Athenry and the Easter Rising 1916 by Ronan Killeen (Revised 2014)

Fig.1.1. A company of Irish Volunteers in the Back Lawn 29 June 1914


Athenry was a centre of activity in the struggle for independence and was one of the few areas outside Dublin to rise up in Easter 1916.  

On 8 February 1914, an inaugural meeting was held for the Athenry Volunteers in the Town Hall,  Athenry. An Irish Volunteer Company was established and officers were elected. The elected officers were Larry Lardiner, Company Captain and Frank Hynes, Vice-Company Captain.
At a review of the volunteers, staged in Athenry on 20 June 1914, Colonel Maurice Moore, commander of the Volunteers, took the salute of over two thousand Galway members. In July 1914 after the Howth and Kilcoole gun runnings – twelve rifles were dispatched  to Athenry. The local Royal Irish Constabulary reported that prior to the insurrection, the volunteers held in their possession a total of 58 rifles, 324 shotguns and 75 revolvers. Ex-NCOs started training the Volunteers for combat. World War I caused many of the ex-NCOs to be called up, but by this time the heads of the companies knew how to train the men.

Fig 1.2. Back Row: Frank Hynes (Captain IV, Galway, 1914 - 1916); Stephen Jordan (Former TD; Member IRB and IV, Galway, 1906 - 1916; Member IRA, Galway, 1919 - 1921); Dick Murphy (I. R. B. Centre) Sean Broderick (Officer IV, Galway, 1916; Officer, IV and IRA, Galway, 1917 - 1921)Larry Lardner; Thomas Cleary (Vice-President of the Irish Volunteers).
Front Row: Pat Hynes; Joseph Rooney; John Broderick Snr (President of the Irish Volunteers); Jim Barrett; and Thomas Cleary (President of the Irish Volunteers).



Liam Mellows arrived in Galway in the early spring of 1915, having  gained notoriety for his work with the nationalist youth organisation Fianna Éireann and his recruiting work for the Irish Volunteers. Mellows was appointed chief organizer for the Irish Volunteers in County Galway. During that same year Mellows was given a deportation order by the Defence Of The Realm Act  1914 but returned to Galway after being released from Mountjoy.
  During a Volunteer rally in Athenry on 23 November 1915 Liam Mellows was presented with a motor cycle which he used thereafter in his extended  area of command. On St. Patrick’s day 1916, over 600 Volunteers including those from Athenry attended the Galway City parade carrying guns and pikes, while marching through the city. According to John Broderick, Quarter Master of the Athenry Battalion, mentions in his witness statement that the volunteers ‘received a rough reception from the wives and dependents of British Soldiers’ during the parade.
The rebellion itself was of a haphazard and hurried nature with countermanding orders coming from Dublin. On Easter Sunday, the Volunteers received Holy Communion and a message from Eoin MacNeill stating that ‘all parades of Volunteers arranged for the weekend were cancelled’ but the following day a dispatch came saying that ‘Dublin had been out in action since 12 noon’ and orders were sent to all companies to mobilise immediately. Each battalion of Volunteers was to attack the police barracks in its locality, capture and make available arms, and await further orders.
On Wednesday of Easter Week a reconnaissance of the Royal Irish Constabulary arrived at the agricultural college, where they came under fire. The constabulary returned fire before quickly retreating.
Later, while the volunteers were gathering food in the surrounding area of Rahard,  a strong force of the RIC arrived on bicycles from Loughrea towards  Moyode. Once again, both sides started firing at each other. Mellows could hear the firing from Moyode and mobilised a couple of car-loads of men and by the time they arrived at Moyode, the RIC had retreated a fair distance.
On the Friday, the Volunteers received information that the British were preparing to attack Moyode.  In one of the reports it was stated that the British were about to launch a large scale attack involving the mobilisation of British Military from Loughrea, the  R. I. C. from Athenry, and the Marines from Galway City.
 Fr. Feeney, Fr. Tom Fahy and Fr. O’Farrell heard confessions from the Irish Volunteers before the Company marched to Limepark not far from Moyode.  The priest Fr. Tom Fahy convinced the Volunteers that Limepark would be too difficult to defend, and later that evening the Company reluctantly disbanded.

After the rising many of the Volunteers were imprisoned in various British Jails including Frongoch Internment Camp in North Wales. The men of the Easter Rising 1916 started returning home from their prisons from December 1916 onwards.

Ø  Land, Revolution and Nationalist Politics in the West 1891-1921 by Fergus Campbell.
Ø  Witness Statements from the Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 which can be viewed at www.militaryarchives.ie.

Ø  Special thanks to Mr. Finbarr O’Regan for his help with this research.


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