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A Father’s Story

What should have been a normal Friday night for Tommy McKane and his family, was anything but normal. Having celebrated Easter the weekend before, Tommy could not have known that by the end of that week, he and his family would be living through a 5th night of constant gun fire & shelling going on in the streets and laneways around their family home on Henry Place, Dublin.

The family tried to go about their normal routine that evening, but when a noise was heard in the yard, Tommy got up to investigate. He had just reached the door, the youngest child of 2 years in his arms, his second youngest of 6, clinging to his legs, his daughter, Bridget, of 15 stood behind, as a bullet suddenly ricocheted through the door, hitting Tommy in the shoulder before passing through and striking his daughter Bridget, who was fatally wounded.

Tommy collapsed to the floor as volunteers including a number of the leaders, piled into the house and into a scene of utter devastation.

A doctor and also a volunteer, tended to Tommy’s wounds, calming his wife and reassuring her that he would be okay. Sean Mac Diarmada in a state of anger and shock, offered to bring the man responsible before him. But Tommy declined, insisting it had been an accident. He was behind the door, he was trying to open it, the volunteer who fired the fatal shot could not have known. It was just an accident.

In the aftermath of the leader’s surrender, Tommy was transferred to the Mater Hospital where he received treatment for Gunshot wounds to his shoulder and chest, those wounds would go on to leave Tommy partially disabled.

In 1937 Tommy made an application for a pension, a promise had been made on that fateful night, by the leaders, that they would ensure Tommy and his family were compensated afterwards. The application process for a military pension was a grueling one and sadly Tommy’s application was declined, instead a gratuity payment of £100 was made.

 £100 for a daughter lost and a father left partially disabled.

Tommy tragically passed away in 1941 hours after learning that yet another of his children had died, his son Michel had been seriously injured during the North Strand bombings earlier that year but died a few months later from his injuries, on hearing the news of the loss of yet another child, the shock caused Tommy to pass away very suddenly.

Everyone in my family speaks highly of Tommy McKane, he was a kind man, with a heart of gold and was well respected by all who knew and loved him. And I can’t help but admire him, for his bravery and courage that night in 1916.


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The Other Women of The Rising

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.


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Bridget McKane

Bridget McKane
1900 – 1916
Dublin

Bridget_McKane (1).jpg
Bridget McKane was 15 years old at the time of the Easter Rising, living within close proximity of the GPO with her family, she was the first cousin of my Great Grandfather, a studious girl who loved poetry, current affairs & wanted to grow up to be an accountant.
Sadly, Bridget did not realize her ambitions in life for she was to be one of the 38 children killed during The 1916 Easter Rising.
Her story was first told to me by an elderly relative, I was just a child but had a deep sense of my Irish Heritage & of course I loved to hear all the old stories about my Great Grandfather’s family, but later in life, I felt compelled to find out more.  Who was Bridget McKane? How did she die? Why did she die?
The story and the details that eventually emerged whilst I was researching
were astonishing, horrific, tragic and extraordinary, however, they shone light on the bravery and heroism of Bridget’s mother, father & siblings during what can only be described as an horrific chain of events.

And as we remember all 38 young lives lost that week, I felt it would be poignant to remember and mark the loss of  one of our own;

Bridget McKane

1900 – 1916

The following is an excerpt from a poem that was favored by Bridget:

If England were my place of birth
I’d love her tranquil shore
If Scotland were my home
Her mountains I’d adore
Though pleasant days I’ve passed
I dream of days to come
Oh, steer my bark to Erin’s Isle
For Erin is my home

Bridget Allen (16),Christopher Andrews (14)Mary Anne Brunswick (15), Christina Caffrey (2), Christopher Cathcart (10), Moses Doyle (9), Charles Darcy (15),Patrick Fetherston (12), John Francis Foster (2 years 10 months old), James Fox (16),William Fox (13),Neville Fryday, John Gibney (5), John Healy (14), Christopher Hickey (16), Charles Kavanagh (15), Mary Kelly (12), Patrick Kelly (12), James Kelly (15), John Kirwan (15), Bridget McKane (15), John H. McNamara (12), William Mullen (9),Joseph Murray (14), William O’Neill (16), Male O‟Toole (14), Mary Redmond (16), Patrick Ryan (13), George Percy Sainsbury (9), Walter Scott (8), Bridget Stewart (11), Margaret “Madge”/”Maggie’ Veale (13), Philip Walsh (11), Eleanor Warbrook (15), Christopher Whelan (15), Boy unidentified. 4th May 1916, Infant unidentified 4th May 1916.