Today at The Rising, we’re taking a look at the Rising outside of Dublin, to the experience of the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan in Cork, Limerick, Wexford, Tyrone and Galway. Historical sources suggest the wider potential for large-scale unrest throughout Ireland outside of Dublin. Yet confusion and hesitation sowed by the counter-mobilisation order issued by Eoin Mac Néill on Easter Saturday (published in the Sunday Independent and couriered to Volunteer leaders across the country) effectively aborted a popular national Rebellion. Patrick Pearse’s second order to mobilise only arrived on Easter Monday, causing intense uncertainty. Furthermore, the failure to land arms in Kerry three days before the Rising compounded unwillingness to take decisive action.
A deadly incident took place near Galbally on the Tipperary/Limerick border. Volunteer Michael O’Callaghan, aged 29, of Garryspillane, shot dead Thomas Rourke (a police sergeant), and John Hurley (a constable) when they entered the house in which he was staying to arrest him. The police were searching for O’Callaghan (from a shopkeeping family in Tipperary town) after he pulled a revolver on separation women (women with husbands fighting in the Great War) who were threatened him after news of the Rising reached the town. He was awakened late that night by the RIC. O’Callaghan wounded one of the raiding party in the leg, fled the town and travelled to Galbally, where he found refuge in the home of Peter Hennessey of Monour. The two RIC men were killed when they raided this house. Callaghan shot Rourke when he entered the house and then pursued the fleeing Hurley, shooting him in the back of the head. After months on the run, O’Callaghan escaped to the United States where he continued his involvement in the republican movement. You can read an account of this by Edmond O’Brien of Galbally, through the Bureau of Military History website.
The details of Michael O’Callaghan’s activities are preserved in his military pension application, available online through the Military Service Pensions Collection. After being smuggled out of Ireland, he became a well known figure amongst Irish republicans in New York and was close to fellow ‘refugees’ Liam Mellows and Patrick McCartan. With Larry DeLacy of Wexford, he was involved in an ill-fated attempt to ship guns to the Volunteers and was jailed pending extradition from November 1917 until January 1918, when the charges were against him were unexpectedly dropped. He returned to Ireland in 1923.
Volunteer leader Dan Breen later told the military pensions board that O’Callaghan had ‘saved the name of Tipperary by his actions during that famous week,’ and ‘I only wish we had some more like O’Callaghan, if we had, 1916 would not have faded out as it did’.