Sorcha MacMahon was born on this day in 1888 and was one of seven children. Unlike many who had to learn the Irish Language later in life through private instruction or the Gaelic League, Sorcha was raised speaking it. Irish was the family’s first and preferred language and she was more than fluent in it at an early age. When she finished school, she left the family home in Monaghan and headed for Dublin where she began working as a bookkeeper. She also worked for the central branch of Cumann na mBan, a women’s organization dedicated to Irish independence. She was the group’s secretary and she was trained in nursing and first aid – skills that she passed on to many of the other women. Many said that she was one of the most efficient and devoted members of the group.
Her dedication to Irish independence led Sorcha straight into the Easter Rising of 1916 and when it was over, she took a position that had her working directly with Michael Collins for years. For more about this brave woman, please CLICK HERE.
Over the last few years interest in the roles that women played throughout Irish history has finally picked up. We now know that there were far more women who took part in the Easter Rising than previously thought. Estimates have put their numbers anywhere from seventy-seven to several hundred and many are finally getting the recognition that they have deserved for so long. Sorcha MacMahon was one of those women and without her, the 1916 uprising may have been very different indeed.
Margaret Skinnider described the Easter Rising like this. “Every shot we fired was a declaration to the world that Ireland, a small country but large in our hearts, was demanding her independence.” Her words might not have had the same certainty and grand bravado if she had been writing while the bullets were flying…but then again, I am quoting Margaret Skinnider so maybe they would have. That utter devotion to Ireland nearly did her in on this day in 1916.
Love him or hate him, Eamon De Valera was perhaps the most influential man in Irish History, despite the fact that he was born in the United States. He helped create the political machine of modern Ireland and his influence is still being felt (and untangled) today, forty-one years after his death.
On this day in Irish history one of the bravest Irish women bid her last farewell to her beloved Ireland. Elizabeth O’Farrell passed away on June 25th, 1957, forty-one years after completing a dangerous mission that many thought would kill her. In 1916, Ms. O’Farrell wore a red cross and carried a white flag through raging battle zones to offer the surrender of the leaders of the Easter Rising. As she left the makeshift rebel headquarters in Moore Street her friend Sheila fell into hysterics, sure that Elizabeth would be killed on this mission.
I haven’t written much about my month-long journey through Ireland culminating with the Centenary because to be frank, I am left speechless by most of it. I have no words to convey how much it changed me and how blessed I was to connect with so many amazing people. Many of the greatest moments of my life happened on this trip, including being one of the Constance Markievicz 1916 Societies standard bearers near the forefront of the centenary parade(s). I still can’t believe that happened and I owe the honor to a couple of incredible women named Anna Harvey and Emma Radford.