Remembering John McBride – Irish Revolutionaries
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Remembering John McBride

Remembering John McBride

The Irish Revolutionary was executed in Kilmainham Gaol, this day in 1916.

John MacBride was born at The Quay, Westport, County Mayo, on May 7th 1868, to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill, who survived her son.

MacBride was educated at the Christian Brothers' School, Westport, and at St. Malachy's College, Belfast. His red hair and long nose led to him being given the nickname "Foxy Jack"

MacBride worked for a period in a drapery shop in Castlerea, County Roscommon. He had studied medicine, but gave it up and began working with a chemist's firm in Dublin.

MacBride joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He also joined the Celtic Literary Society through which he came to know Arthur Griffith who was to remain a friend and influence throughout his life.

Beginning in 1893, MacBride was termed a "dangerous nationalist" by the British government. In 1896 he went to the United States on behalf of the IRB. In the same year, he returned and emigrated to South Africa.

In 1889 the second Boer war broke out, Macbride took the side of the Boers against the British and raised the Irish Transvaal Brigade who were mostly Irish or Irish American living in Transvaal.

What became known as MacBride's Brigade was first commanded by an Irish American, Colonel John Blake, an ex-US Cavalry Officer. MacBride recommended Blake as Commander since MacBride himself had no military experience.

The Brigade roughly 500 strong was given official recognition by the Boer Government with the commissions of the Brigade's officers signed by State Secretary F.W. Reitz. MacBride was commissioned with the rank of Major in the Boer army and given Boer citizenship.

A Second Irish Brigade was organised by Arthur Lynch. The arrival in the Irish camp of an Irish-American Ambulance Corps bolstered MacBride's Brigade. Michael Davitt who had resigned as an M.P visited MacBride's Brigade. When Col. Blake was injured at Ladysmith MacBride had to take sole command of the Brigade.

In Ireland, pro-Boer feeling, informed by Arthur Griffith and Maud Gonne formed the most popular and most fervent of the European pro-Boer movements. However, more than 16,000 Irish fought for the British against the Boers.

When MacBride became a citizen of the Transvaal, the British considered that, as an Irishman and citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, he had given aid to the enemy, so in their eyes, he had committed treason to the crown.

After the war, he travelled to Paris where Maud Gonne lived. In 1903, he married her to the disapproval of W. B. Yeats, who considered her his muse and had previously proposed to her. The following year their son Sean MacBride was born.

Their marriage did not last long and they separated in 1905 with Maud Gonne getting sole custody of their son, she had hoped for a divorce but the courts in Paries would only permit a legal separation.

After returning permanently from Paris to Dublin in 1905 MacBride joined other Irish nationalists in preparing for an insurrection. Because he was so well known to the British, the leaders thought it wise to keep him outside their secret military group planning a Rising.

As a result, he happened to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice. He was in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning to meet his brother Dr. Anthony MacBride, who was arriving from Westport to be married on the following Wednesday.

As John Macbride walked up Grafton St and saw Thomas MacDonagh in uniform and leading his troops. He offered his services and was appointed second-in-command at Jacob's factory.

After the Rising, MacBride, following a court-martial under the Defence of the Realm Act, was found guilty and sentenced to death.

On the morning of May 5th 1916, John MacBride was shot by British troops in Kilmainham Gaol, just two days before his forty-eighth birthday.

Facing the British firing squad, he said he did not wish to be blindfolded, saying "I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence."

Fuair sé bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann


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