A NEW ROLL OF HONOUR
The recent controversy about whether Andrew Cunningham was or was not a Volunteer raises the larger issue about whether it is time to revisit the official Roll of Honour of those killed on the Volunteer side. The official list on the Arbour Hill plaque names 62 Volunteers in addition to Roger Casement and Thomas Kent. It is clear from the Cunningham case that the onus is to prove the individual was a Volunteer and not a civilian. This may have been pertinent when the possibility of a pension was at stake but this is no longer the case. If the emphasis is shifted to trying to prove Cunningham was a civilian, then the evidence is against it.
In addition, the criteria for being included in a list of military casualties has been significantly changed internationally over the last 50 years. Casualty lists now include all members of forces who die while on duty even if they are not actively engaged in gunfights. The timescale for deaths arising from events is no longer a year and a day. And yet these changes have not been reflected in the current listings in the Remembrance Wall Glasnevin Cemetery booklet available on http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie. We should apply the same spirit of generosity that first motivated the Volunteers to go out and fight for their country’s freedom to those whose cases for inclusion on the official Roll of Honour have been denied to date.
In the Cunningham case there is more evidence to prove he was a Volunteer rather than a civilian. The arguments seem to centre on the sources of the evidence and their reliability. In this instance it is a case of Military Archives versus the Catholic Bulletin. The monthly Catholic Bulletin started publishing in July 1916 photos and short biographies of the Volunteers that were killed in action. This is the earliest and most accurate of the sources relating to the Volunteers. The only Volunteer who appears in these editions and who is not acknowledged by the state is Andrew Cunningham. To reject this claim would require significant evidence to the contrary. The “lack of evidence” in the Archives is quoted as the counter argument.
The fact that the family got compensation from the British should not be construed as evidence that they believed he was an innocent civilian. The Irish Aid and Volunteers Dependents Fund, while they struck out possible membership of both the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army for Cunningham, still gave money to the family. And why wouldn’t a family, whose breadwinner has just been killed, seek compensation from any source.
There is an interesting story of a chauffeur, Matthew Reilly, who was allegedly kidnapped by the Volunteers during the Rising and forced to drive around the city bringing despatches and carrying ammunition. After the surrender, he was taken prisoner by the British and interned in England before they realised their mistake and released him. His story about his being taken prisoner by the Volunteers was front page news in June 1916. A few years later he applied for and got a pension claiming he had gone voluntarily to the GPO and enlisted. So the fact that the Cunningham family got money from the British Government proves nothing.
The evidence required by the Military Service Pensions Board in the Cunningham case is in marked contrast to the cases of Edward Cosgrave and Edward Costello.
Edward Cosgrave is listed in the Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook, as a civilian yet his name appears on the Arbour Hill plaque. There is no evidence in the pension application files and there are no witness statements that describe his involvement or his death. There is no mention in witness statements of any death in the GPO before Friday. So why was he given Volunteer status and not Cunningham?
There is a witness statement from Aoife de Burca who stated that she treated a civilian on Tuesday in Sackville Street who later died and she found out subsequently that he was a Volunteer. All the other Volunteers who died in this area are accounted for so this is either
a new one or perhaps was Edward Cosgrave. Cosgrave does not appear in the Catholic Bulletin or in many of the memoriam cards in the years that followed. It is also telling that he is only one of two Volunteers on the Arbour Hill plaque that does not have a gravestone.
Another individual who appears on the Arbour Hill plaque is Edward Costello. He was from Kildare and married a Lurgan woman and lived with her in the town. Before the Rising he came back to Dublin on his own and lived in the Kingstown area. On Easter Monday he went to the races and came back in to the city on Monday evening. The following day he was taken from the Church Street area to Jervis Street Hospital with a head wound and died later that day. The journey from Fairyhouse to the city would inevitably take one to the Church Street area, either by the Navan Road or the North Road. He could have been killed as a civilian or he might have seen what was going on and joined in. There is no record of him being a Volunteer in the Kingstown area and his name is not listed in the battalion and yet his family was granted a pension. The only piece of evidence submitted was a letter from his widow who stated that she met a man who fought alongside him and saw him being killed in action. She said she would try and get this person to send in a letter but if she did, it doesn’t appear in the files.
The name of Patrick Lynch originally appeared on the National Graves Association gravestone erected in 1929 in St Pauls, Glasnevin. His name was not inscribed on the new monument that replaced the old one in 1966 because of the decision made by the Military Service Pensions Board who doubted the validity of the claim despite the fact that two witnesses claimed that they saw him being killed in Moore Lane on Friday after the evacuation of the GPO. The claim was thoroughly investigated and was eventually rejected on grounds of application being late and shortly afterwards the claimant died. There was a suggestion that it was a “try on”. Interestingly from the booklet on the website of the Taoiseach’s Department Patrick Lynch is now described as a member of the Irish Citizen Army even though he was never claimed by them. He is also now included on the "Veterans of Easter 1916" list. Obviously someone has now revisited the original decision. Will his name now be added to the Arbour Hill plaque and will the descendants of his sister now get the pension she was denied? Or if it was a “try on”, did he even die?
So why were Cunningham and Lynch excluded and Costello and Cosgrave included?
And what about a claim for Ernest Cavanagh? He was a well know cartoonist for the Irish Worker and the Worker's Republic and prior to the Rising was sent home from Liberty Hall by James Connolly. He came back to the city centre on the Tuesday and was shot by a British sniper while entering Liberty Hall. While he had made no secret of the fact that he wasn’t a fighting man no doubt he wasn’t coming back because he had forgotten his pencil. Almost certainly he had returned to give whatever assistance he could. He was shot by the British because he was considered to be a Volunteer. The pen is supposedly mightier that the sword but if you don’t die with a gun in your hand then you are not considered a Volunteer who died during Easter Week.
Another candidate for inclusion as a Volunteer instead of civilian is James Kelly, a lad of 15 years and a member of the Fianna from the same area as 14 year old Sean Healy who was killed at the top of Phibsboro Road. Kelly was considered as a Volunteer by the National Graves Association from early on and he is listed in their Roll of Honour. There are several reports of his death at a barricade near St Peter's Church or at Blacquire Bridge. He is named on the Limerick monument at Sarsfield Bridge as Seosamh O Caollaidhe. There is also a police report that he was shot by the Volunteers on a bus because he refused to join them but one needs to be cautious with all such police reports.
James Byrne was a member of the Volunteers since their inception and was attached to the 3rd Battalion, Camden Row. He was based in Jacob’s factory but while visiting his widowed mother on 27th April at their home at 31 Lower Stephen Street he was shot through the window and died in Mercer’s Hospital. James Byrne is described as a Volunteer not a civilian and yet Patrick Derrick was not so lucky.
Patrick Derrick was a member of the Volunteer organisation for about two years prior to 1916. He was in his father’s house on Friday, 28th April when the military came in, found his uniform and gun and shot him without trial in the back yard. While there is evidence that he wasn't with his company during the Rising there are other possibilities as Patrick Little wrote in a letter to the Military Service Pensions Board: "He undoubtedly was in the Volunteers and could have been considered, under the terms of the Act, as evading capture, or pursued by the armed forces during the Rising of 1916. They captured him on the premises with his rifle, and shot him on the spot".
There is no doubt that he was shot because he was a Volunteer whether he was "out" or not. The Derrick family got no compensation from the British unlike Mrs Cunningham and by that argument he should therefore be included in the official list of Volunteers. Peter Ennis of the Scots Guards was on leave when he was shot in Dublin. He was not taking part in the fighting, so if he is included as a military casualty just because he was a soldier then Derrick should be included as a Volunteer casualty. The same rule should also apply to Christopher Jordan.
Christopher Jordan and his wife Elizabeth lived in the top flat in 5 Grants Row off Lower Mount Street, Dublin. On the morning of Saturday 29th April 1916 men from the Citizen Army called to the Jordan house. Christopher and his son James were members of the Citizen Army though it is unclear what role, if any, they played during the Rising. That afternoon Christopher got word that his cousin, a young woman, had been shot dead outside Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital.
As he was about to leave to investigate, the house was surrounded without warning by the British military who then opened fire on the house from the roof opposite hitting Christopher. He turned to his wife and said ‘Lizzie they shot me.’ Next to be hit by fire was his son James. They took Christopher to Holles Street Hospital and James to St Vincent’s. Christopher died in Holles Street and James lost an arm. Two years later his son James Jordan who never fully recovered from his wounds died. Neither name appears on any Roll of Honour.
John Neal/Arthur Weeks
There are many references to John Neal and the part he played during the Rising in and around the GPO. Charles Saurin described him as "One of the bravest and coolest of men". Joe Good in his witness statement and in book Enchanted by Dreams had nothing but admiration for the man and yet he is described in the booklet as a civilian and is not on the official list of Volunteer casualties. This is indeed a travesty. Whether John Neal and Arthur Weeks were one or two persons also needs to be clarified. Incidentally Weeks is not mentioned in the booklet though his name appears on the Limerick monument and in the NGA Roll of Honour.
Edward Walsh, the only member of the Hibernian Rifles to be killed in action, is recorded as a member of the Irish Volunteers.
John Kealy, a prominent Nationalist, was arrested in Kilkenny after the Rising and suffered a heart attack on his way to prison in the custody of the British. He is not even mentioned as a casualty of the Rising.
Commemoration groups like the NGA did not grab everyone that might have qualified. Cosgrave has not been claimed and reports from the newspapers that said John Flynn and William Carrick
were Volunteers killed in action did not qualify them for inclusion in any Roll of Honour. And yet there is always the possibility that once they saw what was happening that they joined in the nearest fight. They are numerous instances of this happening and would explain why they do not appear in garrison lists. Other Volunteers who had missed mobilisation ended up fighting with other companies and battalions. This can explain why Costello was not included in the Church Street and why Cunningham was not included in his own local area.
And when does the closing date for deaths occur? It would appear to be August 8 with the death of Patrick Reynolds. However, there are a number of persons who were arrested and died within a year following the harsh condition of their imprisonment. These include Frank Sheridan; William O’Brien; Jack O’Reilly; Christopher Brady; John Wallace; Joseph Byrne; Bernard Courtney; Bernard Ward; Bernard MacMackin.
Others died within the following year: William Partridge; Thomas Stokes; John Cullen; Liam Staines; Bernard MacCormack; Michael O’Doherty.
The unknown Volunteer
There seems to be no mention of the 30 unknown bodies who were killed in the Rising and buried in Glasnevin and Deansgrange Cemeteries. While it is possible now to name about half of these, the rest have been ignored. Already deprived of names and decent burial places they are now airbrushed out of history as if they didn't exist. Some of these unknowns were Volunteers killed in action. A Sister of Mercy who was working as a nurse in the Mater Hospital stated that most of the young men brought in wounded were members of the Volunteers. No doubt some of them died. While it is probably now impossible to state categorically which of the Mater casualties were Volunteers there should be some mention on the official lists under the heading of Unknown Volunteers killed in action. Another unknown Volunteer is mentioned by Kathleen Daly Clarke who was in Dublin Castle on the eve of her husband's execution. British soldiers came in jubilant after killing a sniper that had been plaguing them for several days. He was probably buried in the castle and he remains unknown. There are many other instances of men being killed fighting for the Volunteers but in most cases they are unidentified.
And why is there no official recognition for the medical personnel who died on duty during the Rising - Margaret Kehoe, Holden Stodart and William Maguire. They are classified as civilians. To add further insult, the name of Margaret Kehoe is misspelt as Keogh. There should be some official plaque commemorating their service to duty.
The last casualty almost certainly was Volunteer Joe Brabazon who was wounded during the Rising. He died in 1929 but the cause of death was stated to be lead poisoning arising from the bullet he received during the Rising.
There are other Volunteer names where some evidence is given that they were killed in action. These included Dick Farrell, Dick Murphy and Patrick Kavanagh.
It is surely now the appropriate time for the government to be more flexible and to apply modern criteria and to draw up a new Roll of Honour of all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom during the Easter Rising and to officially mark their contribution by erecting a monument naming all of them.
Most of the above information is taken from my book They Died by Pearse's Side published in 2010