Dr. Ada English was a strong woman, a fervent Nationalist, a prominent member of Cumann na mBan, and one of the first female psychiatrists in Ireland. Like her peer Dr. Kathleen Lynn, Dr. English devoted her spare time to politics and to healing and aiding the Irish Volunteers who were fighting for a free Ireland. Her story is not as well known as Dr Lynn’s however, since Ada was not in Dublin during the Easter Rising. Many political women of Ireland’s revolutionary periods have slowly vanished throughout the years, and Dr. Ada English has not been an exception to that unfortunate trend, though she should be.
The Bulfin family has a very respectable presence in the historic fight for Irish freedom. Many generations of the family fought for Nationalist and Republican causes, both inside and outside of Ireland. One branch ended up in Argentina, which is where Catalina Bulfin and her brother Eamon were born.
On October 28th in 1922, a shot rang out through the small village of Mullinahone, in County Tipperary. That shot, and the resulting death it caused, is widely considered to be the first assassination of Ireland’s bitter Civil War – but even now, very little is known about the killing, the victim, or the perpetrators.
‘Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923‘ was the name of the online class that I just completed thanks to the partnership between Trinity College and Futurelearn. It certainly lived up to its title, but not in the way I expected. Gone were the heroic tales of Patrick Pearse, Constance Markievicz, or Michael Collins. In their places were the voices, letters, and stories of the average person, struggling to get through his or her life in Ireland during periods of protracted conflict. It featured soldiers and volunteers pretty equally and it was really well constructed. I had a fascinating six weeks and I can’t even begin to tell you how much inspiration it gave me or how many historical events have a new twist (or ten) to think about after taking the course. Thousands of people worldwide took this class online, so I guess the first thing that must be said is way to go Ireland – people like you! And the next is a huge thank you to the teachers, mentors and researchers because this class was really enjoyable and educational.
It’s rare that a woman can juggle an immense amount of political power, a restaurant of her own and a family of four children. But Jennie Wyse Power did all this and more, at a time when most women weren’t even getting an education. She was an Irish superwoman and an unapologetic suffragist who passed away on this day in 1941.
Few political and military leaders span the spectrum like Michael Collins did. He was a brilliant strategist, and went from an IRA guerrilla leader who could pretty much do anything to a reluctant politician and a commander in the National Army.
Mick was used as a pawn and a scapegoat by Eamon De Valera in the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations that resulted in the partition of Ireland in 1921. He wanted no part in the political process but was sent anyway despite his fervent objections. He knew this agreement would bring chaos and anger to the Isle and was personally against it. Still, his name was signed and when another signatory mentioned that by signing it, he may have ended his own political career, Collins replied with “I may have signed my actual death warrant.” He was right. Continue reading
On this day in 1897 Thomas Bernadine Barry was born in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, one of a whopping 14 children. Eighteen years later or so he joined the British Army – an unlikely move that would aid in his future as one of the most respected and strategic IRA commanders in history. While serving in the British army he received news of the 1916 Rising but was unable to return to Ireland until the war he was fighting for Britain had come to an end in 1919.
Upon his return, he got involved in the Volunteer movement. One year later became the commander of the Flying Column 3rd West Cork brigade. He had asked for total autonomy in decision-making and it was given, with a warning that any success or failure would be his responsibility alone. (No pressure!) He then began planning the Kilmichael ambush, a significant political and strategic move that became a touchstone in the War of Independence.
The ambush occurred one week after the first Bloody Sunday. (Yes, I said the first – there have been multiple, unfortunately) It boosted IRA morale and garnered even more respect for Tom Barry and his tactics. It also brought him to the attention of Michael Collins, who was suddenly aware that he had both a strong ally and some fierce competition.
Michael Collins called for Barry to come to both Dublin and London during the Treaty negotiations. It is said that one of the first things the British wanted was Tom Barry himself. Michael Collins refused, though he later claimed that he had been tempted to give Barry to them. When the treaty was ratified – over Barry’s objections due to the partitioning of the Island – he continued to fight on the behalf of the Anti-Treaty IRA until he was imprisoned by Collins’ Irish Free State Army. He escaped and continued to command in various locations until the Anti-Treaty IRA was defeated and he was captured once again.
Upon his release, he spent a term as the IRA Chief-of-Staff and served as general superintendent of the Cork Harbor Commission for nearly 40 years. Still an unrepentant Republican, at the age 62 he traveled to the United States in the hopes of gaining funds and support for a united Ireland. His one wish and lifetime goal was to end the partition of Ireland. He died in 1980 and was buried at St. Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork. Though St. Finbarr’s cemetery has one of the largest Republican plots in the area, Tom Barry is not interned in it but instead is buried nearby.