We know the stories of Countess Markievicz who lead over 100 female insurgents in to battle during Easter Week in Dublin, the story of Nurse O’Farrell and her improvised flag of truce and we know many more stories of the Women of the Rising.
However, what is little known are the stories of the other Women of the Rising, The civilian women. The wives, the mothers, the daughters, the witnesses to the horror and tragedy of that week. One of those civilian women was Maggie McKane, my 3xGrt Aunt.
Maggie, a hard working wife and mother of 12 children, had lost 3 of her children in infancy by 1916. Living on Henry Place with her surviving 9 children and her husband, she could not possibly have foreseen that the Easter Rising of 1916 would claim the life of her fourth child, Bridget, when the Leaders and their volunteers forced their way in to her family home as they escaped the inferno at the GPO.
When I delved into this tragic event to learn more about what happened and why it happened, what emerged from the tragedy and sadness was a story of bravery and courage, at the heart of which was Maggie.
After witnessing the horrifying death of her daughter, and on realizing her husband was severely injured, without a thought for her own safety, she grabbed her shawl and a piece of cloth and made a dash for the door and out into a scene of intense gunfire, danger and chaos.
Fearlessly waving her improvised flag she approached the British barricade, the soldiers shouted at her to get back…… She courageously shouted back at them that she needed a priest, for her daughter and husband lay dead and dying, she was determined to get past. A few moments went by before the soldiers reluctantly ceased fire allowing Maggie to pass.
Unfazed by the heavy bombardment going on around her she eventually found a priest and returned home with him so the last rites could be given, on entering the house, the priest silently wept before going down on his knees and praying.
Maggie would spend the rest of the night tending to the wounds of the injured and dying and insisting to the leaders of the rising that her daughter’s death was nothing more than a horrific accident. In the early hours of the next morning Maggie would set about making an improvised breakfast for the men and women who had suddenly taken over her home with such devastating effect.
3 days later her daughter would be laid to rest at Glasnevin and Maggie would have to rebuild their lives, their home & their family.
Maggie kept her family close in the years that followed, she loved them dearly but she would forever be haunted by the memories of that night, along with the 37 other mothers who lost children that week.