The O’Rahilly – a tribute from his grandson Proinsias

The O’Rahilly was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers and a major figure in the Easter Rising 1916.

He was born Michael Joseph O’Rahilly but took the name Ua Rathaille (The O’Rahilly) as a nod to the ancient Gaelic clans. The name signified that he was the leader of his clan.

He inherited a business from his father but was studying medicine at the time. He had no interest in the business and decided to sell it and put some of the proceeds into helping to fund the Irish Nationalist cause.

Proinsias O’Rathaille speaks about his grandfather  ‘The O’Rahilly’ and the role he played in the Easter Rising

The O’Rahilly served as Director of Arms for the Irish Volunteers.

He initially had reservations about the Rising and was sent to the south west of Ireland to deliver the message from the Volunteers’ leader Eoin MacNeill, cancelling the operation. However, when he returned to Dublin he discovered that the leaders had decided to go ahead despite MacNeill’s decision.

The O’Rahilly then joined his fellow rebels at the GPO. He told them: “Well, I’ve helped to wind up the clock — I might as well hear it strike!"

When he walked through the door of the GPO he met the likes of Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, Joseph Plunkett and James Connolly, and was promptly made Treasurer of the newly proclaimed Irish Republic.

This video, produced by Dublin film maker Marcus Howard as part of his 1916 Easter Rising Stories, features interviews with the O‘Rahilly’s grandson, Proinsias O’Rathaille.

Proinsias tells the story of his famous grandfather. He describes how the the O’Rahilly was one of the co-founders of the Irish Volunteers and organised its inaugural meeting at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin. His grandmother Nancy attended a similar meeting at Wynn’s in 1914 as a co-founder of Cumann na mBan.

Proinsias recalls with pride that his two grandparents’ names are now on two plaques at Wynn’s Hotel commemorating the hotel’s role in the setting up of the two organisations.

He recounts the O’Rahilly’s early life running the family business and studying medicine until he caught TB. He had little interest in business and became absorbed by nationalist politics. He then sold the business and ploughed most of the proceeds into the nationalist cause.

The O'Rahilly - Director of Arms for the Irish Volunteers during the Easter Rising

Proinsias describes how the O’Rahilly met Nancy while travelling in Europe and fell in love with her immediately. He then discovered that there was a rival on the scene so he bought her a diamond ring and proposed as quickly as possible. She accepted and they had five sons together.

The video takes Proinsias to the O’Rahilly’s family home in Dublin where leaders of the Easter Rising held some of their secret meetings…Patrick Pearse, Éamon Martin, Eoin MacNeill, Michael Collins, Thomas MacDonagh, Éamonn Ceannt were all regular visitors.

Proinsias describes how rebels came from all walks of life but were romantic visionaries with a passion for Ireland and its freedom…so much so that they were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. He sees them as a golden generation and believes more should be done to honour them.

The video then takes Proinsias to Moore Street, where he describes how the O’Rahilly met his death, shot by British gunfire on a side street now renamed in his honour, O’Rahilly Parade.

Like many descendants of people involved in the Rising, Proinsias is disappointed at how Moore Street has been neglected by the government when it is such a unique and important battle site.

The video also features the Arms around Moore Street demonstration held to prevent the site being demolished or developed.

Proinisas reads the note the O’Rahilly wrote to his wife as he lay dying over 36 hours and gives his thoughts on how the 2016 Centenary celebrations should be organised.

Did one of your relatives take part in the Easter Rising? If you would like to tell your story in our Easter Rising relatives section we would love to hear from you.

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This series of interviews with the descendants of the Easter Rising rebels is made with the help of independent Dublin film maker Marcus Howard who has also created an Easter Rising series.

Find out more about Marcus Howard.

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