Craughwell National School

Craughwell NS, SN Chreachmhaoil,

1916 in Galway

The main focus of the 1916 rising was in Dublin but there were 3 other locations where a rising took place. These were Ashbourne (Co Meath), Enniscorthy (Co Wexford) and Galway.

There were thousands of rebels prepared and ready to rise, all around the country, but when the order calling off the rising came, the rebels returned home without fighting. It was only in Dublin and the above mentioned locations that fighting took place.

To understand what 1916 was about it is necessary to understand the following:

A Rising: this means a rebellion, an insurrection, fighting against those in charge. In this case it was fighting against the British rule in Ireland.

Rebels: people (men and women) who took part in a rebellion or a rising.

R.I.C.: Royal Irish Constabulary, the police at the time, run by the British but made up of Irish men employed to police the locality.

Home Rule: Before 1800, Ireland had its own parliament in Dublin. While Britain were still in charge in Ireland, having our own parliament meant that uniquely Irish issues were debated and decided upon in Dublin. Dublin was a vibrant city; MPs elected from all over the country had houses in Dublin and the economy benefitted from this.

Act of Union 1800: Through a variety of bribery and awarding peerages and honours to the MPs, the British Prime Minister managed to get the Dublin parliament to pass the Act of Union. This closed the Irish Parliament and Ireland was now governed directly from the Parliament in London. The new flag, the Union Flag, came into being.


union flag



The MPs elected in Ireland now travelled to London and the uniquely Irish issues were not considered as important issues for debate. The mishandling of the Irish Famine by the London Parliament from 1845 to 1849 was a clear example of why Ireland needed to at least have its Home Rule parliament in Dublin again.

The Irish Parliamentary Party under Charles Stewart Parnell and later John Redmond worked to get the British Parliament to grant Home Rule to Ireland. The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation founded in 1913 to help pressure for Home Rule. In 1914 Home Rule was finally passed in the parliament, but the Great War (First World War) broke out and Home Rule was not implemented. Many of the Irish Volunteers joined the British army to fight in the war, expecting Home Rule to be implemented when the war was over.

Full Independence: There were others in Ireland who felt that Home Rule was not enough and that Ireland should be fully independent from Britain. This was never going to happen through the parliament and violence would be necessary. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was a secret society which wanted to fight for full independence. They believed that only a full rebellion would bring about independence. Their leaders were Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas MacDonagh, Padraic Pearse and Eamonn Ceannt. Later, with James Connolly, these were the men who planned the rising. It was essential that a small group did all the planning as the British had spies and informers everywhere.

This group of seven men planned the rising. Roger Casement had been sent to Germany to get weapons for the rising. Naturally, being at war with Britain, it was in Germany’s interest to help the Irish. In 1916, The Germans sent The Aud, a ship disguised as a Norwegian cargo vessel, to Ireland with 20,000 weapons. Roger Casement travelled on a German U-boat (submarine) and landed in Kerry to meet the Aud. The Royal Navy captured the Aud and the German Captain scuppered (sank) his own ship rather than let the weapons be captured by the British. Casment was captured. The leaders of the IRB planned to go ahead with the rising but Eoin MacNeill (Chief of Staff of the Volunteers) sent out an order countermanding (cancelling) an rising. This caused confusion all around the country as to whether the rising on Easter Sunday should go ahead as planned. In the end, it went ahead on Monday in Dublin and in 3 other locations around the country during Easter week.

Preparations in Galway

Liam Mellows was born to Irish parents in Lancashire in England. He grew up in Wexford and later moved to Dublin working as a clerk. He met Thomas Clarke and joined the IRB. He was sent to Galway by the IRB to prepare the men there for a rising. He worked with Irish Volunteers and IRB members and anyone interested in fighting for Ireland’s independence. He worked in Tuam and Athenry and eventually made Killeeneen his base.



Ailbhe Ó Muineacháin was from Belfast and he was sent to be 2nd in command to Liam Mellows. Because he had very good Gaeilge, Mellows sent him to Connemara to organise in Moycullen, Spiddal, Rosmuc and elsewhere.


Larry Lardner was the head of the Volunteers in Athenry.


Tom Kenny was from Craughwell and was the head of the IRB in Co Galway. Both Kenny and Lardner felt they should have been put in charge ahead of Mellows. Kenny Park in Athenry is named after Tom Kenny.


Mattie Neilan was in charge of the rebels in Clarinbridge and supported Mellows in his role.



Gil Morrissey was head of the Rockfield rebels.



Fr Harry Feeney was from Castlegar and was curate in Clarinbridge. Fr Tully was the parish priest. Fr Feeney worked with Mellows and bought and stored weapons for the rising.


Pat “the Hare” Callanan was the communications man for Mellows. In a time before phones, messages had to be hand delivered on foot, bicycle or horseback.



The 1916 monument in Killeeneen marks where the planning was done for the rising in Galway. The schoolhouse was there and the Principal teacher Hubert Walsh made the school available for planning meetings. The weapons were stored in the attic of the school ready for use when the rising was called.






The Galway rebels were ready to rise as planned on Easter Sunday. When the countermanding order came from Eoin MacNeill, it was cancelled. However, when the news came that the rising had started in Dublin on Easter Monday, Mellows gathered his troops ready to attack on Tuesday morning. They set out from Killeeneen on Tuesday morning to meet the Clarinbridge and Kilcolgan groups at Roveagh church. They now had a large group including Fr Feeney.




As they travelled along the road they met 2 R.I.C. men whom they captured and took their guns. They went next to the Gate House in Kilcornan, where they captured some more weapons.



They now travelled on to the convent in Clarinbridge (later the Oyster Manor Hotel) and they barricaded the road at that point.



Clarinbridge Convent

They injured another R.I.C. man who came upon them and went to draw his gun.

Having blocked the road they continued on to the R.I.C. barracks in Clarinbridge. There is a plaque on the door today commemorating the attack. The R.I.C. men managed to close the door and defend the barracks.


Fr Tully who heard all the commotion in Clarinbridge came out of his house to find his own curate, Fr Feeney, as one of the rebels! Not being able to convince the group to disband, he shook his head and went back inside.

Having failed to take the Clarinbridge barracks, the group travelled on to meet the Oranmore volunteers.

Joe Howley was the leader of the Oranmore Volunteers. They had attacked the Oranmore R.I.C. barracks but had failed to capture it.

Joe Howley


The two groups now joined together. It was Tuesday evening and they headed for “The Farmyard” in Athenry (today Mellows Agricultural College). There were no students there as it was Easter.



Meanwhile the Castlegar, Claregalway and Carnmore companies met at Carnmore Cross where they made a stand to stop the British support coming out from Galway. They were led by Mick Newell and Brian Molloy. On Wednesday morning the British troops were coming out from Galway. The rebels and the troops exchanged fire as they took cover behind walls. An R.I.C. man Patrick Whelan, from Kilkenny (as mentioned earlier most R.I.C. men were Irishmen employed by the British government), stood up and shouted, “surrender boys, I know ye all!” There were 4 rebels behind a wall within range of Whelan and a shot from that group killed Whelan. The four made a pact to never tell who pulled the trigger and they took that secret with them to their graves. Whelan was the only fatality in the Galway rising.

These companies now retreated to join Mellows at the Farmyard in Athenry. When all the volunteers had gathered there, there were around 500 men. Many Cumann na mBan members were with the men. They had helped transport guns and gather information in the lead up to the rising. They now supported the men and were ready to nurse in case of casualties.

At this point Mellows felt the Farmyard was very exposed and difficult to defend surrounded by flat land. They moved to a better position and took Moyode House, Craughwell. There was only a caretaker resident there so it was easily captured.



All the volunteers from the locality were there now and there was a serious shortage of food. They damaged the railway line and local bridge to impede transport and sent scouts looking for food. The kitchen was not equipped to cook for such a large group and not having eaten for a few days, hunger became a real problem. Tom Kenny arrived with a message that the troops were on the way. Fr Feeney recognised that with such poor weapons and lack of food there was little chance of success. He convinced Mellows to let any man, who wanted to, leave without disgrace. Mellows made the announcement. Mattie Neilan called out “Clarinbridge stand fast” and all 74 Clarinbridge men stayed, as did most of the Craughwell group.

There were now about 150 men left and no food at all. They set out to a deserted mansion in Lime Park, Peterswell.


On the way, as they passed Craughwell they met Fr Tom Fahy who told them that the rising in Dublin had failed and that they were heading to certain death if they continued.



They arrived in Lime Park late Friday night, exhausted. The rebels discussed their options and decided to disband. The men went “on the run” to try and avoid being captured by the police and army. Many stay in “safehouses” before being captured while others left the country to avoid being caught.

The newspapers carried descriptions of the men whom the British wanted to capture.




We must remember that all the men and women who fought in 1916 were normal, ordinary people who believed that Ireland should be independent and free from British rule. They were very courageous people who knew that their chances of success were not high, when so poorly armed. The execution of 14 of the leaders of the Dublin rising caused outrage among the Irish public. This strengthened the case for Irish Independence. The Rising of 1916, while not a success, led to the Irish War of Independence of 1919-21 led by Michael Collins. In 1922 the Irish Free State came into being starting the independent governing of 26 counties in Ireland by elected Irish TDs. In 1937 Ireland adopted a new constitution and in 1949 officially declared itself a Republic.




Irish Flag