(To commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising, historian Pádraig Ó Conchubhair writes about the three 1916 martyrs who were born nearest the Parish of Ballydonoghue)
“An Cuimhin libh feighil is aiséiri na Cásca,
A shráideanna naofa Ath’ Cliath
’S na soilse a adhandh do leighis bhúr náire,
A shráideanna naofa Ath’ Cliath
Níorbh fhada a ré is a scéimh, faraoir,
B’e an falla géar is an piléar an díol,
’Gus flatha na Féinne san aol ina luí,
A shráideanna naofa Ath’ Cliath
Four men from Kerry died in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916. One was Patrick O’Connor of Rathmore, who, it is thought, was shot in Thomas’s Lane off Cathedral Place, escaping from the inferno of the Imperial Hotel on the other side of O’Connell Street, opposite the General Post Office. The other three were all North Kerry men: Michael Joseph O’Rahilly from Ballylongford, Patrick Shortis from Ballybunion, and Michael Mulvihill from Ardoughter in Ballyduff.
The O’Rahilly, Ballylongford (1875-1916)
Born on October 23rd, 1875, Michael J O’Rahilly was a founder of the Irish Volunteers and the only one of those founders to be killed in action in 1916. At the age of twenty three he sold the family business in Ballylongford and went to New York to marry Nannie Brown, a young American lady whom he had first met at a dance held in Ballydonoghue House on the outskirts of Tarbert.
They and their three sons returned permanently to Ireland in 1909 and from that time on Michael Joseph devoted his life, and a not inconsiderable part of his wealth, to the ‘Irish Ireland’ movement. He was a member of Sinn Féin, the political party founded by Arthur Griffith and he enthusiastically embraced the work of Conradh na Gaeilge (The Gaelic League) and did everything in his power to encourage the study of local history and place names and to stimulate Irish industry and native crafts. He began to sign his name in its Irish form – Ua Rathghaille – and this led to his becoming known as The O’Rahilly.
He it was who drafted and dispatched the invitations to the meeting in Wynn’s Hotel in Abbey Street which led to the foundation of the Irish Volunteers and he was elected Treasurer and later Director of Arms for that body. Because of the capture of the German arms ship Aud in Tralee Bay, he agreed with the decision of his Chief-of-Staff, Eoin Mac Neil to call off the rebellion fixed for Easter Sunday 1916. Indeed he travelled by taxi to Limerick on that day to reinforce Mac Neil’s countermanding order for the Munster Volunteers. When he returned to Dublin and found that the rising was going ahead he resolved to join it.
“I wound the clock,” he is reputed to have said, “and now I’ll hear it strike.”
On the Friday of Easter Week he led the party of volunteers who tried to escape from the flames of the GPO to set up a new headquarters in nearby Parnell Street, but he was mortally wounded at the corner of Moore Street and Sackville Lane (now O’Rahilly Parade).
He is buried in Glasnevin, it was left to WB Yeats to immortalise him in verse –
“Sing of the O’Rahilly
Do not deny his right
Sing a ‘the’ before his name
Allow that he, despite all these learned historians
Established it for good
He wound the clock
And helped to hear it strike.”
In April 1966, a memorial plaque to The O’Rahilly was unveiled on the family home at the Square in Ballylongford. The O’Rahilly’s five sons were present with more than twenty other members of the family. The local GAA club is called after him as is the Kerins O’Rahilly club in Strand Street in Tralee.
Michael Mulvihill, Ballyduff (1880-1916)
Michael Mulvihill was born at Ardoughter, Ballyduff on April 2nd, 1880, and was educated at Ballincrossig Boys’ National School where his father John was principal. The second son in a family of nine children, he left home at the age of eighteen for London and after two years in college joined the Civil Service. He was a constant support to his younger brothers and sisters and visited Kerry every year on his holidays. He left his position when he was called up for military service in World War I, but evaded the call-up, and with his brother-in law Austin Kennan and Seán McGrath, a Longford man who later settled in Kerry, he travelled to Dublin on Good Friday 1916. They stayed at the Kincora Hotel in Parnell Square where Michael registered ‘Michael O’Connor’ (using his mother’s maiden name) as he was technically liable for immediate arrest for evading his call-up notice. According to some accounts he was unaware of the plans for the rising but as he was an active member both of the Gaelic League and of the London Corps of the Irish Volunteers this seems doubtful. Austin Kennan tells us that they saw the men of the ‘Kimmage Garrison’ of the Irish Volunteers who had returned from London march towards the GPO on Easter Monday and that Cahersiveen man, Dennis Daly, called out to them ‘Join in boys, this is the revolution.’ They followed the Kimmage men, entered the GPO and were vouched for by Michael Collins. They were sent to the roof of the building and were armed with shotguns and home-made bombs which they were warned to preserve from the rain. When it rained on the Wednesday night they obeyed their orders and took off their overcoats getting drenched themselves but keeping the bombs dry!
On the Thursday of Easter Week they left the roof and Austin lost contact with Michael. Michael may have been part of the second group of Volunteers who left the building on the Friday evening. His body was later seen at the junction of Moore Lane and Henry Street. He was buried in St Paul’s Plot in Glasnevin.
In December 1966, a plaque in his memory was unveiled by his nephew and namesake at the family home in Ardoughter. Three of his sisters, Margaret Mulvihill, Molly Hartigan and Mrs Keenan were also present as was his brother-in-law Austin who had fought beside him in the GPO. When Ballyduff and Ardoughter GAA clubs amalgamated his name was chosen for the new club and Ballyduff Michael Mulvihill’s are one of the few clubs in Kerry who field teams in both hurling and football.
Patrick Shortis, Ballybunion (1893-1916)
Patrick Shortis was born in Ballybunion on July 4th, 1893. His father, a native of either Kilkenny or Tipperary, was at one time station-master on the Lartigue Railway and later a publican and general merchant. He attended Gortnaskehagh National School and was an extremely bright pupil winning a £20 scholarship to St Brendan’s Seminary in Killarney in 1905. He went on to study for the priesthood in All Hallows College Dublin, but left after two years, realising he did not have a vocation. In the meantime he had obtained his BA degree from the National University. He attended a Marconi College with a view to becoming a wireless operator but he was denied a certificate on account of his political views. He worked in London and he too was a member of the London Corps of the Irish Volunteers. He was a good runner and took part in athletic competitions in that city.
Because of the danger of being conscripted into the British army, he returned to Dublin in January 1916 and became attached to ‘F’ company of the Second Battalion (Fairview), Dublin Brigade which mustered in Father Matthew Park on Easter Monday. The previous day’s confusion still continued and the Volunteers were not certain of what their role might be. An officer of that Battalion (and later a Lieutenant-Colonel in the National Army), Charles Saurin tells us: “Consequently [ie because of the confusion] Séamus Daly and myself along with Harry Coyle accepted the invitation of Paddy Shortis, a Kerryman of our company, to go with him to the house in which he was stopping and which happened to be the residence of MW O’Reilly, (a volunteer who was part of the Headquarter’s staff) in Foster Terrace off Ballybough Road. There he fed us and he also gave me a revolver which he had obtained earlier in the day.”
Later Shortis made his way to the GPO garrison and with his fellow Kerryman, Dennis Daly, was a member of the party led by The O’Rahilly that attempted to storm the Barricade at the top of Moore Street on the Friday of Easter Week.
The O’Rahilly’s sister, Anna, tells us: “After the surrender we were told that my brother, Michael, and his nephew (this was Dick Humphreys, whose mother, Nell, was Anna’s sister) had been killed. We went down to the morgue to identify the bodies, one was Michael’s but the second was that of Paddy Shortis from Ballybunion.”
Shortis was buried in St Paul’s Plot in Glasnevin Cemetry. His brother Archie, who was a chemist’s apprentice in Dublin had spent days and nights looking for his body. As a result his health broke down and he emigrated to California and later moved to Indiana.
Pat Shortis was not forgotten in Ballybunion. In Killahenny cemetery in July 1934, Moss Twomey, the Kerryman who was then chief-of-staff of the IRA, unveiled a memorial to his memory, a memorial which also honoured Dan Scanlon who was shot at the RIC barracks in Ballybunion in October 1919.
In October 1966, Patrick’s niece, Angela Gilmore-Shortis unveiled a commemorative plaque on the house in which he was born in Main Street, Ballybunion. Among the attendance were his two sisters, Mrs Violet O’Carroll and Mrs Ann Johnson, the latter married to District Justice and playwright Richard Johnson.
These three men were the nearest of the 1916 martyrs to Ballydonoghue Parish.
“No dirge did hum
No funeral drum,
Did beat its muffled tatoo,
But the Angelus bell their requiem knelled,
As it tolled through the Foggy Dew.