Saturday 21 September 2019

Daly's eyes 'filled with tears' at the order to surrender

Emma Lyons profiles Edward Daly, who was the commander of 1st Battalion during the Rising

Edward 'Ned' Daly was the youngest of those executed in 1916.
Edward 'Ned' Daly was the youngest of those executed in 1916.

'As the body of Ned Daly went limp in death in the high-walled yard of Kilmainham his execution enshrined his name in Irish history." So recalled Piaras Béaslaí, vice-commandant of 1st Battalion, after his comrade Daly was executed on 4 May 1916. Although not a signatory of the Proclamation, Edward 'Ned' Daly was Commandant of 1st Battalion stationed at the Four Courts during the Rising. At 25, he was the youngest person to be executed for his role in the Rising.

The only son and youngest of 10 children, Ned was born in Limerick to Catherine (née O'Mara) and Edward Daly. His father, who died five months before his son's birth, was a Fenian, having taken part in the 1867 rebellion along with his brother, John, who was imprisoned.

Ned was educated by the Presentation Sisters, the Christian Brothers, and at Leamy's commercial college. Following a brief period as a baker's apprentice in Glasgow, he returned to Limerick and was employed as a clerk in Spaight's timber yard. In 1912 Ned moved to Dublin, working in a builders' providers and a wholesale chemists, May Roberts and Company. He lived in Fairview with his sister, Kathleen, and her husband, Tom Clarke, who had been imprisoned with their uncle.

Daly was one of the first to join the Irish Volunteers. Kathleen wrote that she "never saw a happier young man than he was the night he joined. He told me it was what he had always been wishing for". Ned, who had an avid interest in military tactics, initially joined the Volunteers as a private in B Company, 1st Battalion. By early 1914 he was captain of B Company, and his promotion to Commandant of 1st Battalion by Patrick Pearse in March 1915 was almost certainly a result of his impressive actions during the Howth Gun-running.

On Easter Monday, Daly was charged with occupying the area from the Four Courts to Cabra. However, when he mobilised 1st Battalion shortly before noon, Ned was disappointed that only 150 of the expected 400 men presented. The Battalion's full plans could not be achieved. Nonetheless, it held a strategic position on the Liffey. Buildings on Church Street and North King Street, along with the Four Courts, were occupied, meaning that fighting spread out to residential streets.

Ned's men therefore manned barricades at strategic intersections, escorting civilians to the shops and bakery which remained open. However, by April 27 the South Staffordshires and Sherwood Foresters battalions had surrounded the district, and were supported from one of the few armoured cars available in Dublin.

Ned's 1st Battalion resisted defeat and the British forces were unable to advance more than 150 yards between the morning of April 28 and 2pm on April 29, when he received Pearse's order to surrender.

According to Piaras Béaslaí, Ned's "eyes filled with tears" when he saw the order. Notwithstanding his disappointment, Ned suppressed suggestions Pearse's orders be disobeyed.

"He impressed the British officers with his dignity. They permitted him to march at the head of his men as they brought us through the empty streets (where the few people we saw were those who cursed us) to where the other bodies of prisoners were assembled... And when the British General asked one of his own officers: 'Who is in charge of these men?', Daly proudly answered: 'I am. At all events I was', a remark which, he must have known, would sign his death-warrant."

Ned was arrested and court-martialled. Despite pleading innocent, he was found guilty. Following a visit from three of his sisters, Ned was executed on 4 May 1916, having, in the words of Tom Clarke, "proved himself a fine soldier and hero".

Dr Emma Lyons' (UCD School of History) research focuses on the experience of Irishwomen during World War I and Catholic landownership and education in 17th and 18th-century Ireland


Edward 'NEd' Daly

Born: 28 February 1891, Limerick

Educated: Sexton St convent, CBS Roxboro Rd, Leamy's Commercial College.

Affiliation: IRB/Irish Volunteers

Career: Worked in wholesale chemist's

Died: 4 May 1916, Kilmainham Jail

Irish Independent

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