The Fianna’s Role in the Formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913

Irish Vols 2

Na Fianna Eireann were instrumental in the formation and development of the Irish Volunteers in 1913.
In February, 1914 Patrick Pearse said that ‘we believe that Na Fianna Eireann have kept the military spirit alive in Ireland during the past four years, and if the Fianna had not been founded in 1909, the Volunteers of 1913 would never have arisen
In 1913 the I.R.B. hierarchy decided to begin the process of military training. This decision was taken with the objective of training the members of the I.R.B. ‘to ensure that they would have the skills necessary to take a leading role in the new (Irish Volunteers) movement’.
Four young Na Fianna Eireann officers, who were also I.R.B. men, Eamon Martin, Cornelius Colbert, Michael Lonergan and Padraig O’Riain, were chosen to conduct the training. These four young men were already highly competent in military procedures and drilling, and had been training for the previous four years in the Fianna.
Na Fianna Eireann was a nationalist scouting body that had been formed four years earlier, by Hobson and Countess Markievicz, with the objective of the ‘re-establishment of the Independence of Ireland’. This was to be realised by the ‘training of the boys of Ireland, mentally and physically, to achieve this object by teaching scouting and military exercises, Irish history and Irish language’.
Eamon Martin, one of those I.R.B. instructors, recalled that Con Colbert was the first Fianna instructor back in 1909:
He was our first instructor in the elementary drill formations [in 1909], and I am afraid he was no great expert at this time. By intense swotting [of British Army manuals], however, he improved as the weeks went on, and, consequently, so did the Sluagh [Fianna branch]’.
It was now down to these four young men to prepare the I.R.B. members in drilling and other military training ‘in order to be ready to take over the military control of the new body’. Drilling took place in the Irish National Foresters Hall at 41 Parnell Square.
Image credit: Department of Ephemera at the NLI

Tribute to Madame Markievicz

Scan_20200507Tribute to Madame Constance Markievicz by Eamon Martin

The salute to Markievicz appeared as an introduction piece, by former Fianna Chief of Staff Eamon Martin, in the souvenir programme of the ‘Dinner and Musical Evening’ organised by the Association of Old Fianna, for veterans of the revolutionary period.

The event took place at Clerys of Dublin on Saturday 30th June 1945.

The dinner consisted of Oxtail Soup as a starter, Roast Beef & Vegetables for the main course, followed by Raspberry Sponge and Coffee to finish it all off.

As well as a dinner and musical performances, a number of films of footage of the 1916-1921 period were also shown on the night. The programme stated that “the advisability of showing a newsreel of the fighting in 1922-23 has been questioned

Approximately 500 Fianna veterans and their partners attended. Some of those who attended on the night included Robert Holland, Ina Connolly Heron, Eamon Martin, Patrick Joseph Jordan, Seamus Kavanagh, Joseph Reynolds, Christopher ‘Kit’ Martin, Sean Nugent, Michael Oman, Seamus Pounch, Nora Connolly O’Brien, Seamus Reader, Frederick Schweppe and Frank Thornton.

The organising committee was as follows:

Chairman: James Carroll

Hon. Secretary: P. Young

Hon. Treasurer: M. Confrey

Committee members: J. Valentine, J. Grant, J. Markey, P. Byrne, L. Craig & W. McEvoy

Easter 1916 Commemoration 1947

GPO Commemoration 1943

The Reading of the 1916 Proclamation at the Annual Easter Rising Commemoration at the G.P.O. in Dublin, 24th April 1947.

The Proclamation of Easter week, 1916, was read in Irish and English, by Sean O’Byrne, son of a deceased 1916 Volunteer.

To his left are Piaras Beaslai and Eamon Martin, two surviving members of the Original Volunteer Executive.

Beaslai and Martin, 1916 veterans, took the salute at the platform. They were both active at the time in veteran organisations including Dublin Brigade Old I.R.A, Association of Old Fianna and the 1916-21 Club which was established in 1942, of which Martin was the current vice-President .

Others on the platform were Walter Carpenter, T. Cooney, Sean O’Duffy, J. Mallon and Miss O’Hanrahan.

The commemoration that year was organised by the United Conference of Old I.R.A. Over 1,000 veterans took part and 13 different organisations were represented, including Na Fianna Eireann, Cumann na mBan, Irish Republican Army and Irish Citizen Army.

Photograph: Eamon Murphy Fianna Archives

Souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of Fianna Eireann

Fianna Golden Jubilee Souvenir Programme

Souvenir of the Golden Jubilee of Fianna Eireann

Issued in 1959 on the 50th Anniversary of the foundation of Na Fianna Eireann.

It included an opening commemorative message from former Chief of Staff Eamon Martin; the original introduction piece by Madame Markievicz taken from the 1914 Fianna Eireann Handbook; a brief history  of the Fianna; and other articles from the 1914 handbook including those from Patrick Pearse and Roger Casement.

James Connolly’s ‘Boys and Parents’ article from the December 1914 Nodlaig na bhFiann was also included in the publication.

Inside were also details of the Golden Jubilee Ceiledhe and Pageant at the Mansion House on 16th August, 1959, exactly fifty years to the day of the first meeting of the Irish National Boy Scouts at No. 34 Camden Street in Dublin in 1909.

Several photographs adorned the pages including Joseph Robinson, Con Colbert, Joseph McKelvey, Eamon Martin, Garry Holohan, Fathers Albert and Dominic, the Fianna Trek Cart at the Howth Gun-running, and the Fianna Memorial at Capuchin Monastery at Raheny.

1916 Rising Commemoration, Arbour Hill, Dublin, April 24th 1959


Mr Eamon Martin, former Na Fianna Eireann Chief of Staff, original member of the Irish Volunteer Executive and patron of The Fianna Veterans Association, laying a wreath on the 1916 leaders grave at Arbour Hill on behalf of Dublin Brigade, Old I.R.A.

Also attending and included in the photograph are Miss Nora Connolly O’Brien, Mr J. O’Reilly, Mr. Seamus Brennan, Mr. Frank Robbins, Mr Vinny Byrne (Chairman Dublin Brigade Council), Mr. Walter Carpenter, Mr P. McCrea, Mr. Jimmy O’Connor and Mr Peter Nolan (vice-Chairman Dublin Brigade Council).

Members of Dublin Brigade I.R.A, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Eireann attended.

A Mass to mark the commemoration and the anniversary of the Easter Rising was celebrated at the Pro-Cathedral, by Rev. P. Cunningham, C.C.

Many veterans of the Rising and the War of Independence attended.

Members of the Army, members of the Old Dublin Brigade, members of the teaching profession and Eamon de Longphort, Lord Longford, attended a service in Christchurch Cathedral in connection with the commemoration beforehand. It was conducted by Rev. F. W. Rodgers, Clerical Vicar and headmaster of the Cathedral School.

Rev. R.C. Armstrong, St. Patricks Cathedral, who preached in Irish, said the struggle of the men of 1916, their lives and deaths, and their work in writing, had become part of our country’s history.



Fianna Eireann Handbook

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The original Fianna Eireann handbook was published in 1914.

The above copy shown belonged to Eamon Martin, former Fianna Eireann Chief of Staff.

The handbook was issued by the Central Council of Na Fianna Eireann, No. 12 D’Olier Street.

It included articles by Patrick Pearse, Roger Casement and Douglas Hyde.

There was an introduction from Madame Markievicz, founder of na Fianna who describes:
“the army of young people who are daily taking the Declaration of Na Fianna Eireann and banding themselves together in a glorious brotherhood of youth and hope to win Independence and Freedom for their country.”

The handbook provided instructions in knot-tying, signalling, camping, first-aid, drilling, swimming and rifle exercises.

Many advertisements were also included.

Subsequent editions were published in 1924, 1964 and 1988.


Advert for the handbook in an edition of “The Irish Volunteer”

The lead up to Easter Week 1916

Dawson st

In the lead up to the Easter Rising, Barney Mellows was one of the few republicans who was privy to plans for the upcoming revolt due to his roles as a senior Fianna Eireann officer, prominent I.R.B. man and also as a result of his work at Volunteer headquarters at No. 2 Dawson Street.

A week before the anticipated rebellion, Barney met with his fellow senior Fianna officers, Eamon Martin and Garry Holohan, at the Dawson Street office and he confirmed to them that it is “all fixed”.

A few days later on Holy Thursday, Barney noticed a couple of ‘G’ men acting suspiciously outside Volunteer headquarters. Barney was concerned, as they needed to move a small consignment of .22 rifles out of there without attracting attention. Barney had received word that the Dublin Castle men were aware of the presence of these rifles and were shortly to make a raid so with this intelligence Barney instructed two Volunteers, Liam Tannam and Jimmy Fitzgerald, to assist in a ploy to move the ‘G’ men away from the building momentarily. Following the successful ruse, they managed to move the arms to Clarendon Street Church nearby where it was assumed it would be more resistant to a possible raid.

Preparations were now moving quickly and later that day Barney called out to Robert Holland’s house and ordered him to meet up with other Fianna members at St. Enda’s at Rathfarnham and to transport several carts filled with rifles, ammunition and important documents to a safe house in York Street and another five cases of rifles to a location in Dolphin’s Barn.

Once these obstacles were out of the way, Barney was able to concentrate on more pressing matters and he spent the next 24 hours at Dawson Street making final arrangements for the upcoming events.


Sean McLoughlin’s visit to Eamon Martin at Richmond Hospital during Easter Week 1916


Sean McLoughlin and Eamon Martin

Sean McLoughlin, was part of the group of young men that took over the Mendicity Institute at the beginning of the week during the Easter Rising in 1916. As well as being a prominent Irish Volunteer, Sean McLoughlin was also a senior member of Na Fianna Eireann.

He joined the Fianna in 1910 and became a Lieutenant at the Sluagh based at Blackhall Street. He went on to become a Fianna Captain in 1915. During Easter week he held both Fianna and Irish Volunteer rank.

During Easter week he made several risky ‘excursions’ out of the Mendicity to gather intelligence, food and ammunition, and also to give reports of happenings at the Mendicity Garrison to other areas of command, in particular Ned Daly’s 1st Battalion in the Four Courts area and to Pearse and Connolly at the G.P.O.

McLoughlin recalls one of these hazardous expeditions when he “went to see Ned Daly and he agreed that I should go to the G.P.O and give an account of everything that happened up to date. Before going there, I decided I would make a certain call. Earlier that day, Volunteers of the North King Street unit had made a sortie against the Broadstone Station, and Eamon Martin, an old Fianna comrade of mine, had been shot [through the left lung]. He had been taken to hospital and was not expected to live.

I went to the Richmond hospital at North Brunswick Street, opposite my old school. It was only after a heated argument with the hospital staff that I was reluctantly permitted to see him. He lay on the bed unconscious and, to all appearances, dying (he did not die, thank god, but made a wonderful recovery). All I could do was to kneel and say a prayer for him.


Richmond Hospital Dublin. Image credit: William Murphy – Flickr

As I made my way out of hospital, the house surgeon [Sir Thomas Myles] stopped me, and to my great astonishment, handed me Eamon’s ammunition pouches containing nearly a hundred rounds of 303. I deposited this ‘gift’ in Church Street, and set out for the G.P.O via North King Street.”

Following his release from Frongoch in December 1916, McLoughlin became acting Chief of Staff of the Fianna while Eamon Martin was in the USA recovering from his wound. McLoughlin also held the post of Director of Training during the same period. Upon Eamon Martin’s return, Sean acted as his assistant at Fianna HQ until around 1919.

As McLoughlin attests to, Martin did make an almost complete recovery in the following years, albeit with a lifelong scar and deep wound, which never fully healed, in his back where the bullet exited. He would also suffer chronic back pain, particularly during cold winters.

Martin Wound

Image showing the entry and exit points of Eamon Martin’s wound, from his official medical report submitted to the Military Pensions Board.

Credit: Irish Military Archives

Eamon Martin and Sean McLoughlin remained friends for many years afterwards with Martin visiting his former comrade in England on several occasion, until McLoughlin’s passing in 1960. Martin himself lived on and off in England over the years, and passed away in May 1971, at an impressive age of 79 years old.






Barney, Liam and Fred Mellows


Barney, Liam and Fred Mellows
Photograph Credit: Nicholas Furlong and Fiachra O Lionain


A rare photograph of the three Mellows brothers together; Barney, Liam and Fred, circa 1911.

In 1911 Liam, Barney and Frederick joined the Irish National Boy Scouts, Na Fianna Eireann. Liam and Barney, in particular, would both go on to play a central and significant role over the next decade in Ireland’s fight for freedom.

Possibly the last photograph of the brothers together. Frederick died of tuberculosis in 1914, Liam was executed in 1922, and Barney passed away in 1942.

Fred’s death was devastating for the two Mellows brothers, Liam and Barney. Barney would then suffer even further grief in 1922, when his last brother and best friend, Liam was executed during the Irish Civil War.

A former comrade who was arrested with Barney Mellows during the Civil War in 1922 and was with him on 8th December in Wellington Barracks awaiting transfer when the news was broke to Barney of his brother Liam’s execution, recalls that moment – “The light just died in his eyes and he never spoke. Only those who knew both brothers will realize what that fatal message meant. Barney was the younger brother, the reckless, debonair, merry kind, who worshipped the older, more cautious, more ascetic and studious Liam. Barney had the imaginative daring to carry out plans, Liam had the calculating courage to visualise them.”

Na Fianna Éireann, ‘D’ Company Usher’s Quay, Dublin, 1917

Fianna Eireann Ushers Quay

Fianna Eireann ‘D’ Company, June 1917.

Liam Langley, Captain of Usher’s Quay Company, and later National Fianna Director of Organisation & Education, is seated in the 2nd row.

In 1917 ‘D’ Company’s 1st Lieutenant was Hugo MacNeill, and its 2nd Lieutenant was S Rafferty. MacNeill, who later became Captain of ‘D’ Company in 1918 is not in this photograph. It is unclear if Rafferty is in the photograph.

The photo was taken at Blessington Basin, in Phibsborough following a Fianna training exercise.

Photo credit: Liam Langley Fianna Blog