The Easter Rising in County Galway / Éirí Amach na Cásca i gContae na Gaillimhe
Over six hundred men and women participated in the Rising in east Galway under the command of Volunteer organisers, Liam Mellows and Ailbhe Ó Monacháin. Volunteer Pádraig Ó Fathaigh later wrote, ‘Mellows was the life and soul of the movement. His magnetic power was amazing and the Galway Volunteers would follow him wherever he led.’
Mellows, a Wexford man, had been sent in 1915 to take charge of the Irish Volunteers in Co. Galway, where a substantial part of the movement had been hitherto connected with the radical agrarian secret society led by Tom Kenny, a Craughwell blacksmith prominent in the GAA and the IRB.
The plan for the Rising in Galway was predicated on the successful delivery to the county of three thousand rifles from the Aud but when the arms landing in Kerry failed, the prospects for a concerted and meaningful rural dimension to the Rising ended. The force of over six hundred men which went out in Galway were armed with only about twenty .303 service rifles, a few miniature rifles and about three hundred shotguns. Volunteer officer Ó Monacháin later recalled that ‘the Galway Volunteers, when they were out, did not do anything big. Badly armed as they were, their only hope was to bottle up the British garrison and divert the British from concentrating on Dublin. This they succeeded in doing.’
The first shots were fired on the morning of Easter Tuesday, when one hundred Volunteers attacked the police barracks in Clarinbridge. Failing to take the building, the group marched to nearby Oranmore, taking with them three RIC men who had been caught unawares while on patrol. As the rebels approached Oranmore, they were joined by the Oranmore and Maree companies, as a contingent of the Connaught Rangers arrived by special train from Galway to relieve the beleaguered police. A fire fight ensued between the police, military and the Volunteers, and, faced with overwhelming firepower, Mellows decided to move his force east to the Athenry Agricultural College, cutting telegraph wires, tearing up railway track and commandeering foodstuffs as they went.
While the Volunteers massed at Athenry, the Claregalway and Castlegar companies billeted for the night in the small village of Carnmore, six miles east of Galway town. A group of special constables sworn in from the ranks of the town’s National Volunteer Company joined the RIC and drove to Carnmore to confront the Volunteers. Constable Patrick Whelan of the RIC was subsequently killed in a sustained fire fight.
After spending Tuesday night in Athenry, 650 or so rebels marched in military formation to Moyode Castle, located between Athenry and Loughrea. The initial euphoria faded as the realisation sank in that it was only a matter of time before they must face better-equipped British troops. Their chances of mounting an effective defence were small and demoralising rumours swept the camp of the imminent arrival from Dublin of troops. As night fell Mellows decided to march south towards the Burren to join up with the Clare Volunteers. At an old mansion at Limepark in south Galway, with the Dublin rebels facing defeat, the Galway Volunteers voted to disperse. Mellows refused to the end to give an official order to disband.
The Rising was denounced bitterly in the local press, the Galway Express subsequently commenting:
Easter Monday 1916 has made history in Ireland. But, oh, what rank nauseating stains will besmear its pages. How generations unborn yet will burn with shame, when in the calm light of detailed and exalted impartiality they scan its humiliating chapters. To write of the present week’s transactions while the hatred of armed men resounds through our streets; while the stark body of a young Irishman who but two days ago was animated with all that vitality and vigour which only youth can bestow, lies but a stone’s throw away; while human blood has saturated our countryside; while our countrymen, who last week were enjoying all the blessings of domestic felicity, are now on the hillsides having cast aside the ploughshares for the rifle; while the reverberations of the big guns are still ringing in our ears - to write of these transactions in the calm atmosphere of deferential unconcern and coherence would tax the limitations of a super stoic.
Éirí Amach na Cásca I gContae na Gaillimhe
Ghlac os cionn sé chéad fear agus bean páirt san Éirí Amach in oirthear na Gaillimhe faoi cheannas cheannairí na nÓglach, Liam Mellows agus Alfie Ó Monacháin. Scríobh an tÓglach Pádraig Ó Fathaigh ina dhiaidh sin, ‘Mellows was the life and soul of the movement. His magnetic power was amazing and the Galway Volunteers would follow him wherever he led.’
Sa bhliain 1915, iarradh ar Mellows, as Loch Garman, dul i gceannas ar Óglaigh na hÉireann i gContae na Gaillimhe, áit a raibh cuid mhaith den ghluaiseacht go dtí sin bainteach le heagraíocht rúnda áitiúil, dírithe ar chúrsaí talún, faoi cheannas Tom Kenny. Gabha as an gCreachmhaoill ab ea Kenny, pearsa shuntasach sa Chumann Luthchleas Gael agus san IRB.
Bhí an plean don Éirí Amach i nGaillimh ag brath ar thrí mhíle raidhfil a fháil as the Aud ach nuair a theip orthu teacht i dtír i gCiarraí ní raibh dóchas ar bith acu go n-éireodh le hÉirí Amach faoin tuath. Ní raibh ag na sé chéad fear a throid i nGaillimh ach thart ar scór raidhfil seirbhíse .303, cúpla raidhfil beag agus thart ar thrí chéad gránghunna. Mheas an t-oifigeach Ó Monacháin ina dhiaidh sin nár éirigh le hÓglaigh na Gaillimhe aon cheo mór a bhaint amach nuair a bhí siad ag troid. Dúirt sé go raibh a laghad sin arm acu nach raibh siad in ann aon rud a dhéanamh ach garastún na Breataine a sháinniú agus aird na Breataine a tharraingt beagán ó Bhaile Átha Cliath. Bhraith sé gur éirigh leo an méid sin a bhaint amach.
Bhí na chéad urchair le cloisteáil maidin Dé Máirt, seachtain na Cásca, nuair a d’ionsaigh céad Óglach beairic na bpóilíní i nDroichead an Chláirín. Nuair nár éirigh leo seilbh a ghlacadh ar an mbeairic, thug siad triúr fear ón RIC leo tar éis dóibh teacht i ngan fhios orthu agus iad ar patról agus mháirseáil siad seacht míle go hÓrán Mór. Agus iad ag déanamh isteach ar Órán Mór bhuail complacht Óráin Mhóir agus Mheáraí leo, agus tháinig buíon de na Connaught Rangers ar thraein speisialta as Gaillimh chun na póilíní a bhí faoi léigear a fhuascailt. Bhris an comhrac amach idir na póilíní, an t-arm agus na hÓglaigh, agus, ó tharla go raibh siad róchumhachtach dóibh, chinn Mellows a bhuíon a bhogadh soir go an coláiste talmhaíochta i mBaile Átha an Rí, ag gearradh sreang theileagraif, ag réabadh an bhóthair iarainn agus ag glacadh seilbh ar bhia ar an mbealach.
Bhailigh na hÓglaigh i mBaile Átha an Rí agus d’fhan complachtaí Bhaile Chláir agus an Chaisleáin Ghearr thar oíche i mbaile beag an Chairn Mhóir, sé mhíle soir ó Ghaillimh. Cuireadh grúpa constáblaí speisialta as Gaillimh faoi mhóid san RIC agus chuaigh siad go dtí an Carn Mór chun tabhairt faoi na hÓglaigh. Maraíodh an póilín Patrick Whelan as an RIC sa chomhrac ina dhiaidh sin.
Chaith siad oíche Dé Máirt i mBaile Átha an Rí agus ansin mháirseáil thart ar 650 reibiliúnaigh ar nós airm agus bhain siad amach Caisleán Mhaigh Fhód idir Baile Átha an Rí agus Baile Locha Riach. Ba ghearr gur tháinig deireadh leis an ardú meanman nuair a thuig siad nach raibh ann ach achar gearr go mbeidís ag troid i gcoinne thrúpaí na Breataine agus trealamh níos fearr acu. Is beag an seans a bhí acu cosaint cheart a chur le chéile. Bhí caint láidir sa champa faoi na trúpaí a bhí ar an mbealach as Baile Átha Cliath agus theip ar an misneach. Le titim na hoíche chinn Mellows máirseáil ó dheas go Boirinn agus dul i gcomhar le hÓglaigh an Chláir. I dteach mór ársa i mBaile na Creige i ndeisceart na Gaillimhe, agus reibiliúnaigh Bhaile Átha Cliath ar tí a bheith cloíte, vótáil Óglaigh na Gaillimhe go scaipfidís; dhiúltaigh Mellows go dtí an deireadh an t-ordú oifigiúil a thabhairt dóibh díscaoileadh.
Cáineadh an tÉirí Amach go fíochmhar sna nuachtáin áitiúla agus dúradh san Galway Express:
Easter Monday 1916 has made history in Ireland. But, oh, what rank nauseating stains will besmear its pages. How generations unborn yet will burn with shame, when in the calm light of detailed and exalted impartiality they scan its humiliating chapters. To write of the present weeks transactions while the hatred of armed men resounds through our streets; while the stark body of a young Irishman who but two days ago was animated with all that vitality and vigour which only youth can bestow, lies but a stone’s throw away; while human blood has saturated our countryside; while our countrymen, who last week were enjoying all the blessings of domestic felicity , are now on the hillsides having cast aside the ploughshares for the rifle; while the reverberations of the big guns are still ringing in our ears - to write of these transactions in the calm atmosphere of deferential unconcern and coherence would tax the limitations of a super stoic.