EVA BOURKE – A KILDARE WOMAN IN THE GPO

by ehistoryadmin on February 12, 2016

Eva Bourke 1885-1974

A Kildare woman in the GPO 1916

James Durney

Henry J. Burke was born in Albany, New York, to Irish parents and travelled to Ireland where he met and married Maria Kelly, of Tipperary. The newly married couple settled in Drehid, Carbury, where they inherited a family farm at Coonagh. Henry Burke was known as a ‘gentleman’ farmer and farmed extensively in the area. In the 1901 Census return his house was recorded as ‘first class’ and had four rooms with nine windows in front. Five children were recorded: John Joseph (14), Peter Paul (12), Henry George (11) William E. (8) and James F. (5). Evelline Mary, born on 3 October 1885, was a boarder at Our Lady of Sion, College and Boarding School, Eccles Street, Inns Quay, Dublin. In 1911 Eva Burke was recorded as a ‘nurse in training’ and was living at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital nurses home at East Moreland Place.

When she was finished her training Eva went to live with her aunt at Dargle Road, Drumcondra. As a trained nurse she was taking care of an elderly British colonel when news of the outbreak of the Rising reached Drumcondra. Eva cycled into the city where it was confirmed that the insurrection had broken out and then cycled back to Drumcondra where she informed the colonel she could no longer nurse him. Cycling back to the city centre Eva presented herself to Padraig Pearse at the GPO as a nurse. Her brother, Frank Bourke, was also part of the GPO garrison, and was on the roof of the building when his older sister appeared.

Eva Bourke was with Captain Thomas Weafer when he was shot and killed on Wednesday, while occupying the Hibernian Bank on the corner of Lower Abbey Street and Sackville Street. The strategic importance of the building allowed Weafer and his men to control access to the street from Amiens Street Station; members of the GPO Garrison were occupying a number of buildings on each side of Sackville Street. The Cumann na mBan women cooked meals and generally helped the men in the position, which was attacked by British troops on Wednesday. Capt. Weafer was hit by a bullet in the stomach. Another bullet hit a Volunteer, who went to his aid. Leslie Price had just enough time to whisper a prayer in Weafer’s ear before he died. She later married the famous guerrilla leader, Tom Barry, of Cork.

In the GPO Eva nursed the wounded James Connolly, who had been shot in the ankle by a British sniper. According to family lore when she found she could not sleep Eva left the GPO on Wednesday and returned to her aunt’s house in Drumcondra. After a good night’s sleep Eva returned to the GPO on Thursday morning quite refreshed. As the day progressed the fires that had taken hold on the upper floors of the GPO began to burn out of control, and it was soon apparent that an alternative position needed to be found. The female members of the garrison were ordered to leave under the protection of the Red Cross. Eva Bourke was sent with the wounded and the Red Cross section to Jervis Street Hospital.

According to her grandson, Éanna de Búrca, Eva continued her nursing work after the Rising and was not a member of Cumann na mBan. Frank Bourke was captured after the surrender and was imprisoned in Stafford Jail and Frongoch Internment Camp, in Wales. He returned home on Christmas Eve 1916 and took a bus to Drumcondra to see his sister, Eva. While on the bus he met Eva, who did not know he had been released. They travelled home to Carbury for Christmas Day.

After the War of Independence Eva was employed with Dublin Corporation as a nurse. She died at the Rathfarnham home of her brother Frank, aged eighty-nine, in November 1974.

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