Tag Archives: Sluagh

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


Patrick O’Connell (1898-1982)


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

Fianna Eireann’s Betsy Gray Sluagh


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.

Patrick Tobin and Nicholas Hendrick, Enniscorthy 1916



Tóibín Pádraic (Patrick Tobin), Enniscorthy Sluagh, Wexford Brigade, Fianna Éireann.

Born in 1904 aged about 12 years old at the time of the Rising. He joined Na Fianna in 1915. He was not arrested or detained after the Rising. He re-joined Na Fianna on reorganisation in 1917 and served throughout the War of Independence. During the Rising he was involved in delivering dispatches and came under fire when delivering a dispatch to an outpost at Kilagawley. On the Sunday of the surrender he helped to dump arms. From 1917 on he served as a Battalion Quartermaster and Brigade Vice Officer Commanding Fianna Eireann. He took part in raids for arms and mails, the destruction of Belfast Boycott goods, a raid for petrol on the Enniscorthy Railway Station and a raid on the Income Tax office in Enniscorthy.

In 1920 and 1921 he travelled to Dublin on a number of occasions carrying despatches and reports and British codes captured by the I.R.A. in County Wexford which he passed on to Gearoid O’ Sullivan, Adjutant General of the I.R.A. In October 1920 he was arrested and detained in Cork and Waterford until released in March 1921. During the Truce Period 12th of July 1921 to the 30th of June 1922 he continued his Fianna Eireann activities. At the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 he served with the Anti-Treaty I.R.A. forces in the fighting against National Army troops in Enniscorthy. After a period on the run he returned to Enniscorthy in November 1922. As a reporter for the “Enniscorthy Echo” newspaper he was able to gather information from a National Army officer named Commandant McCrea stationed in Gorey, County Wexford regarding the movement of Government forces. In March 1923 he was arrested and interned until December 1923, taking part in a 14 day hunger strike during his period of detention.



Nicholas Hendrick, Fianna Eireann attached to A Company, Wexford Brigade, Irish Volunteers.

Born on the 18th of July 1900 he was 15 years old at the time of the Rising. He fought at Keegan’s Irish Street, the Athenaeum, Edermine Bridge, Borrmount Cross and the Court House in Enniscorthy. He joined Fianna Eireann in March 1916. He was not arrested or detained after the Rising. He joined the Volunteers on reorganisation in 1917 and served throughout the War of Independence. Although he had no official part in the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War he did help Anti-Treaty forces whenever he could.

Research and biographies courtesy of Brendan Lee at http://www.irishmedals.org

Photograph by ‘Knights and Rebels’, a blog for Enniscorthy’s historic sites: Enniscorthy Castle, National 1798 Rebellion Centre and the Vinegar Hill Battlefield.



Cornelius “Con” Colbert (1888-1916)

Colbert, born in Limerick in 1888, was a founding member of Na Fianna Eireann. He attended the inaugural Fianna meeting on August 16th 1909 in 34 Lower Camden Street and was subsequently elected to the first official Fianna committee shortly after its foundation.

Colbert was one of the first drill instructors of the Fianna, along with Eamon Martin and Michael Lonergan. He was also a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and became ‘centre’ of the exclusive Fianna-IRB circle. Colbert was responsible for inducting many future prominent Irish revolutionaries into the IRB; some of those included Liam Mellows and Garry Holahan. He also introduced many of the pupils from Pearse’s St. Enda’s school to the Fianna and the IRB.

He was the first Captain of the original Fianna ‘An Cead Sluagh’ in Camden Street and later became Captain of the Rathmines branch. Upon the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, Colbert was appointed to its ‘Provisional Committee’ and later to the Volunteer Executive. He was also one of the first drill instructors for the Volunteers in its early days. Colbert became Captain of ‘F’ Company in the 4th Battalion of the Irish Volunteers.

Despite being heavily involved with the Irish Volunteers from 1913 onwards, Colbert remained a central figure within the Fianna organization until 1915, when he resigned to dedicate himself fully to the Volunteers. However, he retained his links to the Fianna through the Fianna-IRB circle, where he remained ‘centre’.

During Easter Week, Colbert was in charge of a unit of men tasked with occupying Watkin’s Brewery, he later moved his men to Marrowbone Lane where they remained until the end of the week.

Following the surrender he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. He was executed on May 8th 1916. He was twenty seven years old.

*Photo courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

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.