Remembering Con Colbert
The Irish Revolutionary Con Colbert was executed in Kilmainham Gaol, this day in 1916.
Born in the townland of Moanleana, Castlemahon, County Limerick, on October 19th 1888, he was the fourth youngest of thirteen children, of Michael Colbert, a farmer, and Honora McDermott.
His family moved to the village of Athea when Con was three years old. He was educated at the local national school. In 1901, his family were living in the townland of Templeathea West. A younger brother, James, and a cousin, Michael Colbert, would later serve as TDs.
Colbert left Athea at the age of 16 and went to live with his sister Catherine in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin, he continued his education at a Christian Brothers school in North Richmond street.
Colbert was employed as a clerk in the offices of Kennedy's Bakery in Dublin. In 1911, he was living with Catherine, two other siblings and two boarders at a house on Clifton Terrace, Rathmines.
Colbert was sworn into the IRB by his cousin Art O'Donnell in Art's home in 1908. He joined Fianna Éireann at its inaugural meeting in 1909 and rose to Chief Scout.
The following year he became a drill instructor at St. Enda's School, founded by Patrick Pearse. In 1912 he became head of an Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) circle within the Fianna started by Bulmer Hobson.
During 1913 he was one of a number of Fianna who conducted military training at the Forester's Hall in Rutland Square (now Parnell Square), and in November that year, he joined the Provisional Committee of the newly formed Irish Volunteers.
In the weeks leading up to the Easter Rising, he acted as a bodyguard for Thomas Clarke. Before the Rising, because he lived out of the city he stayed with the Cooney family in the city centre. During Easter Week, he fought at Watkin's Brewery, Jameson's Distillery and Marrowbone Lane.
Colbert surrendered with the Marrowbone Lane Garrison along with the South Dublin Union Garrison, which had been led by Éamonn Ceannt. When the order to surrender was issued, he assumed the command of his unit to save the life of his superior officer, who was a married man.
They were marched to Richmond Barracks, where Colbert would later be court-martialled. Transferred to Kilmainham Gaol, he was told on Sunday 7 May that he was to be shot the following morning. He wrote no fewer than ten letters during his time in prison.
During this time in detention, he did not allow any visits from his family; writing to his sister, he said a visit "would grieve us both too much". But The night before his execution he sent for Mrs Ó Murchadha who was also being held, prisoner.
He told her he was "proud to die for such a cause. I will be passing away at the dawning of the day." Holding his Bible, he told her he was leaving it to his sister. He handed her three buttons from his volunteer uniform, telling her "They left me nothing else," before asking her when she heard the volleys of shots in the morning for Éamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin and himself would she say a Hail Mary for the souls of the departed.
The soldier who was guarding Colbert began crying according to Mrs Ó Murchadha, and recorded him saying "If only we could die such deaths." Colbert was shot by firing squad the next morning on 8 May 1916, aged 27.
Colbert Railway Station in Limerick city is named after him as are roads in Limerick and Dublin.
Fuair sé bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann