Liam Mellows (1892-1922)
A Few Memories by Mr. Seamus McCarra, Renmore, Galway.
The Picture in the Clubhouse.
My late father James McCarra was a good friend of Liam Mellows. As my father was involved in the 1916 Rising, he had many contacts with him. My father met my mother in Rathnure and got married there. Her name was Ann O' Connor, a sister of Teddy O'Connor who played County Hurling with Wexford. My father was an agent for The Pearl Insurance Company. He was appointed Area Manager for Galway in 1928 and resided there at The New Docks in "Seaport House."
The picture in Mellows clubhouse was bought by my father at an auction in Enniscorthy Co. Wexford in 1928. It is now about 77 years old and is still in its original frame. Before he died in 1986, he requested that the picture be given to the Liam Mellows Hurling Club. His wish was granted and a new home has been found for it.
Liam Mellows was born at Harts Head Military Barracks, Lancashire on 25th May 1892. His father, William Joseph, was a Sergeant in the British Army. He was born in Callan, Co. Kilkenny. His mother was from Wexford where Liam spent many a happy holiday.
Liam's family came to Ireland in February 1895 and lived in Annadale Avenue , Fairview, Dublin . Two years later, the family moved to Cork . Liam's father sent Liam to Military School at Wellington Barracks. His father was hoping that one of the family would follow in his footsteps.
The family moved back to Dublin in 1900 and once again, Liam's father sent him to Portobello Garrison to become an Officer. No such luck. Liam's refusal was a great disappointment to his father. Liam became an avid reader of The Irish Freedom paper and became very excited about an Irish Republic . Liam's mother was Sarah Jordan.
One day he walked into a small newsagents which was on Parnell Street owned by Thomas J. Clarke, one of the 1916 Signatories where he joined the movement. Later he became a captain in the movement and turned out to be a great organizer. He travelled all over Ireland , i.e. Wexford, Kilkenny and of course Galway . He spent a lot of time in Tuam and Athenry in 1913. He had digs in Athenry run by a woman called Mrs. Broderick. He spent a great amount of time there and in surrounding towns organising for The Rising.
In November 1913, he was called back to Dublin . He took part in The 1916 Rising but never agreed to the Treaty signed in 1921, which became law in 1922. He became involved in a bitter civil war against the Free State Government. He was duly arrested and interned.
During 1922, a Free state T.D was killed by Republicans. His name was Sean Hales ( Cork ). As a reprisal Richard Mulcahy Commander in Chief, along with Kevin O'Higgins, Minster for Justice, sanctioned the execution of four leading Republicans. Among them was Liam Mellows. Also Joe Mc Kelvey, Dick Barrett and Rory O'Connor.
A sad outcome.
The four men were executed at 9pm on the 8th December 1922 in Mountjoy Jail.
Seamus McCarra. (Son)
1895 - 1986 (91 years old) R.I.P.
Liam Uí Mhaoilíosa
Galway's Heritage: The 1916 Rising in Galway
by Marie Boran, Hardman Library, NUI Galway.
Liam Mellows was born in Lancashire, but spent much of his childhood near Castletown, County Wexford. He later moved to Dublin, where he became a member of the IRB. He was sent to Galway in 1915 to organise the Volunteers there, basing himself mostly in Athenry. Companies of Irish Volunteers had been training in Galway for some time before 1916. It is estimated that there were some 1,800 volunteers in County Galway on the eve of the Rising. Almost all areas of the County and City had companies. There are descriptions in the witness statements in the Bureau of Military history by those who participated in training during that time.
Some personalities had come to prominence in the movement in Galway and regularly travelled to Dublin for meetings with other Volunteers. One of these was Larry Lardner. Another emerging leader, Tom Kenny of Craughwell, had been involved in agrarian campaigns in the early years of the 20th century. On the eve of the rising, P.H. Pearse sent orders to Lardner in Athenry who conveyed the word to Mellows that the Rising was to take place and to call out the Galway Volunteers. The Volunteers, led by Mellows and the local leaders, gathered at Killeeneen. From there they set out to attack Clarenbridge RIC barracks. An attempt was made by the Volunteers to attack the RIC barracks at Clarenbridge on the morning of Easter Tuesday. They succeeded in entering the barracks, but were driven back by the police who succeeded in bolting the door.
The Irish forces mounted an attack on Oranmore barracks, but the RIC barricaded themselves inside and the Volunteers were unable to capture the building. The leader of the attack on the Oranmore barracks was Joseph Howley, who, after failing to capture the barracks, led his men to join those of Liam Mellows. When the companies of Volunteers met, it was decided to continue the attack on Oranmore barracks. Police and military reinforcements arrived by train from Galway and it was decided to move out of Oranmore due to the superior fire power of the British. Various Volunteer companies gathered at the Agricultural College close to Athenry.
There was also confrontation at Carnmore. Volunteers from Castlegar and Claregalway met in the Carnmore area. They were confronted by a group of RIC men from Galway City, who fired on the Volunteer positions. Capt. Brian Molloy ordered the Volunteers to return the fire. One of the RIC men, Constable Patrick Whelan, was urged by his commanding officer to call on the Volunteers to surrender, as he was known to many of them. The shooting continued and Whelan was hit and fatally wounded. The police eventually moved back along the road towards Galway and the Volunteers moved in the direction of Oranmore, where they eventually linked up with Mellows and his companies at the Agricultural College. The Agricultural College close to Athenry became the Volunteer headquarters from the evening of Tuesday, 25 April. Volunteers from other parts of south and east Galway assembled there.
Following a short exchange of fire with police, who were attempting to attack the college on Wednesday morning, it became apparent to the rebel leadership that the Agricultural College was a vulnerable location, surrounded by flat farmland with little cover. It was decided that the Volunteers should move south to see if there were others with whom they could link up. The Volunteers marched across country to the deserted mansion at Moyode, once the home of the Persse family, arriving there on the morning of Thursday, 27 April. Reports were received on the Thursday that forces of up to 900 British soldiers were on their way to attack the Irish group.
A sense of panic was generated among some of the Volunteers by this report and a number left, although some of these returned the following morning. Moyode was seen as an indefensible position where such a military force to attack with their superior fire power. Mellows still believed that it might be possible to link up with groups in Clare and Limerick. On Friday 28 April, the Volunteers left Moyode. On their march south, they stopped at the deserted mansion at Limepark, where they received word of the surrender in Dublin. Fr. Tom Fay and the other priests with the group addressed the men and urged them to return home as they had made their gesture and must now be ready for the next fight. On Saturday 29 April, most of the men returned to their homes.
The leaders went on the run. Many of the Volunteers were arrested and taken to prisons in England in the following weeks. Later they were moved to the internment camp at Frongoch in North Wales. They were released later in 1916. Liam Mellows and some of the other leaders made their escape to America'.
The Man with an English Accent
By Ronnie O'Gorman of The Galway Advertiser with help from a well researched article by Una Newell published in the current Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.
On St Patrick's Day 1916, in an effort to demonstrate their strength, more than 600 Volunteers, displaying Sinn Fein badges and carrying guns and pikes, marched through Galway town. It is believed there were about 2,000 volunteers in the area, but for a number of reasons (some fearing identification by the police), they did not reveal themselves in public. Still, 600 was a formidable force.
The parade passed off peacefully, except for a number of Volunteers from Gort and Athenry who when boarding the train on their way home shouted:. "Up Sinn Fein", and fired shots out of the railway carriage window as the train pulled away.
If the police were in any doubt as to the strength, discipline and aim of the Volunteers up to that point, they were now alarmed. A police report noted: `Sinn Fein is spreading in a very dangerous manner.'
Liam Mellows, a slight, fair haired, man, with an English accent (he was born in Manchester, but spent most of his childhood in Wexford), had arrived from Dublin the previous spring to organise the Volunteers in County Galway. He was only 24, totally dedicated to the cause, and a strict disciplinarian. His father and grandfather were British army officers.
He was highly regarded by his Dublin colleagues as a man who got things done. But as he stood before the Galway Volunteers on his first night, few believed he was the right man for the job. That was quickly to change. Proinsias ? hEidhin later described Mellow's deceptive appearance:
"I thought when I first met him that he was only a delicate little chap who was very enthusiastic about the movement and who might be able to give a very fine lecture on patriotism or even how to fight, but no more. I very soon found out my mistake. He addressed our company the first night he came down, and told us that we're to prepare for a very hard week's work. We felt half inclined to smile at the little chap from Dublin talking to us about hard work, but it was the only occasion we felt that way inclined."
It was not all harmony among the Galway Volunteers. Tom Kenny, a blacksmith in Craughwell, a powerful and influential leader of a number of radical republican and agrarian secret societies, and one of the founders of the Galway Volunteers, was not offered the leadership in the run up to the Rising. Whatever about Kenny's political dedication (he was driven by the prospect of the redistribution of land from the big estates to the small tenant farmer), he did not have Mellows' ability in military organisation, and arms. It was a bitter pill for Kenny to swallow.
Mellows' leadership skills, however, were such that despite the scarcity of proper weapons, the Galway Volunteers were drilled into a united, and a reasonable, fighting force. A soldier?s discipline, and a knowledge of drill and arms now existed among the Volunteers. There would be no more shooting from a carriage window as a train pulled out of the station!
Mellows, always under police surveillance, was arrested in March 1916 and deported to England. This was a serious blow to the planned Rising in the west. Immediately his brother Barney and James Connolly's daughter Nora crossed to Staffordshire. Barney changed places with Liam who then escaped to Dublin, via Glasgow and Belfast, disguised as a priest. He was back at his headquarters at Killeeneen, east Galway, for Easter.
While he was away Alfie Monaghan, a fluent Irish speaker from Belfast, took over the training of the men. Monaghan's movements were closely monitored by the police, but he managed to interact with students and staff at the university. Support was growing. George Nicholls, the town's coroner and a well know solicitor joined the cause, as well as Tom Kenny (who went along with ?good grace'), and Pat Callanan from Craughwell, Tom Ruane and Brian Molloy in Carnmore, Lawrence Lardner (commanding officer), Sean Broderick, Mattie Niland, Frank Hynes, Pat Fahy and Stephen Jordan in Athenry, Eamonn Corbett from Killeeneen, Bryan Cusack (medical student), and many others including a swathe of young men, at least 60, from the parish of Castlegar. Several young curates were attracted to the Volunteers, notably Fr Wiliam O'Meehan, Kinvara, and Fr Harry Feeney of Clarinbridge.
Despite contradictory and confusing orders from Dublin on Easter Monday 1916, once Mellows heard that Padraic Pearse and others had seized the moment, and were occupying strategic buildings in the capital, he immediately ordered the Galway Volunteers into action. He must have known that the cause was lost before it began. The promised weapons, coming from Germany to the Kerry shore on board the Aud with Roger Casement, were lost, and Casement captured. Mellows' men had only a few rifles, shotguns and pikes, many had no weapons at all.
Nevertheless Galway was the only centre in the country to come out in support of the Dublin Rising. The local Volunteers cut rail and telegraph lines, blocked roads, attacked Clarinbridge and Athenry police barracks (in the hope of securing arms), and occupied the village of Oranmore until troops arrived from Galway. Mellows, with a small party, covered the withdrawal.
Athenry was reinforced by 200 extra constabulary. There was a skirmish at Carnmore, where RIC constable Whelan was shot dead, and District Inspector Herd was wounded.
By now the British administration had swung into action. A large number of soldiers had landed in Galway from the sea, and were converging on the east of the county. The naval gunboat the HMS Gloucester began shelling into the fields around Athenry. The Volunteers had gathered at Moyode Castle, about five miles from Athenry, to access their situation. After intensive debate, and only three days following their mobilisation, the Galway Volunteers decided to disband. Militarily their situation was hopeless. Mellows wanted to fight on as a guerrilla force, yet the opinion of the majority was to disband. Mellows accepted the decision and agreed. Tom Kenny was furious. He described Mellows as a coward, and an ?inept political leader'. "Fair-headed Bill, you are good for nothing only drinking tea at Walshes of Killeeneen."
"We had hardly any guns or ammunition," Mellows later remarked, "I had to send many of them home. I never knew the blackness of despair until then."
There was an intensive manhunt for Mellows in the months that followed. But by Christmas 1916, he escaped to America on board a British munitions ship sailing from Liverpool.
Juvenile Club History 1980-2005
The Juvenile Club History from it's inception in 1980 and spanning two and half decades until 2005 is now available to download as a PDF document. The extensive article includes many photographs and detailed narrative which together deliver a fascinating retrospect of the evolution of the Juvenile Club.