Who were the Belfast women and men who took part in the Easter Rising in 1916? A full list of the men mobilised was compiled by the Belfast Commandant in 1916, Peter Burns, in May 1936 and submitted to the Belfast Brigade Committee convened to identify those who may be eligible for pensions from the Free State government for service in 1916-23. It is included at the bottom of this article (the original, MA-MSPC-RO-402, is in the Military Archives).
An account of events in 1916 in Belfast was gathered together by Jimmy Steele and included in 1916-1966: Belfast and nineteen-sixteen, published by the National Graves Association in 1966. It included contributions from Denis McCullough, Cathal O’Shanon and Nora Connolly (which includes a list of women who participated). In March 1916, Denis McCullough (head of the Supreme Council of the IRB) had received his orders from Pearse and Connolly and gave this account in his witness statement:
…Pearse made the following arrangements. When the date for the Rising was decided, we were to receive a code message, the date given in which was to be read as seven days earlier, as the date set for the Rising. I was to mobilise my men, with all arms and ammunition and equipment available, to convey them to Tyrone, join the Tyrone men mobilised there and “proceed with all possible haste, to join Mellows in Connaught and act under his command there”. Burke [the full-time Ulster organiser] was to join us with his men from Carrickmacross and, I presume, take command of the joint forces. I pointed out the length of the journey we had to take, the type of country and population we had to pass through and how sparsely armed my men were for such an undertaking.
I suggested that we would have to attack the R.I.C. barracks on our way through, to secure the arms we required. Connolly got quite cross at this suggestion and ainost shouted at me “You will fire no shot in Ulster: you will proceed with all possible speed to join Mellows in Connaught” and he added, “if we win through, we will then deal with Ulster”. He added further, to both Burke and myself “You will observe that as an order and obey it strictly”. I looked at Pearse, to ascertain if he agreed with this and he nodded assent, with some remark like “Yes, that’s an order”.
When McCullough heard the date of the rising, it happened to be from a Protestant IRB man in Belfast, Alfie Cotton. The order was for the Belfast volunteers to proceed to Dungannon, supposedly for Easter manouevres when they were to parade with full equipment and arms (their arms were stored in a man called Stewart’s house in Hannahstown and consisted of 42 rifles of various types, while each volunteers carried a revolver). At Dungannon they were to join the Tyrone men under Dr Pat McCartan, Monaghan men under Burke, and all were to head to Galway to link up with Liam Mellows.
McCullough didn’t like these orders (but obeyed as the Supreme Council had agreed to take orders from the IRB Military Council for the proposed rising) and, heading to Dublin to meet Tom Clarke, he told Clarke that he (McCullough) would have it out with Clarke and Sean MacDiarmada afterwards. When leaving McCullough told Clarke: “Tom, none of us will come alive out of this.“
McCullough warned the Belfast Battalion that they might have defend themselves on manouevres that weekend and that he himself was going to go to confession beforehand. This impressed the seriousness on them. An advance party had travelled to Coalisland on Good Friday, at the same time Volunteer Charlie Monaghan, from Ballymacarret in Belfast, was killed in a car accident in Kerry whilst involved in preparations for the Rising. On Easter Saturday 132 men answered the roll call and headed off in three groups to Coalisland (McCullough having withdrawn £142 from his bank account and paid all their train fares). They found the Tyrone men unwilling to move and confusion reigned over their actual orders.
A group of Cumann na mBán volunteers had also mobilised to travel to Coalisland. This included Nora Connolly, Ina Connolly, Bridie Farrell, Lizie Allen, Kathleen Murphy, Elizabeth Corr, Nell Corr and another girl called O’Neill (as listed in Nora Connolly’s account in 1916-1966: Belfast in nineteensixteen). In the absence of clear orders in Tyrone, the Cumann na mBán detachment then left Tyrone for Dublin, where Winifred Carney was already serving as secretary to James Connolly, arriving there at 6 am. Nora Connolly reported to her father on the mobilisation in Belfast and her colleagues were dispatched to brief the various leaders (who were still unsure whether to rise the next day) to advise them that Belfast and Tyrone had already risen. In Kathleen Murphy’s account, Connolly re-assembled the Belfast Cumann na mBán to tell them that based on their news,
“You will be delighted to know that we have all decided to strike a blow for Ireland”
Some were then dispatched back to Coalisland to advise the Belfast and Tyrone contingents that the Rising had begun in Dublin. Meanwhile, though, Denis McCullough believed the plan had been aborted and stood down the Belfast men, before their presence might arouse suspicion, sending them back home on the Sunday evening. Some of the Belfast Cumann na mBán volunteers then returned to Dublin again to take part in the Rising.
In her witness statement, Elizabeth Corr gives the details of the Cumann na mBán detachment which mobilised at Easter 1916 (this differs slightly from Nora Connolly’s account but agrees with that of Kathleen Murphy):
Captain: Norah Connolly
Roll Lizie Allen, Ina Connolly, Elizabeth Corr, Nell Corr, Kathleen Murphy, Bridie O’Farrell, Alice Ward, Kitty Ward
The last three names were part of second detachment that was turned back at the train station (the Wards had not officially been sworn into Cumann na mBán).
On the Easter Tuesday, having unravelled the confusing communications such as McNeill’s countermanding order and aware of events in Dublin, the Belfast volunteers re-assembled on the Convent Fields on the Falls Road but, lacking arms, they decided against mobilising again, choosing to monitor events instead.
The list below was that produced by the Belfast Brigade Committee. Dated 15/5/1936 with a handwritten note at the end from Peter Burns saying that this is the names of the Irish Volunteers at Easter 1916, apart from a few names that might be missing. There are 156 names (or partial names) below, well in excess of McCullough’s muster of 132 men on Easter Saturday. Addresses are those given for 1936. Names in bold were interned in Frongoch and where a witness statement is available from the Bureau of Military History it is linked (further accounts can be found here). Belfast Cumann na mBán participants were jailed in Kilmainham and later interned in Aylesbury.
Some of those listed were to continue their involvement in 1917-22 and through the Civil War and into later decades, such as George Nash and Dan Turley (who was eventually shot by the IRA in disputed circumstances in 1937). Charles McDowell, who lived at 116 Leeson Street, was the license-holder for 118 Leeson Street a false address that features repeatedly in the pension records as a code for individuals who were clearly of interest to the Free State government. Some other 1916 veterans like Bernard McMackin and Pat Nash died due to the rigors of imprisonment. Notably, 25 of the 156 men on Burns’ list were dead by 1936. A further 32 were resident in the south, and 9 were overseas. In total, only 90 of the 156 were still alive in Belfast 20 years after the Rising.
Joseph Allen 23 Cavendish Street Patrick Allen 23 Cavendish Street John Allen (Nenagh, Tipperary) Thomas Allen (deceased)
Patrick Bagbey Abercorn Street North Dermot Barnes (Dublin) Patrick Barnes 47 Beechmount Avenue Robert Best 6 Beechmount Street Frank Booth 10 Alexandra Street West John Boyle 11 Braemer Street Daniel Braniff 14 New Dock Street William Brown Mulhouse Street Peter Burns 19 Linden Street Owen Butler (Dublin)
Thomas Campbell 1 Ross Place Patrick Carey 8 Linden Street James Casey 42 Forest Street Michael Carolan (Dublin) Thomas Clear Donegall Road Edward Clarke (deceased) Francis Collins 79 Cavendish Street Alex Connolly (Senate, Dublin) Joseph Connolly (Senate, Dublin) John Corrigan (deceased) Henry Corr 127 Ormeau Road Sean Cusack (Dublin)
Seamus Dempsey (USA) Patrick Dempsey (deceased) John Dillon 49 Gibson Street Henry Dobbin (Dublin) Seamus Dobbin (Dublin) Joseph Doherty 6 Falls Road Edward Doherty (Dublin) Edward Doyle (Dublin) Hugh Doherty (Dublin) Hugh Donnelly (Dundrum, Dublin) Joseph Donnelly Briton’s Parade Patrick Doran 70 Cawnpore Street Hugh Downey 42 Dunmore Street Dunne Joseph Lisburn Road
Patrick Fox 23 Earlscourt Street William Fagan (deceased)
William Gaynor (Dublin) John Gilligan Malone Avenue William Gilmore (Dublin) Edward Gilmore (Dublin) Thomas Gregory Theresa Street Neal Gribben (Armagh) John Gribben Annahorish, Antrim
Sean Hall (Dublin) James Hannen (Liverpool) Sean Harvey 129 Grosvenor Road Samuel Hacket 4 Shields Street William Harbinson 143 Divis Street Robert ‘Rory’ Haskins (USA) Samuel Heron (Dublin) Archie Heron (Dublin) Andrew Hegherty 96 Cavendish Street Patrick Hefferon (Free State) James Hughes (deceased) Jerry Hurley (deceased)
James Jackson (address unknown) James Johnston (deceased) James Johnston Cromac Street (deceased)
? Kane (deceased) Frongoch Patrick Kane Valentine Street Sean Kelly Alameda Terrace Patrick Kearney Panton Street Joseph Kerr Havana Street S. Keenan 28 California Street
James Lawless 25 Lincoln Street James Lindsay Jute Street Henry Loughran Clonard Gardens Fredrick Loughrey 45 Springfield Road James Loughrey (USA)
Thomas McAteer 15 Colligan Street ? McCallum (not given) Thomas McCombe Cawnpore Street Owen McCombe 5 Colinpark Street James McCann (Clones) Daniel McCann 137 Albert Street Denis McCullough (Dawson Street, Dublin) Joseph McCusker (deceased) John McDonnell (deceased) John McDonnell Springview Street Charles McDowell 116 Leeson Street Sean McErlean (deceased) Peter McFadden 23 Dimsdale Street John McFadden 23 Granville Street Neil McFarland St Paul’s Terrace David McGuinness Leoville Street Sean McGouran (deceased) John McGeown (Derrymacash, Lurgan) H. McGeown 93 Plevna Street William McKeeveny Leeson Street James McKeeveney Mulhouse Street James McKenna 78 Falls Road Patrick McKenna 4 Bantry Street John McKenna Cupar Street John McKeown Balkan Street Michael McLaverty (deceased) Arthur McLarnon (deceased) Bernard McMakin (deceased) Peter McMahon (deceased) Patrick McNulty Ormond Street Seamus McNamee (deceased) Cahal McStocker New Lodge Road Michael McWatters (Dublin) Sean Malone 55 Fallswater Street James Mallon Ross Street Joseph Magee 21 Nansen Street James Morgan 80 Abyssinia Street Leo Murphy (deceased) Thomas Mullan (Free State)
George Nash 52 Gibson Street Patrick Nash (deceased) Sean Neeson (Cork) Thomas Newell (deceased) Michael Nolan 93 McDonnell Street William Nolan 39 Beechmount Street James Nugent Cavendish Street
Sean Peaden Rosemary Street James Perry Drew Street Herbert M Pim Belfast Thomas Poland 16 Dimsdale Street
Patrick Quinn Springview Street Robert Quinn 79 Cavendish Street
George Rafferty (USA) Liam Rooney (Dublin) John Ruddick Hannashtown Robert Ruttledge (USA)
William Shaw (deceased) James Scullion 82 Iris Drive Cathal O’Shannon (Dublin) James Smyth Andersonstown Sean Sullivan (Cork)
? Tierney (?) [named as Edward Tierney, Falls Road on list of internees] Arthur Toner 37 Balaclava Street Edward Toner (USA) John Toner (USA) James Towmey Mary Street Daniel Turley 54 Dunmore Street Patrick Turley (?)
Seamus Ward (Donegal) William Ward (Limerick or USA) Sean Walsh 53 Manor Street ? Walsh (Liverpool) Thomas Wardlow (Dublin) Thomas Wilson 38 Dunville Street Seamus Wylie Glenard Drive William Woods 26 Beechmount Street
Named in the various published lists of Belfast internees in Frongoch but not on Belfast Brigade Committee list are: Jerry Barnes 66 St James Park Alfie Cotton, 2 Rosemount Gardens
Cathal O’Shannon (in Jimmy Steele’s 1916-1966: Belfast and nineteen-sixteen) also names Thomas White and Eamonn Rooney as being present.