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My ancestors - O'Rahilly - Contents


The O'Rahilly


   
(Left) The O'Rahilly. See full size.
(Right) Nancy Brown. See full size.




Michael Joseph O'Rahilly, "The O'Rahilly" (see here),
co-founder of the Irish Volunteers (which became the IRA),
he was the only leader of the 1916 Rising to die in action,
born Michael Joseph Rahilly, 22nd Apr 1875, Ballylongford, Co.Kerry,
educ local national school Oct 1880 - Sept 1889 [Bourke, 1967],
educ Clongowes 1890-93, in class with Paddy O'Mara, also friends with his older brother James O'Mara at Clongowes,
Michael Joseph's nephew Dick Humphreys would later (in 1929) marry James O'Mara's daughter,

his father Richard Rahilly came home one day, tells how he met an old lady in Tralee who told him he was a relation of the poet, caught Michael Joseph's imagination, he researched family tree, since c. age 18, c. early 1893 in Clongowes [O'Rahilly, 1991], he rode bicycle all round Co.Kerry, interviewing all families of Rahilly name,
left Clongowes 1893,
met Nancy Brown [Nannie] summer 1893,
educ Royal University of Ireland, Dublin, went in late 1893, medical faculty, got sick with tuberculosis, left university 1894,
described as "medical student", 108 South Circular Rd, Dublin, when he wit his sister's mar settlement 1895,
then his father died 1896, and he abandoned studies to take care of the family business in Ballylongford,
as a student he carved his name on a wooden rail in the old Gaiety Theatre, the carving is now preserved in the Kilmainham Museum,
like his father, he served as Justice of the Peace, described as such in [Deed, Nov 1898],
he heard Nannie had been proposed to in America, decided it was now or never,
he put up an ad to sell the family business in Ballylongford June 1898, sold it for low price, he couldn't wait to get out of Ballylongford, old house sold to Finucane 3 Sept 1898, though sale of new house seems to have taken longer,
he sailed for New York Sept 1898, going first to Amsterdam to buy a diamond engagement ring for Nannie [O'Rahilly, 1991],

mar 15th Apr 1899 to Nancy Brown [born 4th Sept 1875],
honeymoon was grand tour of Europe - France, Austria, Italy; she spoke fluent French after her schooling, he learnt French too, French was a normal language spoken in their home before their return to Ireland 1909 [Aodogán], after that, Irish,
his interest in Irish history led him slowly and inexorably towards nationalism; the first indication of nationalism is in letters controversy June 1899 in the European Herald Tribune [est 1887, now International Herald Tribune], following celebrations of Queen Victoria's 80th birthday [born 24 May 1819]; Rahilly criticised the celebrations, pointing out the miseries and devastation that her reign had inflicted on Ireland [Herald Tribune, European edition, 7th June 1899, see also 14th June],
lived in NYC for while, Bobby born New York 1900,
signed himself in Irish "Rathaile" summer 1901 [O'Rahilly, 1991],

returned to Ireland early 1902,
his distant in-law Michael Warren continued to gather family tree information for him 1902-08,
served as Justice of the Peace again, 1903 (prob. after representations made on his behalf by his mother) to 1907 [O'Rahilly, 1991],
Mac born Dublin July 1903, Bobby died nr Bray, Co.Wicklow, Aug 1903,
researched in [NLI], travelled in Cos. Kerry, Cavan, Roscommon, researching his ancestry,
wrote for Arthur Griffith's nationalist newspaper the United Irishman (in existence 1899-1906),

lived in London for a time, where he was involved with the United Irish League,
involved with Irish Home Rule party in Brighton and London, in contact with James O'Mara who was MP there, researched in [BL],
Aodogán born Brighton Sept 1904,
corresponded on the family tree with his 1st cousin Prof. T.F. O'Rahilly c.1904-15,

moved to Philadelphia autumn 1905 to help rescue Brown family business,
lived "Slieve Luchra", Lansdowne, Philadelphia 1905-9,
wrote to James O'Mara after the disheartening defeat of Sinn Fein in the N Leitrim by-election Jan 1908: "It is disappointing after Sinn Feiners have kept pegging away for nearly a decade, but nations move slowly and it seems hard to enlighten the men of places like Breffni Ua Ruarc",
signed himself in Irish "Ua Rathghaille" Jan 1909,

returned to Dublin May 1909,
lived for a short time at 38 Upr Leeson St, or (think more likely) 38 Lr Leeson St, living Leeson St on 19 June 1909,
not found in [Thom's] 1909 or 1910,
moved to 40 Herbert Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin, 1910 [O'Rahilly, 1991], listed there in [Thom's] 1911 onwards,
a summary of his genealogy of the O'Rahillys was published in [King] c.1910,
see 12 Aug 1910 letter from him with information he had collected about the poet, published in [Dineen and O'Donoghue, 1911],
he reverted to the old spelling "O'Rahilly", from c.1911 onwards [O'Rahilly, 1991], listed as "O'Rahilly" in [Thom's] 1911,
the change to "O'Rahilly" was copied by the other Rahillys (i.e. Anno and his 1st cousins) around this time,
he wrote his surname "ua Rathghaille" in his entry at 40 Herbert Park in [Census, 2 April 1911], he filled in the census form in Irish, house has 12 rooms, they live with 2 servants,
and also in the house is "Síghle Brún" (Sheila Brown, born 1890, America, unidentified relation of Nancy),
he also noted that he was eldest male line and so adopted the style "The O'Rahilly" (or simply "Ua Rathghaille"), nom de plume c.1911, in general use by May 1914 [O'Rahilly, 1991], it was a purely invented title, though he was the eldest male of the eldest male branch going back to the start of the family tree, W.B. Yeats defended his right to use it in his poem The O'Rahilly: "Sing of The O'Rahilly, Do not deny his right; Sing a "The" before his name; Allow that he, despite All those learned historians, Established it for good; He wrote out that word himself, He christened himself with blood.",
bought a De Dion Bouton automobile c.1911,
he used a coat of arms, some story about O'Rahilly Grant of Arms, but [GO] says: "We have no record of O'Rahilly either having left his genealogy here or having been granted arms.",
very musical, Sean T. O'Kelly (later President of Ireland) remembered him singing "The Camptown Races" by Stephen Foster (1850),
helped produce and wrote for Arthur Griffith's newspaper Sinn Fein (successor to United Irishman, in existence 1906-14),
in the Royal Visit of the new king George V (succ 1910, coronation 22nd June 1911) to Ireland, 7th-12th July 1911, O'Rahilly erected a banner across Grafton St: "Thou art not conquered yet, dear land"; banner was seized, but not before much publicity was gained [O'Rahilly, 1991],
no British monarch visited southern Ireland again until Elizabeth II in 2011,
at the same time, as a counter-blast to the royal visit, Tom Clarke organised the first national pilgrimage to Wolfe Tone's grave at Bodenstown, Co.Kildare, July 1911,
Aodogán's papers have letter to The O'Rahilly, 22nd Jan 1912, from one Seán Ó Cuill, claiming to have invented perpetual movement, "we must act quickly",
joined Executive Committee of Gaelic League Mar 1912, spent months on massive project translating Dublin street names into Irish, many of the translations seen today are originally by The O'Rahilly.


The Irish Volunteers: O'Rahilly's articles in Sean MacDermott's radical newspaper Irish Freedom, summer 1912, are an explicit call to Irishmen to arm themselves, and analysis of previous rebellions, purely on the military grounds of why they failed. He took over the Gaelic League's paper An Claidheamh Soluis, and politicised it. The first edition of new-look paper, 1st Nov 1913, carried the famous article "The North began" by Eoin MacNeill, argiung for the need for an armed pro-Home-Rule force to counter-balance the anti-Home-Rule Ulster Volunteer Force. O'Rahilly encouraged him to follow through with this idea, this led directly to foundation of Irish Volunteers. He was co-founder of the Irish Volunteers, Wynn's Hotel, Dublin, 11th Nov 1913 (the movement to arm Irish nationalists, forerunner of the IRA, see Genealogy of the IRA). He became treasurer. First public meeting at the Rotunda 25th Nov, membership rapidly grew to tens of thousands. As the Irish Volunteers grew to a national movement of 200,000 members, it came under the control of John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party (against the wishes of many of the radical founders).

Howth gun running: As Director of Arms, O'Rahilly was instrumental in organising the Howth gun running with Erskine Childers, 26th July 1914, an operation kept secret from most of the Volunteer leaders (incl. Pearse, who much resented not being involved). When British soldiers shot unarmed civilians who had been heckling them on Bachelor's Walk that evening, O'Rahilly raced to the scene with his loaded Mauser, but all was quiet.

There is a pedigree greyhound called "The O'Rahilly", born Aug 1914, apparently Ireland, exported to US,
and another called "The O'Rahilly II", born 1915, apparently Ireland, owner T.D. O'Sullivan.

The build-up to the 1916 Rising: The Irish Volunteers split over WW1, Aug 1914, the majority following John Redmond to fight for Britain against Germany. O'Rahilly remained with the minority force under the leadership of MacNeill, but heavily influenced by the IRB, who now planned to carry out a rising. O'Rahilly refused to join the IRB. He was regarded as part of the MacNeill (more cautious) wing of the Volunteers, excluded from secret plans for a rising. He was by no means against an unprovoked insurrection (e.g. see letter to James Connolly's Workers' Republic 22nd Jan 1916), but he believed it must have some military chance of success, not be merely a symbolic "blood sacrifice". Even then, "If the cancellation had not been ordered by MacNeill", the Proclamation of the Republic "would have included O'Rahilly's name" [O'Rahilly, 1991].
The Easter Rising was set for Easter Sunday 23rd Apr 1916, but MacNeill discovered the plan, and after the shipment of German arms was lost in the small hours of Sat 22nd Apr, MacNeill issued orders, night of Sat 22nd Apr, to cancel the rising (see timeline). O'Rahilly delivered the orders to the South of Ireland, night of Sat 22nd Apr, returned to Dublin Sun night 23rd Apr. In the words of Yeats: "He told Pearse and Connolly He'd gone to great expense Keeping all the Kerry men Out of that crazy fight; That he might be there himself Had travelled half the night." He was woken Mon 24th Apr morning, told that Pearse's men were going ahead, realising there was no way of stopping it now, he went to join them without hesitation. He was assigned as aide de camp to the leader Pearse at the HQ in the GPO. In the words of Yeats: "Then on Pearse and Connolly He fixed a bitter look: "Because I helped to wind the clock I come to hear it strike."". Also in the GPO were James Connolly, Tom Clarke, Sean MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett, Michael Collins, and The O'Rahilly's nephew Dick Humphreys.

The 1916 Rising: The Easter Rising started noon, Easter Monday 24th Apr 1916. The rebels seized buildings around Dublin. The British responded slowly, putting their efforts into securing Dublin Castle and isolating the GPO. The gunboat Helga moved into the River Liffey and shelled rebel positions. Large areas of the city centre, especially around the GPO, burned down, hundreds of civilians killed. The GPO was being destroyed from afar, had to be abandoned.
Evacuation of the GPO, dusk, Fri 28th Apr 1916, O'Rahilly led a group trying to reach William & Woods factory up on Great Britain St (now Parnell St) to set up a new HQ. O'Rahilly blessed by Fr. John Flanagan, says: "Father, we shall never meet again in this world." Aodogán says his father had no interest in dying: he was looking for a safe house, getting a uniform from one of the prisoners, etc.
O'Rahilly said a sad goodbye to Desmond FitzGerald (father of the future Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald). Talking about his father, [FitzGerald, 1991] says "his hero of that period, The O'Rahilly". As leaving, O'Rahilly says: "But fancy missing this and then getting killed running for a tram or catching cold" [O'Rahilly, 1991]. The last thing he said to Desmond FitzGerald was "Look after Richard."

The O'Rahilly's death: O'Rahilly took his men up Moore Street, under machine-gun fire from British barricade at top of street. O'Rahilly hit badly, pulled himself into Sackville Lane (which led from Moore St to Moore Lane), middle of war zone, nobody could get to him, he died later that night. See Note written by The O'Rahilly as he lay dying. Before he died, he dipped his finger in his own blood and wrote his name on the doorway beside his head.
He died in Sackville Lane, night of Fri 28th - Sat 29th Apr 1916, age 41 yrs.
Pearse surrendered to General Lowe at the same barricade, later on Sat afternoon. Later, as Pearse was awaiting execution, he said "I envy O'Rahilly - that is the way I wanted to die." Even had O'Rahilly survived, he would probably have faced execution.
He was bur Glasnevin Cemetery. This was one of the founding burials of what soon became the Republican Plot. Corrigan's were the only undertakers that would agree to bury him.
Administration in Dublin of effects of £330 in England, sealed in London 8 Feb 1918 [National Probate Calendar, England].
See biographies [Bourke, 1967] and [O'Rahilly, 1991].

Just before the Rising, O'Rahilly gave a bundle of papers to a neighbour, Mrs. Hogan, for safekeeping. The last thing he said to his wife was: "Don't forget about the papers - the boys will be interested in them." A few weeks after the Rising, she went to Mrs. Hogan, who, afraid they were seditious papers, had burnt them. Aodogán suspected they were the O'Rahilly family tree.

Nancy was pregnant when her husband was killed, the child was born 3 months after his death,
she supported her husband's politics,
she was vice-president of Cumann na mBan autumn 1917,
"Madame O'Rahilly", Sighle, Nell and Anno were highly praised for their work in "the near miracle of Desmond Fitzgerald's election in the Unionist stronghold of Pembroke" (Donnybrook, Ballsbridge) in general election 1918 [Mallon, 1969],
Fitzgerald was in prison for First Dail Jan 1919, "When his name was called .. they heard the answer "Fe ghlas ag Gallaibh"" ["Imprisoned by the foreign enemy"],
Nancy was on executive of White Cross Fund in War of Independence, end of 1920 [Ward, 1983], the Irish White Cross Society was founded 1920 to cope with distress and destitution in Ireland during the War of Independence,
but she did not participate in Cumann na mBan's dangerous field assistance to the IRA in War of Independence,
"Madam O'Rahilly" was on Provisional Committee of Cumann na mBan 1920-21,
she was regarded as honorary figurehead by militant younger members [Ward, 1983],
in Civil War, she was arrested Nov 1922 when Free State raided her house, 40 Herbert Park, and the Humphreys house, 36 Ailesbury Rd,

"Madam O'Rahilly" and "Sheila Humphreys" signed appeal by Irish National Aid Association for the relief of Irish political prisoners, post-1931, (todo) see [NAI], archives of Dept of the Taoiseach, Cabinet: s 5864C, File: Anti-State Activities Subsequent to 1931,
she lived 40 Herbert Park until her death,
died 11th Apr 1961 [gravestone], age 85 yrs, searched [GROI] 1961 - not found,
bur with her husband, Republican Plot, Glasnevin,
had issue:


  1. Robert Rahilly,
    listed as "Michael Joseph Robert Rahilly" at death and in Ellen Mangan's will 1903,
    Bobby, named after his grandfather Robert Brown,
    died before family changed to "O'Rahilly",
    born 14th Mar 1900, New York,
    his father sent one-word cable to his family at Quinsborough: "Boy", reply also one-word: "Joy",
    died 19th Aug 1903, Welford Cottage, nr Bray, Co.Wicklow, after short illness [peritonitis, disease of membrane of abdomen, 7 days], age 3 yrs [GROI].


  2. Mac O'Rahilly,
    Richard McEllistrim Rahilly, always called "Mac", sometimes known as "The O'Rahilly",
    named after his grandfather Richard Rahilly and his grandfather Richard McEllistrem [though think they spelt it "McEllistrim"],
    "Macalister" on birth cert [GROI] is think the Anglicisation,
    born Fri 3rd July 1903, at the home of Kathleen White, 122 Lr Baggot St, Dublin [GROI],
    on the day, much to his mother's resentment, his father went off to watch the Gordon Bennett motor race nr Athy, Co.Kildare,
    the 1903 race was Thur 2nd July, 7am-5pm, the race is featured in the story After The Race in Joyce's Dubliners.


  3. Aodogán O'Rahilly,
    born 22nd Sept 1904, 47 St.Aubyns, Hove, Brighton (see satellite and street view),
    his father The O'Rahilly got a souvenir from Brighton - the key of the room in 10 Walsingham Terrace, Hove, Brighton, where Parnell had died in 1891,
    bapt Egan John Eoin O'Sullivan O'Rahilly,
    Egan - after the poet,
    John - priest refused to baptise him unless they gave him a proper saint's name,
    Eoin O'Sullivan - after the poet of Meentoges,
    known as Egan in youth, "Aodogán" is how he himself spelt it.


  4. Niall O'Rahilly,
    pron. "Neil", birth cert and passport say born 3 Jan 1907, Philadelphia, apparently NOT 6th/7th Dec 1906,
    [Sighle] said when her Rahilly cousins came to Dublin 1909, they couldn't speak to little Niall, because he spoke only French,
    doctor, educ UCD (MB),
    he was a "doctor of osteopathy" (alternative medicine),
    he practised at 40 Herbert Park for a time, listed there in [Thom's, 1938] to [Thom's, 1945],
    he was Countess Plunkett's medical attendant at time of hunger strike of her two IRA sons 1940, (todo) see [NAI], archives of Dept of the Taoiseach, Cabinet: s 11515, File: Internees, Hunger Strike, 1939-1940, Letter to de Valera from Niall O'Rahilly, 8 April 1940,
    mar 1stly, July 1940, Dundrum, to Bridie Clyne [Bridget, Bride, born 1898, from Dromod, Co.Leitrim],
    she was involved in republican activities 1919-26, she was on the republican side in the Civil War 1922-23,
    she was with the republican garrison in the Four Courts when it was shelled by the Free State, June 1922 [McCoole, 2003],
    in the Civil War she worked for the republican underground in Co.Dublin and Co.Wicklow, she was in a car with de Valera when it was attacked in an assassination attempt,
    she was arrested in 1923 in a raid in Strand Rd, Sandymount, and jailed for a few months in Kilmainham, she gave a false name "Annie Hardwicke",
    she was on hunger strike in Kilmainham with Sighle Humphreys and Elgin Barry,

    Niall also had a practice at 78 Merrion Square,
    Bridie worked in advertising, Capel St, Dublin,
    they had an apartment in Maud Gonne's house, Roebuck House, Clonskeagh,
    in c.1947 they moved to Ballinascorney House (also known as Dillon Lodge), Ballinascorney Upper, Tallaght par, Co.Dublin (near Co.Wicklow border, near Brittas),
    Ballinascorney House was built c.1800, Robert Emmet stayed in it while on the run in 1803,
    Niall was involved in a TV Production Company in early 1970s,
    Bridie died Ballinascorney House, 1971, age 73 yrs,
    Niall mar 2ndly to Pat Walshe,
    he died Ballinascorney House, May 1988, age 81 yrs.


  5. Maolmuire Ó Rathaille,
    also sometimes "O'Rahilly", but apparently NOT "Ó Raghallaigh",
    though O'Rahilly Parade used to be spelt "Ó Raghallaigh",
    Maolmuire means "servant of Mary", pron. "Mweelra",
    sometimes called Myles, or Milo,
    born Nov 1911, Dublin,
    have searched [GROI] 1911-14, not found.


  6. Rory O'Rahilly,
    born after his father's death, 25 July 1916, 40 Herbert Park, Dublin,
    named at birth as Michael Joseph O'Rahilly, after his father,
    but called Rory, think NOT Ruarie,
    on birth cert, his father, who had just been killed in an armed revolt against the government, is described as "gentleman" [GROI],
    the doctor at his birth wouldn't take a fee, he said he was "honoured" to deliver him,
    mar 3rd Oct 1950 to Marie Terese Sherin [dau of Cornelius Sherin of Kilkenny],
    lived 11 Palmerstown Drive, Palmerstown, Co.Dublin (see map), he is listed as "commercial traveller", living there in 1953,
    still at 11 Palmerstown Drive in [Thom's, 1958],
    Marie died pre-1989,
    Rory died morning of 11th May 1989, age 72 yrs,
    had issue:

    1. Máire-Rós Ní Raghallaigh, mar Ricky Erickson and had issue:
      1. William Erickson.
      2. Max Erickson.





The O'Rahilly.
From [Aodogán's papers, UCD].



The O'Rahilly, at time of his marriage, 1899. See full size.



Photo of The O'Rahilly on the cover of [O'Rahilly, 1991].
Bitmap also in UCD News.



The family c.1912.
Back: Mac, Nancy Brown, The O'Rahilly.
Front: Niall, Aodogán.
See full size.



Nancy Brown, The O'Rahilly. See full size.



Dick Humphreys, The O'Rahilly, Sighle Humphreys,
and The O'Rahilly's sons Mac, Aodogán, Niall, and Maolmuire (not sure who is who in this picture),
shortly before the 1916 Rising.







Papers to be consulted



Tributes and memorials




Anonymous republican tribute to The O'Rahilly,
using images from this site and the song "The Dying Rebel".




RTE 1966 programs



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