Recordings add to existing knowledge
From the Ruins of the Rising: Northern Voices on 1916 and its Aftermath.
‘We had about one hundred rifles. There were about one hundred men in our group and there were going to be three hundred Tyrone men. We were then to go on via Enniskillen, Omagh, and then on to the Shannon. There were going to be some Galway men there.’
With these words, spoken almost half a century later, leading IRB man Seamus Dobbyn recalled the rather vague, simplistic plans for Belfast men to meet up at Coalisland and join in the 1916 Easter Rising – plans that would end, thanks to countermanding orders from Dublin, in shambolic fashion.
For those in Ulster who had sought a rebellion since 1913, there would be another time. After the Rising, the Volunteers became resurgent until the IRA took the War of Independence to Ulster in 1920-21. At the end of that conflict, however, they faced the harsh realities of partition, the Treaty, civil war, sectarian strife and multiple deaths, and many had to depart the north altogether.
The voices of Irish Volunteers/ pre-truce IRA veterans in Ulster were rarely recorded over the next half-century, as they remained suspicious of the authorities north and south of the border.
That was until Rev. Louis O’Kane came along. Between 1963 and 1973, the priest from Magherafelt recorded interviews with more than fifty participants and witnesses of the events of the revolutionary decade, from all over Ulster and beyond. These subjects included the aforementioned Dobbyn and fellow Belfast IRB heads, Liam Gaynor and Denis McCullough; local Volunteers from Derry to Louth; and Kathleen Clarke, widow of Thomas, the most senior signatory of the 1916 Proclamation.
These interviews sat largely untouched for some forty years until they were digitalised in 2013 with the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library and Archive, Armagh.
This talk examined what these recordings add to existing knowledge of the 1916 and the revolutionary era. It features audio excerpts from the interviews with some of the primary actors in these seminal events.