Tag Archives: Dublin

“The part the Fianna played at Howth” by Corporal ‘Willie Nelson’


“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.

Fianna Bulmer Collection 1912

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.


Fianna Eireann – South Dublin District


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.

A Tribute to Madame Markievicz (4th February 1868 – 15th July 1927)


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 driving 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.”

1421076_10152198495025739_1037586214_oA 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

Stonebreakers Yard, Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin.


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

Arbour Hill Eamon Martin 1959

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.

Louis A. Marie (1900-1957)


Louis Marie in Fianna Uniform circa 1915

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 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.

Marie Pearse SS

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



Patrick O’Mara Captain Fianna Eireann

Patrick O'Mara FE 1917

Patrick O’Mara was a Captain of ‘D’ Company 1st Battalion Fianna Eireann Dublin Brigade and later of the 4th Battalion.

Photograph copyright of Jonathan O’Mara