News 1916

Thursday 8 December 2016

Poignant ceremonies and family reunions for four 1916 rebel leaders

Jane O'Faherty

Published 09/05/2016 | 02:30

Con Colbert's neices Sr Christine Colbert, from the Sisters of St Louis, Carrickmacross, and Sr Nora Colbert, from the Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Cavan, at the Stonebreakers' Yard in Kilmainham Gaol yesterday Photo: Steve Humphreys
Con Colbert's neices Sr Christine Colbert, from the Sisters of St Louis, Carrickmacross, and Sr Nora Colbert, from the Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Cavan, at the Stonebreakers' Yard in Kilmainham Gaol yesterday Photo: Steve Humphreys

Four key figures executed in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising have been remembered at the Stonebreakers' Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. Con Colbert, Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin and Seán Heuston all faced firing squads from the early hours of May 8, 1916.

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Families, political representatives and members of the Air Corps and Naval Service gathered together yesterday to commemorate their deaths.

Con Colbert, originally from Limerick, was a prominent member of the IRB and the Irish Volunteers.

He was sentenced to death after he had assumed the command of his garrison in order to save the life of his superior officer, a married man.

Con's niece, Sr Nora Colbert, said she only realised the extent of her uncle's involvement in the Rising in recent years.

"In our own family, we were even forbidden to talk about it. I think it was emotional and hard on the family," she said.

"When we were young, we did not get all this education they are getting today on how the Rising started and what the whole thing was."

Later, Br Paul Murphy read Michael Mallin's last letter to his pregnant wife, Agnes Hickey. Mallin had been sentenced for leading a garrison of rebels to the Royal College of Surgeons.

"My darling wife, pulse of my heart, this is the end of all things earthly," Mallin wrote.

Br Murphy also read the memoirs of Fr Augustine Hayden, who accompanied Seán Heuston to the yard.

"During the last quarter of an hour, he spoke of once again meeting Pádraig Mac Piarais and other leaders who had already gone before him," he recalled.

In spite of the poignancy of the four separate services, relatives came together to share stories and celebrate the lives of their ancestors.

Some family members hadn't seen each other in years. Others had never even met before.

For Úna Ó Callanáín and her family, the ceremony was cause for celebration and a family reunion. "We're having a huge gathering in a hotel," she said. "There's 170 of us getting together. We've been planning this since Christmas."

Fewer attended the ceremony to honour Seán Heuston, who has no known surviving relatives.

Damien Cassidy, chairman of the Kilmainham Gaol Board of Visitors, said placing a wreath on behalf of Seán's family was a "huge honour".

"This particular yard has an immense feeling for me," he said. "We are standing on the blood of the 1916 heroes and heroines who were imprisoned here."

Education Minister Richard Bruton and Minister of State Paul Kehoe also placed wreaths in honour of the four men.

A service in memory of Thomas Kent will be held in Cork today, while James Connolly and Seán MacDiarmada will be remembered in Kilmainham on Thursday.

Irish Independent

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