Séamus, shot dead by the RIC in 1920, is remembered
THOUSANDS MOURNED AFTER HE WAS KILLED BY AN RIC BULLET. NOW THE FAMILY OF BRIGADIER SÉAMUS O’BRIEN HAVE AT LAST BEEN RE-UNITED IN HIS MEMORY. DAVID MEDCALF MET THEM IN RATHDRUM
THERE are no grand streets in Dublin named after Séamus O’Brien, nor railway stations either.
His memory is certainly not altogether forgotten, however, with a plaque in place on the wall of the premises where he lived (and died) in Rathdrum.
It was there on the main street of the County Wicklow town that family members of the long deceased patriot gathered recently to recall a lifefe ended by a policeman’s bullet in 1920.
And afterwards a few of them trailed on southh over the Wexford border to pay quiet tribute at the grave near Kilmuckridge of a remarkablee man who left behind a remarkable story.
Séamus’s legacy was divided after his death,h with one branch of the clan retaining a keen sense of the dead man’s republican leanings.
Meanwhile, he was also remembered by othersrs who were scarcely aware of his status as Brigadierer O’Brien, rebel hero of 1916.
It is only recently that the two branches haveve come together to acknowledge their sharedd interest in someone whose life was cut abruptlyy short almost a century ago in 1920.
The cemetery at Ballyvaldon, between thee popular coastal resorts of Blackwater and Kil-lmuckridge, could scarcely be more rural, locatedd on a corner beside the junction of two windingg back roads.
According to press reports of the time, thisis quietest of places was the focus of attention foror thousands of mourners that February of 1920..
The interment of the Irish Volunteer from nearby Morriscastle was an occasion of considerable pomp and republican ceremony.
He lies there to this day, where his granddaughter June Flynn and grand-nephew Paul Humphreys came to check that all was in order.
United in admiration and affection for a shared relative, they acknowledged that it is only recently they became aware of each other’s existence. Strangers not so long ago, they made plans together to ensure that invasive wplants do not wreck Séamus’s memorial in this beautiful but obscure burial ground.
So, how was it that these cousins remained ignorant of each other for so long? Here is the tale.
Séamus O’Brien was born in the 1880s and raised in Morriscastle, son of John O’Brien and Mary (née Mitten).
He served his time as an apprentice in the grocery/pub trade at Cooney’s public house in Oulart and then found employment not far away in the town of Enniscorthy.
The place was a hot-bed of nationalism at the time and Séamus was caught up in the mood of the era, joining the Irish Volunteers in 1914.
The cathedral town on the Slaney was visited by Pádraig Pearse shortly before the Easter Rising, addressing an enthusiastic crowd at the Athenaeum.
In all likelihood, O’Brien was among those who heard the rallying cry and declared they would not be found wanting when the call to armsar came in 1916.
Enniscorthy had the distinction of being the onlyon town outside Dublin actually to rise during theth Rising which proved to be the foundation stonest of the current Irish State.
The man from Morriscastle bore arms as the AthenaeumA as it became the headquarters of a militarym insurrection.
When Pearse eventually gave orders to his Wexfordfo followers to lay down their guns, Brigadier O’Brien was shipped across the Irish Sea to the prison camp at Frongoch in Wales.
After his release and return home to Ireland at ChristmasC of 1916, he was active in promoting Sinn FéinF and in resistance to the Crown’s notorious BlackB and Tans.
He made the move from Wexford to Wicklow earlyea the following year, working at the hotel in RathdrumR which was run by Mrs O’Leary.
However, he was clearly a man of independent ambitionam and he opened a grocery shop in his newlyn adopted town in partnership with Seán
LEFT:L The plaque in Séamus O’Brien’s memory.