Monthly Archives: August, 2017

Robert Briscoe

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In late August 1917, the Fianna Chief of Staff, Eamon Martin left New York City aboard the SS St. Paul bound for Dublin, via Liverpool, England. He was returning home to formally take up his position as Chief of Staff.
 
He had been elected Chief of the Fianna the previous year in the aftermath of the Easter Rising, and in December 1916 he left for the United States and reported to John Devoy of Clan na Gael on arrival. He gave many talks and lectures at Clan meetings across the US, and with his close friend Liam Mellows was very successful in raising funds for the Republican cause. He also briefly worked for the Gaelic American newspaper.
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Accompanying Eamon on the trip home to Ireland was an as yet unknown Jewish-Irish character called Robert ‘Bob’ Briscoe. Briscoe had not previously been involved with the Independence movement but was to subsequently become associated with the Fianna GHQ, and later the Volunteers/IRA – through various activities such as raising funds, providing safe houses and obtaining arms.
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Briscoe said of Eamon at the time that he had “that unusual and valuable contradiction, he was a man of great personal courage, who also had the common sense, which heroes often lacked.” Briscoe recalled that “during our long talks together [on board the SS St. Paul], Martin briefed me on the state of Irish politics. It was Eamon who set me straight on the course I subsequently followed”.
Eamon Martin and Robert Briscoe, both tailors by trade, would later established several tailoring/clothing factory businesses during the Tan War (including at No. 9 Aston Quay and No. 1 Coppinger Row) as fronts for Fianna meeting houses, safe houses, arms dumps etc. One of these businesses was raided in September 1920, which led to the subsequent court-martial of Constance Markievicz on 2nd December. She was sentenced to two years hard labour.
 
Robert Briscoe later became one of the founding members of Fianna Fail in 1927; and served in Dail Eireann as a TD for 38 years and was at one time Dublin’s Lord Mayor.
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Vincent Kenny, Na Fianna Eireann, Limerick

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Photograph of Limerick Fianna scout Vincent Kenny in tricolour star-shaped mount.

Dated 1913

Photo credit: http://museum.limerick.ie/index.php

Sean Heuston’s Fianna Certificate of Service

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Irish Independent article on Sean Heuston’s ‘missing’ Fianna Certificate of Service

November 1966

Senior Fianna Officers circa 1913/1914

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Photo of Senior Fianna Eireann officers.

Front Row (L-R): Paddy Holohan, Michael Lonergan and Con Colbert.
Back Row (L-R): Garry Holohan, Padraig O’Riain.

*Often inaccurately captioned as the “Fianna Eireann Council 1915”.

This photo is most probably from late 1913 (or possibly very early 1914). It is listed on the NLI site as a ‘Keogh Bros’ photograph from circa 1915 and this date has since been incorrectly used in various books and websites. It is also not the Fianna Council but rather a photograph of some senior members of that organization. At that time (1913) the Fianna leadership had an ‘Ard Choiste’ and the full Ard Choiste in 1913 comprised of Countess Markievicz, Bulmer Hobson, Padraig O’Riain, Con Colbert, Alfie White, Frank and Sean Reynolds, Michael Lonergan, Eamon Martin, Liam Mellows and Jimmy Gregan, Joseph Robinson, Sean O’Kelly, Sean Heuston, Sean Sinnott and Eamon Leahy.

In fact Garry and Paddy Holohan were not yet members of the Fianna hierarchy at that early stage (they were shortly afterwards) although Garry was second in command to Frank Reynolds at Sluagh Emmett at that time. After a proposal by Eamon Martin at the Fianna Eireann Ard Fheis in July 1915, the Fianna were reorganized along military lines to work more efficiently and in tandem with the Irish Volunteers and a formal headquarters staff was elected. Eamon Martin called for the Ard Choiste to be replaced with a military style headquarters staff. Following the meeting a new staff structure comprising of Chief of Staff, Adjutant General, Director of Training, Director of Equipment and so on, was elected.

Michael Lonergan had emigrated to the United States in early 1914. Con Colbert had also left Fianna Eireann by 1915 to concentrate on his Volunteer duties but he remained a member (and ‘centre’) of the Fianna IRB circle right up until the Rising.

Three of the men in this photo were also on the original Irish Volunteer Provisional Committee; Lonergan, O’Riain and Colbert.

It is one of the finest Fianna Eireann photographs from that period still in existence.

Photograph: Keogh Brothers, National Library Ireland NLI

Inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in 1913

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Rare photograph taken at the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. Left to right: Professor Eoin MacNeill, Thomas MacDonagh, Michael Davitt, Patrick Pearse and Laurence Kettle.

Patrick Pearse said at the time that “when men come to write the history of the freeing of Ireland, they shall have to record that the boys of Na Fianna Éireann stood in the battle gap until the Volunteers armed…..and if the Fianna had not been founded in 1909, the Volunteers of 1913 would never have arisen“.

Photograph credit: F.X. Martin’s biography of Eoin Macneill ‘The Scholar Revolutionary’

‘Recollections of the 1914 Kilcoole Gunrunning’ by Garry Holohan

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“I think it was the week after the Howth gun-running, the following Saturday, I had another experience at gunrunning. This time it was at Kilcoole, County Wicklow, where a yacht-load of arms [were landed] which were collected from a German boat near the Roetigen Lightship.

At this time the Volunteer Headquarters were in Great Brunswick Street, now Pearse Street, near the Queen’s Theatre. I remember cycling [from there] with Eamon Martin to where Countess Markievicz lived at Surrey House, Leinster Road, Rathmines, where a number of Fianna delegates to the Árd Fheis were staying, and then proceeding to the Scalp, County Wicklow. When we reached the Scalp we met a large number of I.R.B. men having tea at Butler’s tearooms – I should say about forty. They had arrived by charabanc. There was also a number of cyclists. We had our tea. The cycling party moved off in the Wicklow direction. Up to this it had been a glorious summer day. We had not gone far when we got a heavy shower, and took shelter for a few minutes because we had no coats.

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When we resumed our journey we were on a very steep hill, and I was holding on to the shoulder of Paddy Ward as I had bad brakes. For some reason I released my grip for a moment and shot away from his side. I gathered speed at a frightful rate, but I had no way of stopping myself. When I was on the steepest part of the hill I met a horse and cab coming towards me, but I managed to avoid it. Eventually the ground levelled and I escaped without an accident. I dismounted and waited for the party.

When they arrived they told me that they expected to find me smashed up. Shortly afterwards we met Liam Mellows, he was in the sidecar of a motor-bicycle, and was examining the maps’ with the aid of an electric torch. He was evidently in charge of operations, and instructed us as to the route we would take. I was told by Eamon Martin some years ago that the young man riding the motor-bicycle was Eamon de Valera. It was dark and I did not recognise him at the time.

I think we passed through Newtownmountkennedy, and eventually Paddy Ward and I were posted on a road which I was told connected Bray and Kilcoole. We had only one revolver between us, and our instructions were that if one or two R.I.C. men approached we were to allow them pass, but that if a large force arrived we were to fire on them.

It was now quite dark and we were very uncomfortable because we had no top coats, but the night was fairly warm. After a short time we heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and we decided to up-turn one of the bicycles, release the air, and pretend to be mending a puncture. The newcomers were two R.I.C. men on patrol from Bray.

Paddy Ward told them we were cycling from Wexford to Dublin, and asked them where we were and if there was any place we could put up for the night. They were very nice, directed us on to Bray and told us to go to a house opposite the barracks and say they sent us and we would get lodgings for the night. They then continued on patrol, after giving Paddy a supply of matches for his pipe, which was a part of himself and from which he always enjoyed the greatest satisfaction. When the two R.I.C. men reached the main party further on they were held up and kept prisoners for the night.

We had no other experience during the night, until a cyclist came to us at the dawn of day and told us to get home. I remember we cycled through the Glen of the Downs.

With the dawning of the day I saw a sight that made my heart jump with joy. I saw a large party of I.R.B. swinging along the road at a good pace in splendid marching order, with a rifle on every man’s shoulder. It was our dream coming true, “Out and make way for the bold Fenian men”.

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Garry Holohan – Image courtesy of Eamon Murphy and the Eamon Martin Collection.

Paddy and I cycled on to the Scalp, where a motor-load of rifles passed us. Bulmer Hobson was sitting in the back, and was very happy and satisfied looking. Eamon Martin was at the actual landing. The guns were brought in in small boats, and Eamon hurt his knee against one of them, as it was necessary for the men to wade out into the water to unload. The guns were brought to the home of Pádraig Pearse, at Scoil Éanna, Rathfarnham, and later distributed.” – Senior Fianna Eireann Officer Garry Holohan

 

Plaque image by Chris Dobson – Greystones Guide

The Scalp image – South Dublin County Library

The Fianna at the Kilcoole Gunrunning, 1st August 1914

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It should be mentioned too that the Fianna were asked to take an important part in this operation. About one hundred of the Fianna were mobilised, and were given the job of scouting the Kilcoole area. They were to watch all the crossroads within a radius of four or five miles, and to give us warning of the approach of the police in case any police did happen to be in the neighbourhood immediately before or during the operation. I remember visiting a number of the posts held by the Fianna boys during the hour or two we had to spare before the guns actually were due to arrive. I remember alas being struck by the alertness and the efficiency of these young lads and remarking to my colleagues how well these young fellows carried out their important duties.” – President Sean T O’Kelly,  5th March 1952

Image: Wicklow Daily Photo Blogspot http://wicklowdailyphoto.blogspot.com.au/