This post is the first in our Decade of Centenaries Series that will run over the coming years. This series will highlight archival material within the UCD Cultural Heritage Collections that relates to this momentous time in Irish history. Some material will be well known to researchers, academics and the public. But other material will be ‘unknown’ shedding new light on to the ordinary people involved in these historic years. Let’s begin!
The forms featured in this blog are from the Republican Soldiers’ Casualty Committee Archive. They record the deaths of members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the 1st Dublin Brigade Area and were submitted to the Republican Soldiers’ Casualty Committee in July 1928. The deaths occurred throughout the period from the 1916 Easter Rising to the aftermath of the Civil War. The forms relate mainly to members of 2nd Battalion but includes forms for some 1st, 3rd and 4th Battalion, ‘Friendly Citizens’ and members of the Irish Citizen Army and Na Fianna Éireann.
The forms above are for three Irish Citizen Army volunteers who were killed during the 1916 Easter Rising. The first, John Hurley, was wounded in the Four Courts and died later in the Richmond Hospital. The second, John O’Reilly, is recorded as being ‘shot after surrender’ in City Hall on 24 April 1916. The third, Arthur Weekes (Neill), was German by birth and had worked as chef in the Shelbourne Hotel.
The ‘Circumstances of Death’ provides vital information about how the individual died. Arthur Gleeson died in 1918 as a result of taking part in the ‘Big Hunger Strike’ in Mount Joy Prison. Martin Savage was killed while taking part in the ambush of Lord French in Ashtown, Co. Dublin the end of 1919. It was not only soldiers that were killed during these revolutionary years, Professor John Carolan was shot in his house on Upper Drumcondra Road by a raiding party. They believed he was sheltering Volunteers.
On 25 May 1921 the IRA took control of the Custom House on the quays in Dublin’s city centre. The Custom House was home to the British administration in Ireland so was a prime target for the IRA in their bid to damage and reduce Britain’s control in Ireland. The 2nd Battalion led the raid and the O’Reilly brothers, Patrick and Stephen, were members of that battalion. While the Custom House burned the two brothers tried to escape being killed in the process.
As the Civil War gripped Ireland many atrocities were carried out against foes who had once been friends. In Whitehall, Dublin two Na Fianna Eireann members were picked up by Pro-Treaty forces taken to a place called ‘The Thatch’ in Yellow Lane and were shot. They were Alf Colley aged 18 and Seán Cole aged 19. Their deaths are recorded in this collection.
Those who died as a result of the after effects of taking part in combat are also recorded. Ciaran McMenamy had joined the IRA in 1919 and was respected by his fellow comrades for his ‘untiring fidelity to the cause’. McMenamy passed away in 1924 as a result of consumption he developed while in prison. George Dillon was only 20 years old when he passed away in August 1924. His form records that he ‘became insane during his imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs in 1922′. After being moved to a number of asylums, Dillon died from tuberculosis in Richmond Asylum, Dublin.
Signatures of the committee can be seen at the bottom of the forms. They included the Battalion Chairman which changed depending on the battalion. Oscar Traynor, the Executive Chairman and Harry Colley the Honorary Secretary.
There are 72 forms in total and each one opens a window, ever so slightly, onto some of the lives lost during Ireland’s revolutionary years.