Tuesday 17 September 2019

Women of Fingal get on their bikes for the Rothaíocht na mBan

Helena Bergin (right) and Janette Scott in period costume during a celebration of the female cyclists who performed a crucial role in County Dublin during the Rising. Conor Healy
Helena Bergin (right) and Janette Scott in period costume during a celebration of the female cyclists who performed a crucial role in County Dublin during the Rising. Conor Healy

Fingal County Council made sure to honour the women of 1916 with Rothaíocht na mBan during its Commemorative Day in Swords on Sunday, April 24.

Female cyclists in early-20th Century period costumes rode bicycles from the Brackenstown Road to symbolise the role of women, particularly those from Fingal, in the Rising.

Helena Bergin, Fingal County Council Architectural Conservation Officer, says: "We were very fortunate in that there was a group of cyclists that were descendants and relatives of people who participated in 1916 in Fingal, so we joined the group that we had, those dressing in historic costume replicating the women, with the other group. The descendants wore modern dress."

The unification of the two groups made the event all the more poignant, according to Bergin.

Members of Volunteer Ireland made up the re-enactment group, dressed in hats, long dresses and sashes, and they rode bikes in keeping with the time.

The bike was the main method of transport for most people in 1916 and many women cycled significant distances throughout North County Dublin to carry out the duties assigned to them by the Irish Volunteers. Their role included delivering messages to the Volunteers, scouting the county and reporting back on the movements of the British military and Royal Irish Constabulary in the vicinity, carrying dispatches from the main body of the Fifth Battalion to outlying posts and to the GPO, storing arms and ammunition in their homes and helping to treat the wounded after the Battle of Ashbourne.

In a sworn statement, one of these women, Molly Adrien, described how she travelled every day into the GPO, bringing messages to and from the commanding officers of the Fifth Battalion (Fingal Brigade) of the Irish Volunteers based in North County Dublin.

Through this action, the lines of communication were kept open between the leaders of the 1916 Rising and the Fifth Battalion in Fingal.

Bergin said: "There were many Cumann na mBan members and female relatives of the Irish Volunteers who provided assistance and support during the Rising and fended for their families in the months afterwards, when the men, who were the main income source for a household, were sent to prison or internment camps."

Rothaíocht na mBan helped raise awareness of the events that took place in Easter week outside the city.

Bergin explains: "Some people weren't quite aware of the fact that events were happening in the county of Dublin; that events were happening on the Main Street in Swords at the barracks there, in Donabate and Garristown."

The council is also launching a docu-drama, described by Bergin as a "legacy piece", to tell the history of Fingal during the Rising.

Read more:

Irish Independent

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