Revolution in Galway, 1913-23
“As the anniversary of the Rising has drawn closer, it has become more and more apparent that the focus is on Dublin and the GPO and that the Rising in Galway has been relegated to a mere footnote in the history of the revolutionary period. This is despite the fact that between 500 and 700 Volunteers alongside 50 members of Cumann na mBan were active in Galway during Easter Week – a number greater than that of the GPO Garrison!
Undoubtedly, but for MacNeill’s countermanding order and failure to land the weapons aboard the Aud that were destined for the West, there would have been a much greater show of force in Galway.
Without Galway (and not forgetting Ashbourne, Co. Meath and Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford), the Rising would truly have been a Dublin affair but the West gave it a national significance. The Galway rebels held the greatest landmass during the Rising and in the aftermath more than a sixth of the 1,800 or so detained in Frongoch, Wales were Galwegians.
Galway, of course, also has other important connections to the Rising: Proclamation-signatory Éamonn Ceannt was a Galway man, as was Thomas Clarke’s father, and Patrick Pearse had strong connections to Connemara (in fact, it was from his cottage in Rosmuck that he wrote the rousing oration for the O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral in which he declared that Ireland unfree could never be at peace). There were also many Galwegians active in the capital during Easter Week.
Through contact with individuals, communities and organisations, as well as with the national cultural institutions, Galway City Museum has amassed a collection of significant material relating to revolutionary period for public display. The material includes a ‘green ensign’ flown from Moon’s Corner during the visit of King Edward VII to Galway in 1903; a German Mauser from the Asgard; a collection of items belonging to Liam Mellows who lead the Western Rising, including a chess piece carved in Mountjoy Jail before his execution in 1922; an RIC revolver captured during an IRA ambush at Merlin Park in 1920; a biretta belonging to Fr Michael Griffin; an autograph book from Ballykinlar internment camp belonging to Volunteer Crowe from Bohermore; and a bronze bust of Éamonn Ceannt by Domhnall Ó Murchadha.
The exhibition will also include a short silent presentation about the Galway Rising, a touch screen interactive with further information on people, places and memories of the local Rising, and a reading of the Proclamation by Galwegians, native and adopted. Each section within the exhibition has also been reproduced as a graphic novel for younger audiences!
It is hoped that the exhibition, which tells the story of the revolutionary period through western eyes, will elevate Galway’s involvement from mere footnote to crucial chapter.”
Brendan McGowan, A/Director, Galway City Museum