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My ancestors - O'Rahilly - Contents


The O'Rahilly


   
(Left) The O'Rahilly. See full size.
(Right) Nancy Brown. See full size.




Michael Joseph O'Rahilly, "The O'Rahilly" (see here),
co-founder of the Irish Volunteers (which became the IRA),
the only leader of the 1916 Rising to die in action,
born Michael Joseph Rahilly, 22nd Apr 1875, Ballylongford, Co.Kerry,
educ local national school Oct 1880 - Sept 1889 [Bourke, 1967].
He was educ Clongowes 1890-93.
He was in class with Paddy O'Mara. Also friends with his older brother James O'Mara at Clongowes.
Michael Joseph's nephew Dick Humphreys would much later marry James O'Mara's daughter.

Researched family tree:
His father Richard Rahilly came home one day, told how he met an old lady in Tralee who told him he was a relation of the poet Aodhagán Ó Rathaille. This caught Michael Joseph's imagination. He researched family tree since c. age 18, c. early 1893, in Clongowes [O'Rahilly, 1991]. He rode bicycle all round Co.Kerry, interviewing all families of Rahilly name.

He left Clongowes 1893.
Met his future wife Nancy Brown summer 1893.
He was educ Royal University of Ireland, Dublin, went in late 1893, medical faculty.
Got sick with tuberculosis, left university 1894.
Described as "medical student", 108 South Circular Rd, Dublin, when he wit his sister's mar settlement 1895.
His father died 1896. He abandoned studies to take care of the family business in Ballylongford.
As a student he carved his name on a wooden rail in the old Gaiety Theatre. The carving is now preserved in the Kilmainham Museum.
Like his father, he served as Justice of the Peace. Described as such in [Deed, Nov 1898].
He heard Nannie had been proposed to in America. Decided it was now or never.
He sold the family business in Ballylongford. Put up an ad in June 1898. Sold it for low price. He couldn't wait to get out of Ballylongford. Old house sold to Finucane 3 Sept 1898, though sale of new house seems to have taken longer.
He sailed for New York Sept 1898, going first to Amsterdam to buy a diamond engagement ring for Nannie [O'Rahilly, 1991].

He mar 15th Apr 1899 to Nancy Brown [Nannie, born 4th Sept 1875].
They had a lot of money on both sides.
Honeymoon was grand tour of Europe - France, Austria, Italy.
She spoke fluent French after her schooling. He learnt French too. French was a normal language spoken in their home before their return to Ireland 1909 [Aodogán], and after that, Irish.

Start of nationalism:
His interest in Irish history led him slowly and inexorably towards nationalism.
The first indication of nationalism is in a letters controversy in 1899 in the European edition of the New York Herald, following celebrations of Queen Victoria's 80th birthday. Rahilly criticised the celebrations, pointing out the miseries her reign had inflicted on Ireland. Some of his criticism was censored by the paper as too offensive. See 7 and 14 June 1899. Copies in [P102/414].
He lived in New York for a while. His son Bobby was born New York 1900.
Signed himself in Irish "Rathaile" summer 1901 [O'Rahilly, 1991].

Ireland around 1902-03:
He returned to Ireland early 1902.
Michael Warren continued to gather family tree information for him 1902-08.
He served as Justice of the Peace again, from 1903 (prob. after representations made on his behalf by his mother) to 1907 [O'Rahilly, 1991].
Mac born Dublin, July 1903.
They lived 1903-04 at Wilfort Cottage, Bray, Co.Wicklow.
Researched in [NLI]. Travelled in Cos. Kerry, Cavan, Roscommon, researching his ancestry.
Wrote for Arthur Griffith's nationalist newspaper the United Irishman (in existence 1899-1906).

England around 1904:
He lived in London for a time, where he was involved with the United Irish League.
Involved with Irish Home Rule party in Brighton and London. In contact with James O'Mara who was MP there.
Researched in [BL].
Aodogán born Brighton, Sept 1904.
Corresponded on the family tree with his 1st cousin Prof. T.F. O'Rahilly c.1904-15.

Back to America, 1905:
He moved to Philadelphia autumn 1905 to help rescue Brown family business.
Lived "Slieve Luchra", Lansdowne, Philadelphia 1905-09.
His friend James O'Mara resigned from Home Rule party June 1907 to join Sinn Fein (founded 1905). The O'Rahilly also became a Sinn Fein supporter. He wrote to James O'Mara after the disheartening defeat of Sinn Fein in the N Leitrim by-election Jan 1908: "It is disappointing after Sinn Feiners have kept pegging away for nearly a decade, but nations move slowly and it seems hard to enlighten the men of places like Breffni Ua Ruarc".
He signed himself in Irish "Ua Rathghaille" Jan 1909.

Return to Ireland, 1909:
He returned to Dublin May 1909.
Lived 1909-10 at 38 Upr Leeson St (not Lr Leeson St). There in June 1909. Not found in [Thom's] 1909 or 1910.
Moved to 40 Herbert Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin, in 1910. [P102/105] is a lease of a brand new house, "No.2 Herbert Park", signed 3 Aug 1910. [P102/106] is a letter of 23 Aug 1910 about when the new house will be ready for occupation. This must be the same house which was re-numbered as no.40 Herbert Park. He is listed at 40 Herbert Park in [Thom's] 1911 onwards.

Family tree work reached a climax:

He wrote his surname "ua Rathghaille" in his entry at 40 Herbert Park in [Census, 2 April 1911]. He filled in the census form in Irish. House has 12 rooms, they live with 2 servants. Also in the house is "Síghle Brún" (Sheila Brown, born 1890, America, unidentified relation of Nancy).
He bought a De Dion Bouton automobile c.1911.
He was very musical. Sean T. O'Kelly (later President of Ireland) remembered him singing "The Camptown Races" (search YouTube). This became a favourite song in our family.
He helped produce and wrote for Arthur Griffith's newspaper Sinn Fein (successor to United Irishman, in existence 1906-14).

Protest against Royal Visit, 1911:
He protested the Royal Visit of the new king George V (succ 1910, coronation 22nd June 1911) to Ireland, 7th-12th July 1911. See letter opposing the visit in Freemans Journal, April 3, 1911. O'Rahilly erected a banner across Grafton St: "Thou art not conquered yet, dear land". See sketch of banner in [P102/264]. The banner was seized, but not before much publicity was gained [O'Rahilly, 1991]. No British monarch visited southern Ireland again until Elizabeth II in 2011.
[Aodogán's papers] have letter to The O'Rahilly, 22nd Jan 1912, from one Seán Ó Cuill, claiming to have invented perpetual movement: "we must act quickly".
He joined Executive Committee of Gaelic League Mar 1912. Spent months on massive project translating Dublin street names into Irish. Many of the translations seen today are originally by The O'Rahilly.

Co-founded The Irish Volunteers, 1913:
O'Rahilly's articles in Sean MacDermott's radical newspaper Irish Freedom, summer 1912, are an explicit call to Irishmen to arm themselves, and analysis of previous rebellions, purely on the military grounds of why they failed.
He took over the Gaelic League's paper An Claidheamh Soluis, and politicised it. The first edition of new-look paper, 1st Nov 1913, carried the famous article "The North began" by Eoin MacNeill, arguing for the need for an armed pro-Home-Rule force to counter-balance the anti-Home-Rule Ulster Volunteer Force. O'Rahilly encouraged him to follow through with this idea, this led directly to foundation of Irish Volunteers.
He was co-founder of the Irish Volunteers, Wynn's Hotel, Dublin, 11th Nov 1913 (the movement to arm Irish nationalists, forerunner of the IRA, see Genealogy of the IRA). He became treasurer. First public meeting at the Rotunda 25th Nov, membership rapidly grew to tens of thousands.
As the Irish Volunteers grew to a national movement of 200,000 members, it came under the control of John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party (against the wishes of many of the radical founders).

Howth gun running, 1914:
As Director of Arms, O'Rahilly was instrumental in organising the Howth gun running with Erskine Childers, 26th July 1914, an operation kept secret from most of the Volunteer leaders (including Pearse, who much resented not being involved).
When British soldiers shot unarmed civilians who had been heckling them on Bachelor's Walk that evening, O'Rahilly raced to the scene with his loaded Mauser, but all was quiet.

The build-up to the 1916 Rising:
The Irish Volunteers split over WW1, Aug 1914, the majority following John Redmond to fight for Britain against Germany.
O'Rahilly remained with the minority force under the leadership of MacNeill, but heavily influenced by the IRB, who now planned to carry out a rising.
O'Rahilly refused to join the IRB. He was regarded as part of the MacNeill (more cautious) wing of the Volunteers, excluded from secret plans for a rising.
He was by no means against an unprovoked insurrection (e.g. see letter to James Connolly's Workers' Republic 22nd Jan 1916), but he believed it must have some military chance of success, not be merely a symbolic "blood sacrifice".
Even then, "If the cancellation had not been ordered by MacNeill", the Proclamation of the Republic "would have included O'Rahilly's name" [O'Rahilly, 1991].
The Easter Rising was set for Easter Sunday 23rd Apr 1916, but MacNeill discovered the plan, and after the shipment of German arms was lost in the small hours of Sat 22nd Apr, MacNeill issued orders, night of Sat 22nd Apr, to cancel the rising (see timeline).
O'Rahilly delivered the orders to the South of Ireland, night of Sat 22nd Apr, returned to Dublin Sun night 23rd Apr.
In the words of Yeats: "He told Pearse and Connolly He'd gone to great expense Keeping all the Kerry men Out of that crazy fight; That he might be there himself Had travelled half the night."
He was woken Mon 24th Apr morning, told that Pearse's men were going ahead, realising there was no way of stopping it now, he went to join them without hesitation. He was assigned as aide de camp to the leader Pearse at the HQ in the GPO.
In the words of Yeats: "Then on Pearse and Connolly He fixed a bitter look: "Because I helped to wind the clock I come to hear it strike."".
Also in the GPO were James Connolly, Tom Clarke, Sean MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett, Michael Collins, and The O'Rahilly's nephew Dick Humphreys.

The 1916 Rising:
The 1916 Rising started noon, Easter Monday 24th Apr 1916. The rebels seized buildings around Dublin.
The British responded slowly, putting their efforts into securing Dublin Castle and isolating the GPO.
The gunboat Helga moved into the River Liffey and shelled rebel positions. Large areas of the city centre, especially around the GPO, burned down, hundreds of civilians killed. The GPO was being destroyed from afar, had to be abandoned.
Evacuation of the GPO, dusk, Fri 28th Apr 1916, O'Rahilly led a group trying to reach William & Woods factory up on Great Britain St (now Parnell St) to set up a new HQ. O'Rahilly blessed by Fr. John Flanagan. He says: "Father, we shall never meet again in this world."
Aodogán said his father had no interest in dying: he was looking for a safe house, getting a uniform from one of the prisoners, etc.
O'Rahilly said a sad goodbye to Desmond FitzGerald (father of the future Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald). Garret in an article ["The Motivation of 1916", Irish Times, 13 July 1991] described O'Rahilly as his father's "hero of that period".
As leaving, O'Rahilly says: "But fancy missing this and then getting killed running for a tram or catching cold" [O'Rahilly, 1991].
The last thing he said to Desmond FitzGerald was "Look after Richard."

The O'Rahilly's death:
O'Rahilly took his men up Moore Street, under machine-gun fire from British barricade at top of street.
O'Rahilly hit badly, pulled himself into Sackville Lane (which led from Moore St to Moore Lane). [P102/550(2)] has a map of the charge, made by one of the participants in 1966. Middle of war zone, nobody could get to him, he died later that night.
See Note written by The O'Rahilly as he lay dying.
Before he died, he dipped his finger in his own blood and wrote his name on the doorway beside his head.
He died in Sackville Lane, night of Fri 28th - Sat 29th Apr 1916, age 41 yrs.
Pearse surrendered to General Lowe at the same barricade, later on Sat afternoon. Later, as Pearse was awaiting execution, he said "I envy O'Rahilly - that is the way I wanted to die." Even had O'Rahilly survived, he would probably have faced execution.
He was bur Glasnevin Cemetery. This was one of the founding burials of what soon became the Republican Plot. Corrigan's were the only undertakers that would agree to bury him. See [P106/385].
Administration in Dublin of effects of £330 in England, sealed in London 8 Feb 1918 [National Probate Calendar, England].
See biographies [Bourke, 1967] and [O'Rahilly, 1991].

Just before the Rising, O'Rahilly gave a bundle of papers to a neighbour, Mrs. Hogan, for safekeeping. The last thing he said to his wife was: "Don't forget about the papers - the boys will be interested in them." A few weeks after the Rising, she went to Mrs. Hogan, who, afraid they were seditious papers, had burnt them. Aodogán suspected they were the O'Rahilly family tree. Now vast amounts of The O'Rahilly's family tree papers do survive, now in [UCDA P102]. But maybe there was something else, or something more organised and final, in that bundle.

Nancy was pregnant when her husband was killed, the child was born 3 months after his death.
She supported her husband's politics, and became very active after his death.
She was vice-president of Cumann na mBan autumn 1917.
"Madame O'Rahilly", Sighle, Nell and Anno were highly praised for their work in "the near miracle of Desmond Fitzgerald's election in the Unionist stronghold of Pembroke" (Donnybrook, Ballsbridge) in general election 1918 [Mallon, 1969].
Nancy was on executive of White Cross Fund in War of Independence, end of 1920 [Ward, 1983]. The Irish White Cross Society was founded 1920 to cope with distress and destitution in Ireland during the War of Independence.
Though she did not participate in Cumann na mBan's dangerous field assistance to the IRA in War of Independence.
"Madam O'Rahilly" was on Provisional Committee of Cumann na mBan 1920-21.
She was regarded as an honorary figurehead by militant younger members [Ward, 1983].
Took republican side in the Civil War 1922-23.
She was arrested Nov 1922 when Free State raided her house, 40 Herbert Park, and the Humphreys house, 36 Ailesbury Rd.

"Madam O'Rahilly" and "Sheila Humphreys" signed appeal by Irish National Aid Association for the relief of Irish political prisoners, post-1931.
She lived 40 Herbert Park until her death.
She died 11th Apr 1961 [gravestone], age 85 yrs, searched [GROI] 1961, not found.
She was bur with her husband, Republican Plot, Glasnevin.
Michael Joseph and Nancy had issue:


  1. Robert Rahilly,
    listed as "Michael Joseph Robert Rahilly" at death and in Ellen Mangan's will 1903,
    Bobby, named after his grandfather Robert Brown,
    died before family changed to "O'Rahilly",
    born 14th Mar 1900, New York,
    his father sent one-word cable to his family at Quinsborough: "Boy",
    reply on 17 Mar also one-word: "Joy" [P102/70],
    poss. born 17 Mar 1900, see letter on his 1st birthday in 1901 [P106/86],
    died 19th Aug 1903, Wilfort Cottage, Bray, Co.Wicklow, after short illness [peritonitis, disease of membrane of abdomen, 7 days], age 3 yrs [GROI],
    [P102/80] is inscription in Irish for his grave, not sure if used, or where buried.


  2. Mac O'Rahilly,
    Richard McEllistrim Rahilly, always called "Mac", sometimes known as "The O'Rahilly",
    named after his grandfather Richard Rahilly and his grandfather Richard McEllistrem [though think they spelt it "McEllistrim"],
    "Macalister" on birth cert [GROI] is think the Anglicisation,
    born Fri 3rd July 1903, at the home of Kathleen White, 122 Lr Baggot St, Dublin [GROI],
    on the day, much to his mother's resentment, his father went off to watch the Gordon Bennett motor race nr Athy, Co.Kildare,
    the 1903 race was Thur 2nd July, 7am-5pm, the race is featured in the story After The Race in Joyce's Dubliners.


  3. Aodogán O'Rahilly,
    born 22nd Sept 1904, 47 St.Aubyns, Hove, Brighton (see satellite and street view),
    his father The O'Rahilly got a souvenir from Brighton - the key of the room in 10 Walsingham Terrace, Hove, Brighton, where Parnell had died in 1891, this is now in [P102/82],
    bapt Egan John Eoin O'Sullivan O'Rahilly,
    Egan - after the poet,
    John - priest refused to baptise him unless they gave him a proper saint's name,
    Eoin O'Sullivan - after the poet of Meentoges,
    known as Egan in youth, "Aodogán" is how he himself spelt it.


  4. Niall O'Rahilly,
    pron. "Neil", birth cert and passport say born 3 Jan 1907, Philadelphia, apparently NOT 6th/7th Dec 1906,
    [Sighle] said when her Rahilly cousins came to Dublin 1909, they couldn't speak to little Niall, because he spoke only French,
    doctor, educ UCD (MB),
    he was a "doctor of osteopathy" (alternative medicine),
    he practised at 40 Herbert Park for a time, listed there in [Thom's, 1938] to [Thom's, 1945],
    he was Countess Plunkett's medical attendant at time of hunger strike of her two IRA sons 1940, (todo) see [NAI], archives of Dept of the Taoiseach, Cabinet: s 11515, File: Internees, Hunger Strike, 1939-1940, Letter to de Valera from Niall O'Rahilly, 8 April 1940,
    mar 1stly, July 1940, Dundrum, to Bridie Clyne [Bridget, Bride, born 1898, from Dromod, Co.Leitrim],
    she was involved in republican activities 1919-26, she was on the republican side in the Civil War 1922-23,
    she was with the republican garrison in the Four Courts when it was shelled by the Free State, June 1922 [McCoole, 2003],
    in the Civil War she worked for the republican underground in Co.Dublin and Co.Wicklow, she was in a car with de Valera when it was attacked in an assassination attempt,
    she was arrested in 1923 in a raid in Strand Rd, Sandymount, and jailed for a few months in Kilmainham, she gave a false name "Annie Hardwicke",
    she was on hunger strike in Kilmainham with Sighle Humphreys and Elgin Barry,

    Niall also had a practice at 78 Merrion Square,
    Bridie worked in advertising, Capel St, Dublin,
    they had an apartment in Maud Gonne's house, Roebuck House, Clonskeagh,
    in c.1947 they moved to Ballinascorney House (also known as Dillon Lodge), Ballinascorney Upper, Tallaght par, Co.Dublin (near Co.Wicklow border, near Brittas),
    Ballinascorney House was built c.1800, Robert Emmet stayed in it while on the run in 1803,
    Niall was involved in a TV Production Company in early 1970s,
    Bridie died Ballinascorney House, 1971, age 73 yrs,
    Niall mar 2ndly to Pat Walshe,
    he died Ballinascorney House, May 1988, age 81 yrs.


  5. Maolmuire Ó Rathaille,
    also sometimes "O'Rahilly", but apparently NOT "Ó Raghallaigh",
    though O'Rahilly Parade used to be spelt "Ó Raghallaigh",
    Maolmuire means "servant of Mary", pron. "Mweelra",
    sometimes called Myles, or Milo,
    born Nov 1911, Dublin,
    have searched [GROI] 1911-14, not found.


  6. Rory O'Rahilly,
    born after his father's death, 25 July 1916, 40 Herbert Park, Dublin,
    named at birth as Michael Joseph O'Rahilly, after his father,
    but called Rory, think NOT Ruarie,
    on birth cert, his father, who had just been killed in an armed revolt against the government, is described as "gentleman" [GROI],
    the doctor at his birth wouldn't take a fee, he said he was "honoured" to deliver him,
    mar 3rd Oct 1950 to Marie Terese Sherin [dau of Cornelius Sherin of Kilkenny],
    lived 11 Palmerstown Drive, Palmerstown, Co.Dublin (see map), he is listed as "commercial traveller", living there in 1953,
    still at 11 Palmerstown Drive in [Thom's, 1958],
    Marie died pre-1989,
    Rory died morning of 11th May 1989, age 72 yrs,
    had issue:

    1. Máire-Rós Ní Raghallaigh, mar Ricky Erickson and had issue:
      1. William Erickson.
      2. Max Erickson.





Letter in Irish Independent, 19 June 1909, simply signed "Ua Rathghaille" (no first name).



The family c.1912, 54 Northumberland Rd.
Back: Mac, Nancy Brown, The O'Rahilly.
Front: Niall, Aodogán.
See full size.
See other scan.



The O'Rahilly and his wife Nancy Brown, 54 Northumberland Rd.
See full size.
See other scan.



Dick Humphreys, The O'Rahilly, Sighle Humphreys,
and The O'Rahilly's sons Mac, Aodogán, Niall, and Maolmuire (not sure who is who in this picture),
shortly before the 1916 Rising.



The song "My Love: The O'Rahilly"


The song "My Love: The O'Rahilly" (2006).




Wilfort Cottage, Bray, Co.Wicklow

  

Wilfort Cottage on 1829 to 1842 map.
Home of The O'Rahilly as at 1903-04.
Bobby died there Aug 1903.
It is vanished on 1887 to 1913 map (must be 1904 to 1913).
The site is now built over. See modern street view.


  

Papers to be consulted




Memorials to The O'Rahilly




Pictures of The O'Rahilly




The 1916 Rising








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