Na Fianna since he was 12 years old.
When Joseph’s mother Ellen applied for a pension in 1927 as a surviving dependent of Joseph, her claim under the Army Pensions Act was rejected. She claimed she was reliant on her eldest son Joseph bringing in a wage to support the household. It appears that her husband had died by 1927.
Ellen responded to the Department of Defence asking “why, when I have lost a son worthy of the name of an Irishman, I should be ignored?” She requested that they reconsider their decision; however, she was unsuccessful in her attempts.
Upon Joseph’s death his comrades at ‘A’ Company, 2nd Battalion Na Fianna Eireann sent the following letter of sympathy:
“We, the Officers and men of ‘A’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Na Fianna Eireann, desire to express our heartfelt sympathy for you in your sad bereavement.
Your loss is our loss. You have lost a kind and devoted son and we have lost a true and brave comrade. Joe was a brave and cheerful officer, always cool and fearless in the face of danger. He always had a kind word for everyone. He had a great love for his country and was always willing and eager to perform any deed, no matter how dangerous, to advance the cause of his country. Words cannot express our sorrow. We will always remember him as we saw him the night before he died, brave and cheerful – a true son of Ireland.
With deepest sympathy, from the Officers and men of of ‘A’ Company, 2nd Battalion, Fianna Eireann.”
Census Form courtesy of Irish National Archives. Death Certificate courtesy of Irish Military Archives. Story and research by Eamon Murphy.
Plaque to Markievicz at ‘Our Lady of Lourdes’ Hospital in Drogheda. It was donated by former friend and Fianna Chief Eamon Martin in 1960. A children’s ward was also gifted to the hospital by Eamon Martin on behalf of Fianna Eireann to honour the life of Markievicz. The plaque still hangs on the wall of the hospital.
It is a fine memorial to a great woman.
Photo of plaque courtesy of Marie Molloy