This addition to our Decade of Centenaries series focuses on a small collection belonging to Caitlín Brugha, member of the Gaelic League, active member of the 1916 Rising, Sinn Féin TD and wife of Cathal Brugha.
Caitlín Brugha, was born Catherine Mary Kingston, on 9 December 1879 at Birr, Co. Offaly. She was educated at the Sacred Heart convent in Roscrea. In 1910 she moved to Dublin with her family. She had been a Gaelic League organizer in Birr and rejoined the organization in Dublin. While an active member of the organisation, Caitlín met her husband, Cathal Brugha. Cathal was born in Dublin on 18 July 1874 with the name Charles William St John Burgess. Caitlín and Cathal married on 8 February 1912 and went on to have six children. Cathal was a partner in the Lalor brothers’ company, a candle manufacturer, but his time was increasingly taken up with political activities through his membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Volunteers.
The Constitution of the Irish Volunteers was adopted at the first Volunteers Convention held in the Abbey Theatre on 25 October 1914. This constitution had to be drafted and then presented to members of the Volunteers at this Convention. The General Draft Constitution below has a different layout to the final one approved by the Volunteers, but the content and feeling are the same. A copy of the final draft can be read here.
Caitlin held similarly staunch republican views to her husband and was deeply opposed to the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921. The documents below, both in English and Irish, set out draft resolutions put forward by Anti-Treaty followers in relation to the implementation of the Treaty. It clearly states:
3. That the “Articles of Agreement” signed in London do not represent the true desires of the Irish People, that as an agre ment obtained under duress we repudiate it, that it is not within the competency of DAIL EIREANN to give it legal sanction, that the British Parliament has no power to make any laws binding upon Ireland, and that therefore this pretended Treaty between Ireland and Britain is null and void…
Sadly, on 7 July 1922 Cathal was killed in an ambush as he fought on the republican side during the Irish civil war. At the request of his widow, republican women alone acted as chief mourners, forming a guard of honour at his funeral. This left Caitlin to raise their five girls and one boy on her own. Caitlin succeeded her husband as Sinn Féin representative for Waterford in 1923 and 1927. In common with the other members of her party, she abstained from the Dáil in protest against the oath of allegiance. She resigned from the Dáil in 1927, having served on the executive of Sinn Féin. She then devoted her time to her family and to her drapery business, Kingston’s Ltd, which she had established in 1924.
Caitlin kept her Republican views for the rest of her life and her family were known for their anti-British views. Caitlin Brugha died in Dublin on 1 December 1959 and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.
- This post was researched and written by Meadhbh Murphy, UCD Archives.
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Her daughter, Nessa, wrote in a letter to the Irish Times in 1987 that her mother had established the drapery business “without any State support whatsoever”. During the Emergency period in 1941, a German spy named Gunther Schutz was arrested at her Rathmines home after escaping from Mountjoy prison disguised as a woman. A 1965 Irish Times article gives a brief history of the business which began in Nassau Street, then transferred to the rebuilt area of O’Connell Street in 1927 where her husband had been fatally wounded in 1922 and a Grafton Street premises opened in 1952. Interestingly, Oscar Traynor is listed as one of the early directors of the firm. The famous shop slogan was “A Kingston Shirt Makes All The Difference”.