Humphrys genealogy

Genealogy research by Mark Humphrys.

My ancestors - Humphrys - Contents

Mountjoy Prison

Mountjoy Prison, Dublin.
Where various Humphreys and O'Rahilly family members were jailed for revolutionary activities.
Notably, various female members of the family, who were held in the female section of Mountjoy.

Crowd outside Mountjoy in 1920, during the War of Independence.
From British Pathe.


1916 Rising

Nell Humphreys was briefly jailed in Mountjoy by the British in May 1916, after the Easter Rising.


War of Independence, 1919-1921

Dick Humphreys was jailed at Mountjoy men's prison by the British during the War of Independence. He was in Mountjoy in Apr 1920.
Emmet Humphreys was jailed at Mountjoy men's prison by the British in 1921.


Civil War, 1922-1923

During the Civil War, the Humphreys and O'Rahilly families took the Republican side.
The Humphreys house on Ailesbury Road was raided by the Free State in Nov 1922 and the family arrested.
Nell Humphreys and Sighle Humphreys and Nancy O'Rahilly were jailed by the Free State in Mountjoy in Nov 1922.
Nancy was soon released in Nov 1922.
Nell erected early on (in Nov 1922) an altar in Mountjoy and organised the inmates in regular prayers. The altar was dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. There are references to the prisoners holding vigils at "Our Lady of Perpetual Succour's altar, Mountjoy".
Nell was moved to another prison in Feb 1923.
Sighle was moved to another prison in Apr 1923.
Anno O'Rahilly was jailed at Mountjoy in early 1923. She was moved to another prison in Apr 1923.


Sighle after the Civil War

Sighle Humphreys continued republican activity after the Civil War and was jailed a number of times.
She was jailed in Mountjoy in Oct 1926 to Apr 1927. Her future husband Domhnall O'Donoghue was jailed in Mountjoy men's prison.
Sighle was jailed in Mountjoy in Apr 1928 to Nov 1928.
She was jailed in Mountjoy in Nov 1931 to Dec 1931.

Stained glass window, 1939

In March 1939, shortly before her death, Nell paid for an impressive triptych stained-glass window to be erected in the chapel of her old prison, the female wing of Mountjoy, in memory of all the women who were held there for revolutionary activities. The image is Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.
The window was made by the Harry Clarke Studio (Harry Clarke died 1931).
A prison letter of 9 Nov 1959 says the window was made "following an order placed on 27 March 1939 by the late [Mrs. Humphreys], sister of The O'Rahilly".
Nell did not live to see it erected. She died 8 June 1939.
Letter of 10 Aug 1939 says the window is ready for erection. The window was installed on 15 Oct 1939. Sighle unveiled it.
There was a plaque with a dedication to the women of Cumann na mBan.

Modern era

In 1956, the female wing of Mountjoy became St. Patrick's Institution for younger prisoners.
It is now the "Mountjoy West" wing of Mountjoy Prison.

The stained glass window survives.
The plaque to Cumann na mBan was at some point covered up and later removed and lost.
On 2 June 2016, a 1916 centenary event was held in the prison chapel. A small new plaque was set up with a dedication in Irish to Cumann na mBan to replace the lost plaque. The President Michael D. Higgins made a speech in which he paid tribute to Nell Humphreys.


Mountjoy on satellite view.
The former women's prison of Mountjoy is the LHS one (the W one) of the two star-shaped clusters of buildings.
See street view of outside gate (to S).
Location of chapel and window: The women were held on B wing:


Stained glass window

The Humphreys stained glass window of 1939 survives.

The stained-glass window is shown here from the outside, at the S end of the chapel.
Image from here.

The stained-glass window from the inside.
Photo 2016. See larger and full size.
See earlier photo.

The stained-glass window.
See full size.
From Margaret Ryan. Used with permission.

The medieval icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour that the window is based on.
The icon is first recorded in history in 1499. It is now in Rome.
From here.

Detail of photo above.


1916 centenary event, 2016


The President Michael D. Higgins speaking at the 2016 event.

Audio of the 2016 speech as delivered by President Higgins in the prison chapel.
A bit different to the prepared text.
He talks about Nell and the window from 6:11 to 10:34.
From here.
See also tweet.


Sources yet to be consulted


"To be honest I never had such an enjoyable time; not since I was at school, there were so many of us here together."
- Nell writing in Jan 1923 about Christmas 1922 in Mountjoy prison with all the other Republican women prisoners.

"As to service, we lived in a state of luxury that we shall probably never again enjoy in this world. Everything was done for us. The only exertion of our day was lifting the fork to our mouths at dinner ... Our mornings are worth describing. ... the wardress unlocked the door .. to tell us that our baths were ready. All my life while I enjoyed the pleasures of home and freedom I had to begin the day, summer and winter, with a dreaded cold bath. Now that I was "suffering in prison", I began the day with a full hot bath - too hot very often. After our baths we found our breakfasts waiting for us on a table before a blazing fire. ... by 9.30 a.m. we were absolutely and entirely free to do nothing for the rest of the day. If physical comfort is all that is necessary to constitute happiness we should have been the happiest individuals on the face of the earth. But instead of enjoying our state of luxury, as sensible individuals would have done, we looked around for and sought out causes to grouse about."
- Sighle in [P106/979(1)] recalls that in early 1923 in Mountjoy, life was not bad.

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