We are delighted to share one of our graduate’s stories to conclude our ‘Teachers who played a role in the 1916 Easter Rising’ news series. Carol Kelly is a past student of the Higher Diploma in Primary Education programme and is currently teaching in Killeeneen National School which she attended as a child.
As a resident of Galway and member of the Liam Mellows 1916 Commemoration Group, Carol has immersed herself in the county’s involvement in the 1916 risings which took place throughout Ireland. Carol reached out to us to share the fascinating history of the Walsh Family, in particular Bridget Walsh.
The Walsh family, all of whom were national teachers and ardent nationalists, were very prominent throughout the parish of Clarinbridge and indeed further afield. Liam Mellows, leader of the Galway Rising chose to base his headquarters in their house in Killeeneen, where he felt safe with a family and community who were committed to the cause of Irish freedom. In the lead up to the Rising, arms were hidden in the attic of Killeeneen N.S. and it was from the school on Easter Tuesday morning 1916, that Liam Mellows launched the Galway Rising.
Bridget (Bride) Walsh
“A leading light” and “An unwritten heroine of the movement” according to Fr. Harry Feeney, Bridget (Bride) was the daughter of Killeeneen N.S. principals Hubert and Mary Kate Walsh, who joined Cumann na mBan in 1913 and took up a teaching post in Co. Tipperary.
On the Wednesday of Holy Week 1916, Fr. Feeney sent her sister Grett to meet her in Limerick. He had given Grett £10 for Bridget to buy first aid supplies for the planned rising. She bought all the bandages and iodine one chemist had. When he became suspicious, Bridget told him that she was working for an elderly lady who wanted to donate them to the Red Cross in France. She paid for further supplies that he agreed to post on to her in Killeeneen when they came in and returned to Galway.
On Holy Thursday. Fr. Feeney sent her to Dublin with a message from Liam Mellows. She boarded the train at Craughwell where Tom Feeney gave her messages for Thomas Clarke and Sean MacDiarmada. Fellow Cumann na mBan member Julia Morrissey from Cahercrin accompanied her. She boarded at Attymon as opposed to Athenry to avoid detection. They went to Tom Clarke’s shop at Parnell Street where they gave him the message. They then went to 2 Dawson Street where she met either MacDiarmada or James Connolly (She initially mentions MacDiarmada but in a later statement says it was either him or Connnolly). She was given a parcel for Mellows by Micheal Hanrahan.
It’s unclear where the parcel was a revolver and ammunition or a uniform for Mellows. In one statement she says the former but in another she says it was the uniform and she was supposed to be given the revolver and ammunition at the train station but it never materialised. She was given a dress basket to conceal the parcel and was instructed to pretend that she was going on holiday if questioned. She returned to Galway by train and was met at the station by Eamonn Corbett who brought her back to Killeeneen.
Bride spent the week of the Rising with the other members of Cumann na mBan in Killeeneen, accompanying the men to Oranmore, Moyode and Limepark, bringing dispatches and ammunition to and from Moyode and cooking for the volunteers.
After the volunteers surrendered at Limepark, Bridget later went back there and collected 20 revolvers and ammunition they had hidden and hid them elsewhere.
The week after the rising, Bridget returned to teaching in Drombane, Co. Tipperary. She brought Fr. Feeney with her and kept him at her house for a week. He subsequently went on the run in the Tipperary area for three months and she kept in touch with him. He was sheltered by the Cistercian monks in Roscrea who were all republicans. The police raided the monastery looking for Feeney at one stage but he evaded detection.
That same week after the rising, the police came to Killeeneen to arrest Bridget but she had already returned to Tipperary at that stage. The chemist in Limerick had posted on the extra bandages and iodine as requested. The Post Master in Kilcolgan was also a Special Constable who opened the package and realised Bridget’s involvement.
Eamonn Corbett and Pat Callanan had gone on the run during the Rising. During Race Week of 1916, Bridget travelled from Killeeneen to where they were hiding in Boston, Co Clare with revolvers for them. She had to travel through the fields and by-roads to avoid detection and the 25 mile journey took her 3 days. She then accompanied them to Mt. Melleray in Waterford where they met a Captain Collins who was a coal seaman. This resulted in her absence from school for a week. He smuggled them on a boat to Liverpool and from there they travelled to the US.
Life after the Rising was no less eventful for this remarkable woman. Bride married the well known Westmeath republican Seamus O’Maoileoin in 1917. Seamus was one of the volunteers who unloaded the Asgard during the Howth gun running and later becoming known as Michael Collins most trusted spy. Bridget resigned from her teaching post in 1918 after six months sick leave citing ‘Continued military and police harassment’. Between October 1917 and July 1918, their house in Drombane was said to have been raided almost nightly. There is mention of Bridget hiding a revolver in the ashes of the range during a raid in Drombane in 1918 and that same year, the Malones moved to Cork City.
Bride and Seamus’ home at Douglas Street was a hotbed of republican activity. As Seamus spent a lot of his time on the run, she was kept under heavy surveillance and she claimed that a Detective Constable Collins was assigned to her and paid an extra salary to watch her movements. Incidentally, her mother is said to have counted 132 raids on the Walsh homestead in Killeeneen before eventually losing count.
Bridget was a member of the Cumann na mBan team who nursed the Cork Hunger Strikers and this Cumann na mBan group used the Malones home as their HQ. The Malones spent four years in Cork with Seamus using the alias of Sean Forde. Bridget was frequently visited by Liam Mellows (incognito) in Cork on his return from America and took messages for him to Limerick, Cork and Dublin. Many wanted men stayed in her home in Cork until they were able to leave the country
A point of note was that Bridget returned her 1916 medal in the 1940s as a protest against the execution of republican prisoners. Bridget died in 1955 at the age of 66 and is buried in Deansgrange cemetery. Photo courtesy of Bridget’s grandson Eoin O’Maoileoin.
To find out more, visit ‘Clarinbridge 1916’ on Facebook.