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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of John MacBride

john-macbrideMajor John MacBride, Irish republican executed by the British for his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising, is born in Westport, County Mayo on May 7, 1865.

MacBride is born to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill. He is educated at the Christian Brothers School in Westport and at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast. He studies medicine but gives it up and begins working with a chemist’s firm in Dublin.

MacBride joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and is associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He also joins the Celtic Literary Society through which he comes to know Arthur Griffith, who is to remain a friend and influence throughout his life. Beginning in 1893, he is termed a “dangerous nationalist” by the British government. In 1896, he travels to the United States on behalf of the IRB. Upon his return he emigrates to South Africa.

In the Second Boer War MacBride is instrumental in the raising of the Irish Transvaal Brigade and leads it into action against the British. When organised resistance collapses, he and the surviving members cross the border into Mozambique. After the war he marries Maud Gonne and they have a son, Seán MacBride, who is also to make a name for himself in Irish Politics. The marriage, however, is not a success and they go their separate ways. MacBride keeps up his associations with Republican activists but does not become personally involved other than making the odd speech in support of Ireland’s Cause.

After returning permanently from Paris to Dublin in 1905, MacBride joins other Irish nationalists in preparing for an Insurrection. Because he is so well known to the British, the leaders think it wise to keep him outside their secret military group planning a Rising. As a result, he happens to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice.

MacBride is in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning, April 24, to meet his brother, Dr. Anthony MacBride, who is arriving from Westport to be married two days later. As MacBride walks up Grafton Street he sees Thomas MacDonagh in uniform and leading his troops. He offers his services and is appointed second-in-command at the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, which is occupied and held through Easter Week until the order to surrender is received. As he is dressed in civilian clothes rather than a military uniform, he could likely have escaped without too much difficulty but rather he decides to go with his comrades into captivity.

Tried by court martial under the Defence of the Realm Act, MacBride is found guilty and sentenced to death. He is executed on May 5, 1916, two days before his forty-eighth birthday. Facing the British firing squad, MacBride refuses to be blindfolded saying, “I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence.”

John MacBride is buried in the cemetery at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.

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Birth of Irish Revolutionary Maud Gonne

maud-gonneMaud Gonne, Irish revolutionary, romantic muse for William Butler Yeats, and mother to Nobel Peace Prize-winner Seán MacBride, is born at Tongham, England on December 21, 1866.

Gonne is born into a distinguished and wealthy family, and her father serves as an army captain. Her mother dies of tuberculosis when she is a child, and she and her sister are raised and educated by a French nanny. This cosmopolitan upbringing is furthered by travels throughout Europe with her father, then a military attaché.

In 1884, Gonne’s father dies of typhoid fever and she receives a considerable inheritance. After moving to France to be with her aunt, she meets and falls in love with right wing politician Lucien Millevoye. Though he is already married, he instills Gonne with his political passions. She begins a nearly lifelong fight for Irish freedom from England and the release of political prisoners. She and Millevoye have two children, one of whom survives, before their relationship ends.

Moved by the plight of those evicted in the Land Wars, Gonne continues to campaign for the Irish nationalist cause. While living in Paris, she is introduced to Fenianism by John O’Leary, a veteran of the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848. In 1889, O’Leary introduces her to a man whose infatuation with her would last most of his life, poet William Butler Yeats. She begins a relationship with Yeats, though she refuses his many marriage proposals. She is the inspiration for many of Yeats’s poems. In 1900, she founds the Daughters of Ireland, which provides a home for Irish nationalist women.

In 1918, Gonne is arrested for being a political agitator. She becomes severely ill in prison and after her release, she begins a crusade for improved conditions for Ireland’s political prisoners. In 1903, she marries Major John MacBride, who had led the Irish Transvaal Brigade against the British in the Second Boer War, in Paris in 1903. After the birth of their son, Seán, Gonne and her husband agree to end their marriage. She demands sole custody of their son but MacBride refuses, and a divorce case begins in Paris on February 28, 1905. The only charge against MacBride substantiated in court is that he was drunk on one occasion during the marriage. A divorce is not granted, and MacBride is given the right to visit his son twice weekly.

The couple’s son, Seán MacBride, is active in politics in Ireland and in the United Nations. He is a founding member and Chairman of Amnesty International and is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.

Gonne dies in Clonskeagh on April 27, 1953, at the age of 86 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. Maud Gonne’s autobiography, A Servant of the Queen, is published in 1938.


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Michael Collins Made President of the IRB

michael-collinsMichael Collins, who is also a leader in the Irish Republican Army, is made president of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) on June 28, 1919.

At the start of the 20th century, the IRB is a stagnating organisation, concerned more with Dublin municipal politics than the establishment of a republic. A younger generation of Ulster republicans aim to change this and, in 1905, Denis McCullough and Bulmer Hobson found the Dungannon Clubs, whose purpose is to discourage enlistment into the British Army and encourage enlistment into the IRB.

In 1909, Michael Collins is introduced to the brotherhood by Sam Maguire. By 1914, the Supreme Council is largely purged of its older, tired leadership, and is dominated by enthusiastic men such as Hobson, McCullough, Patrick McCartan, John MacBride, Seán Mac Diarmada, and Tom Clarke. The latter two are to become the primary instigators of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Following the Rising some republicans, notably Éamon de Valera and Cathal Brugha, leave the organization as they view it as no longer necessary since the Irish Volunteers now perform its function. The IRB, during the War of Independence (1919-1921), is under the control of Michael Collins, who initially is secretary and subsequently, on June 28, 1919, is made president of the Supreme Council.

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed on December 6, 1921, it is debated by the Supreme Council, which votes to accept it by an 11-4 vote. Those who oppose the Treaty include former leader Harry Boland, Austin Stack, and Liam Lynch. Anti-Treaty republicans like Ernie O’Malley, who fought during the Civil War against the Treaty, see the IRB as being used to undermine the Irish Republic.

The IRB becomes quiescent during the Irish Civil War, which ends in May 1923, but it emerges again later that year as a faction within the National Army. It supports Minister for Defence Richard Mulcahy against the “Old IRA,” which fights against the recruitment of ex-British Army personnel and the demobilization of old IRA men. This comes to a head with the Army Mutiny of 1924, in the wake of which Mulcahy resigns and other IRB members of the army are dismissed by acting President of the Executive Council Kevin O’Higgins. The IRB subsequently dissolves itself, although it is not known whether a formal decision is made or it simply ceases to function.


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Execution of John MacBride, Irish Republican

john-macbrideMajor John McBride, Irish republican, is executed by firing squad in the Stonebreakers Yard at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin on May 5, 1916, for his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising.

MacBride is born at The Quay, Westport, County Mayo, to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill. He is educated at the Christian Brothers School in Westport and at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast. He studies medicine but gives it up and begins working with a chemist’s firm in Dublin.

He joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and is associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He also joins the Celtic Literary Society through which he comes to know Arthur Griffith, who is to remain a friend and influence throughout his life. Beginning in 1893, MacBride is termed a “dangerous nationalist” by the British government. In 1896, he travels to the United States on behalf of the IRB. Upon his return he emigrates to South Africa.

In the Second Boer War MacBride is instrumental in the raising of the Irish Transvaal Brigade and leads it into action against the British. When organised resistance collapses, he and the surviving members cross the border into Mozambique. After the war he marries Maud Gonne and they have a son, Seán MacBride, who is also to make a name for himself in Irish Politics. The marriage, however, is not a success and they go their separate ways. MacBride keeps up his associations with Republican activists but does not become personally involved other than making the odd speech in support of Ireland’s Cause.

After returning permanently from Paris to Dublin in 1905, MacBride joins other Irish nationalists in preparing for an Insurrection. Because he is so well known to the British, the leaders think it wise to keep him outside their secret military group planning a Rising. As a result, he happens to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice.

MacBride is in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning, April 24, to meet his brother, Dr. Anthony MacBride, who is arriving from Westport to be married two days later. As MacBride walks up Grafton Street he sees Thomas MacDonagh in uniform and leading his troops. He offers his services and is appointed second-in-command at the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, which is occupied and held through Easter Week until the order to surrender is received. As he is dressed in civilian clothes rather than a military uniform, he could likely have escaped without too much difficulty but rather he decides to go with his comrades into captivity.

Tried by court martial under the Defence of the Realm Act, MacBride is found guilty and sentenced to death. He is executed on May 5, 1916, two days before his forty-eighth birthday. Facing the British firing squad, MacBride refuses to be blindfolded saying, “I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence.”

John MacBride is buried in the cemetery at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.


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Executions of Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, Joseph Mary Plunkett, & William Pearse

plunkett-daly-ohanrahan-pearseThe executions of leaders and participants of the 1916 Easter Rising by the British continue as Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, Joseph Mary Plunkett, and William Pearse are executed by firing squad in the Stonebreakers Yard at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin on May 4, 1916.

Edward Daly is born in Limerick in 1891 to a family that has a history of republican activity. His uncle, John Daly, had taken part in the rebellion of 1867. Edward Daly leads the First Battalion during the 1916 Easter Rising, which raids the Bridewell and Linenhall Barracks, eventually seizing control of the Four Courts. A close friend of Tom Clarke, their ties are made even stronger by the marriage of Clarke to Daly’s sister.

Michael O’Hanrahan is born in Wexford in 1877. As a young man, O’Hanrahan shows great promise as a writer, becoming heavily involved in the promotion of the Irish language. He founds the first Carlow branch of the Gaelic League, and publishes two novels, A Swordsman of the Brigade and When the Norman Came. Like many of the other executed leaders, he joins the Irish Volunteers from their inception, and is second in command to Thomas MacDonagh at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory during the Rising, although this position is largely usurped by the arrival of John MacBride.

Joseph Mary Plunkett is born in Dublin in 1887, the son of a papal count. Plunkett is initially educated in England, though he returns to Ireland and graduates from University College Dublin in 1909. After his graduation, Plunkett spends two years traveling due to ill health, returning to Dublin in 1911. Plunkett shares Thomas MacDonagh’s enthusiasm for literature and is an editor of the Irish Review. Along with MacDonagh and Edward Martyn, he helps to establish an Irish national theatre. He joins the Irish Volunteers in 1913, subsequently gaining membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1914. Plunkett travels to Germany to meet Roger Casement in 1915. During the planning of the Rising, Plunkett is appointed Director of Military Operations, with overall responsibility for military strategy. Plunkett is stationed in the General Post Office during the Rising. Seven hours prior to his execution, Plunkett marries his sweetheart, Grace Gifford, in the prison chapel.

William “Willie” Pearse, the younger brother of Patrick, is born in Dublin in 1881. Willie shares his brother’s passion for an independent Ireland. He assists Patrick in running St. Enda’s School. The two brothers are extremely close and fight alongside each other in the General Post Office. He is not one of the planners of the revolt, nor is he one of it’s commanders. Willie is merely one of the soldiers involved with the Dublin actions. No other participant in Dublin whose actions or responsibilities are similar to Willie’s is executed in the days following the Rising, save perhaps John MacBride, whose earlier service with the Boers probably marks him for death. It seems likely that the sole reason Willie is executed by the British government is for the crime of being Patrick’s brother. It is repugnant British excesses such as this that soon reverse the Irish people’s initially negative opinion of the 1916 Easter Rising.


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Birth of Revolutionary Leader Thomas MacDonagh

thomas-macdonaghThomas MacDonagh, political activist, poet, playwright, educationalist, revolutionary leader, and one of the seven leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916, is born in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, on February 1, 1878.

MacDonagh grows up in a household filled with music, poetry, and learning and is instilled with a love of both English and Irish culture from a young age. He attends Rockwell College and spends several years in preparation for a missionary career but soon realizes that it isn’t the life for him and leaves the college. He teaches briefly at St. Kieran’s College in Kilkenny and, from 1903, is employed as a professor of French, English, and Latin at St. Colman’s College, Fermoy, County Cork, where he forms a branch of the Gaelic League. He moves to Dublin and establishes strong friendships with such men as Eoin MacNeill and Patrick Pearse.

In Dublin, MacDonagh joins the staff St. Enda’s School upon its establishment in 1908, as a French and English teacher and Assistant Headmaster. In January 1912 he marries Muriel Gifford and takes the position of lecturer in English at the National University, while continuing to support St Enda’s. MacDonagh remains devoted to the Irish language and, in 1910, he becomes tutor to a younger member of the Gaelic League, Joseph Plunkett.

In 1913, MacDonagh and Plunkett attend the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers and join its Provisional Committee. MacDonagh is later appointed Commandant of Dublin’s 2nd battalion and eventually made commandant of the entire Dublin Brigade. MacDonagh develops strong republican beliefs and joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in the summer of 1915. Around this time, Tom Clarke asks MacDonagh to plan the grandiose funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, which is a resounding propaganda success largely due to the graveside oration delivered by Pearse.

MacDonagh joins the secret Military Council that is planning the rising in April 1916, just weeks before the rising takes place. Although joining the Council during the late stages of the planning process, MacDonagh is, nevertheless, a signatory of the Proclamation of the Republic.

During the rising, MacDonagh’s battalion is stationed at the massive Jacob’s Biscuit Factory complex. On the way to this destination the battalion encounters veteran Fenian John MacBride, who joins the battalion as second-in-command.

Although MacDonagh’s battalion is one of the strongest, they see little fighting as the British Army avoids the factory and establishes positions in central Dublin. MacDonagh receives the order to surrender on April 30, although his entire battalion is fully prepared to continue the engagement. Following the surrender, MacDonagh is court martialled and executed by firing squad at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin on May 3, 1916,  at the age of thirty-eight.