Cumann na mBan: County Galway Dimensions

Galway County Council

Galway County Council

“ They stand for the honour of Iireland, as their sisters in days that are gone, and they’ll march with their brothers to freedom, the soldiers of Cumann na mBan.”

“From the very beginning, Galway played a role in national Cumann na mBan affairs. Among the very few branches to send representatives to the 1915 Convention in Dublin was athenry and the RIC reported a year later that there were two branches of the organisation in Galway with an estimated and respectable membership of 46. The main cause of disloyalty in the county, wrote the RIC inspector for Galway East in 1916, were the priests and women in athenry. Their 1915 Convention saw Cumann na mBan become more overtly militant and move closer to the irish Volunteers. A military-style uniform was adopted, consisting of coat, hat and skirt of Volunteer tweed, plus a haversack and first aid kit. All purchases of material were to be Irish, if possible, but the uniform remained optional as members had to pay for it themselves. The Cumann na mBan badge was also highly symbolic of how the members viewed themselves: the letters ‘C na mB‘ being mounted upon a rifle. Branches began to include drill and signalling in their instructions to members while some branches received weapons training. At the same time, their main role remained to fundraise for the Volunteers and to assist in the procurement of arms. Despite this, Cumann na mBan was of little interest to the British authorities, and RIC reports only mentioned them sporadically in the period between their foundation and the Rising.

In addition, they were sometimes disparaged by their male nationalist colleagues. Despite their best efforts, they were generally overlooked or side-lined; for instance, a report in the Connacht Tribune on their lecture series in Galway during February 1915 was completely overshadowed by an article by William O’Malley MP on the probable course of World War 1 and the presence of German u-boats in the Irish Sea.”

by Dr Bernard Kelly


Comments about this page

  • Fascinating read especially about Clarenbridge. You may be interested to learn that there is a handwritten letter from Alf Monaghan in my great uncle Michael O’Dea’s (Stradbally) military file in support of his application for the military pension. Mike was 15 at the time and he was the one who cycled in to Francis Street with Fr. Feeney to assist in Alf Monaghan’s escape. Mike was dressed up like a curate and swapped clothes with Monaghan who said he ‘behaved with coolness and courage’. I can email you a copy of the letter if you wish.

    Delia and Kate O’Dea, Mike’s sisters were in Cumann na Mban and whilst there is no mention anywhere that I can find, the women all had to take on the roles traditionally performed by the men. So, they did ploughing, saving hay etc etc. I have my great aunt Delia’s obituary which mentions this too.

    By Catherine Grealy (25/07/2019)

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