ON THIS DATE (20TH SEPTEMBER) 214 YEARS AGO : ‘DARLING OF ERIN’ BUTCHERED BY WESTMINSTER.
Robert Emmet was born on the 4th March, 1778, a son of Dr Robert Emmet and Elizabeth Mason. His father served as state physician to the vice-regal household but he was a social reformer who believed that in order to achieve the emancipation of the Irish people it was first necessary to break the link with England. Robert Emmet (Jnr) was baptised on March 10th, 1778, in St Peter’s Church of Ireland in Aungier Street, Dublin, and attended Oswald’s School in Dropping Court, off Golden Lane, Dublin. From there he went to Samuel Whytes School in Grafton Street, quite near his home, and later to the school of the Reverend Mr Lewis in Camden Street. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in October 1793 when he was almost 16 years of age and practiced his oratorical skills in the historical and debating societies. One of his friends at TCD was the poet Thomas Moore.
There were four branches of the ‘United Irishmen’ in TCD and Robert Emmet was secretary of one of them but, after an inquisition, presided over by Lord Chancellor Fitzgibbon, Emmet became one of nineteen students who were expelled for United Irishmen activity. Although not active in the 1798 Rising, Robert Emmet was well known to the British authorities and by April 1799, when ‘Habeas Corpus’ had been suspended, there was a warrant issued for his arrest, which he managed to evade. Early in 1801, accompanied by a Mr Malachy Delany of Cork, he travelled throughout Europe and made Paris his headquarters – it was there that he replaced Edward Lewis as the liaison officer between Irish and French republicans.
While in Paris, Emmet learned about rockets and weapons and studied a two-volume treatise by a Colonel Tempelhoff which can be examined in the Royal Irish Academy, with the marginal notes given the reader some insight into Emmet’s thinking. Following the signing of the ‘Peace of Amiens’ by France and England in March 1802, the United Irishmen that were being held as prisoners in Fort George were released and many such as Thomas Russell and Thomas Addis Emmet made there way to Paris. Emmet returned to Ireland in October 1802 and began to plan for a rising and, in March 1803, at a meeting in Corbet’s Hotel, 105 Capel Street in Dublin, Emmet briefed his key organisers. In April 1803 he rented an isolated house in Butterfield Lane in Rathfarnham as a new base of operations and Michael Dwyer, a 1798 veteran, suggested his young niece as a suitable candidate to play the role of the ‘housekeeper’. Born in or around the year 1778, Ann Devlin soon became Robert Emmet’s trusted helper and served him loyally in the months ahead. Shortly afterwards he leased a premises at Marshalsea Lane, off Thomas Street, Dublin, and set up an arms depot there.
Arms depots were established in Dublin for the manufacture and storage of weapons for the incipient rising. Former soldiers mixed their practical skills with the scientific knowledge that Robert Emmet had acquired on the continent, and an innovative rocket device was produced. Elaborate plans were drawn up to take the city and in particular Dublin Castle : supporters from the surrounding counties of Kildare, Wicklow and even Wexford were pledged to assist. Emmet bided his time waiting for an opportune moment when English troops would be withdrawn to serve in the renewed war in France, but his hand was forced when a premature explosion on the evening of July 16th, 1803, at the Patrick Street depot, caused the death of John Keenan. Though there was no obvious wide-scale search or arrest operation by the British following the explosion, the leadership of the movement decided to set Saturday July 23rd, 1803 as the date for the rising. Emmet hoped that success in Dublin would inspire other counties to follow suit. Patrick M. Geoghegan, in a recent publication, says that “the plan for taking Dublin was breathtaking in its precision and audacity. It was nothing less that a blueprint for a dramatic coup d’état. Indeed, over a century later, Pearse and Clarke would also refer to the plan for their own rising..”
Emmet’s plan depended on two factors – arms and men and, as Geoghegan states, when the time came, Robert Emmet had not enough of either – events went dramatically wrong for him. On the appointed day his plans began to unravel ; Michael Dwyer and his promised 300 men did not get the word until Sunday July 24th and, the previous day, an excess of men had moved in to Dublin from Kildare and could not be concealed in the existing depots so they spread out around the city pubs and some started drinking. Others, after inspecting the existing arsenal and finding many pikes but few muskets or blunderbusses, went home unimpressed.
Because he had alerted other countries and still had the element of surprise, Emmet decided not to postpone the rising thus, shortly after seven o’clock on Saturday July 23rd, 1803, Robert Emmet, in his green and gold uniform, stood in the Thomas Street, Dublin, depot and, to the assembled rebels, read out his proclamation, declaring that the Irish nation was about to assert itself in arms against foreign rule. But again events conspired to thwart the rebels – coaches commissioned for the attack on Dublin Castle were lost and erroneous information supplied that encouraged pre-emptive strikes, meant that confusion reigned. Also, the novel rocket signals failed to detonate. Emmet’s own forces, who were to have taken the Castle, dwindled away and, throughout the remainder of that evening, there were skirmishes at Thomas Street and the Coombe Barracks but he decided to terminate operations and leave the city. For the English forces, which included Daniel O’Connell (“It is highly interesting to read that Daniel O’Connell, then a young barrister, enthusiastically joined a lawyer yeomen corps in 1803 to help in the pursuit of the rebels..” – from here), it was then merely a mopping-up operation : in the aftermath, the English arrested and tortured Anne Devlin, even offering her the enormous sum of £500 to betray Robert Emmet – she refused.
Emmet himself took refuge in the Harold’s Cross area of Dublin, during which he met with his mother and Sarah Curran but, on Thursday August 25th, 1803, he was finally arrested. It has been stated by others that a £1000 reward was paid by Dublin Castle to an informer, for supplying the information which led to his capture. Robert Emmet’s misfortunes did not stop on his arrest : he was unlucky enough to be ‘defended’ by one Leonard McNally who was trusted by the United Irishmen. However, after McNally’s death in 1820 it transpired that he was a highly paid government agent and, in his role as an informer, he had encouraged young men to join the rebels, betrayed them to Dublin Castle and would then collect fees from the United Irishmen to ‘defend’ those same rebels in court!
Emmet’s ‘trial’ lasted 11 hours, and he stood for that entire duration, in front of a ‘Special Commission’ overseen by judge John Toler (better known as ‘Hanging Lord Norbury’) in Green Street Court House in Dublin on September 19th, 1803. By about 9.30pm that night he was pronounced guilty and, asked for his reaction, he delivered a speech which still inspires today. He closed by saying that he cared not for the opinion of the court but for the opinion of the future – “..when other times and other men can do justice to my character…”. Robert Emmet was publicly executed on Tuesday September 20th, 1803 – 214 years ago on this date – outside St Catherine’s Church in Dublin’s Thomas Street –
‘The gallows on Thomas street was a temporary one which was built with planks and empty barrels and a cross beam on two poles about 12 feet tall. It was almost in the centre of the street…(his) final words on the gallows (were) “My friends, I die in peace and with sentiments of universal love and kindness towards all men”…the executioner began the hanging by dislodging a plank which was on a narrow ledge and Emmet convulsed on the end of the rope for over a half an hour when finally his body ceased to move…beheaded on a butchers block..if the reports of the blood squirting into the crowd when the procedure began are accurate, this would suggest that Robert Emmet was alive and merely unconscious at the time of his beheading…’ (from here.)
His grave has yet to be located…
JOKER IN THE PACK…?
Padraig Flynn (left) has been facing the flak since he became Minister for the Environment. But Michael O’Higgins finds that nothing phases him. He retains the same certainty he had when saying quite different things. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.
Padraig Flynn may be quite happily esconced in the heart of Dublin, anxious to transform it into a cosmopolitan city on a par with Paris or Rome. But his references are unmistakably rural and traditional. He is never far from Mayo West.
He identified himself as one of the voices of Catholic moral conservatism during the constitutional referenda on abortion and divorce. And he admits openly to not being a pluralist. His position on divorce since the referendum last June is unchanged. You can’t have “special cases” for people whose marriages have broken down.
But some of Flynn’s categorical assertions are relative ; as with all of the members of the Fianna Fáil government, he has had to change his tune on some issues, which the party represented differently in opposition. But Padraig Flynn, more than most of his colleagues, can make it appear that there has been no change at all. During the debate on the Single European Act last December, Padraig Flynn was one of the most outspoken critics of the Act. The speech he made outlining his objections to the Act is one in which he takes unconcealed pride. He says he did all the research for it himself, although he was helped by literature supplied by the Family Solidarity group. But that literature, he adds quickly, was supplied to every TD (sic). He has maintained informal links he struck up with the group during the referenda but is not a member… (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (20TH SEPTEMBER) 103 YEARS AGO : IRISH LEADER CAMPAIGNS FOR RECRUITMENT TO BRITISH ARMY.
John Redmond (left), the leader of the ‘Irish Parliamentary Party’, was born into a ‘Big House’-type Catholic family on the 1st September in 1856 and, after a ‘proper’ education (in Clongowes College in Kildare and Trinity College in Dublin) he became a political ‘player’ in the British so-called ‘House of Commons’, where he supplemented his income as a clerk. He was only 25 years-of-age when he was first elected as an MP, having worked his way up the establishment ladder.
He was an Irish nationalist (small ‘n’) politician who, occasionally, campaigned for his followers (and anyone else that would listen to him) to join the British Army in its fight against Germany, and did so infamously (and unashamedly) in a public speech he delivered in Woodenbridge in County Wicklow on this date – 20th September – in 1914, where he stated – “The interests of Ireland – of the whole of Ireland – are at stake in this war. This war is undertaken in the defence of the highest principles of religion and morality and right, and it would be a disgrace for ever to our country and a reproach to her manhood and a denial of the lessons of her history if young Ireland confined their efforts to remaining at home to defend the shores of Ireland from an unlikely invasion, and to shrinking from the duty of proving on the field of battle that gallantry and courage which has distinguished our race all through its history. I say to you, therefore, your duty is twofold. I am glad to see such magnificent material for soldiers around me, and I say to you: ‘Go on drilling and make yourself efficient for the work, and then account yourselves as men, not only for Ireland itself, but wherever the fighting line extends, in defence of right, of freedom, and religion in this war…’ “.
And, unfortunately, in the months that followed his ‘call to arms’, tens of thousands of Irishmen joined his ‘Cause’ and fought alongside imperialism to the extent that one of his modern-day political mirror-images all but called Redmond a traitor for encouraging such folly. Other political leaders did not agree with John Redmond and,among them, was James Connolly, the Irish Trade Union leader, who was also in command of the Irish Citizen Army – he answered Redmond’s call thus :
‘Full steam ahead, John Redmond said,
that everything was well, chum ;
Home Rule will come when we are dead,
and buried out in Belgium’.
Also, some of John Redmond’s own men dis-agreed with his pro-British ‘call-to-arms’ ; Eoin MacNeill, who was then in a leadership position within the ‘Irish Volunteers’, was of the opinion that the ‘Irish Volunteers’ should only use force against the British if* Westminster first moved against them ; a bit ‘watery’, definitely, but he was, however, against fighting with the British (*if having your country occupied by a foreign power cannot be considered a ‘first move against us’ then Mr MacNeill had a different understanding of the English language than I have!).
Just over a year after Mr Redmond had delivered his ‘join imperialism’-speech in Woodenbridge, a British Army Major-General, ‘Sir’ Lovick Bransby Friend (..perhaps his parents never bonded with him?) the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland, said that 1,100 recruits were needed from Ireland every week “to replace wastage” (!) of existing Irish soldiers. The comments were made at a private conference on recruiting in Ireland that was held under the presidency of the ‘Lord’ Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Wimborne, at the Viceregal Lodge in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, where it was also stated that approximately 81,000 Irishmen had ‘heeded Redmond’s call-to-arms’. The political mirror-image, mentioned above, had a point…
“We British are sometimes told we do not understand the Irish but, if this is so, the failure to understand is a two-way street. Everything on which the IRA is currently engaged suggests that it does not understand us at all.” – So wrote Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for ‘Northern Ireland’, last July in ‘The London Evening Standard’ newspaper. More august* persons such as CJ Haughey and Garret Fitzgerald have also said the same from their varying points of view. By Cliodna Cussen, from ‘Iris’ magazine, Easter 1991. (‘1169′ comment : *’August’ as in ‘ dignified and impressive’? Haughey and Fitzgerald? How so? From what point of view? Certainly not from a republican perspective, anyway…)
At the first ‘Constitutional Convention’ held in Edinburgh which brought together groups in Scotland to present a demand for a Scottish parliament, Canon Kenyon Wright, General Secretary of the Scottish Council of Churches, told the politicians present “..there is a Greek-biblical word for it – ‘kairos’ – a time. It is not just the passing of days, but of time, that is ripe – there is a new political climate – we are at ‘kairos’ ; a time for Scotland.”
Canon Wright brought together a number of strands of opposition sentiment : the sense of moral outrage over politics seen to be both philistine and grasping, and the belief that Scotland has preserved not just a separate national identity but also a distinct politico-moral sense which is now reasserting itself. Mrs Thatcher was bad for Ireland, not just in the soothing paralysis of ‘the Anglo-Irish Agreement’ but because current punitive legislation aimed specifically at Ireland has also seen an erosion of British civil liberties.
The ‘Charter 88’ group in Britain, who see that the English have lost their civil liberties because of what their government is doing in Ireland, is presently agitating for a Bill of Rights to reinstate the Rights of the Individual in Britain and to reform the system of human rights and civil liberties…(MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (20TH SEPTEMBER) 100 YEARS AGO : THE DEATH OF THE FIRST OF OUR TWENTY-TWO HUNGER-STRIKERS.
Thomas Ashe (pictured, right) was born in Lispole, County Kerry, on the 12th of January 1885 – he was the seventh of ten siblings. He qualified as a teacher in 1905 at De La Salle College, Waterford and after teaching briefly in Kinnard, County Kerry, in 1906 he became principal of Corduff National School in Lusk, County Dublin. He was a fluent Irish speaker and a member of the Keating branch of the Gaelic League and was an accomplished sportsman and musician setting up the Round Towers GAA Club as well as helping to establish the Lusk Pipe Band. He was also a talented singer and poet who was committed to Conradh na Gaeilge.
Politically, he was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and established IRB circles in Dublin and Kerry and eventually became President of the Supreme Council in 1917. While he was actively and intellectually nationalist he was also inspired by contemporary socialism. Ashe rejected conservative Home Rule politicians and as part of that rejection he espoused the Labour policies of James Larkin. Writing in a letter to his brother Gregory he said – “We are all here on Larkin’s side. He’ll beat hell out of the snobbish, mean, seoinín employers yet, and more power to him”. Ashe supported the unionisation of north Dublin farm labourers and his activities brought him into conflict with landowners such as Thomas Kettle *. During the infamous lockout in 1913 he was a frequent visitor to Liberty Hall and become a friend of James Connolly. Long prior to its publication in 1916, Thomas Ashe was a practitioner of Connolly’s dictum that “the cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour”. In 1914 Ashe travelled to the United States where he raised a substantial sum of money for both the Gaelic League and the newly formed Irish Volunteers of which he was an early member. (*‘Tom Kettle was a member of the National Volunteers, and in 1914 went to Belgium to buy arms for them. Whilst there, war broke out, and he became convinced of the justice of the Allied cause. He returned to Ireland, and made a series of recruiting speeches, which effectively alienated him from the Nationalist movement. Kettle then joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. After the Easter Rising and the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington he asked to be sent to the Front, and was killed on the eve of the Battle of Ginchy, 9 September 1916. His body was never recovered…’)
He founded the Volunteers in Lusk and established a firm foundation of practical and theoretical military training, and provided charismatic leadership first as Adjutant and then as O/C (Officer Commanding) the 5th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade, where he inspired fierce loyalty and encouraged personal initiative in his junior officers and was therefore able to confidently delegate command to Charlie Weston, Joseph Lawless, Edward Rooney and others during the Rising. Most significantly, he took advantage of the arrival of Richard Mulcahy at Finglas Glen on the Tuesday of the Rising and appointed him second in command. The two men knew one another through the IRB and Gaelic League and Ashe recognized Mulcahy’s tactical abilities. As a result Ashe allowed himself to be persuaded by Mulcahy not to withdraw following the unexpected arrival of a motorised force of British ‘police’ at the Rath crossroads, Ashbourne, on the 28th of April, 1916 – he demonstrated great personal courage, first exposing himself to fire while calling on the RIC in the fortified barracks to surrender and then actively leading his Volunteers against the RIC during the battle.
After the 1916 Rising he was court-martialed (on the 8th of May 1916) and was sentenced to death, which was commuted to penal servitude for life. He was incarcerated in a variety of English prisons before being released in the June 1917 general amnesty and immediately returned to Ireland and toured the country reorganising the IRB and inciting civil opposition to British rule. In August 1917, after a speech in Ballinalee, County Longford, he was arrested by the RIC and charged with “speeches calculated to cause disaffection”. He was detained in the Curragh Camp and later sentenced to a year’s hard labour in Mountjoy Jail. There he became O/C of the Volunteer prisoners, and demanded prisoner-of-war status and, as a result, he was punished by the Governor. He went on hunger strike on the 20th September 1917 – 100 years ago on this date – and five days later died as a result of force-feeding by the prison authorities. He was 32 years old. His death resulted in POW status being conceded to the Volunteer prisoners two days later.
His funeral was the first public funeral after the Rising and provided a focal point for public disaffection with British rule. His body lay in state in Dublin City Hall before being escorted by armed Volunteers to Glasnevin Cemetery. 30,000 people attended the burial where three volleys were fired over the grave and the Last Post was sounded. While imprisoned in Lewes Jail in 1916, he had written his poem ‘Let Me Carry Your Cross for Ireland, Lord’ which later provided the inspiration for the ‘Battle of Ashbourne Memorial’, which was unveiled by Sean T. O’Kelly on Easter Sunday, 26th April 1959, at the Rath Cross in Ashbourne :
Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord
The hour of her trial draws near,
And the pangs and the pains of the sacrifice
May be borne by comrades dear.
But, Lord, take me from the offering throng,
There are many far less prepared,
Through anxious and all as they are to die
That Ireland may be spared.
Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord
My cares in this world are few,
and few are the tears will for me fall
When I go on my way to You.
Spare Oh! Spare to their loved ones dear
The brother and son and sire,
That the cause we love may never die
In the land of our Heart’s desire!
Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord!
Let me suffer the pain and shame
I bow my head to their rage and hate,
And I take on myself the blame.
Let them do with my body what’er they will,
My spirit I offer to You,
That the faithful few who heard her call
May be spared to Roisin Dubh.
Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord!
For Ireland weak with tears,
For the aged man of the clouded brow,
And the child of tender years;
For the empty homes of her golden plains,
For the hopes of her future, Too!
Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord!
For the cause of Roisin Dubh.
The jury at the inquest into his death found that “Thomas Ashe, according to the medical evidence of Professor McWeeney, Sir Arthur Chance, and Sir Thomas Myles, died from heart failure and congestion of the lungs on the 25th September, 1917 and that his death was caused by the punishment of taking away from the cell bed, bedding and boots and allowing him to be on the cold floor for 50 hours, and then subjecting him to forcible feeding in his weak condition after hunger-striking for five or six days..”. Michael Collins organised the funeral and transformed it into a national demonstration against British misrule in Ireland ; armed Irish Republican Brotherhood Volunteers in full uniform flanked the coffin, followed by 9,000 other IRB Volunteers and approximately 30,000 people lined the streets. A volley of shots was fired over his grave, following which Michael Collins stated – “Nothing more remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which it is proper to make over the grave of a dead Fenian.”
The London-based ‘Daily Express’ newspaper perhaps summed it up best when it stated that what had happened had made ‘100,000 Sinn Féiners out of 100,000 constitutional nationalists.’ The level of support shown gave a boost to Irish republicans, and this was noted by the ‘establishment’ in Westminster – ‘The Daily Mail’ newspaper claimed that, a month earlier, Sinn Féin, despite its electoral successes, had been a waning force, and opined ‘it had no practical programme, for the programme of going further than anyone else cannot be so described. It was not making headway. But Sinn Féin today is pretty nearly another name for the vast bulk of youth in Ireland..’
Thomas Ashe, the first of twenty-two Irish republican hunger-strikers to die on the protest, began his hunger-strike on this date, 20th September, 100 years ago.
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…
SIN SCÉAL EILE.
By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
Saturday came and with it the parcels. First thing, Paddy went out on his visit and, when he came back, he was in a great mood. “My ma says that the cake is definitely in the parcel.” “Right, that’s stage one of the plan up and running,” said Smig. “No, no, you don’t understand,” said Paddy, “I think the screws will let this one in.” “So do I”, answered Smig, “It’s covered in vaseline..”
Smig left the hut and left Paddy stewing in it. Later that afternoon we sat in the hut waiting on the parcel, when Paddy came in with a big grin on his face – “My parcel came and the cake’s all right.” “I’m not eating it anyway,” said Stuarty. “Why not?” asked Paddy. “Because the screws must have smelt the vaseline and let it in,” answered Stuarty. Paddy produced the cake and declared – “There’s no vaseline on it ; smell for yourself, it’s sound…” “I don’t know what vaseline smells like,” said Stuarty, and we all refused to eat the cake, much to Paddy’s annoyance.
He begged us to have a bit of cake but we wouldn’t. The funny thing about it was the plan was dependent on Paddy’s mother sending in a chocolate sandwich cake but when Paddy opened the parcel and took out the cake it was a one-layer florence cake. The co-op system was designed to create comradeship, mutual benefit and a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. But mainly to do onto others before they do it on you! (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (20TH SEPTEMBER) 97 YEARS AGO : IRISH REBEL CAPTURED IN DUBLIN BY BRITISH SOLDIERS.
Pictured, left – the ‘arrest’ by British forces of Irish republican Kevin Barry, in Upper Church Street in Dublin, on Monday 20th September, 1920 – 97 years ago on this date. On that morning, 18-year-old Kevin Barry had gone to Mass and received Holy Communion, then joined a party of IRA volunteers on Bolton Street in Dublin. Their orders were to ambush a British army truck as it picked up a delivery of bread from Monk’s Bakery at the junction of North King Street and Church Street and capture their weapons. The ambush was scheduled for 11am, which gave him enough time to take part in the operation and return to UCD in time for a medical examination he had at 2pm. The gun he was using jammed during the operation (he had left his own weapon in Carlow and was using a borrowed one) and he was forced to seek shelter – he rolled under the British Army truck and continued trying to free the jammed gun. His comrades left the scene as they were outnumbered and had lost the element of surprise, and Barry might very well have escaped capture in his hiding place had a local woman, a Mrs Garrett, who ran a coal and vegetable shop near the bakery, not shouted out to the driver of the British Army lorry that he shouldn’t move it as the person under it (Kevin Barry) could get run over. Barry was captured and placed in the back of the military lorry along with three dead or mortally wounded British soldiers and the poor woman blamed herself, as did some of her neighbours.
Kevin’s sister, Kathy, exonerated the woman from any blame for his capture – “Incidentally, I should mention that some months after his execution we were most distressed to hear that this woman had been driven mad and was in an asylum as a result of the blame attached to her by her neighbours. There was nothing we could usefully do about it beyond explaining where we could that, in Kevin’s own account of it to me on the day of his court martial, he was convinced that she cried out because she was afraid that the man under the lorry would be run over.”
In an affidavit drawn up in Mountjoy Prison days before his execution, he wrote – “I, Kevin Barry, of 58 South Circular Road, in the County of Dublin, Medical Student, aged 18 years and upwards solemnly and sincerely declare as follows: On the 20th of September 1920, I was arrested in Upper Church Street by a Sergeant of the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s regiment and was brought under escort to the North Dublin Union now occupied by military. I was brought into the guard room and searched. I was then moved to the defaulter’s room by an escort with a Sergeant-Major, who all belonged to 1st Lancashire Fusiliers. I was then hand-cuffed.
About 15 minutes after I was put into the defaulter’s room, two Commissioned Officers of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers came in. They were accompanied by 3 Sergeants of the same unit. A military policeman who had been in the same room since I entered it remained. One of the officers asked me my name, which I gave. He then asked me for the names of my companions in the raid. I refused to give them. He tried to persuade me to give the names and I persisted in refusing. He then sent a Sergeant for a bayonet. When it was brought in the Sergeant was ordered by this officer to point the bayonet at my stomach. The same questions as to the names and addresses of my companions were repeated with the same results. The Sergeant was then ordered to turn my face to the wall and point the bayonet to my back. The sergeant then said he would run the bayonet into me if I did not tell. The bayonet was then removed and I was turned round again.
This officer then said that if I still persisted in this attitude he would turn me out to the men in the barrack square and he supposed I knew what that meant with the men in their present temper. I said nothing. He ordered the Sergeants to put me face down on the floor and twist my arm. I was pushed down onto the floor after my handcuffs were removed. When I lay on the floor one of the Sergeants knelt on the small of my back, the other two placed one foot each on my back and left shoulder and the man who knelt on me twisted my right arm, holding it by the wrist with one hand while he held my hair with the other to pull back my head. The arm was twisted from the elbow joint. This continued to the best of my knowledge for 5 minutes. It was very painful. The first officer was standing near my feet and the officer who accompanied him was still present. During the twisting of my arm the first officer continued to question me for the names and addresses of my companions and the names of my Company Commander or any other officer I knew. As I still refused to answer these questions I was let up and handcuffed.
A civilian came in and he repeated the same questions with the same results. He informed me that if I gave all the information I knew I could get off. I was then left in the company of the military policeman. The two officers, three sergeants and civilian all left together. I could certainly identify the officer who directed the proceedings and put the questions. I am not sure of the others except the sergeant with the bayonet. My arm was medically treated by an officer of the Royal Army Medical Corps attached to the North Dublin Union the following morning and by the prison hospital orderly afterwards for 4 or 5 days. I was visited by the Court Martial Officer last night and he read the confirmation of sentence of death by hanging to be executed on Monday next and I make this solemn declaration conscientiously believing same to be true and by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act, 1835.
Declared and subscribed before me at Mountjoy Prison in the County of the City of Dublin, 28 October, 1920
Signed Myles Keogh, A justice of the peace for said County.
Kevin Gerard Barry.”
On Halloween night, 1920 – the night before his execution – Kevin Barry was given a blue-leaded pencil and paper with which to write his last letter : “Dear Boys, I had quite a crowd of visitors today and a crowd from the college prayed and sang outside the gates but perhaps you were there. Well boys, we have seen some good times, and I have always considered myself lucky to have such a crowd of pals. It’s the only thing which makes it hard to go, the fact of leaving you chaps and other friends behind. Now I charge you thank anybody you know for me, who has had masses etc said. Everybody has been awfully decent and I can assure you I appreciate it. Also say just a few more prayers when I go over, and then you can rest. Your pal, Kevin.” As he was writing that last letter, Father Francis Browne SJ, a teacher at Belvedere College, cycled to the Vice Regal lodge in Dublin’s Phoenix Park to plead for Barry’s life, but to no avail.
18-year-old Kevin Barry was hanged in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin on the 1st November 1920, the first republican to be executed since the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Thanks for reading,