Please donate to support this site.
I have spent a great deal of time and money on this research.
Research involves travel and many expenses.
Some research "things to do"
are not done for years, because I do not have the money to do them.
Please Donate Here
to support the ongoing research and
to keep this website free.
left Clongowes 1893.
Met his future wife Nancy Brown summer 1893.
He was educ Royal University of Ireland, Dublin,
went in late 1893,
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.
His father died 1896.
He abandoned studies to take care of the family business
Justice of the Peace:
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 sold the family business in Ballylongford.
Put up an ad in 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
mar 15th Apr 1899, New York,
to Nancy Brown [Nannie, born 4th Sept 1875].
They had a lot of money on both sides.
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
and after that, Irish.
Start of nationalism:
His interest in Irish history led him slowly and inexorably towards nationalism.
The first indication of nationalism is in a letters controversy in 1899
in the European edition of the
New York Herald,
following celebrations of
Queen Victoria's 80th birthday.
Rahilly criticised the celebrations, pointing out the miseries her reign
had inflicted on Ireland.
Some of his criticism was censored by the paper as too offensive.
See 7 and 14 June 1899.
lived in New York for a while.
His son Bobby was born New York 1900.
moved to Philadelphia autumn 1905
to help rescue Brown family business.
"Slieve Luchra", Lansdowne, Philadelphia
resigned from Home Rule party June 1907 to join Sinn Fein (founded 1905).
The O'Rahilly also became a
He 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".
Return to Ireland, 1909:
He returned to Dublin May 1909.
Lived 1909-10 on Leeson St, Dublin.
June 1909 letter
lists him at
38 Upr Leeson St.
1909 donation to Sinn Fein
lists him at 68 Lr Leeson St.
Not listed at either in [Thom's] 1910.
Moved to 40 Herbert Park,
is a lease of a brand new house, "No.2 Herbert Park", signed 3 Aug 1910.
is a letter of 23 Aug 1910
about when the new house will be ready for occupation.
This must be the same house which was re-numbered as no.40 Herbert Park.
He is listed at 40 Herbert Park in
He reverted to the old spelling "O'Rahilly",
from c.1909 onwards,
though there is some earlier use.
Signed himself "Michael Ioseph Rathaile" on 7 May 1901
[O'Rahilly, 1991, p.42].
Used "Ua Rathaille"
on stained glass window
to his son who died 1903.
"The O'Rahilly" is used in 1905
Listed as "O'Rahilly" in
The change to "O'Rahilly" was copied by the other Rahillys
(i.e. Anno and his cousins)
starting around this time
(and definitely after the Rising).
He used a coat of arms.
There was a
story about an 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."
his genealogy of the O'Rahillys was published in
He noted that he was the eldest surviving male line and so adopted the style
"The O'Rahilly" (or simply "Ua Rathghaille")
from c.1909 onwards.
"The O'Rahilly" was a purely invented title.
It never existed before in the
Michael Joseph was definitely the eldest male line descendant of
Michael of Killarney.
to whether he was the eldest male line descendant of
the entire family tree,
it depends on the birth order of
The normally accepted order supports this, but of course there are no birth dates,
so more proof is needed.
W.B. Yeats defended The O'Rahilly's right to use the title in his later poem
"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."
Protest against Coronation and Royal Visit, 1911:
succeeded in 1910.
His coronation was planned for 1911, to be followed by a Royal Visit to Ireland.
from The O'Rahilly
opposing the visit in
Freemans Journal, April 3, 1911.
The coronation was 22 June 1911.
That day, The O'Rahilly addressed a massive Anti-Coronation meeting in Dublin
[Mac Eoin, 1980, p.130].
He then protested the
Royal Visit of the king
to Ireland, 7th-12th July 1911.
He erected a banner across
"Thou art not conquered yet, dear land".
banner was seized, but not before much publicity was gained
No British monarch visited southern Ireland again until
Elizabeth II in 2011.
Co-founded The Irish Volunteers, 1913:
O'Rahilly's articles in
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
arguing for the need for an armed pro-Home-Rule force to counter-balance the
Ulster Volunteer Force.
O'Rahilly encouraged him to follow through with this idea,
this led directly to foundation of Irish Volunteers.
co-founder of the Irish Volunteers,
Wynn's Hotel, Dublin, 11th Nov 1913
(the movement to arm Irish nationalists, forerunner of the
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
and the Irish Parliamentary Party
(against the wishes of many of the radical founders).
joined committee of
Cumann na mBan at its founding, 5 April 1914, Wynn's Hotel, Dublin
Howth gun running, 1914:
As Director of Arms, The O'Rahilly
was instrumental in organising the
Howth gun running
26th July 1914, an operation kept secret from most of the Volunteer leaders
who much resented not being involved).
When British soldiers shot unarmed civilians who had been heckling them
O'Rahilly raced to the scene with his loaded Mauser,
but all was quiet.
The build-up to the 1916 Rising:
The Irish Volunteers
WW1, Aug 1914,
the majority following
John Redmond to fight for Britain
O'Rahilly remained with
the minority force under the leadership of MacNeill,
but heavily influenced by the
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
Workers' Republic 22nd Jan 1916),
but he believed it must have some military chance of success, not be merely a symbolic
"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
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.
Sighle describes him leaving for the Rising
in "Ireland: A Television History".
assigned as aide de camp
to the leader Patrick Pearse
at the HQ in the
Also in the GPO were
James Connolly and
Tom Clarke and
Sean MacDermott and
Joseph Plunkett and
Michael Collins and
The O'Rahilly's nephew
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.'"
[Martin, 1967, p.36]
points out there is no evidence O'Rahilly said these words.
The 1916 Rising:
The 1916 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
to set up a new HQ.
O'Rahilly blessed by
Fr. John Flanagan.
"Father, we shall never meet again in this world." Aodogán
said 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
(father of the future Taoiseach
described O'Rahilly as his father's
"hero of that period"
["The Motivation of 1916",
Irish Times, 13 July 1991].
As leaving, O'Rahilly says:
"But fancy missing this and then getting killed running for a tram or catching cold" [O'Rahilly, 1991, p.220].
The last thing he said to Desmond FitzGerald was
"Look after Richard."
Manchán Magan in
Cé a Chónaigh i mo Theachsa?
sums it up:
"It was a suicide mission."
The O'Rahilly's death:
O'Rahilly took his men up
under machine-gun fire from British barricade at top of street.
O'Rahilly hit badly, pulled himself into
(which led from Moore St to Moore Lane).
Middle of war zone, nobody could get to him, he died later that night.
of his death
in "Ireland: A Television History".
See Note written by The O'Rahilly as he lay dying.
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.
Even had O'Rahilly survived, he would probably have faced execution.
bur Thur 4 May 1916 in
one of the founding burials of what
soon became the Republican Plot.
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].
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.
suspected they were the O'Rahilly family tree.
Now vast amounts of The O'Rahilly's family tree papers do survive,
But maybe there was something else,
or something more organised and final,
in that bundle.
Nancy was pregnant when her husband was killed, the child was born 3 months after his death.
She supported her husband's politics,
and became very active after his death.
She was vice-president of
Cumann na mBan
all worked hard on the election of
of Sinn Féin
(Donnybrook, Ballsbridge, Ringsend)
in the general election, Dec 1918.
Fitzgerald's election in a "Unionist" area was considered surprising,
but the vote shows the area was in fact only 1/3 Unionist.
Nancy was on executive of White Cross Fund
in War of Independence, end of 1920
The Irish White Cross Society was founded Jan 1921 to cope with distress and destitution in Ireland
during the War of Independence.
Though she did not participate in Cumann na mBan's dangerous field assistance to
the IRA in War of Independence.
"Madam O'Rahilly" was on
of Cumann na mBan 1920-21.
She was regarded as an honorary figurehead by militant younger members
Took republican side in
the Civil War 1922-23.
She was arrested 4 Nov 1922 when Free State raided her house, 40 Herbert Park,
and the Humphreys house,
36 Ailesbury Rd, Dublin.
was arrested at Herbert Park.
4 to 11 Nov 1922
The three of them went on a brief hunger strike.
Nancy was released 11 Nov 1922.
Nell and Sighle stayed in prison
for a long time.
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
is think the Anglicisation,
born Fri 3 July 1903,
at the home of Kathleen White, 122 Lr Baggot St, Dublin
On the day, much to his mother's resentment,
his father went off to watch the
Gordon Bennett motor race
near Athy, Co.Kildare.
The 1903 race
was Thur 2 July, 7 am to 5 pm.
born 22nd Sept 1904, 47 St.Aubyns, Hove, Brighton
and street view),
his father The O'Rahilly got a souvenir from Brighton
- the key of the room
where Parnell died in 1891,
in 10 Walsingham Terrace, Hove,
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.
Maolmuire Ó Rathaille,
is the Irish form of "Myles",
Myles, or Milo,
born Nov 1911, Dublin,
1911-14, not found.
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.
Events of Easter Week - Short biographies, Catholic Bulletin, 6:393-408, July 1916.
Events of Easter Week - Photographs of people killed, Catholic Bulletin, 6:677-711, Dec 1916,
think NOT 1926.
Christmas 1916 issue has photos of Nancy O'Rahilly and other widows of 1916 men.
What made Ireland Sinn Fein: the chief political content of Pearse, the Gael of Gaels; something of MacNeill, Ireland's historian, Griffith, Ireland's statistician and of O'Rahilly, a leader of the Volunteers.
John X. Regan,
Bibliographies of the 1916 Irish Revolution, VI: The O'Rahilly, P.S. O'Hegarty,
Dublin Magazine, vol.11 no.3 p.57, July-Sept 1936.
archives of Dept of the Taoiseach,
Cabinet: s 5864C,
File: Anti-State Activities Subsequent to 1931.
"The Story of the Irish White Cross 1920-1947",
"A great wish came over me to say how proud I was of being his niece and of being alive to see such a day, but any display of feeling was absolutely taboo in our family. ...
So, knowing how an announcement of my feelings would be frowned on I scarcely said, 'Slán Leat' to Michael although in my heart I knew I never would see him again."
- Sighle Humphreys
recalls her uncle The O'Rahilly leaving for the Rising
on Mon 24 Apr 1916.
"Isn't The O'Rahilly a great man? Coming in here to us though he is opposed to this Rising!"
- Patrick Pearse,
moved by the appearance of The O'Rahilly at the GPO.