“Memorial to Three Patriots Unveiled”
In 1967, the 50th anniversary of the death of Thomas Ashe, a memorial was unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery in honour of Thomas Ashe, Peadar Kearney and Piaras Beaslai by former Fianna Eireann Chief of Staff Mr Eamon Martin.
The headstone was erected from a fund raised by a memorial committee appointed by the Association of the Old Dublin Brigade of the IRA, of which Beaslai was a one-time president.
The following are extracts from a report that featured in the Irish Independent the day after the unveiling:
“A memorial of Kilkenny limestone sculptured in the shape of a scroll was unveiled in the republican plot, Glasnevin Cemetry, to commemorate the three patriots and poets, Thomas Ashe, Peader Kearney and Piaras Beaslai, who are buried in the same grave.
At the front of the stone is a couplet from one of the poems of Beaslai:
“The freedom, fair name and happiness of the Gael were my only desires from my earliest days”.
The unveiling ceremony was performed by Mr Eamon Martin, former Chief of Staff of Fianna Eireann, who, since the death of Piaras Beaslai in 1965, is the last surviving member of the Provisional Committee of the Irish Volunteers.
The Memorial in 2017. Credit: Niall Oman, Glasnevin.
More than 400 people attended the ceremony held in brilliant sunshine, including 200 Old IRA comrades from many parts of the country.
General Richard Mulcahy, who was second in command to Comdt. Thomas Ashe at the Battle of Ashbourne, in an oration, said they were making a grave of significance where the memory of three mingled lives would, as the days passed, enlighten their memories, enoble their emotions and inspire their doings.
Present at yesterday’s ceremony were surviving relatives of the patriots. These included Miss Nora Ashe and Mr Gregory Ashe, sister and brother of Thomas Ashe; John Kearney, Mrs Margaret Burke and Mrs Maura Slater, brother and sisters of Peadar Kearney, and Messr. B Green and R. Sheehan, cousin of Piaras Beaslai.
Others present included: Mr. Vincent Byrne, Chairman of the Dublin Brigade, Old IRA and Chairman of the Piaras beaslai Memorial Committee, Colonel J B Lawless, who served under Thomas Ashe at the Battle of Ashbourne, and Mr Martin Walton, Vice-Chairman of the Memorial Committee.”
“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
Credit: Galway City Tribune
Patrick O’Connell, Fianna Eireann, Foynes, Limerick
“I have a vivid recollection of the Irish Volunteers Parade in Limerick City on Whit Sunday, May 23rd 1915. I was at that time a member of Fianna Eireann and just 16 years of age. We subscribed for and bought our own Fianna uniforms then. The green hats we got from Lawlors of Fownes Street, Dublin. In company with Michael Sheehan, another Fianna boy, also of Foynes, we donned our uniforms and set out for Limerick on our bikes that Sunday morning, arriving at the Fianna Hall before the start of the Parade. A large number of the Fianna took part in the march with the Volunteers through the City. Of the many exciting incidents during the route, I still clearly remember one when, as we passed over (I think the Sarsfield Bridge) a battalion of British soldiers came marching by and apparently, some of them passed insulting remarks about the flag borne by the Meelick, Clare Company, and heated words took place between Paddy Brennan and the officer in charge of the British, but the incident finished there.
After the Parade we returned to the Fianna Hall to receive instructions regarding the Fianna Convention to be held next day, (Whit Monday) and to which we had been invited as delegates from the Foynes Sluagh. Our invitation to the Parade and Fianna Convention, as far as I recollect, was in the form of a printed card bearing the name of James Leddan. James Leddan, Sean Houston and Con Colbert were to preside. Most of the Fianna were billeted in the Hall that Sunday night, but we were directed to a house in Davis Street. As we passed by Pery Square a man stepped from the shadow of a doorway and stopped us. He advised us not to proceed further in that uniform, so he procured us two raincoats and caps which we put on and got safely to our digs. Later that night Joe Dalton arrived with some Dublin Fianna who were armed with revolvers. We cycled home to Foynes on Whit Monday evening. Con Colbert visited Foynes soon after, and the local Fianna discussed future plans and organisation with him in the Workmen’s Club, afterwards burned down by the Black-and-Tans. The Fianna here threw in their lot with the Irish Volunteers at the split.”
Patrick O’Connell’s witness statement, given to the Bureau of Military History in 1949, can be read at the following link: http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0329.pdf
Photograph credit: Limerick Leader newspaper archives
“In the plan of campaign [for the Easter Rising] the Fianna officers were given certain assignments. The Magazine Fort, as it turned out, owing to the chaos arising out of MacNeill’s countermanding order for Sunday’s “manoeuvres” was not an all-Fianna job. We had to borrow men from the Volunteers but the larger percentage were Fiannaidhe and after the attack they all returned and took positions in the fighting areas.
This group, in Commandant Daly’s area, was in the line of defence along the Quays and in the Four Courts they participated in the attack on the Broadstone Station and Captain Garry Holohan’s part in the capture and burning of Linen Hall Barracks has already been recorded and is too well known for me to dwell upon here. His brother Paddy was by his side all during the week and his cousins Paddy and Hugh were with Tom Ashe at Ashbourne. Towards the end of the week Sean McLoughlin was given the command in the Post Office and led the retreat from that area after the burning of the buildings.
Commandant Seán Heuston’s defence of the Mendicity with both Volunteers and Fianna under his command and Commandant Con Colbert’s part in Watkins Brewery and afterwards at Marrowbone Lane Distillery have also been recorded elsewhere. Madame Markievicz, although fighting as an officer of the Citizen Army was still a member of the Fianna, and fought as second in command at the College of Surgeons. An order of the day signed by Commandant Connolly and dated 28th April states: “Captain Liam Mellows in Galway fresh from his escape is in the field with his men”. Captain Séamus Kavanagh, who had been second to my own command in An Cead Sluagh fought in the Stephen’s Green area. How many of the Fianna who were by this time in the Volunteers it would be impossible to name.
I could go on reciting name after name, it is sufficient, however, for me to say that there was not a single fighting post in the city or country, which had not its quota of the Fianna. Let me say in conclusion, partly paraphrasing Pearse’s statement of 1914, that no history of the resurgent movement, which preceded and culminated in the Rising and no history of the Rising itself can claim to be complete if it ignores or fails to adequately acknowledge the enormous contribution made by Fianna Éireann to the struggle for our country’s freedom.”
Gearoid Ua h-Uallachain (Garry Holohan), Na Fianna Eireann National Deputy Director of Equipment, and also O/C of No.5 Coy Dublin Brigade Fianna (Merchant’s Quay) in 1916.
When Eoin MacNeill discovered that a group within the Irish Volunteers organisation had secret plans to launch an armed rebellion against British Rule, and after receiving news of Roger Casement’s failed attempt to import arms from Germany, he tried to prevent the planned mobilization for Easter Sunday. He hand-wrote several copies of a countermanding order, on headed notepaper at his home – Woodbrook, in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin – and dispatched men to deliver copies to local commanders nationwide. The countermanding order also appeared in the Sunday Independent on April 23rd, the day of the planned Rising. The countermand was only partly successful and caused confusion, especially outside Dublin.
In the following account, Senior Fianna officer Garry Holohan recalls the confusion caused by Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order:
“The following morning, Easter Sunday [April 24th], I got up and went to nine o’clock Mass at Haddington Road and received Holy Communion. I then heard the news about MacNeill [and the countermanding order] and hurried back to Eamon to discuss the situation. He decided I should go at once to Hardwicke Street and find out how things stood. When I knocked at the door one of the Tobins opened it; he was in a state of hysteria and started to talk about all the trouble that had been brought on us. I asked him where were the leaders, and he told me they were at Liberty Hall.
I rode down O’Connell Street and along Eden Quay where I met Nora and Ina Connolly. I asked them was everything over and they said the leaders were inside. I went up the main staircase in Liberty Hall, and as I reached the top of the stairs I saw Pádraig Pearse and Sean McDermott coming along the passage on my right-hand side from the large front room. I immediately asked Sean what was the position and he told me that everything was postponed for twenty-four hours and gave me a dispatch for the officer in charge of Father Mathew Park.
I was to come back and take a message to Wexford, but I told him I would have to go to Phoenix Park first to tell Molly Byrne to go home, as she was watching the Magazine Fort in order to obtain immediate information if there was any unusual activity or precautions being taken by the guard.
I went to Father Mathew Park, and on my way met a carpenter named Jim Hunter at the junction of Seville Place and Amiens Street. Jim worked with me on the Dublin Port and Docks Board and was an old I.R.B. man who left the time of the split. He had promised to take part in the attack on the Magazine Fort, so I told him everything was off for the present.
I then went back to Liberty Hall and on my way I met my aunt and uncle at O’Connell Bridge. When I got to Liberty Hail I found the leaders gone and the Citizen Army were just going out for a march round the city; that was about six o’clock. I met Eamon Martin and some of the men who were to take part in the Magazine Fort attack, and we decided to meet again at No. 8 Rutland Cottages at 8 p.m. to renew our arrangements. We held a meeting and it was decided to meet next morning at my house at 12 o’clock. Eamon Martin, my brother Pat and I slept at No. 8 Rutland Cottages, Lower Rutland Street.”
Photograph courtesy of Eamon Murphy and the Eamon Martin Collection.
Garry Holohan’s account from his Bureau of Military Witness Statement No. 328 http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0328.pdf#page=1
The girl’s branch of Na Fianna Eireann was called the Betsy Gray Sluagh.
The above photograph features some prominent members of that unique branch of the National Scouting organisation. They are as follows: Lily (Kempson) McAlerney (front centre), Marie McKeown, Aideen Ward, Kitty Shells, Ina Connolly and Alice Kavanagh.
The Betsy Gray Sluagh met weekly at St Mary’s Hall, and later at the McGuinness buildings in Berry Street on Tuesday nights.
This branch formed in 1911 and was the first, and subsequently, the only female branch of the Fianna in Ireland. It had only about 20 members initially but rose to about 50 girls at its height. Ina (shown above) and Nora Connolly were senior officers in the Sluagh; Annie O’Boyle was its first O/C.
The girls from Betsy Gray Sluagh attended the national Fianna Ard Fheis in 1912, 1913 and 1914. Their first appearance at the national convention in 1912 caused a bit of controversy amongst their male counterparts in Dublin and prompted a heated debate amongst delegates on whether girls be admitted to the organisation.
Nora Connolly-O’Brien later recalled those years in her 1949 witness statement to the Bureau of Military History:
“The Fianna had the only girls’ branch in Ireland in Belfast. My sister, Ina, and I joined the Fianna – the ‘Betsy Gray’ Sluagh. We came down to the Fianna Convention every year in Dublin. There was always a big Belfast contingent. We always wore our uniform. The girls had the uniform, as well as the boys; we had green linen shirts instead of their hopsack shirts. Great numbers came from Belfast. It was usually held in July; and July was the time they had holidays in Belfast. A lot would come down to attend the Convention, and later go camping with the boys. The girls were usually under Madame Markievicz’ charge, when we came down here.”
Nora’s sister Ina also recounted her time in the Betsy Gray Sluagh:
“Shortly after we arrived [in Belfast], I got to hear about Na Fianna Eireann who used to meet and drill in St. Mary’s Hall. I went down there one evening by myself and joined as a member. The entrance fee was nominal, a couple of pence a week. Joseph Robinson – a brother of Seamus – both of them were afterwards very prominent in the independence movement – was one of the people in charge of the Fianna. Sean Kenny, now a solicitor in Belfast, was the drill master. Cathal O’Shannon used to lecture and give lessons in the Irish language .
It was at St. Mary’s Hall that the Gaelic League also met and gave the Irish classes. My father used to take us to céilidh there. We learned drilling, Irish dancing, Irish history, Irish language and first aid. At the weekend we used to march and parade up to Sean’s Park at Whiterock Road. All the Labour supporters, as well as Nationalists, used to march there on Sundays.
I was appointed secretary to the Betsy Gray Sluagh of the Fianna which was named after a heroine in the north in the struggle of ’98. Our headquarters were old wooden army huts that had been built long years before to house soldiers who kept the peace, as they called it, when there was much rioting in Belfast. To the huts came many prominent people to enlighten us on aspects of the fight for Irish freedom. My father, though in full sympathy, had not joined the National Movement. It was through the Fianna that he met those noble young souls, Liam Mellows, Sean Heuston and Con Colbert, who later sacrificed their young lives for Ireland. Liam Mellows, in particular, became firmly attached to my father and family. Here, too, I met Eamon Martin who, in troubled times, out of sincere admiration for my father, became a firm friend of the family. My father would come, when his work permitted, to our plays and lectures.”
The Betsy Gray Sluagh remained in operation until about 1915 when most of the girls joined Cumann na mBan.
Photograph source: The National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks and http://lily1916.com/
Research and text by Eamon Murphy.
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.