Author Topic: Did Telefis Eireann overlook the Catholic inspiration of the 1916 heroes?  (Read 692 times)

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Offline John Grace

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Did Telefis Eireann overlook the Catholic inspiration of the 1916 heroes?

Friday, 29th April 1966

1 2 3   

While deserved praise has been given to Telefis Eireann for the excellent technical coverage of the 1916 Golden Jubilee celebrations and the special features televised such as ‘Insurrection’ the question is asked did Telefis Eireann sufficiently stress the Catholic life and Catholic inspiration of the 1916 leaders and their religious idealism? Did Telefis Eireann adequately record the work of priests and religious during and after the rising especially that of the Capuchin Fathers whose devotion has gone down into the stirring history of the period?

     Pearse was there kneeling and the light showing on his face as he clasped the crucifix," said Father Leonard...   
Complaint has been made that Telefis Eireann omitted in some instances to bring out the spiritual depth of the men who faced defeat and death so nobly. It is now desirable to do so because the memory of some of the leaders, notably James Connolly, has been maligned in the past.

The spiritual qualities of the leaders and their deep faith are shown by further facts about their last days, given below, which have drama and poignancy. These have been made available to the Catholic Standard by Rev. Fr. Leonard, O.F.M.Cap., Guardian, Capuchin Friary, Church Street, Dublin, from where self sacrificing friars including Father Aloysius, Father Augustine and Father Albert went to bring succour to the 1916 heroes.

Father Leonard during the past week appeared twice on Telefis Eireann Newsbeat and in answer to Frank Hall told of little known incidents which throw new light on the leaders. Through the courtesy of Father Leonard we are also privileged to publish on this page a photograph of the crucifix which Pearse kissed and venerated on the morning of his execution on May 3, along with Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh.


Fr Leonard Coughlan with the crucifix Pearse venerated before his execution on 3rd May 1916 ©

Interviewed by the Editor of the Catholic Standard, Father Leonard said that Father Aloysius and Father Augustine of Church Street were called to Kilmainham jail to minister to Pearse, Clarke and MacDonagh on the morning of their execution.

Father Aloysius, walking in the corridor saw a light shining through the spy hole in Pearse’s cell. "Father Aloysius looked in. Pearse was there kneeling and the light showing on his face as he clasped the crucifix," said Father Leonard.


This is the same crucifix which is seen held by Father Leonard on the top right of this page. This was the crucifix which Father Aloysius had brought with him to the jail and which he had left with Patrick Pearse earlier. Pearse scratched his initials; ‘P.M.P.’ for the Irish form of his name, on the back of the crucifix as a memento for Father Aloysius.

The crucifix has since been preserved in the Church Street Friary and Father Leonard says that it was used by Father Aloysius at missions.

The cross is of wood and the figures of Our Lord, Our Lady and the skull and crossbones of brass. Father Aloysius and Father Augustine were not permitted on May 3, 1916 to stay with the condemned men, Pearse, Clarke and MacDonagh until their execution but had to leave Kilmainham jail between 2 and 3 am

Offline John Grace

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Did Telefis Eireann overlook the Catholic inspiration of the 1916 heroes?
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2013, 09:26:29 AM »
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    Father Aloysius protested, says Brian Mary Mac Thormaid in the recently published "Deathless Glory." That he was not allowed to remain with Pearse up to the time of execution, and his protest was so strong that he was permitted to accompany Connolly executed on May 12, and be present at Kilmainham with him to the end.

    Following the protest priests were permitted to be with the remaining leaders up to the moment of execution.

    As told in ‘Deathless Glory’ Connolly requested to see Father Aloysius but before going Father Aloysius had to promise that he would act only as a priest. When Connolly was informed by Father Aloysius that it was only as a priest that he could see him, Connolly said:

    "It is as a priest I want to see you. I have seen and heard of the brave conduct of priests and nuns during the week and I believe that they are the best friends of the workers."

    That was on May 1, twelve days before his execution.

    Speaking on Newsbeat, Father Leonard referred to the Telefis Eireann ‘Insurrection’ feature on Connolly. A wonderful picture showed Connolly in the ambulance when he was taken from Dublin Castle to Kilmainham for execution. He was shown alone except for the guards, sad, good television but historically not correct.

         I have seen and heard of the brave conduct of priests and nuns ...   

    Father Leonard said that on the morning of May 12 word was sent to Church Street asking Father Aloysius to go to see Connolly. Father Aloysius heard his confession, gave him Holy Communion and went with him in the ambulance to Kilmainham and was there when Connolly was executed.

    Father Leonard told for the first time a story of Con Colbert from Athea, Co. Limerick, one of thirteen children, who became a pioneer in 1906, never smoked or drank after that was a daily communicant and a model for youth (he was 28).

    As he was being led to his death, accompanied by Father Augustine, his hands were tied behind his back and a cloth tied over his eyes. As the soldier pinned a small piece of white paper about four or five inches square on to his coat over his breast Con Colbert said: "Wouldn’t it be better to put that a little higher, nearer the heart."

    Said Father Leonard: "It was not irreverent but it was Colbert. He was one of the finest of them all. On Good Friday he was in a friend’s house. They offered him food and all he would take was a bit of dry bread and a cup of black tea in memory of the sufferings of Christ."


    It has already been recorded that the soldier who was to bind Con Colbert’s arms before execution grasped Con’s right hand and shook it warmly with affection and tears – "a warm hearted soldier who pionioned Con’s arms gently," said Father Augustine.

    Father Leonard told a touching story of the execution of Michael Mallin of the Citizens army whose noble, courageous, spiritual bearing led to the conversion of the Countess Markievicz. When the military lorry came to take Mrs Mallin to see her husband before execution she took the children with her.

    Near the time for departure she returned to the cell to say a final goodbye to her husband and left the children in the guard room. One of them, Una, aged 6, was frightened and had no clear idea of what was happening. But she remembers one of the British soldiers going to her, putting his arms around her and saying "My poor little child."

    Michael Mallin wrote to his wife, "I would like you to dedicate Una to the service of God and St Joseph" and again he wrote "Una my little one be a nun." Una did and is Mother Dolores, a Loreto Sister in Spain who came home for the jubilee celebrations.

    Mallin expressed similar sentiments for the future of his sons and two became Jesuits. "Why they did not become Capuchins, I do not know," Father Leonard jokingly.

    Offline John Grace

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    Did Telefis Eireann overlook the Catholic inspiration of the 1916 heroes?
    « Reply #2 on: April 01, 2013, 09:27:57 AM »
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    Father Leonard said that from the television portrait it was inferred that Sean MacDiarmada did not go to Mass. If that was so he was not the first man who refused to go to Mass because of a dispute with a priest however illogical that was.

    But the fact was that Sean MacDiarmada was a deeply religious man, as was evidenced by his last letter to his brothers and sisters in which he wrote: "By the time this reaches you, I will with God’s mercy have joined in heaven my father and mother as well as my dear friends who have been shot during the week. I have priests with me almost constantly in the past 24 hours. One dear old friend of mine, Dr Paddy Browne of Maynooth stayed with me up to a very late hour last night. I feel a happiness the like of which I never experienced in my life before and a feeling that I could not describe. God bless and guard you all and my the Lord have mercy on my soul."

         Father Leonard recalled that the late Father Albert wrote a wonderful description of the death of Sean Heuston ...   
    Father Leonard recalled that the late Father Albert wrote a wonderful description of the death of Sean Heuston who was executed on Sunday, May 7, and he read an extract from this account which was published in last issue of the Catholic Standard. Father Albert was of Protestant English stock and he had tremendous interest in all the leaders.


    A British captain speaking to Father Aloysius said: "Father Aloysius they are the bravest and cleanest lot of men I have ever met." They were, said Father Leonard, brave. They were clean in the eyes of the British captain and they were clean too in the eyes of God. Thanking Frank Hall for the help he had given, Father Leonard said that people were upset that there was little said about the religious faith of the leaders in the previous week’s television programmes. "I think we owe it to the young people of this country to put the spiritual aspect of the lines of these men before them as an ideal to follow."

    © The Catholic Herald

    Offline John Grace

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    Did Telefis Eireann overlook the Catholic inspiration of the 1916 heroes?
    « Reply #3 on: April 01, 2013, 09:38:12 AM »
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    Sean Heuston
    How Sean Heuston Died,
    by Father Albert O.F.M. Cap,
    (The Capuchin Annual, 1966).

    Sean Heuston ©

    I am glad to be able to comply with your request for "some particulars about the closing scenes of Sean Heuston’s life." Shortly after Easter Week, 1916, I gave a rather full account for publication in The Catholic Bulletin, but owing to the censor restrictions it could not appear in print. The following is a brief summary of what came under my notice on Sunday night, May 7th. Father Augustine and myself were notified that we would be required at Kilmainham Gaol the following morning as four of the leaders in the Rising were to be executed.

    At 1.30 am a military motor car came for us to Church St., and on our arrival at Kilmainham we were brought to the wing of the jail in which our friends were confined.

    Father Augustine went to Eamon Kent’s cell and I to Com. M. Mallin’s. I did not remain long as he was on his knees in prayer with two friends. Having visited Con. Colbert and Eamon Kent, I went to Sean Heuston’s cell at about 3.20 am. He was kneeling beside a small table with his Rosary beads in his hand and on the table with a little piece of candle and some letters which he had just written to some relatives and friends. He wore his overcoat as the morning was extremely cold and none of these men received those little comforts that are provided for even the greatest criminals while awaiting sentence of death. During the last quarter of an hour we knelt in that cell in complete darkness, as the little piece of candle had burned out, but no word of complaint escaped his lips. His one thought was to prepare with all the fervour and earnestness of his soul to meet Our Divine Saviour and His Sweet Virgin Mother to Whom he was about to offer up his young life for the freedom and independence of his beloved country. He had been to Confession and had received Holy Communion early that morning and was not afraid to die. He awaited the end not only with the calmness and fortitude which peace of mind brings to noble souls, but during the last quarter of an hour he spoke of soon meeting again Padraig MacPhiarais and the other leaders who had already gone before him. We said together short acts of faith, hope, contrition and love; we prayed together to St. Patrick, St. Brigid, St. Columcille and all the Saints of Ireland; we said many times that very beautiful little ejaculatory prayer: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. This appealed very much to him. But though he prayed with such fervour for courage and strength in the ordeal that was at hand, Ireland and his friends were close to his soul.

    In his last letter to his sister – a Dominican nun – he wrote:

    Let there be no talk of "foolish enterprises." I have no vain regrets. If you really love me, teach the children the history of their own land and teach them that the cause of Caitlin ni h-Uallachain never dies. Ireland shall be free from the centre to the sea as soon as the people of Ireland believe in the necessity for Ireland’s freedom and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to obtain it.

    In his last message to me he said:

    Remember me to the boys of the Fianna. Remember me to Miceal Staines and to his brothers and to all the boys at Blackhall Street.


    Fr Albert O.F.M. Cap. ©

    At about 3.45 am a British soldier knocked at the door of the cell and told us time was up. We both walked out together down to the end of the large open space from which a corridor leads to the gaol yards. Here his hands were tied behind his back, a cloth tied over his eyes and a small piece of white paper about four or five inches square, pinned on to his coat over his heart. Just then we saw Father Augustine with Com. M. Mallin come towards us from the cell where they had been. We were now told to be ready. I had a small cross in my hand, and though blindfolded, Sean bent his head and kissed the Crucifix this was the last thing his lips touched in life. We now proceeded towards the yard where the execution was to take place, my left arm was linked in his right, while the British soldier who had handcuffed and blindfolded him walked on his left. As we walked slowly along we repeated most of the prayers that we had been saying in his cell. On our way we passed a group of soldiers. These I afterwards learned were awaiting Com. Mallin who was following us. Having reached a second yard I saw there another group of military armed with rifles, some of them were standing and some sitting or kneeling. A soldier directed Sean and myself to a corner of the yard, a short distance from the outer wall of the prison. Here there was a box (seemingly a soap box) and Sean was told to sit down on it. He was perfectly calm and said with me for the last time My Jesus, mercy.

    I scarcely had moved away a few yards when a volley went off, and this noble soldier of Irish freedom fell dead. I rushed over to anoint him. His whole face seemed transformed, and lit up with a grandeur and brightness that I had never before noticed.

    Later on his remains and those of the others were conveyed to Arbour Hill military detention barracks, where they were buried in the outer yard, in a trench with holds the mortal remains of Ireland’s noblest and bravest sons. Never before did I realise that man could fight so bravely, and die so beautifully and so fearlessly as did the heroes of Easter Week. On the morning of Sean Heuston’s death, I would have given the world to have been in his place, he died in such a noble and sacred cause and went forth to meet……………..*

    *Rest of letter is missing.

       Capuchin priest Fr Aloysius administered the last rites of the Catholic Church to Pearse and Connolly and liaised with General Maxwell. Read his diary of those events here (Rich Text Format - 50k)

    Offline John Grace

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    « Reply #4 on: April 01, 2013, 09:42:33 AM »
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  • Quote
    By the Late Father Aloysius, OFM.Cap

    BBC Online - History

    ©2001 British Broadcasting Corporation

    The notes which follow were hastily jotted down by Father Aloysius shortly after those stirring days whose story they tell in a faithful, factual way. They were never intended for publication. Our readers will be grateful to Father Aloysius as we are for allowing these excerpts to be published in the Annual, for they make a moving story and are at the same time a valuable contribution to Ireland’s history.

    Editor Capuchin Annual.


    Easter Monday, April 24th 1916

    Said Mass in Gloucester Street Convent at 8.30. On way to convent noticed some Fianna scouts on bicycles. Passing up Gloucester Street near the convent PH Pearse and another Volunteer (I have since been told he was Willie Pearse) rode past me on bicycles. Pearse did not see me. He seemed in a hurry to gain some objective. He wore a loose overcoat or mackintosh, which covered baggage or provisions. He and his companion had come into Gloucester Street from Rutland Square.

    We were at dinner when we heard the rifle fire and soon word came that Mrs Foster’s little boy had  been shot outside the Father Mathew Hall; and shortly afterwards a man wounded in the hand was brought into the convent and a number of children, crying, came for shelter. By one o’clock or one thirty the Volunteers had barricades erected in Church Street and were at their posts.
    The children engaged in the Father Mathew Feis competition were for safety got under the stage, and sent home according as it was considered safe to send them.

    From time to time volleys of firing could be heard. Reports that the Castle had been taken by the Volunteers and that the powder magazine in the Park had been blown up were freely circulated. The news that Sean Connolly had been shot and that the GPO had been taken by the Volunteers also reached us.
    An Australian doctor who happened to be in town was passing through Church Street. I was standing at the church gate. He spoke to me and told me he was a doctor and would render any assistance needed. He looked after the wounded man who had been brought to the convent.

    Monday Night
    After midnight the firing became very violent and sounded as if it were at our very gates in Bow Street. The Volunteers on guard at Bow Street rang the bell. They told us that the military were in Bow Street: but the echoes, I believe deceived them; and I understood the next day that the firing in the night was from an attack made by the Volunteers on a military detachment with ammunition on the Quays.

    Tuesday 25th
    Firing at intervals. The help of some of the Fathers was solicited from Richmond Hospital and the Union. Fathers Jarlath, Albert and Sebastian went and remained in attendance for the rest of the week.
    The Father Mathew Hall was taken over as a hospital by the Volunteers; and the wounded received First Aid from the members of Cumann na mBan. Serious cases were at the earliest opportunity conveyed to Richmond Hospital. Some of the Fathers were constantly in or near the Hall, at call in case of emergency.

    Wedneday 26
    Visited the Richmond Hospital and the Union; and returning, heard confessions in the house in North Brunswick Street adjoining Moore’s coach factory. The Volunteers had possession of the houses in Church Street, and had established communications between them. The windows were protected with sandbags, behind which the Volunteers were in position. The wildest rumours were in circulation, e.g. that the Germans had landed outside Dublin and were marching on the city.

    Thursday 27th
    Firing – rifle volleys and machine gun fire – at intervals. Fires at, as far as could be judged, the Post Office, Clery’s etc., in O’Connell Street. A number of wounded were in the Main Hall (Father Mathew Hall). Some prisoners were there also, including a DMP and soldiers from Linenhall Barracks. The soldiers worked at filling sandbags for the barricades.

    Friday 28th
    Machine guns and hand grenades. There seemed to be a great deal of firing at sea. Could hear the heavy boom of cannon. Perhaps the firing was for fog signals.
    Food was getting scarce. Almost impossible to get milk. All through, the Volunteers did their best to facilitate the bringing up of provisions.
    A sad tragedy has taken place at the Union. Young Dominic O’Donohue and a companion had gone to the top of the clock tower to see the fires in the city, and both were killed by military snipers from Broadstone.

    Friday Night and Saturday 29th
    From about ten o’clock the firing became intense; and all night and all through Saturday until about three or four in the afternoon there was no cessation. Machine guns, bombs, hand grenades and rifles were in continuous use. Great fires blazed in O’Connell Street direction as well as at Linenhall Barracks. A great number of wounded were attended in the Father Mathew Hall.

    About 4 pm Father Augustine returned from the Hall where he had been attending the injured and wounded and informed us that the situation was looking serious and ugly. There were some very bad cases in the Hall and the girls of Cumann na mBan were getting nervous and excited, as it seemed certain the Hall would be shelled. The military had by this time got to North King Street and were firing on the barricade at the Father Mathew Hall.

    Seeing the seriousness of the situation, Father Augustine had sent Micheal O Foghludha with a white flag to secure a doctor, but he was detained by the military. Father Augustine sent a second messenger (Doyle) with a white flag and a Red Cross flag and a note to the Colonel in charge, stating he was a priest, in charge at the Hall, that the Hall was being used as a hospital and that there were serious sick cases there. The messenger had the favour of a few minutes interview at the barrier. The reply was oral – to the effect that the military would grant none of the amenities of war but would treat them as outlaws and rebels.
    We consulted as to what should be done and decided that Father Augustine and myself should go and seek an interview. Accompanied by Doyle with a white flag, we both proceeded to the barrier at North King Street and asked to be taken to the Colonel. We were led between two soldiers with fixed bayonets as far as the new Corporation cottages, where we awaited the convenience of the Colonel (Col. Taylor),

    While three large companies of soldiers were being marched through North King Street. An armoured car and an ambulance stood by.
    Colonel Taylor listened to our statement and then unceremoniously walked away. When we realised he was not returning, we asked again to be taken to him. A long time had elapsed. It seemed about an hour: but probably our anxiety made the time appear longer than it actually was. We then saw Colonel Taylor near the corner of Church Street. He coolly informed us that a truce had been arranged.
    Just then Micheal O Foghludha came up to complain that the soldiers had prevented him from going for the doctor, as he had been directed, and had detained him. While he spoke a few shots were fired by the Volunteers, from the houses in Church Street between North King Street and North Brunswick Street. The Colonel thereupon, speaking brutally, told Foley to stop the firing or he would shoot him, and ordered him over to the other side of the street where he stood covered by the revolver of the Colonel.

    Foley, whose voice was very hoarse and almost exhausted, tried to shout to the Volunteers to stop the firing; that there was a truce, and that if any other shots were fired he was to be shot. Father Augustine then went forward and appealed to them to cease firing. He explained that the Colonel had informed us that there was a truce and that Pearse had advised the men to surrender.

    The Volunteers refused to believe Pearse’s communication was genuine. They said it was probably a ruse of the military. However, they agreed to keep a truce for the night; and we undertook to see Pearse next morning at the earliest moment and to learn from him if the advice had been tendered by him. After chatting for some time then with the Volunteers we went to Father Mathew Hall and informed the nursing staff that they could go home. Arrangements were made for the transfer of the patients to Richmond Hospital. Some of the medical staff from Richmond Hospital were in the Hall and saw to the arrangements.

    Sunday April 30th
    After Mass (said about 7 am) Father Augustine and myself walked to the Castle to seek a permit to see Pearse. We saw Brig.Gen. Lowe. He received us in a very kindly and gentlemanly manner, and gave us the permit. He suggested that we should see Connolly, also, as he was responsible for the Citizen Army; and he took us to the room in the Castle hospital where Connolly was a patient. He asked Connolly in our presence if his signature to the letter advising surrender was genuine. His reply, was “Yes – to prevent needless slaughter.” He added, however that he spoke only for his own men.

    The General then put his motor and chauffeur at our disposal, to take us to Arbour Hill to see Pearse, and suggested that after seeing him and arranging with the Church Street Volunteers we should return and convey the message to Jacob’s factory where the Volunteers were still holding out and to which he had been unable to convey Pearse’s message. He said that it would be a great charity to do this as otherwise great loss of life would ensue.

    Father Augustine occupied the interior of the motor. I sat with the chauffeur outside, as protection for him through the Volunteer districts.
    When we reached Arbour Hill, Pearse informed us that the signature was genuine and given to prevent needless bloodshed. The following was the text of the letter:

    “In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at Headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the Commandants of the various districts in the City and Country will order their commands to lay down arms.
    P.H. Pearse
    29th April, 1916”

    This was also signed by James Connolly but with the proviso that he signed only for the men under his own command.
    When we reached Church Street we learned that Father Columbus had already obtained a copy of Pearse’s letter and had brought it under the notice of the Volunteers in Church Street, who had surrendered. The motor car then proceeded in the direction of Jacob's.

    We left the car near the last military barrier a little above Whitefriars’ Street and Father Augustine and myself walked to the factory. We were admitted through a door in Peter Street and brought through the factory to Commandant MacDonagh. He took us to a room where we met Major McBride. Miss O’Farrell had already arrived with a copy of Pearse’s letter similar to the one we bore.

    Major McBride said that if any attempt were made to counsel surrender, he would oppose it with all the strength he could command. Thomas MacDonagh said that the letter of Pearse could have no weight as he was in custody and not a free man when he wrote it. As Pearse and Connolly both were under arrest the chief command devolved on him, and no one else had any right to issue commands or enter into negotiations. Although he was exceedingly courteous and agreeable with us he said he could not enter into negotiations with anyone except with the General Officer commanding the military. He was prepared to meet him for parley in the factory or anywhere he might wish. MacDonagh also expressed the view that they could hold out for some weeks.

    They had ample provisions and ammunition and were well protected. He believed that a peace conference was being held or on the eve of being held and that Rumania had come in on the side of Germany; that the news was being kept from us, and that the fact of their continuing for a week or two to hold out would necessitate their case going before the peace conference.

    We undertook to convey his message to General Lowe, and returned in the car to the Castle. When we informed General Lowe of the result of our interview with Commandant MacDonagh, he asked us if we would accompany him to Headquarters. Accordingly we drove to the Infirmary Road Headquarters of General Maxwell. General Lowe, Father Augustine and I think another officer occupied the interior. I sat outside with the chauffeur.

    After consultation at Headquarters, General Lowe said he was prepared to meet MacDonagh, and gave us a letter expressing his readiness to meet Mr MacDonagh at the north east corner of St Patrick’s Park at 12 noon or 1 pm (I am not certain which hour) and further undertaking to give MacDonagh safe conduct back to where he came from if he so desired.

    With this message we returned in the General’s car to Jacob’s. MacDonagh read the   document and said he would meet the General. We accompanied MacDonagh and a Volunteer. General Lowe approached at the appointed hour, leaving his car in Bride Street. He stood with MacDonagh at the railing. Father Augustine stood with the Volunteer who had accompanied us. Crowds were moving up the square and  I appealed to them to withdraw. They did so and the square was cleared.

    After parleying for some time General Lowe and Commandant MacDonagh withdrew to the car and held further parleys seated in it. After a while they left the car. MacDonagh told us he had decided to advise his men to surrender; that an armistice was arranged until 3 pm. Meanwhile he was to see his men at Jacob’s, South Dublin Union, and Marrowbone Lane and to let the General know the decision at 3 pm. We then thought to return to Church Street. But General Lowe appealed to us to see the thing out, that we might and probably would be the means of preventing a great deal of bloodshed. The motor was placed at our disposal and a permit given to MacDonagh to pass to the various centres of Volunteers.

    We proceeded to Jacob’s, where MacDonagh held a council of officers in command. From there we went to the South Dublin Union. Father Augustine sat in the car with MacDonagh, I sat in front with a white flag consisting of an apron of one of Jacob’s workers, tied to a brush handle. Near Basin Lane a barricade was erected across the main street. We were obliged to leave the care and proceed on foot to South Dublin Union. There we were admitted and saw Eamonn Ceannt. After a consultation between Thomas MacDonagh and the officers, it was agreed that surrender was the wisest plan. We returned to Jacob’s.

    As we were returning to the barricade for the car, one of the soldiers at the barricade fired, but fortunately missed us. Some of the officers hastened to offer apologies and explain the matter, and informed us that the soldier had been put under arrest.

    At 3 pm we again arrived at St Patrick’s Park. Commandant MacDonagh informed Lowe of the decision to surrender. He took off his belt and revolver and handed them over to the military. It was then agreed that MacDonagh should return to arrange the surrender at Jacob’s, Marrowbone Lane and South Dublin Union. We were asked to accompany him and General Lowe’s son (an officer of the staff) and another officer accompanied us. At Marrowbone Lane a great number of people, particularly women and children, had gathered while MacDonagh and Father Augustine were in the works with the Volunteers, I had remained outside with the chauffeur. After what seemed a long time they returned to the car. I understood they had had some difficulty in persuading the Volunteers there to surrender. They were well fortified and had provisions to last for some time.
    When we returned to Jacob’s. There the poor fellows were standing in the basement preparing to leave. Father Monahan of Francis Street arrived too and offered his assistance. Father Augustine was taking messages from the men for their people. Father Monahan and myself were conversing when we heard a loud crash and sounds that seemed like bombs exploding. One of the Volunteers came and told us that a crowd of looters were breaking into the office at Bishop Street. Father Monahan and myself went through the factory – with difficulty, owing to the fact that a water main had burst or been broken and was flooding the offices. We found a window had been broken and the looters were getting out to the street again. We mounted to the window and addressed the people, pointing out the scandalous conduct of those who were responsible for the looting. We asked the people to withdraw to their homes and allow the work of peace to go on. They listened to our appeal and withdrew. Before doing so, several gave up the articles they had pilfered – which included rounds of ammunition, revolvers and articles of clothing. We returned to where the Volunteers had assembled. Father Augustine and myself said goodbye to them and departed.

    When we reached St Patrick’s Park we saw Eamonn Ceannt’s contingent arrive from the South Dublin Union and grounded their arms under his command. It included girls, some of them armed.
    We returned to Church Street wearied and weak. Nothing had crossed our lips since morning and we were glad to get a cup of tea at 7 pm.

    Monday May 1st
    Early in the morning the son of Superintendent Dunne (DMP) a subdeacon, called to me and said that Father Murphy, the military chaplain, had sent him to ask if I could call to the Castle during the afternoon. James Connolly, who was a prisoner and a patient there, had expressed a wish to see me. I called, and saw Father Murphy. He told me that he had arranged for the necessary permissions. With Captain Stanley, RAMC, I went to the ward. At the door the sentry challenged Captain Stanley and informed him he had orders to allow no one to see the prisoner without special instructions. Captain Stanley was obliged to return for his permit. The sentry asked me if I were Father Aloysius and, on my replying in the affirmative said: ‘You can go in.’ However, as the nurses were engaged with Connolly, I delayed outside until they had finished and Captain Stanley had returned.

    I entered with Captain Stanley, but I remarked that two soldiers with rifles and bayonets were on guard and showed no intention of leaving. I point out this to Captain Stanley, but he said it was necessary that they should remain; that he had no power to remove them. Then I said: ‘If that is so I cannot do my work as a priest. I have never before, to my knowledge spoken to James Connolly. I cannot say if he may not be hard of hearing. Confession is an important and sacred duty that demands privacy and I cannot go on with it in the presence of these men.’ I had given my word that I would not utilise the opportunity for carrying political information or as a cover for political designs, and if my word was not sufficient or reliable they had better get some other priest. But I felt quite confident I would have my way. I suggested that we go to seek Father Murphy. On the way we met General Lowe. He greeted us warmly and said he had spoken to the General (Sir John Maxwell) of the work we had done on the previous day for peace and the prevention of bloodshed, and that he had expressed a wish to see us and would be pleased if we could call to Headquarters the following day. Hoping it might afford us an opportunity for speaking a word on behalf of the prisoners and securing fair and lenient treatment for them, I consented. Then General Lowe, after some discussion acceded to my demand for privacy for the purpose of attending the prisoner Connolly.

    Captain Stanley met me again after I had left the ward and said it would a consolation if one of the priests would drop into the “Sinn Fein” ward in which the other prisoner-patients were, and say a word to those in it, and let their friends know they were alive. I said I would do so with pleasure and I was permitted to go round to each bed and speak to the patients. Some of them said they would be grateful if I would send them prayer books. Captain Stanley said he would distribute them with pleasure if I sent them; and he did very kindly distribute the books which were sent. I cannot refrain from saying here that Captain Stanley showed himself all through, a Christian and a humane man, and James Connolly spoke to me of his very great kindness to him, although Stanley was politically and in religion at variance with the prisoners……….

    Called to the Castle for permit to visit prisoners and others needing my services. The permit “to pass through the streets of Dublin by day or night” was signed by Lord Powerscourt. Referring in my presence to the events of the preceding days, Lord Powerscourt and some officers paid a tribute to the bravery of the Volunteers, one of the officers remarking that “they were the cleanest and bravest lot of boys he had ever met.”

    Lord Powerscourt who was, I understand Assistant Provost Marshal, proved courteous and anxious to relieve the sufferings and anxieties of the prisoners. He asked me if I could get one of the Fathers to visit the wife of one of the Volunteers. The poor fellow, he said, had been taken down from a chimney in an exhausted state and was worrying about his wife who was in a delicate condition of health when he left home. He would be glad if I could reassure him. I undertook to visit the woman, and Lord Powerscourt said I could see the prisoner afterwards, or at any time I wished.

    Tuesday 2nd
    In the morning I gave Holy Communion to James Connolly. Later in the day I went with Father Augustine to Headquarters, Infirmary Road and met General (Sir John) Maxwell.
    At night a military car came to the gates of the friary and a letter was handed in:

    Kilmainham Detention Barracks,
    The prisoner H.T. Pearse desires to see you and you have permission to visit him. Failing you he would be glad to see any of the Capucines (sic)
    I am sir,
    Your obedient servant
    W.S. Kinsman (Major)

    Rev Father Aloysius

    The name of the major and the initials before “Pearse” were not very legible.

    Accompanied by another Father I went with the soldiers. We drove through the city in the direction of Charlemont Bridge We were told that the soldiers had a couple of calls to make. The sniping from the roofs, however, was so bad that when we got as far as Charlemont Bridge we were obliged to turn back. Later I heard the calls the military proposed making were to Mrs Pearse and Mrs MacDonagh in order to bring them to the prison before the executions.
    When I reached Kilmainham Gaol I was informed that Thomas MacDonagh also wished for my ministrations. I was taken to the prisoners’ cells and spent some hours between the two. “You will be glad to know that I gave Holy Communion to James Connolly this morning,” I said to Pearse when I met him. “Thank God,” he replied, “it is the one thing I was anxious about.”

    Pearse assured me he was not in the least worried or afraid; and that he did not know how he deserved the privilege of dying for his country. He was anxious that his mother should get a letter he had just written. He knew that I could not take anything out, and he would not wish it, but he would be glad if I would speak to the officer in charge and make the request to him. The officer assured me that the papers would be given to Mrs Pearse.

    Then I heard the confessions and gave Holy Communion to Pearse and MacDonagh; and I cannot easily forget the devotion with which they received the Most Blessed Sacrament. They assured me they were happy. They spent the time at their disposal in prayer. I told them I should be very near at the last moments, although they would probably be blindfolded and unable to see me and I exhorted them to make aspirations and acts of contrition and love. I left them in a most edifying disposition sometime between 2 am and 3 am.

    To my astonishment I heard that orders were given that all the friends were to leave the prison and that the orders referred to me, too. I protested that I was present not merely as a friend but in the capacity of a priest, and held that I should be permitted to remain with the prisoners to the end. The officer in charge said that he had to carry out his instructions. I asked him to communicate with the Provost Marshal and put my views before him. He ‘phoned and then told me he was instructed I could not remain. I had no option. Leaving the jail I saw a little company of soldiers approach. Afterward I was told they were bringing Willie Pearse. I returned to Church Street and said Holy Mass for their souls.
    In the morning about 9.30 I called back to Kilmainham to ask the officer for a rosary beads which Sister M. Francesca had left with her brother (Thomas MacDonagh) the previous night. I availed myself of the occasion to make a protest. I said that in every civilised community the clergy were permitted to remain with the prisoner and  administer the last rites of the Church. I had not been permitted to remain to administer Extreme Unction, as I was not permitted to be present at the execution. I requested him to convey my protest officially to the authorities. I am glad to say that at the later executions the priest was allowed to remain to the end and that when I attended James Connolly in the Castle a week later, I was taken with him in the ambulance to Kilmainham and was present at the execution.

    Wednesday May 3rd
    I went to Mrs MacDonagh and Mrs Pearse to break the sad news to them. I told Mrs Pearse that I believed Willie would be spared; that I could not conceive of them executing her second son. “No,” she said, “I believe they will put him to death too. I can’t imagine Willie living without Pat. They were inseparable. It was lovely to see the way they bade goodnight to each other every night. Willie would never be happy to live without Pat.” Indeed she had a strong conviction from the day when they said goodbye and walked out of St Enda'’ that she would never see them alive again…….

    Wednesday Night
    Message to say that some of the Fathers were wanted to attend executions – Plunkett, Daly, O’Hanrahan and Willie Pearse executed in early hours of Thursday – Father Albert, Augustine and, I think, Sebastian attended.

    Friday Morning, May 5th
    John McBride executed, attended by one of the Fathers.

    Sunday May 7th
    Called on John Nugent, MP at Phibsboro’ to urge action to put stop to executions. Nugent undertook to visit John Dillon immediately. Later Nugent called to Church Street to say that John Dillon would like very much if I could see him. Consultation with John Dillon at North Great George's Street. Dillon said that although he disagreed entirely with the policy of the men and believed that they had put back the Home Rule Movement, still he admired their courage and respected their convictions. He said that he had always had an admiration for Patrick Pearse. He would do everything in his power to put an end to the executions. He took my car and went to the Castle to send telegraphic message to John Redmond. Returning he called to Church Street to inform me that he had succeeded in sending the telegram.

    Monday, May 8th
    To Drumcondra with message from General Maxwell to His Grace the Most Rev. Dr Walsh, Archbishop.

    Monday Evening
    Message that four or five executions were to take place and that the services of some of the Fathers would be required. Went to John Dillon to tell him and to urge him to cross to London and raise the matter in Parliament. Dillon regretted he could not cross in the morning, but would go at the earliest moment.

    Tuesday 9th
    Papers report the previous night John Redmond asked the Prime Minister to put a stop to the executions.

    Thursday Morning 11th
    Papers report that John Dillon had crossed and moved adjournment of House to discuss continuance of the executions in Ireland. Asquith undertook to give opportunity for debate on 11th, and on the understanding that no further executions would take place meantime, Mr Dillon withdrew his motion.

    Thursday afternoon
    Called to the Castle to see Connolly. Connolly had not slept and seemed feverish. I said that I would let him rest and would called in morning to give him Holy Communion. Uneasy about him I tried to get contact with Captain Stanley, but he could not be found. Reached Castle gates, and, still uneasy, decided to return and make another attempt to see Stanley. Saw him and was assured that there was no danger of any steps being taken; he reminded me that Asquith had given to understand that no executions would take place pending debate which was on that night. Got back to Church Street some time near 7 pm. About 9 pm Captain Stanley called and told me that my services would be required about 2 am. He was not at liberty to say more but I could understand.

    Friday Morning, 12th
    About 1 am car called and Father Sebastian accompanied me to Castle. Heard Connolly’s confession and gave him Holy Communion. Waited in Castle Yard while he was being given a meal. He was brought down and laid on stretcher in ambulance. Father Sebastian and myself drove with him to Kilmainham. Stood behind firing party during the execution. Father Eugene McCarthy, who had attended Sean MacDermott before we arrived, remained and anointed Connolly immediately after the shooting.

    Morning papers reported sensational speech by Dillon in Commons with a stinging attack on Government. Mr Asquith’s reply was that he was crossing to Ireland that night to see the situation for himself.  
    Later in Day
    Visited Richmond Barracks to see prisoners – amongst them Sean T. O’Kelly, Alderman Tom Kelly, and Laurence O’Neill (Lord Mayor). Got an account from prisoners of Asquith’s visit to the prison.

    Message of General Maxwell
    To the Archbishop of Dublin
    And the Archbishop’s reply

    Headquarters Irish Command,
    6th May, 1916

    Your Grace,
    I shall be glad if you will convey to the clergy of your Church my high appreciation and thanks for the services rendered by them during the recent disturbances in Dublin. I am aware that such services were practically universal, but it is possible that Your Grace may desire to bring to notice individual cases of special gallantry or devotion. If such is the case, I shall be obliged if you will inform me of the names of the gentlemen in question.

    I am, Your Grace’s obedient servant,
    J.G. Maxwell,
    General Officer Commanding in Chief the Forces in Ireland.

    Archbishop’s House,
    Dublin, May 11th, 1916

    Dear Sir John Maxwell,
    In reply to your letter of Monday, I beg to thank you for your gratifying testimony to the fidelity of our clergy in the discharge of their duties during the recent troubles in Dublin. I have been much struck by your request to be furnished with the names of the clergy in cases of special gallantry or devotion that I might desire to bring under your notice. But I quite concur in your view that services deserving of high praise are practically universal. Many such cases have of course come to my notice – especially amongst the clergy of my own Pro Cathedral Parish In Marlborough Street, and those of the Capuchin Community in Church Street. But I feel that it would be invidious to treat these cases as if they were exceptional.
    Again thanking you for your kind letter.
    I remain your faithful servant,
    William J. Walsh
    Archbishop of Dublin.


    Kilmainham Prison,
    May 11th, 1916

    My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    I sincerely hope that this letter will not come as a surprise to any of you, and, above all, that none of you will worry over what I have to say.
    It is just a wee note to say that I have been tried by court martial and sentenced to be shot – to die the death of a soldier. By the time this reaches you I will, with God’s mercy, have joined in Heaven my poor father and mother, as well as my dear friends who have been shot during the week. They died like heroes, and with God’s help, I will act throughout as heroic as they did. I only wish you could see me now.
    I am just as calm and collected as if I were talking to you all or taking a walk to see Mick Wynne or some of the old friends and neighbours around home. I have priests with me almost constantly for the past twenty four hours. One dear old friend of mine, The Rev. Dr Browne, Maynooth stayed with me up to a very late hour last night. I feel a happiness the like of which I never experienced in my life before, and a feeling that I could not describe. Surely, when you know my state of mind, none of you will worry or lament my fate. No, you ought to envy me.
    The cause for which I die has been rebaptised during the past week by the blood of as good men as ever trod God’s earth, and should I not feel justly proud to be numbered amongst them? Before God, let me again assure you of how proud and happy I feel. It is not alone for myself so much I feel happy, but for the fact that Ireland has produced such men.
    Enough of the personal note. I had hoped, Pat, to be able to help you in placing the children in positions to earn their livelihood, but God will help you to provide for them. Tell them how I struck out for myself and counsel them always to practise truth, honesty, and straightforwardness in all things, and sobriety. If they do this and remember their country, they will be all right. Insist on their learning the language and history.

    I have a lot of books and I am making arrangements with one of the priests to have them turned into a library, but I can arrange that you get some of them for the children. You might like to get these clothes that I am wearing to have them in memory of me, so I will arrange, if possible, to have them sent to my old lodgings and you ought to come there and take them and any other little things belonging to me that you’d like to have – of course for Dan and Maggie also. There are a few copies of a recent photo which you can take, and you might order more copies for friends, who may like to have one.

    Of course you got the letter I sent you a few days before Easter. By the way, when you are in Dublin find out if I owe any money to my landlady, and if so, pay her. I don’t think I do, but at the moment I’m not certain.
    One word more about the children. Put some of them to learn trades if they can at all. You will see if they show any promise of mechanical or technical skill. They were too small when I saw them to advise. Tell Maggie she ought to try to get Mary Ann to go for teaching. I don’t know what Caty Bee ought to do. As for Dan, I suppose he will decide for himself, God direct him. He need not regret having stayed at home so long.

    Make a copy of this and send it to the others as soon as you can. A lot of my friends will want to hear about me from James, Rose and Kate. They can tell them all that in my last hours I am the same Sean they always knew and that even now I can enjoy a laugh and a joke as good as ever.
    I don’t know if you will require a pass to get to Dublin, but you’d better find out before you start. Perhaps martial law will have been withdrawn before you can come. It was passed for one month only, and I don’t think it will be renewed.
    If I think of any other things to say I will tell them to Miss Ryan, who in all probability, had I lived, would have been my wife.

    I will send instructions to my landlady but she knows you, all right.
    Goodbye, dear brothers and sisters. Make no lament for me. Pray for my soul and feel a lasting pride at my death. I die that the Irish nation may live. God bless and guard you all and may He have mercy on my soul.
    Yours as ever.

    PS I find I have not mentioned Patrick or his mother, but they know they are included for old, very old  times sake. Yes long before there was a thought of Maggie marrying Patrick; also Bessie, Mary and Will. I’d love to clasp the hand of each of you and many other dear friends but I will meet you all soon in a better place. Remember me to all friends, and give some money to Fathers Foy and McLaughlin for Mass for me.



    Some friends were together in a private hospital in the Appian Way waiting for the crisis of an illness of Mrs Clarke to occur. Father Albert, OFM Cap., was there in case the last absolution had to be given. The hour was late and the times not too safe to be out. Chatting to pass the time, Father Albert mentioned to me that he was with my son, Joseph, just before he was executed. Of this I was not aware until then. He told me how four priests from Church Street were sent for in the early hours of the morning of May 4th, 1916, and in twenty minutes the four had arrived at Kilmainham Gaol to find Joseph and three others (Edward Daly, Willie Pearse and Michael O’Hanrahan) were about to be executed. One priest and a prisoner were sent to a nearby cell. The prisoner had his hat on and the priest wondered to see a man going to confess and wearing his hat. A jailer put his head into the cell, and then entering, undid the handcuffs behind the man’s back and allowed him to remove his hat. It was nearly dark and there was only a candle for lighting.

    The  other three prisoners were together in an adjoining room, among them Joseph, by whom Father Albert was attracted. Joseph, seeing him looking at him, walked across the room to Father Albert and said: “Father I want you to know that I am dying for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland.” “That’s all right, my son,” answered Father Albert. In a few minutes the firing squad carried out their orders. And that was Joseph’s first – and last meeting with Father Albert here on earth, God grant they have met in heaven.


    It is to be regretted that the late T.M. Healy in his memoirs, LETTERS AND LEADER OF MY DAY (Vol. 2 p. 564) thought it well to repeat a garbled story of Con Colbert’s last moments. The following letter signed “F.A.” (the Very Rev. Father Augustine OFM Cap) which appeared in the EVENING HERALD, Dublin, June 1st 1916, gives the true account – ED

    Dear Sir,
    In last evening’s issue of your paper, towards the end of the second news column of the front page, under the heading “Last Moments of Volunteer Leader” it is stated that Cornelius Colbert “died joking the men who were preparing him for death.” It is also asserted that when one of the soldiers was fixing the white cloth on his breast,  to indicate his heart, he told them “his heart was far away at the moment.”
    This version is quite inaccurate and fanciful and I owe it to his memory to give the true one.
    There was no joking, not even the semblance of it. Poor Colbert was far too beautiful and too reverent a character to joke with anyone in such a solemn hour. I know very well where his heart was then. It was very near to God and to the friends he loved. What really happened was this. While my left arm linked the prisoner’s right, and while I was whispering something in his ear, a soldier approached to fit a bit of paper on his breast. While this was being done he looked down, and addressing the soldier in a perfectly cool and natural way said: “Wouldn’t it be better to pin it up higher – nearer the heart?” The soldier said something in reply, and then added: “Give me your hand now.” The prisoner seemed confused and extended his left hand. “Not that,” said the soldier, “but the right.” The right was accordingly extended, and having shaken it warmly, the kindly human hearted soldier proceeded to bind gently the prisoner’s hands behind his back, and afterwards blindfolded him.
    Some minutes later, my arm still linked in his, and accompanied by another priest, we entered the dark corridor leading to the yard and his lips moving in prayer, the brave lad went forth to die.


    Offline MariaCatherine

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    Did Telefis Eireann overlook the Catholic inspiration of the 1916 heroes?
    « Reply #5 on: April 01, 2013, 10:20:19 PM »
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  • Thank you for this reassurance that these "cleanest and bravest" of men were blessed with the ministrations of good priests up until the last moments of their lives.  I didn't know that.
    What return shall I make to the Lord for all the things that He hath given unto me?


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