Rebels as German Spies

Rebels or German Spies in 20th Century Ireland

Of all the Petticoat Rebels I have written about I think Sidney Gifford is one of my favorites. Perhaps it was because she never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. Like so many other female rebels in 20th century Ireland she accomplished extraordinary goals in a male dominated world.

Irish Freedom paper 2Sidney Gifford was a writer but not just any writer. While it was acceptable for females to write about subjects such as housekeeping and cooking Miss Gifford took another path entirely with pen and paper. She wrote political and considered radical essays about Irish freedom and British tyranny. She did this in not one but 2 countries. Ireland and the  America and took the pen name, John Gifford to make sure her articles were read.

 

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Petticoat Rebels in Ireland?

womens trade unionPETTICOAT REBELS IN IRELAND

Some of the most unlikely rebels were women who grew up in Protestant Unionist households, in other words part of the Anglo Irish elite

.They went to private schools, socialized with those of their own class, lived in large Georgian houses in the same neighborhoods as their peers, supposedly sharing the same values and ideals.

The lines were strictly drawn and it was considered scandalous for women to speak up against establishment, write editorials, or do almost anything outside of homemaking. In fact, after the Easter Rising, Nellie Gifford was thrown out of her mother’s  house. So how did these women become rebels in Ireland?

GovernessSeveral reasons.

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How British Trained Irish Rebels @ Frongoch

HOW THE BRITISH TRAINED IRISH REBELS AT FRONGOCH PRISON

 “The University of Revolution”

After the Easter Rising in 1916, England was faced with what to do with the several thousand men they’d arrested.The answer was Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales.

Frongoch-Internment-Camp_thumbFrongoch Internment Camp, a converted whiskey distillery did not squash the desire for Irish independence among the Irish rebels. 

The dream of a free Ireland continued to thrive in the hearts and souls of  of the men, despite being ripped from their homeland and families and the hardships of prison life. In fact, Frongoch was so beneficial to the War of Independence that it was nicknamed” the University of Revolution.”

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Beer Saved Ireland and How

How Beer Saved Ireland

Beer? Seriously? As my grand daughter would say. How did that happen.

With  the history of the Great Hunger barely hundred years before, I was surprised by this trivia fact. England wrought what some would call heartless vengeance onto her own people once again.

Belfast Air Raids, WWII

Belfast Air Raids, WWII

During the Second World War, Ireland remained neutral, despite the fact Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The mother country was deeply engaged in mortal combat with Germany.

This decision did not bode well with England. In fact, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England was furious and resented Ireland’s neutrality. In an effort to bring Ireland into the war, he implemented several strategic actions by controlling ports and shipping supplies to Ireland. These strategies had disastrous consequences, hitting the Irish population at its poorest.

Churchill at deskWith the European conflict raging, Churchill prepared to deliver several embargoes that would devastate Ireland; that is until she brought out her secret weapon to defend herself. Check out the facts below.

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What was the Easter Rising in 1916 Irish History?

In  commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916  in Ireland, here are just a few of some less known facts, for all my Irish History Buffs out there.

FACT 1:. Did you know that the ‘Easter Rising of 1916’ which catapulted Ireland to its dream of Freedom from England , did not happen on Easter Sunday, but on the day after,  Monday in fact?. Do you know why?.

Arms were to be delivered from Germany to aid the Rebellion,  but the English got wind of the whole thing and the Royal navy sunk the ship, thus losing the cargo of arms..

A counter command, ordered by Eoin Mac Neill cancelled what was supposed to be a non-military parade by the Irish Volunteers on Easter Sunday, This threw all those involved into confusion. Mac Neill had not yet joined the Military Council of the IRB and was not aware that the parade was just a ruse for an actual  Rising until Bulmer Hobson informed him of such. When he found out he was completely uncooperative and wanted nothing to do with it.

When the Rebels in the outlying countryside heard of the counter command they laid down their guns for another day. They were not aware that the IRB planned to ignore the command and  forge ahead with the Rising, after all. This left Dublin in a less than advantageous state of affairs. They were outnumbered and outgunned. Patrick Pearse, who was leading the revolution knew what that meant. A blood sacrifice. He’d known it all along, actually and had accepted his fate for his country.

Constance Markievicz was the only woman arrested who was put into solitary confinement in Kilmainham Gaol. She was sentenced to death but then was  not executed, perhaps because she was a woman.  She wanted to die with her friends and countrymen and was  quoted as saying, “I do wish your lot would have the decency to shoot me!” She was released from jail in 1917 and happily  found a changed Ireland. Public opinion had shifted dramatically and made all the rebels who previously had been despised and hated into heroes and the executed, martyrs.  Constance was a fascinating woman and there is much more to her than this little bit of history.  I’ve dedicated a historical novel to her life and the love story she had with her husband, the Polish Count, to be released sometime in 2016, on the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

In the beginning of the Rising, women in black capes called ‘Shawlees’ threw bottles and anything they could get their hands on at the GPO, where the Rebels had taken up residence. They were aware the rebels previously had lectured and discouraged that Irishmen should not taking up arms for the British army when they themselves were being oppressed by the English here at home. The women were angry and vengeful because they were convinced that the Rebels were trying to keep them from obtaining their checks, sent home from husbands and sons, whom were fighting in WWI.  After all it was a Post Office.

 

Grace Gifford, a painter, married Joseph Mary Plunkett, who was then dying of TB, in Kilmainham Gaol, only hours before Plunkett’s execution. They had originally planned to have a double wedding on Easter Sunday with Plunkett’s sister Geraldine and Thomas Dillon, who did escape execution. One source I read claimed a boy-hood friend of Plunkett’s was one of the guards in Kilmainham Gaol and as Grace cried in her husband’s arms, the friend assured her, Joseph would probably not be executed, for the British would certainly not shoot a dying man. This boyhood ‘chum’ also was ordered to be part of the firing squad, which he refused, resulting in his own arrest.. Grace was misinformed  and he was shot a few hours after they took their vows. To take a crash course in Irish History go here and read 100 Things You Didn’t Know About Irish History now with Bonus Content..

James ConnollyAnother misprint of the Easter Rising that seems to have stuck thanks to the British is that James Connolly was strapped to a chair during his execution because he could not sit up straight. The reality was much worse. He was strapped to a stretcher and leaned upright against the wall while they fired on him! This description was recorded by the Sacristan to the Parish of St James by Fr McCarthy

To keep  from losing your source for more Irish history subscribe to this blog by leaving a comment or checking the box that says notify me of more posts by email.

Warmly, Brighid O’Sullivan

 

 

Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin Ireland

When I walked through the narrow corridors of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland, the first thing I noticed was how cold my feet were. As I walked,down a narrow corridor I felt  the damp air snake up through the hard stone floor,  like spikes  through my shoes,  sending a frigid chill into my blood and bones, all the say to my shins. And this was early October!

Imagine, if you will, what it would have been like as a prisoner at kilmainham and you’ve been sent  here as a child.

You’re scantily clothed, perhaps a thin linen dress or knickers with no stockings. And you have no  shoes. You could be very old or very young or even sick. During hard times and especially during the famine years, people committed crimes  just to get arrested   to get food.  You might have stolen a loaf of bread to fee yourself or your family. The youngest prisoner in Kilmainham Gaol was only eight years old!!!!

Kilmainham Gaol Door
Not very inviting is it?

Walking single file for that is all that can be managed, you look up. The next floor is made up of metal grates and iron railings, the echo of British boots hard over your head.

As you pass each cell, the gaslights flicker above and all around you like fireflies in hell. The fast encroaching walls of thick limestone seem to grow thicker with every step, robbing you of oxygen. Smells of vomit, rotting flesh and feces  drift past from each cell,  punctuated by muffled sobs  and cries of despair. Each cell holds 5-6 people. They have no toilet, no sink, no electricity, with only a small window, high off the ground with bars. Each heavy metal door is recessed into the dark yellow or green wall, which is painted grey around the door like a picture frame. There are 2 holes in each door: one about the height of a man. Guards often would watch prisoners in solitary confinement through a hole shaped like a human eye. The constant surveillance by the enemy drove them mad . A  long metal hinge  covers the door horizontally; at the edge hangs a heavy padlock like the tongue of a dragon.

Grace Gifford Painting on Kilmainham Gaol

Painting in Kilmainham Gaol cell by nee  Grace Gifford, wife of Joseph Plunkett.                Joe  was executed after the 1916 East Rising.

Many of the women were kept in cells off  the Victorian Room which is large and spacious to accommodate exercise.The kitchen is below the floor and the heat  flows up through large metal gridded manholes, similar to road man holes here in America. In one cell, a painting by Grace Gifford/ Plunkett can be seen from the eye hole in the door. Grace was the bride of Joseph Plunkett, one of the Easter Rising Rebels of 1916. They were married in Kilmainham Gaol  just hours before he was executed. Joseph was already dying of tuberculosis but was shot by firing squad just the same, thus making him a martyr to the Irish people, something the British didn’t count on.

The Victorian Room at Kilmainham Gaol.

Chapel in Kilmainham Gaol

Before the British decided firing squads were much easier, hanging was the preferred execution and the gallows was right behind the altar of the chapel.  How convenient eh?

Beware of the Risen People
And Held Ye
Ye that have, bullied and Bribed, By P. Pearce

Patrick Pearce was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. He was a teacher and a poet. He believed a blood sacrifice needed to be made by his generation in order to free Ireland from British Rule. He was right. Before and during the Easter Rising, there was little support from the local Irish. In fact it was actually supposed to happen on Easter Sunday with a load of munitions coming from Germany. The ship sunk and the Rising was canceled but not everyone was in agreement and the Rising of 1916 happened on Easter Monday.

There was not much support of the Rising at first. Shawlies, (ladies in black shawls) demonstrated outside the GPO. They were convinced they were being deprived of their support checks coming from sons and husbands fighting in WWI and they were furious! When it was all over, people jeered and threw vegetables at the Rebels as they were marched through the streets on their way to Kilmainham Gaol. But the Irish bitter taste  for their countrymen didn’t last long.  With the executions of the Irish Rebels,  the Irish were completely stunned.especially when several of the men were already dying. James Connolly had suffered gangrene in his leg during the fighting and had to be strapped into a chair to be shot!  Public opinion drastically changed, siding with the demand to end British rule and enforce an Irish Republic.

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