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‘A great crowd had gathered…’ 16 Lives

James Durney

On 29 March 2012 O’Brien Press launched three books from their major new biographical series titled ‘16 Lives’ – James Connolly by Lorcan Collins; Joseph Plunkett by Honor O Brolchain; and Michael Mallin by Brian Hughes. These are the first three books in the series of biographies of the sixteen men executed after the 1916 Easter Rising. The books in the series are written by historians and in some cases by the descendents of the sixteen leaders. The series is edited by Loran Collins – founder of the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour of Dublin – and Ruan O’Donnell, senior lecturer, history department, Limerick University. This groundbreaking and unique series of books will be published over four years, with the full collection of sixteen biographies available in 2016.
 The well-attended launch was fittingly held in the G.P.O. on O’Connell Street. Lorcan Collins, in his speech, said there were more people present at the launch than there were in the G.P.O. in Easter Week. There was a sizeable contingent from Co. Kildare present at the launch. There was also a sizeable contingent of Kildare people present in the G.P.O during Easter Week. James Connolly, the subject of the first book to be launched, had actually greeted a contingent of Kildaremen who had walked from Maynooth. On Tuesday morning of Easter Week the Kildaremen marched in formation down into the city and when they came in sight of the G.P.O. there was a great cheer, as the men there had been expecting them. Padraig Pearse greeted their commander, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, at the door and was delighted to see his old friend. The men were given tea, eggs and cigars and according to Tom Harris, from Prosperous, were addressed by Connolly, who said, “It didn’t matter a damn if we were wiped out now as we had justified ourselves.”
 Patrick Colgan, from Maynooth, recalled: ‘We entered the G.P.O. by the main entrance. Comdt. General Connolly was at the door. As we entered he shook each of us by the hand and smiled his welcome to us. Connolly was one of my heroes. I had never before met him. I felt all excited that he would show such an interest in us.’ The fifteen men who had walked from Maynooth were delighted to see at least six more Kildaremen in the G.P.O. garrison.
 James Connolly was born in Edinburh in 1868 and moved to Dublin in 1896, where he founded the Irish Republican Socialist Party and the Workers Republic newspaper. He lectured and campaigned for socialism in the US, where he also organised for the Industrial Workers of the World – the Wobblies. In 1913 he stood side by side with ‘Big’ Jim Larkin in the fight for workers’ rights during the Great Lockout in Dublin. After the death of two workers beaten by police Connolly and Captain Jack White formed the Irish Citizen’s Army to protect workers meetings. As a socialist republican Connolly conspired to overthrow British rule in Ireland and became a member of the Military Council, which planned and implemented the Easter Rising.
 On 20 June 1915 Connolly’s Citizen Army paraded to Wolfe Tone’s grave at Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, on the anniversary of the patriot’s birth. The reports of the event do not mention whether Connolly was there in person, but it is safe to assume that he was. To facilitate the deputations from Dublin a special train was run from Kingsbridge (now Heuston station) to Sallins. The procession formed up at Sallins and led by several pipe bands marched the two miles to Bodenstown graveyard. The St. Laurence O’Toole Pipers headed the line of procession, followed by the Brownstown Pipers, the Citizen Army Pipers and Fianna Pipers. The procession contained 450 Irish Volunteers, 200 Citizen Army, 250 Fianna Eireann, 50 Citizen Army Boy Scouts, 80 Hibernian Rifles and a large contingent of Cumann na mBan. Naas, Maynooth, Kill, Prosperous and Athgarvan companies, Irish Volunteers were no doubt present, as well as the Naas Workingman’s Band, and the Naas Fife and Drum Band. There were also a large contingent of National Volunteers from Naas, Newbridge, Rathangan, Milltown, Ardclough and Allen. The Leinster Leader estimated the crowd to be at least 9,000.
 In the graveyard two guards of honour, consisting of an equal number of Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers, all with rifles and bayonets, were drawn up near the Tone grave. A large concourse thronged about the cemetery and when the ceremonial of the marching past was concluded a number of wreaths were placed on the grave. Tom Clarke, President of the Wolfe Tone Committee, delivered a short address. In May 1916 James Connolly, Tom Clarke and thirteen other leaders were executed by British firing squads.

On 29 March 2012 O’Brien Press launched three books from their major new biographical series titled ‘16 Lives’

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