J. K. O’Reilly (1860-1929) of 181 North Circular Road, Dublin, was author of of the patriotic ballad, “Wrap The Green Flag Round Me, Boys”. Not alone did he take part in the 1916 Rising but so did all his sons: Kevin (1893-1962), Sam (1896-1988), Desmond (1898-1969), Tommy (1900-1985) and Donal O’Reilly (1902-1968). J. K. and Kevin, Sam and Desmond served in the Irish Volunteeers, while Tommy and Donal served in Fianna Eireann.
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgN4_DjAxEw&sns=em for Luke Kelly and https://lyrics.wikia.com/…/Wolfe_Tones:Wrap_The_Green_Flag_… for full lyrics.
This November 7th saw over 200 people turn out for the launch by the Cabra 1916 Rising Committee of a marvellous 156–page historical publication. Among the Cabra residents honoured in “Our Rising: Cabra and Phibsborough in Easter 1916” are the O’Reilly family.
IN THE 1916 RISING AT 13 YEARS OF AGE
In March 1966 the “Irish Socialist”, publication of the then Irish Workers’ Party (now the Communist Party of Ireland), brought out a special issue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. A highlight of that publication had been Party veteran Donal O’Reilly’s memories of how, as a 13 year old boy, he had followed his father and brothers into the Rising, to the horror of Rising leader Tom Clarke, who considered him far too young to be involved in war. It was subsequently republished by my father, Micheal O’Riordan, in his 1979 book, “Connolly Column”.
Included in Donal O’Reilly’s memoir was his own day-by-day account of Easter Week, 1916:
“Monday, Easter Week: In our home it was the ordinary week-end mobilisation. There was the cancellation order by McNeill in the “Sunday Independent” of course, but somehow we didn’t seem to pay much attention to newspapers then. Certainly all the adult members of my family went on parade. At two o’clock, I knew there was a difference. A barricade was up at the Railway Bridge in Phibsboro, which was just a few hundred yards from our home. Houses were occupied and all sorts of guns were in evidence. Down I went into O’Connell Street.
“The Proclamation was up. The windows of the G.P.O. were barricaded. The looting had already started and despite efforts by a few Volunteers, shop after shop was destroyed. How fires were prevented by the few Volunteers that were on the streets seemed a miracle. Back through the barricades of Phibsboro I went home with wondrous tales to tell! Nobody was at home; all were out on their barricades!
“Tuesday, Easter Week: There was a silence that I had never known before or since. Nothing moved on the North Circular or Old Cabra Roads. I wanted to go into the city centre again, but how could I get across the barricade on the Railway Bridge? I knew Jim O’Sullivan, the officer in charge, but that would be of little value. I hung around and eventually nobody knew which side of the barricade I should be on. I discovered my own private route into O’Connell Street; down Mountjoy Square, into Hutton’s Place, across Summerhill, an area that was then teeming with life, all living in big and small tenement dwellings.
“I got to the G.P.O. The looting had ceased and the only movement now was of determined men that came and went. A few groups were gathered around the Post Office trying to get in, but were rejected. At three o’clock there was a movement at the side door in Henry Street and the “War News” made its appearance. I duly appointed myself as official newsboy to the Garrison. Within an hour-and-a-half, the “War News” was sold and I was back in the G.P.O. with my my official status and the money. I got into the main hall.
“Tom Clarke, whom I had met in his shop and at the lying-in-state of O’Donovan Rossa at the City Hall, saw me and was horrified. I was sent to Jim Ryan and he sent me off to Purcell’s with a parcel of bandages. At the Purcell’s post I stayed and there I met Cyl MacParland, a man who was to be very close to me for many years afterwards.
“Wednesday, Easter Week: The silence had gone. The occasional crack of a rifle had given way to the boom of artillery.
“Back at G.P.O: Thursday, I returned to the G.P.O; there was no difficulty in getting in now. The guns were battering away and all the women and youth were being prepared for evacuation. It was proposed that we should go via Princes Street, Abbey Street and Capel Street. I left, crossing O’Connell Street, Marlborough Street and then up by Hutton’s Place. Eventually I got to old houses in Berkeley Road, and stayed there until Sunday morning.”
20 YEARS LATER, FIGHTING IN SPAIN
So ended Donal O’Reilly’s memoir. He went on to fight in Ireland’s War of Independence (1919-1921), and on the Republican side in the Civil War (1922-1923), serving in the Four Courts garrison and, on surrender, being imprisoned in Mountjoy Gaol. But Donie, as he was known among friends and comrades, went on to fight for a second Republic, accompanying Frank Ryan in the first group of Irish International Brigade volunteers he led out to fight in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War (1936-1939). If Easter 1916 in Dublin had been Donie’s baptism of fire for the Irish Republic, Christmas 1936 on the Cordoba front was to be his baptism of fire for the Spanish Republic.
(See http://www.irelandscw.com/part-IrDem3709-10.htm#371002Cordoba for his account of going into action, which was published in the “Irish Democrat” on 2 October 1937. In the opening two paragraphs the editor introduced Donal O’Reilly to readers, while his own account began with “Christmas time”).
Donal O’Reilly’s life both began and ended in the Cabra area of Dublin, and he ultimately resided at 31 Cabra Park. As the son of his fellow International Brigader Micheal O’Riordan, it was my privilege to have personally known Donie O’Reilly during my 1960s teens, and to have attended his 1968 funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery. Full military honours were rendered to this veteran of Ireland’s War of Independence, as the Irish Army fired a volley of shots at his graveside, before veteran Irish Republican Congress leader Peadar O’Donnell gave an inspiring funeral oration. Peadar was at that juncture Chair of the Irish Voice on Vietnam, on whose Executive I was the representative of the Connolly Youth Movement.
This photograph of Donie O’Reilly was taken in 1966 in the German Democratic Republic, at the grave of Irish International Brigade leader Frank Ryan, in Dresden’s Loschwitz Cemetery. (Frank Ryan’s remains would subsequently be repatriated to Ireland, in 1979, for reburial in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery). In this photo, Arno Herring, in GDR army uniform, a veteran of the XI (German-speaking) International Brigade, salutes the memory of Frank Ryan, as three Irish veterans of the XV (English-speaking) International Brigade stand to attention: Donal O’Reilly, on the far left, and Mícheál O’Riordan and Frank Edwards, on the right.