“The part the Fianna played at Howth”
By Corporal ‘Willie Nelson’ From Nodlaig na bhFiann, December 1914
“I was awakened by a loud knocking at the hall door. I awoke slowly and wondered who the disturber of the Sabbath morn was. I yawned, stretched myself and finally looked at the clock. It was five minutes to seven.
I then began debating with myself (for, being a member of the Sluagh committee, I have an aptitude for debate) as to whether the disturber was the post, a seller of the Sunday Freeman, or an early-rising milkman.
I pride myself for having a logical mind, a gift which Madame [Markievicz] was the first person to discover I possessed. I reasoned like this. It cannot be the post for he only gives two short raps and departs; neither can it be a milkman, for every sane milkman supplements his knocking by melodiously rattling his can on the kerb. I was about to turn over and leave the honour with the seller of newspapers when the knocking grew louder and more persistent. Curiosity impelled me to get up and, on looking out of the window, to my astonishment, I saw my leader, Paddy Holohan, renewing his attacks on the knocker with great vigour.
“Hello, Paddy,” said I. “What’s the row about?”
“You lazy beggar!” he shouted back. “I have been knocking here for the last half-hour and I might as well have been knocking at the morgue for all the notice was taken of it.”
Then, in sterner tones, he commanded:
“You are to parade in the Hardwicke Street Hall at half-past nine, and bring rations for a day’s march with you.”
And, muttering something about sealed orders from the Military Council, he bolted off.
When I arrived in Hardwicke Street, I found nearly all the older members of the Sluagh present; also members from An Cheud Sluagh and the Sluagh in Inchicore. They were all speculating about the march. Some argued that we were going to Lucan to start a new Sluagh, whilst others asserted we were going on a day’s manoeuvres with the Volunteers. This view was generally accepted when we subsequently joined the Volunteers at Fairview.
Pádraig Ó Riain, who was in command of the Fianna, in a few words gave us to understand that strict discipline was to be maintained throughout the day. Seán Heuston had charge the transport section. The trek-cart was heavily loaded and closely covered. I was in this section and understood Seán to say that the cart contained minerals and refreshments for the Volunteers.
We were allotted a position in the centre of the column, where we held until we were very near Howth, where we proceeded to the head of the column. We entered the village at the head of the Volunteers and halted at the pier near the foot of the hill.
Photograph Source: National Library of Ireland
We went up the pier at the double and outran the Volunteers. Some men were already unloading a yacht. The Fianna were ordered to assist.
Our section, under Seán Heuston, at once unpacked the trek-cart, which disgorged not minerals or sandwiches but large wooden batons. These were rushed down and distributed to the companies which blocked the entrance to the pier. The object of our march was now obvious – rifles had at last arrived.
The coastguards sent up rockets for help and the Volunteers sent up great triumphant cheers which re-echoed from the Hill of Howth to Dublin Castle and soured the champagne of the Kildare Street Club.
When I returned to the top of the pier, the Volunteers and Fianna were feverishly unpacking the rifles. There was an intense and silent activity. We quickly loaded our trek-cart with rifles and transferred them to the companies of the other end of the pier. I was engaged in this work until all the Volunteers were supplied.
The Volunteers and Fianna now carried rifles on their shoulders. Ammunition and rifles were also packed in our trek-cart and the remainder were dispatched in motor cars. We were ready to depart and awaited orders.
The long lines of armed men stretching the whole length of the pier was the most entrancing sight I have ever witnessed. We were filled with great joy and our souls were thrilled with the spirit of freedom.
As we left the pier, the people of Howth came out in great crowds to greet us. A priest from top of a tram blessed the rifles as we passed and we cheered response to his benediction.
Photograph Source: Trinity College Dublin
I was beginning to feel tired as we neared Dublin. The long march to Howth and back, the pulling of our heavily-laden trek-cart, the running and exertion on the pier now began to tell against me. But the thought of a triumphal march through the streets of Dublin with a rifle on my shoulder buoyed me up and made me feel extremely happy.
I had not taken Dublin Castle into consideration and did not believe our friendly Government would permit her to play her last stroke in as villainous a manner as events afterwards proved.
On the Howth Road, a few hundred yards from Clontarf, I saw a company of soldiers with fixed bayonets blocking our way to the city. As if to avoid the military, we turned to our right along Charlemont Road and on to the Malahide Road.
Before we were a hundred yards on the Malahide Road we knew that the first companies of Volunteers were in conflict with the military. The sounds of rifles clashing, revolver shots and shouting made a terrific din.
We got the order to “Halt!” and were told we had got to defend the ammunition at all costs.
The Captain of Ceud Sluagh drew an automatic pistol and, with some of our fellows, dashed off to join in the fray. It was with difficulty Seán Heuston and Pádraig Ó Riain restrained others.
We clustered around the cart with our rifles gripped tightly in our hands. Suddenly we saw the Volunteers scatter and run. Some of the men were bleeding from the head but most of them seemed uninjured and still clung to their rifles. As they passed us we appealed to them to stand. We shouted and called them cowards. Our commander, not knowing that they had received orders to retire and get off with their rifles, shouted: “By God! We won’t. run away.”
Before I had time to realise what had happened, the road in front of us was almost clear and I saw the police with batons and rifles rushing in upon us. Then Pádraig rushed out in front and shouted to us to come on. His voice was harsh and he shouted and cursed most horribly.
We dashed out to meet the police.
I was near Paddy Holohan and O’Connor. They, too, were cursing and shouting defiantly. Everything was confusion. I saw the police and the soldiers and the glitter of their bayonets as in a maze. A huge policeman with a rifle swooped towards me. I was seized with a sort of frenzy and, putting forth all my strength, I made a deadly blow at his head.
I think my last ounce of strength went into that blow for I do not remember what happened after till I heard Seán Heuston calling me to lend a hand to pull the trek-cart. I distinctly remember his shrill voice when he gave the order. “Take strain – quick march!”
We were now retreating back along the Malahide Road. Joe Robinson was clinging to the back of the trek-cart in which the ammunition and rifles were still safely packed. There were only ten or twelve of us. Eamon Martin, Garry Holohan and some others were left behind. They were enjoying the sport too much to leave till all was over.
We wheeled to our left off the main road and were soon clear of immediate danger. We passed a couple of old men chatting near a pump. They seemed to be enjoying the summer’s evening and apparently knew nothing of the bloody episodes that were being enacted only a mile away.
We turned up a country lane near a big house and concealed ourselves in a bit of a wood on our right. It was now dusk so we decided to make a pretence of camping out and to conceal the rifles and ammunition until we could have them safely removed after dark. Our commander went up to the house and got permission to camp near the wood.
We buried the treasure, which was removed after dark in a taxi, and is now safe.”
The above account was written by ‘Willie Nelson’, a pseudonym used by Padraig O’Riain who was the Fianna Chief at the time of the Howth Gunrunning, and it appeared in the Fianna Christmas publication Nodlaig na bhFiann in December 1914. The story was republished several times over the following years in various Fianna publications.
O’Riain also regularly contributed articles and notes to The Irish Volunteer newspaper in 1914-1916. O’Riain, was a founder member of the Fianna and one of its principal organisers in the early years; he was also a senior IRB member and a member of the Irish Volunteer Executive.
This photo is part of the Seamus Reader Collection. Seamus was a captain in both the Willie Neilson Slua of Na Fianna Éireann in Glasgow, and the Scottish nationalist equivalent Na Fianna hAlba during the revolutionary period. Any information (names, date, occasion etc.) about the photo would be appreciated.
Photo courtesy of the Seamus Reader Collection and Stephen Coyle.
Constance Georgine Markievicz flanked by some of her Fianna boys
Towards the end of June 1927, Markievicz became seriously ill with appendicitis and, under advice from Dr. Kathleen Lynn, was admitted to Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital. She specifically requested a bed in the public ward. She was operated on almost immediately but complications arose and a second operation had to be performed on 8th July. Following this, she developed peritonitis and never recovered. She passed away on 15th July 1927. She was only 59 years of age.
Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital
The following is a tribute to Markievicz by founding member of Na Fianna Eireann and Chief of Staff Eamon Martin. It was written in 1966, during the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Rising:
“I had not met Madame until the founding of the Fianna. After that I was in constant association with her and came to know her very well. With her ingenuous nature, getting to know her came easy, and the wondering how and why she had come over to the Irish cause was no longer a puzzling question. That she was impetuous goes without saying, but not unwisely so; she did not make rash decisions, but, having made up her mind to a particular course she went ahead with no backward look. Whatever cause she embraced was wholehearted – no half measures and no compromise.
It was characteristic of her that when she turned her back on her own class and espoused the nationalist cause it was not to the parliamentarians she turned but dead straight into the separatist movement. And it was here that she displayed that impetuous trait to which I have referred. It was impatience that drove her to launch the Fianna. In starting the Fianna Madame was fortunate in having the benefit of Bulmer Hobson’s experience and counsel. Fortunate too in securing the adherence of two young men – Padraig O’Riain, with his organising ability, and Con Colbert, with his diving force. To these young men, afterwards joined by Liam Mellows, Garry Holohan and Sean Heuston, to name but a few, is due to the rapid success of the organisation. Madame was proud of them and made her gratitude manifest. She had a vision, dreaming of a young army on the march in the cause of Ireland, and here was her dream coming true.
What followed is now glorious history, which she helped to shape in large measure, and so long and wherever freedom is cherished shall the name and deeds of our beloved Madame be remembered. While this is my personal tribute, you can believe that it expresses the feelings of every member of the Fianna who had the privilege of knowing her.”
A plaque that was erected at Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital in Dublin in memory of Countess Markievicz. Former Fianna comrade Eamon Martin donated this plaque in honour of his close friend on behalf of all Fianna veterans. It was unveiled in 1967. Courtesy of Eamon Murphy Fianna Archives.
*The above tribute by Eamon Martin appeared in the book “Constance Markievicz: The People’s Countess” by Joe McGowan.
Source for the image of Markievicz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmqU_e_XicA
Mr. Eamon Martin, former Chief of Staff Fianna Eireann, carrying the wreath at the annual Easter Rising commemoration at Arbour Hill in 1959. Also in the photograph are: Frank Robbins, Vincent Byrne, Nora Connolly-O’Brien, Seamus Brennan, Peter Nolan and Jimmy O’Connor.
Photo courtesy of Eamon Murphy and the Eamon Martin Collection.
Commandant Louis A. Marie (1900-1957)
Louis Albert Marie was born in Dublin in 1900. His father, Charles Marie, was a well-known travelling photographer originally from France. After arriving from France, Charles first settled in Limerick where he met a local girl Bridget O’Connor, who he subsequently married. They had their first daughter, Marguerite, while still living in Limerick. In 1898 they made the move to Dublin and settled in Lower Sherrand Street, on the north side of the city. It was here where Louis Marie was born. In 1911, the Marie family moved to Fairview Strand and by this stage the family had welcomed another three children, all girls, to the fold. Louis was educated at O’Connell Schools.
In 1912 Louis joined Na Fianna Eireann and was a member of An Cead Sluagh, which was based in Camden Street; he later transferred to the Merchant’s Quay Fianna branch. Louis Marie became one of the most active, loyal and trusted younger members of the scouting organization, and was part of Countess Markievicz’s renowned ‘Surrey House Clique’.
In 1914 he took park in the Howth gunrunning. In 1915 Louis joined the Irish Volunteers while still remaining a member of the Fianna. He was attached to ‘B’ Coy of the 3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade Irish Volunteers.
On Easter Monday, 1916 he was one of the Fianna party which attempted to blow up the ammunition stores in the Magazine Fort at the Phoenix Park, which was to be the signal to start the Easter Rising. They were partially successful in their attempt to blow up the explosives. Included in this mission amongst others were Paddy Daly, Eamon and Christopher Martin, Garry and Paddy Holahan, Tim Roche, Sean Ford, Barney Mellows and Paddy Boland.
Magazine Fort Phoenix Park Dublin
Following this mission, Louis proceeded to the GPO and then onto Annesley Bridge at Fairview until Tuesday afternoon when they pulled back to the GPO. He remained at the GPO for the remainder of the week until the surrender at Moore Street. Following his arrest he was held at Richmond Barracks until 30th April and on the 1st May was sent to Stafford Jail in England but was released six weeks later on account of his age.
Back in Dublin, Louis Marie, now living in Grantham Street with his family, began assisting with the reorganization of his old Fianna unit, under the command of senior officer Theo Fitzgerald. He also received a small allowance from the National Aid for about three weeks following his release, to enable him to get back on his feet and obtain employment. For a short period, he was also attached to ‘C’ Company of the 3rd Battalion Irish Volunteers.
In 1918, he began work as a seaman/sailor on routes between Dublin and Liverpool, and later on between Liverpool and the United States. This enabled Marie to act as a sort of liaison officer and messenger between the Fianna (and IRA) in Dublin, and the movement in the UK and the US.
In March 1920, due to being a dual Irish/ French citizen, Marie was conscripted into the French Army and he served for almost two years until December 1921.
French soldiers heading out to be the Army of the Rhine in 1921
He returned to Ireland almost immediately, sided with the Pro-Treaty faction and subsequently joined the Free State National Army in March 1922. He was stationed at Beggar’s Bush Barracks during the Civil war and saw little action. By 1924 he held the rank of Commandant. He later served at the Curragh in Kildare until he resigned from full time duties in the Defence Forces in 1929.
In 1926, Louis Marie married Eileen McGonigal, sister of former Fianna member and artist Maurice McGonigal, R.H.A.
Louis Marie was appointed Postmaster of Leeson Street Post Office in Dublin in the early 1930’s.
In 1936 Louis Marie was one of twelve former Irish Volunteer/Fianna 1916 veterans who signed the Magazine Fort Garrison Roll of Honour. However, the Roll of Honour did not accurately reflect the number of participants at the Magazine Fort; it is estimated that there was between 17-20 men/boys who took part in the raid. Several ‘Fort’ combatants signed other garrison list such as the Four Courts, GPO and South Dublin Union; several refused to sign the Roll of Honour and a number died or had emigrated.
During the ‘Emergency’ years (1939-45), Louis Marie re-joined the Defence Forces and was attached to the Western Command, and stationed at Galway and Athlone.
Irish Examiner September 1957
In 1946 after he left the army, he became assistant manager of the Theatre Royal Dublin, and later manager of the Cabra Grand Cinema and then the Theatre de Luxe in Camden Street, close to where he was a member of the Fianna all those years before. He eventually returned to the Royal as Manager and later became internal auditor of Odeon and Irish Cinema Ltd.
On 1st September 1957, Louis Marie, by now living in Blackrock, Co. Dublin, became seriously ill and sadly passed away. He was buried at Deansgrange Cemetery in Dublin. Full military honours were rendered at the graveside by a firing party from the Army. The last post was sounded by a bugler. The pall-bearers were veterans and former comrades from An Cead Slugh, pre-1916 Fianna Eireann. The attendance included artist Maurice McGonigle, R.H.A. (brother-in-law), the Lord Mayor of Dublin and several members of the Old Fianna, including Sean Saunders, Harry Walpole, Seamus Kavanagh, Seamus Pounch, Christopher ‘Kit’ Martin, Eamon Martin, Robert Holland and Albert Dyas.
An oil painting of Commandant Marie, by his brother-in-law, Maurice McGonigal, R.H.A., was commissioned by the Irish Defence Forces for display in the officers’ mess in McKee Barracks. It is not known if it still on display.
Research and article by Eamon Murphy
John Joseph Heuston (also known as Jack to his family) was born in Dublin in 1891. In 1908 he moved to Limerick City to work for the Great Southern and Western Railways (GSWR). In 1911 he played a significant role in establishing Na Fianna Eireann in Limerick. Within a year, thanks to Heuston’s efforts, the Barrington Hall Sluagh was one of the largest Fianna branches in Ireland. Around this time he was appointed to the National Fianna Council (or Ard Choiste) as Limerick representative.
By 1913 Heuston had returned to Dublin and began working at Fianna HQ. He was given command of a Fianna Sluagh, which was based in Hardwicke Street in the City. The following year Heuston took a prominent role in the Howth Gunrunning. Sean also joined the Irish Volunteers and became Captain of ‘D’ Company in the 1st Battalion.
Following the restructuring of the Fianna organization in 1915, Heuston was appointed to the National Fianna Executive and became ‘Director of Training’. He was appointed as Captain of the 6th Dublin Company (No. 6 Coy) and was vice-Commandant of the Fianna Dublin Brigade.
In 1916 Sean Heuston and a small group of young Irish Volunteers took over the Mendicity Institution on the Dublin Quays. Several of the Irish Volunteers at the Mendicity Institution with Heuston were also (or had been) members of Fianna Eireann including P. J. Stephenson, Sean McLoughlin, Liam Staines and Dick Balfe.
Following the surrender he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. He was executed on May 8th 1916. He was twenty five years old.
Eamon Martin was born in 1892 at the family home in Island Villas, situated just off Great Brunswick Street in Dublin. Eamon attended the nearby St. Andrew’s school and upon leaving school in 1907 began a tailoring apprenticeship following in the footsteps of his father. Eamon was also member of the ‘Father Anderson’ branch of the Gaelic League from the age of fifteen and was a prominent member of the local hurling club.
He was a founding member of Na Fianna Eireann and attended the inaugural meeting at 34 Lower Camden Street in Dublin on 16th August 1909. He was appointed to the Dublin District Council of the Fianna. He was originally part of ‘An Cead Sluagh’ which was the first Fianna branch but soon set up his own branch in the city which became known as ‘Sluagh Wolfe Tone’. At the first Fianna Ard Fheis in 1910 he was elected to the Fianna Eireann Executive Council.
Eamon Martin was also a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) from 1911 onwards and was part of the special Fianna Eireann circle, which used the cover name ‘The John Mitchel Literary and Debating Society’. Con Colbert was ‘centre’ of that circle.
In 1913 Eamon Martin was an original member of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers. Eamon Martin was also, alongside Con Colbert and Michael Lonergan, one of the first officers of the Irish Volunteers and was appointed as Captain to the first military sub-committee. Martin, Colbert and Lonergan assisted with the training of the new military outfit. They were among the first members of the Volunteers to have military and drill experience, having been drilling with Fianna Eireann since 1909. In fact in the months leading up to the formation of the Volunteers, the Fianna were secretly drilling IRB members in preparation for the new movement.
Eamon Martin was one of the members of the Executive Committee of the Irish Volunteers who, along with Sean MacDermott, Piaras Beaslai, Patrick Pearse, Con Colbert, M. Judge, John Fitzgibbon, Liam Mellows and Eamonn Ceantt, voted against accepting Redmond’s nominees in June, 1914. This vote bitterly divided the Volunteers headquarters staff and it ultimately contributed to the split of that organisation later in the year. Eamon Martin also worked as an assistant to Liam Mellows, on the Irish Volunteers Headquarters Staff, throughout 1914.
Eamon Martin assisted Bulmer Hobson in the planning of both the Howth and Kilcoole Gunrunnings in 1914. During the Howth gunrunning Eamon was, along with Padraig O’Riain, in charge of the Fianna detachment. He was in sole charge of the Fianna cycle corps at Kilcoole.
During the restructuring of Fianna Eireann in 1915, which came about following a proposal from Eamon Martin himself at the Ard Fheis, the organisation was developed into a Battalion with nine companies. Eamon Martin was appointed to the position of Commandant of the Dublin Brigade with Sean Heuston as Vice-Commandant, Eamon held this rank of O/C throughout the 1916 Rising. He was also appointed as Director of Recruiting and Organisation.
In 1915 Eamon Martin was a member of the O’Donovan Rossa funeral committee; the committee was a who’s who of the republican/nationalist world at the time.
At 12 noon on Easter Monday 1916, Eamon, along with Paddy Daly, led a team of Fianna and other Volunteers to capture the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park, with the intention to blow up the ammunition supplies which would cause an explosion to be heard all around Dublin, and which was to be the signal to commence the rebellion. After personally reporting back to Connolly and Pearse in the GPO on the outcome of the Magazine Fort mission he was directed to Commandant Ned Daly in the Church Street, North King Street area to join the fight there. He fought with extreme bravery until he was shot on a mission to advance on Broadstone Station. A British sniper shot him in the chest, which pierced his lung and severely wounded him. He was carried back to Volunteer lines and then brought to Richmond Hospital. At Richmond hospital Eamon met Father Albert Bibby of the Church Street Capuchins for the first time and they were to remain close friends until Father Albert’s death in 1925.
While at Richmond hospital, Eamon’s friend, the surgeon Sir Thomas Myles, cared him for until he was well enough to be smuggled out. Sir Thomas Myles, who was an honorary British army surgeon, had known Eamon since the gunrunning at Kilcoole when he had provided his yacht “The Chotah”. When the British came looking for Eamon in Richmond hospital, Sir Thomas Myles put on his military uniform and in his car, drove out of the hospital grounds with Eamon in the car’s passenger seat. He wasn’t stopped and was waved on and saluted by a British soldier on guard outside the hospital. Myles was worried for his friend’s safety as ninety three death sentences had so far been handed out to prisoners. Eamon Martin later stated that ‘as every combatant member of the original Irish Volunteer Executive who had been arrested, apart from Beaslai, were executed, it was assumed that I would have also been executed if arrested’. Eamon then went to Belfast to recuperate from his gunshot wound and it was feared he would not survive. It was then recommended that he escape to the United States in case the authorities got wind of where he was and also as the warmer climate would benefit his lung condition.
Before Eamon left for America, a meeting was held to re-organise the Fianna. At this meeting he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Fianna, a position he was to hold until 1921. Eamon reported to John Devoy when he arrived in America and gave many talks and lectures at Clan na Gael meetings across the United States, and along with Liam Mellows was very successful in raising funds for the Republican cause.
He returned from the US in 1917 to take over complete command of the Fianna and to head up the Fianna IRB circle. He reported to Michael Collins on arrival and passed on the information of a plan to land arms off the coast of Wexford, which ultimately failed owing to the arrest of Liam Mellows in New York. Eamon worked closely with Michael Collins over the following years on the issue of training of future volunteers, the transfer of Fianna Eireann members to full Volunteer membership and other Fianna, Irish Volunteer and IRB matters. He was a senior member of the six man IRA/Fianna Eireann ‘Composite Council’, which was formed in September 1920, and which was composed of members of the Irish Volunteers G.H.Q and Fianna G.H.Q. Eamon resumed his close working relationship with Liam Mellows following his return from America and acted as his assistant in the ‘Department of Purchases’ (or Q.M.G Dept.) in 1920/21.
Eamon became well known for his numerous disguises during the War of Independence and particularly his impersonations of priests while he was on the run from the authorities. During this period, Eamon became a Judge in the Dail/Republican courts that were set up. Eamon was Chairman of Rathdown Rural District Council and was also a member of Dublin County Council, all while he was on the run.
By late 1920, the net was closing down around Fianna Chief Eamon Martin and constant raids by the British were taking place at his work, the homes of close family members and even at the homes of people with similar names, in their efforts to track Martin down. The final straw came when one of the ‘secret’ Fianna offices was raided. Implicating evidence was found which pointed to Countess Markievicz and Eamon Martin’s senior roles in the Fianna Eireann organisation. Markievicz was brought to trial and sentenced to two years; Eamon Martin now left for Europe.
Eamon first travelled to Germany to negotiate for arms and later went to England on Dail Eireann business. He then went to the newly formed Soviet Union and met up with Roddy Connolly and Archie Heron who were there at the time. He later joined up with Dr. Pat McCartan, in Moscow, who was sent to the Soviet Union to negotiate for recognition of Irish Independence. Along with McCartan, he had a meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister Georgy Chicherin. He also briefly met Lenin and Trotsky. He spent several months in Russia.
Eamon Martin, along with Barney Mellows and Frank McMahon, represented Fianna Eireann at the IRA convention at the Mansion House in March 1922. He took the anti-treaty side during the subsequent Civil war and was arrested following the ‘Battle of Dublin’. He was sent to Mountjoy but while there he developed a neutral position in the conflict and used his contacts to try to bring an end to hostilities. He shared a cell with Liam Mellows, his closest friend in the movement, until Liam was sadly executed on December 8th, 1922. Eamon was credited by many commentators, including Peadar O’Donnell, as being the real influence behind the social thinking of Liam Mellows. Eamon had known Liam and his brother Barney since the early days of the movement. He first encountered the Mellows brothers when they joined the Fianna in 1911. Eamon was the one who ‘sounded out’ Liam’s suitability for the IRB in 1912 and he later introduced Liam to the Connolly family. Eamon later said that both Liam Mellows and James Connolly were his inspiration in the movement. In September 1913 James Connolly was on a hunger strike and Eamon, along with Francis Sheehy Skeffington and William O’Brien, went to Lord Aberdeen to press for Connolly’s release, which they successfully obtained. Eamon later remarked that it was Connolly, and not Pearse, who was the real driving force in the 1916 Rising, particularly in the months leading up to Easter week. James Connolly’s daughter Ina later said that “Eamon, in troubled times, and out of sincere admiration for my father, became a firm friend of the family”. Eamon also remained close to the Mellows’ family and in 1942 Eamon unveiled the ‘Liam Mellows’ Bridge in honour of his old comrade.
Eamon was a very popular figure in Dublin, and indeed throughout Ireland, during the independence period and counted many of the central revolutionary characters amongst his close personal friends including Countess Markievicz, Con Colbert, The Connolly family, Bulmer Hobson, the Reynolds brothers, Cathal O’Shannon, Piaras Beaslai, Bob Briscoe, Liam Langley, Padraig O’Riain, Sean McLoughlin, Paddy Ward, Sean Prendergast, Garry Holohan, Denis McCullough, Liam and Barney Mellows and many other influential Irish revolutionaries. Bob Briscoe later said that Eamon had a “valuable contradiction, he was a man of great personal courage, who also had the common sense, which heroes often lacked”. Sean Prendergast added that Eamon “appeared to be cast in the same mould as Liam Mellows – a quiet, easy-going, simple type. Eamon was of strong muscular and medium build, fair-haired, a Celt to the fingertips. He dressed in kilts, which were always becoming to him, and spoke Irish and, as we perceived, a good dancer. A tailor by trade, he was deeply sincere and enthusiastic, a very likeable person among the boys as he could make and hold friends”.
After 1923 Eamon went on to be very active in the republican commemoration scene. He was one of the organisers of Countess Markievicz’s funeral in July 1927. Eamon was also, for many years, president of the Old Fianna Association; he was the president of the Fianna Jubilee anniversary Committee in 1959 and he was also on the ‘Michael Collins Memorial Committee’. He was a trustee of the Kilmainham Jail Restoration Committee; and he was heavily involved with the National Graves Association. Eamon was also very active in striving to achieve peace between the two Civil war sides in the years following the war and as one of the initiators of the ‘1916-21 Club’ in the 1940’s, was one of its first presidents.
He was also one of those who originally suggested a Garden of Remembrance back in 1935 and finally in 1966, after years of set backs, Eamon was part of the committee which made that idea a reality. It was also said that he had made a financial contribution to help bring about its completion. He was chairman of the Wolfe Tone memorial committee and unveiled the monument at St. Stephens Green in 1967. In 1965 Eamon was appointed to the Easter Rising 50th anniversary committee by Taoiseach Sean Lemass. Eamon personally donated, on behalf of Fianna Eireann, the Memorial statue at the Capuchin Monastery in Raheny in recognition of the gallant and brave efforts of Father Albert, Father Dominic and other Capuchins in 1916. He donated a children’s ward in our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda in memory of his dear friend and mentor Countess Markievicz; he donated a plaque in Barrington’s Hospital in Limerick in memory of his old comrade Con Colbert, and he made other similar gestures in many locations around Ireland.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Eamon was also in charge of the National Association of the ‘Old Fianna’ and was responsible for the distribution of Fianna Eireann service medals and the ‘National Certificate of Service’, which were all signed by him as Chief of Staff. In 1959 he was presented with the first and specially made ‘Golden Jubilee’ gold medal at an official ceremony to recognise his achievements during his lifetime. In the 1940’s, 1950’s and 1960’s, Eamon gave many lectures around Ireland, the UK and the US on the topic of the Independence movement and the part played by the Irish Volunteers, and particularly the Fianna.
He also became involved in the literary world and provided funds to help set up the “Irish Democrat” in London. However he was best known for being responsible for getting literature magazine “The Bell’ off the ground and was on its editorial board, alongside Peadar O’Donnell, Roisin Walsh, Frank O’Connor and Maurice Walsh, for a number of years.
He died in May 1971 and his funeral was one of the largest seen at Deansgrange cemetery for years and it was attended by many surviving members of the revolutionary period. Among the attendees was the Taoiseach Jack Lynch. Eamon de Valera, the President, was unwell at that time but sent his aide-de-camp Col. Sean Brennan. A firing party from Collins Barracks rendered honours at his graveside and a bugler sounded the last post and reveille. Frank Sherwin was the Marshall of the Guard of Honour and was joined by surviving veterans of the Fianna.
One of Ireland’s great patriots was finally being laid to rest.
By Eamon Murphy