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                                               Searc's Web Guide to Lily M. O'Brennan (1878-1948)


Lily O'Brennan was born and educated in Dublin. She joined Cumann na mBan in 1914 and fought in the 1916 Easter Rising. Lily's sister Fanny married Eamonn Ceannt, a signatory to the 1916 Proclamation. Lily was active in the Irish National Aid and Volunteers' Dependents Fund and in 1917 she was elected to the Executive of Cumann na mBan.
During the War of Independence O'Brennan wrote for The Irish Bulletin and in December, 1921 she accompanied the Irish Treaty delegation to London. She opposed the Treaty and served on the headquarters staff in Suffolk Street before being arrested and interned in Mountjoy Gaol and in the North Dublin Union until 1923.
She later wrote children's stories in Irish and in English and contributed articles to Irish periodicals. This extract is from O'Brennan's article commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising entitled 'The Dawning of the Day' which was first published in The Capuchin Annual, 1936.©




Lily O'Brennan with the Treaty delegation

Lily M. O'Brennan (seated left) with the 1921 Treaty delegation

On Easter Monday morning, the 24th April, in the year 1916, the sun rose warm and splendid, stealing softly over the green hills of Tallaght until it streamed into the old-fashioned streets of the little village of Dolphin's Barn, giving to its wide, open spaces the peace and charm of the countryside; yet here in this quiet spot an epic battle was soon to take place and a challenge go forth claiming Ireland's right to freedom.
While the 4th Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, under Commandant …amonn Ceannt, were taking up strategic positions in the South Dublin Union, Marrowbone Lane Distillery, Watkin's Brewery and Roe's; headquarters were being established in the G.P.O., O'Connell Street.
There, at 12 o'clock noon, in the heart of Ireland's capital, the proclamation declaring the establishment of the Irish Republic was read to the people. This historic document set forth Ireland's claim before the world, and Ireland will never be satisfied until this claim is recognised.
Soon the crack of rifle fire broke the stillness of the sunny day. British soldiers poured out from Wellington Barracks and trooped down Dolphin's barn. Ireland's fight for freedom had begun...
I was due at Cleaver Hall at 10.30 o'clock. I had no Cumann na mBan uniform. They were the exception not the rule in those days but I had put on a coat and skirt I used for mountain walks. The coat had a belt and fine pockets. I strapped my knapsack on my back, and tied my waterproof to the bicycle which I had ready in the hall. I looked back at my mother, who had helped me get my sandwiches. I waved a merry 'good-bye' to her and my sister, and bent down to kiss my little nephew who was near me. Then I wheeled the bicycle down the garden path. At the kerb I mounted it and rode away without even giving one look back at the home which was never to be home to me again. In a few moments I was at the Cross of the Barn and riding down Cork Street under the pleasant sun's rays. Here and there were a few Volunteers.
Sometimes women came to the doors to loiter and have a look around, for there was no hurry on their minds this holiday morning. I gave to all but a passing glance. I was on business bent and soon I reached the Cleaver Hall.
Here I introduced myself to the Captain of the Inghinidhe Branch of Cumann na mBan who, after some time, told me I might join up with the members, none of whom I knew and to whom I was a stranger. My reception was cold, though subsequently we all became good comrades but the day began, as far as I was concerned, a little bit austerely.
However there was little time for idle musing. Soon a courier arrived with a message for the Captain who promptly gave us the order to 'fall in'. We marched in good order up Cork Street, nor did we halt until we came to the turning for Marrowbone Lane. Here there was suppressed excitment but no confusion.
Already down the winding lane Commandant Ceannt was leading his Battalion. Shortly we got the order to march. In our unit was a horse and cart with ammunition. As the Volunteers marched and the cart rumbled, I began to picture the manoeuvres. We must be going to James' Street, then down Stephen's Lane, right on to the Phoenix Park, I said to myself. The manoeuvres will surely take place there. Fighting will probably occur and we shall have to retreat to the Dublin mountains. The Dublin mountains loomed clearly on my horizon that day. Suddenly my reverie was broken by the crisp command 'Halt.' We were outside the Distillery in Marrowbone Lane. I heard a knock. It was the butt-end of a rifle on the high wooden gates. Then rang out the clear commanding order from the Captain in charge of our unit: 'Open in the name of the Irish Republic.'
A wicket door was opened. There was a little parley and delay but Captain Seumas (sic) ” Murchadha and his guard forced their way in. The big gates flew open and the Volunteers and Cumann na mBan filed into the courtyard, the horse and cart rumbled quickly over its rough cobble stones; then the gates were quickly closed and the army manoeuvres at once began. The caretaker and family were placed under arrest. Volunteers took up positions on the circular steps leading to buildings and a guard of Volunteers faced the gate. Up through my heart shot a thrill of pride, that this, our share in the day's work, was perfectly done.
The bright sun was still shining down upon us and the sky was still blue but the quietness and peace of the morning was gone. I knew, now, that we had thrown down the gauntlet to the British Empire and that, placing our trust in God, we looked for victory.
© Searc's Web Guide 1997-2008

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