Tag Archives: Fianna

Pádraig Ó Riain (1893-1954) and Bulmer Hobson (1883-1969)

O'Riain and Hobson

Rare photograph of Fianna Eireann stalwarts, (L-R) Pádraig Ó Riain (1893-1954) and Bulmer Hobson (1883-1969)

These two individuals were probably the two most influential figures in the establishment and early days of Na Fianna Eireann.

Bulmer Hobson was the co-founder of Na Fianna along with Madame Constance Markievicz, and Pádraig Ó Riain was its first treasurer (and later secretary).

While Markievicz was the inspirational figurehead in the movement, both Hobson and Ó Riain were the brains and driving force behind the successful running of the Fianna from 1909-1916. They were skillful organisers and administrators, and also both excellent propagandists in the Fianna’s formative years. They worked tirelessly and devoted all their spare time to promoting and advancing the Fianna organisation.

Hobson was, of course, at this time on the Supreme Council of the IRB and then secretary of the Irish Volunteers upon its formation in 1913. He was a prominent member of Sinn Fein from 1907, and at one time its vice-President. He was also a member of the Gaelic League and the GAA.

Pádraig Ó Riain was the one responsible for putting together the first Fianna Handbook in 1914, and had a weekly column in the Irish Volunteer newspaper, under the pseudonym ‘Captain Willie Nelson’. He had also had a number of articles published in the IRB paper ‘Irish Freedom’.

Ó Riain was also a member of the IRB, and was secretary of the Fianna circle, using the cover name ‘The John Mitchell Literary and Debating Society’. In 1913, upon the formation of The Irish Volunteers, Pádraig Ó Riain was co-opted onto its first Provisional Committee. He was also a prominent member of the Gaelic League.

He led the Fianna detachment at the Howth Gunrunning in 1914. At the 1915 Fianna Ard Fheis Ó Riain was elected ‘Chief of the Fianna’ (Ard Fheinne), with Hobson as Chief-of-Staff. With Hobson busy with other Irish Volunteers duties, Ó Riain also took on much of the work of Chief of Staff on Hobson’s behalf.

Former Fianna member Eamon Martin later recalled that Ó Riain had a “capacity for orderly organisation, which was exercised to such advantage to the Fianna in the succeeding years”.

During the 1916 insurrection Hobson was famously kidnapped by others in the IRB, to prevent his attempts to further cancel mobilisations of Volunteers. He was closely aligned with MacNeill, and had, as many said at the time, MacNeill’s ear and was behind MacNeill’s attempts to call off manoeuvres on Easter Sunday. He had also previously fallen out with Clarke and MacDiarmada following his vote to accept Redmond’s nominees onto the Irish Volunteer Executive in 1914.

The two men both took a step back from their revolutionary activities post-1916, although Hobson’s decision to reduce his participation was not entirely by choice, as he was side-lined by many other former comrades and revolutionaries, although not by those in the Fianna, following his failure to support the Easter Rising. He had always advocated defensive, rather than offensive, warfare and argued for guerrilla tactics in any future conflict with the British, which interestingly was adopted by the Irish Volunteers/IRA in 1919-21. As far back as 1909, he promoted this approach, as was shown in his pamphlet that year entitled ‘Defensive Warfare: A Handbook for Irish Nationalists’. A quote from the paper reads “We must not fight to make a display of heroism, but fight to win.”

Following 1916, Hobson went back to his previous career, writing and printing, and later became a civil servant following the establishment of the Free State. In many early accounts of the revolutionary period, he was often excluded entirely or his role downplayed. Recent narratives of the era, have begun to recognise his role, particularly with Fianna and the Irish Volunteers in their formative years. Hobson died in 1969.

Ó Riain, who was sent to Tyrone just prior to Easter Week to assist in organising Volunteers in preparation for the upcoming rebellion, drifted out of the movement in the aftermath of 1916, and ended up staying in Ulster and later became a bookmaker in Belfast, for a short period. In later years, Ó Riain was one of the founders of greyhound racing in Ireland. Sadly he lost touch with many of his former comrades during this time.

He later lived in Bangor, Co. Down and passed away in 1954.

*I hope to write a separate and longer biography of O’Riain at a later date.

Photo credit: Keogh Brothers, Dublin. Part of the Bulmer Hobson Photographic Collection at the National Library of Ireland

Not dated but circa 1914-15

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.

Thomas Ashe, Peadar Kearney and Piaras Beaslai Memorial at Glasnevin Cemetery

Thomas Ashe Memorial

“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.”

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.

Dún Laoghaire Fianna Éireann 1916 – 1921



Fantastic image of Fianna Eireann Officers from Dun Laoghaire (1916-21) sent in to us by Jason Walsh-McLean and James Brady. James is conducting research on Fianna Eireann in the Dun Laoghaire area. If anyone has information on any of the veterans in the photograph or on the Fianna in Dun Laoghaire in general then please contact us or post a comment below. Thanks.


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

Young Fianna signaller, Paul Marshall, standing on the pier wall waiting for the ‘Asgard’ at Howth, July 26th 1914.


“As we marched on up the pier I noticed another Fianna boy, Paul Marshal, standing high on the wall near the lighthouse at the end of the pier. He was making a rapid series of signals out to sea with a signal flag.” – Joseph Lawless, Fingal Brigade.

Image courtesy of South Dublin County Library

Sean Heuston (1891-1916)

Sean Heuston (1891-1916)

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.