|Above: The Athenry Volunteers Committee 1914: Front row L - R: Pat Hynes; Joseph Rooney; John Broderick Sr, Jim Barrett and Thomas Cleary. Back row L- R: Frank Hynes; Stephen Jordan; Dick Murphy; Sean Broderick and Larry Lardner.|
|Up to 2,500 Iirhs National Volunteers gathered at the Back Lawn on the 29th June 1914|
The 1916 Easter Rising in County Galway was a huge surprise to the Establishment of the time; to say the ruling elite were caught entirely unawares is an understatement.
And while the Galway Rising itself may have ultimately failed, what followed led to the founding of the Irish State.
It is a wonder therefore that the Irish State is not fully committed to commemorating the Rising in County Galway.
The County Council is certainly engaged and is planning its own Commemoration and Pearse’s Cottage will be done up – but in comparison to what is planned for Dublin the Galway Rising has been forgotten from a national perspective.
My understanding is that Galway County has received the same level of support as other counties that did not rise up at all.
To add insult to injury, Galway City Council now wants to call a priority over the county’s Commemoration.
But the fact is that Galway city did not rise up; the Commemoration should focus on people and places in the county that are relevant to the Rising.
History shows that the IRB had been active in County Galway for some time and when Liam Mellows arrived in Athenry in early 1915 he found a willing and well organised group of young men and women from which to form the Galway Volunteers. Military training was started and the stage was set for Easter 1916.
The Rising was initially due to start at 7pm on Easter Sunday while the RIC were at Easter Sunday Benediction but was cancelled by McNeill in a message carried by a Cumman na mBan volunteer from Dublin to Athenry.
On Monday another message arrived through the Cumman na mBan network, this time from Pearse, saying that the Volunteers were “out” in Dublin.
The message was forwarded in Mellows in Kileeneen who had just escaped from exile in England.
Within hours the Volunteers were on the move and for a few days at least the British Empire lost control of a large part of County Galway.
One can only imagine the consequences if the whole county had risen and the rifles from the Aud had been landed and brought up the coast from Kerry by rail as planned.
The outcome would not have changed, but the loss of life and consequences for those involved would have been much more serious.
As it was, the consequences for the Galway Volunteers were arrest, court martial, internment and “going on the run”. One estimate puts the number imprisoned from County Galway at 500.
Over the last eight months the Relatives and Friends of Athenry 1916 have been meeting to raise awareness and to discuss the history.
The meetings are attended by daughters and sons of Volunteers, local historians, history academics and people with an interest.
The group has carried out research on existing 1916 Memorials in County Galway and has erected a list of Galway Volunteers at the site of the Athenry 1916 Commemoration Garden currently being constructed by Athenry Tidy Towns.
The group has also reached out to likeminded people and groups in Kileeneen, Craughwell, Clarinbidge, Oranmore, Castlegar, Limepark and Claregalway with a view to coming together to plan events around Easter 2016.
GAA members played a huge part in the Rising and the County Board is engaged also. While planning is still at the early stages we hope to have a series of local Commemoration Events organised in the community for the community.
Drama, music, book launches, murals, re-enactments, talks and lectures, school competitions and GAA tournaments are all in planning.
Involving the Diaspora is also a key objective of the group and we hope to have enough events of sufficient quality to justify inviting relatives and friends who have emigrated, back to County Galway for Easter 2016.
All this will not happen without the support of the community. Your fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, friends and neighbours volunteered to build a new Ireland – will you volunteer to commemorate their deeds and remember their sacrifices?
The next meeting of the Relatives and Friends will be held in Athenry Town Hall on Thursday, July 23, at 8pm. All are welcome