Kilmainham Tales and its authors
regularly appear in the various media.
Anne Devlin – the bravest of the brave by author and publisher Mícheál Ó Doibhilín, for example, was reviewed in Books Ireland (Feb. 2009):
"This excellent (book), based on a lecture by one of those guides who so enchant visitors with their knowledgeable and vivid tours of Kilmainham Gaol, is the tragic story of Robert Emmet’s loyal housekeeper. In his introduction, O Doibhilín takes us on a rapid tour of what's known about Anne Devlin and where it comes from. Her first biographers, Luke Cullen and R. R. Madden, he says, didn't even record her husband and children's Christian names, though they must have known them.
Ó Doibhilín, who plans a longer book, went back to the original sources on Devlin. She was born in 1753 to Winnie and Bryan Devlin, fairly prosperous farmers who leased a farm in Cronebeg, near Aughrim in Wicklow. Her father and his brothers were also builders, who built many houses in the area. The second of the family's seven children, she was educated in English and arithmetic, and became an excellent horsewoman, he writes. Model tenants as they were, Anne was hired at sixteen as a housemaid
in the Inchicore home of Jack Heppenstall, brother of the 'Walking Gallows'.
But the Devlins were known to be a rebel family, and their landlady made a deal with Anne's mother to swap protection from the Yeomen on the one side, and the United men on the other. Ó Doibhilín follows the story through Bryan Devlin's two-and-a-half-year imprisonment while awaiting trial for his rebel connections (he was acquitted), the family's move to Rathfarnham, and Anne's hiring as a supposed housekeeper in Robert Emmet's house, cover for her real position as a co-conspirator in the plans for Emmet's rising. He describes her incarceration in the sewers of Kilmainham Gaol, where medical inspector Edward Trevor and Town-Major Sirr used psychological torture and the offer of a massive £500 bribe to try to turn her, without success.
Her only non-prisoner friend was Mrs Dunn, wife of the head gaoler, who brought her out of the sewers to her own apartments, and warmed and fed her. By 1806 she was free, living in John's Lane, behind Mullinahack (around Oliver Bond Street), and getting some treatment for the erysipelas she'd contracted in jail. She'd married William Campbell, and they were doing well, with her working as a laundress in St Patrick's and her husband as a drayman.
She descended gradually into more and more terrible poverty on the death of her husband, and died of starvation at 71 in 1851. Ó Doibhilín can put together a gripping story. I await the full version with interest.
Listen to Mícheál talk to Shane Kenna about Anne Devlin on History Now