Saturday 21 April 2018

Mystery surrounds woman who died on same day as Pearse, Clarke, McDonagh

The name of Margaret McGuinness as it appears beside that of Padraig Pearse on the Remembrance Wall in Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
The name of Margaret McGuinness as it appears beside that of Padraig Pearse on the Remembrance Wall in Glasnevin Cemetery Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
An extract from the Sinn Féin handbook showing Margaret's burial
Margaret's death cert

Celine Naughton

A question mark has emerged over the true cause of death of a Kildare-born woman whose name appears alongside three of the Rising's best-known leaders on the newly unveiled 1916 Remembrance Wall.

Margaret McGuinness is among the hundreds of names - rebels, British military personnel and civilians alike - engraved on the wall to commemorate their fate as casualties of Easter Week.

Her name stands out as she is one of only four to be listed under 3 May 1916 - the day that proclamation signatories Thomas Clarke, Thomas McDonagh and Patrick Pearse were executed.

However, research by the Irish Independent into Margaret's fate casts some doubt on whether she was in fact a casualty of the Rising.

Joe Duffy's online list of children killed in the Rising brings up one entry beneath Bridget Stewart of 3 Pembroke Cottages: "Another casualty, Margaret McGuinness (54), who was killed in the Rising also had her address as 3 Pembroke Cottages, though there may have been more than one Pembroke Cottages."

In fact, in the 1911 Census Margaret's age was recorded as 54. Her husband Joseph was 51. Originally from Kildare, they lived in 27 Pembroke Cottages, Pembroke West.

Joseph died in 1914. A 1916 death notice for Margaret in the Irish Independent recorded: 'McGuinness, Margaret, widow of the late Joseph, late of 27 Pembroke Cottages, Donnybrook.'

In the Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook, printed in the wake of the Rising, she is listed as being 50 years of age (younger than her age in the census) and as having died as a result of "bullet or gunshot wounds." However, according to her death certificate, issued on May 4, 1916, Margaret died from cerebral haemorrhage - with no mention of its cause.

According to Ray Bateson, author of 'The Rising Dead': "Usually, when haemorrhage was caused by gunshot wounds or injury, the certificate would state, 'as a result of…' so it is a bit strange that it simply records 'cerebral haemorrhage'."

"The location of death is not easy to make out, but... the initials after appear to be SDU. This probably stands for South Dublin Union (now St James's Hospital), which raises more queries.

"A number of civilians were killed in the Union, which was occupied by the Volunteers during the Rising, and fierce gun battles took place there. But did Margaret McGuinness die locally, or at the SDU? And if so, did she die of natural causes or was she killed by gunfire?"

However, Glasnevin Trust historian Conor Dodd says there's enough evidence to point to her death being, as recorded in the Sinn Féin Handbook, due to gunshot wounds: "The balance of information is there to show she was a civilian casualty," he said.

However, there is no definitive evidence to show her death was related to the Rising. In the absence of any other records, it seems the search for conclusive evidence about her cause of death has for now run into a brick - if not marble - wall.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News