Remembering Liam Mellows
Liam Mellows was born on the 25th of May 1892 at Hartshead Military Barracks, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Lancashire, England, to William Joseph Mellows, a British Army non-commissioned officer, and Sarah Jordan, of Inch, County Wexford.
His family moved to 10 Annadale Avenue, Fairview, Dublin, in February 1895 when Sergeant Mellows was transferred there; however, Liam remained in Wexford with his grandfather Patrick Jordan due to ill health.
Liam attended the military school in Wellington Barracks in Cork and the Portobello garrison school in Dublin, but ultimately refused a military career much to his father's disappointment, instead working as a clerk in several Dublin firms, including the Junior Army & Navy Stores on D'Olier Street.
From an early age Liam had strong Irish Republican beliefs, he began reading Republican material and in 1911 he approached Thomas Clarke who recruited him into the Republican youth organisation Fianna Éireann. That year Liam was also secretly sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
Mellows loved cycling and would travel far and wide on his bike organising the IRB, in 1913 September 1913, he was introduced to socialist James Connolly at Countess Markievicz's residence, where Connolly was recuperating after his hunger strike. Connolly was deeply impressed and told his daughter Nora 'I have found a real man'.
Mellows helped found the Irish Volunteers in November 1913, being brought onto its Organising Committee to strengthen the Fianna representation. He was given a full-time job in the volunteers earning thirty shillings a week.
Gun running was a big part of his activity in 1915 which brought him much-unwanted attention from the crown forces, he was arrested and jailed on several occasions under the Defence of the Realm Act. Mellows found himself sent to Reading Gaol in England where he escaped and returned to Ireland to train men in the West Of Ireland in preparation for a rising.
Mellows now commanded the “Western Division” of the Irish Volunteers, during the Easter rising of 1916 he led roughly 700 Volunteers in abortive attacks on Royal Irish Constabulary stations at Oranmore, and Clarinbridge in county Galway taking over the town of Athenry. However, his men were very badly armed and supplied and they dispersed after a week when British troops and the cruiser Gloucester were sent west to attack them.
After this insurrection failed, Mellows escaped to the United States, where he was arrested and detained without trial in the "Tombs" prison, New York, on a charge of attempting to aid the German side in the First World War. This was in the context of incidents like the Black Tom and Kingsland explosions, where German agents had bombed neutral American ports and industrial facilities.
After his release in 1918, he worked with John Devoy and helped to organise Éamon de Valera's fundraising visit to America in 1919–1920. At the 1918 general election, he was elected to the First Dáil as a Sinn Féin candidate for both Galway East and for North Meath even though he was still in America.
He returned to Ireland in 1920 to become Irish Republican Army "Director of Supplies" during the Tan war, responsible for buying arms. He was returned to the Dail as deputy for Galway at the general election of May 1921.
He considered the Anglo-Irish Treaty to be a betrayal of the Irish Republic, saying, in the Treaty Debates of 1921–22:
Gunrunning was a big part of his activity in 1915 which brought him much-unwanted attention from the crown forces, he was arrested and jailed on several occasions under the Defence of the Realm Act. Mellows found himself sent to Reading Gaol in England where he escaped and returned to Ireland to train men in the West Of Ireland in preparation for a rising.e than the fleshpots of Empire."
In June 1922, he and fellow Republicans Rory O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and Richard Barrett (among others), entered the Four Courts, which had been occupied by Republican forces since April. However, they were bombarded by Free State forces with canons and a gunship borrowed from the British and surrendered after two days. Mellows had a chance to escape along with Ernie O’Malley but did not take it so was captured and imprisoned in Mountjoy Gaol.
On December 7th 1922 Sean Hayes TD was shot dead and Pádraic Ó Máille TD was shot and wounded in Dublin by Republican forces in reprisal for the executions of Republican prisoners.
The very next day on December 8th 1922, Republican prisoners Mellows, O'Connor, McKelvey and Barrett were summarily executed by a Free State firing squad in Mountjoy Gaol, in revenge for the killing of Sean Hales.
Mellows was buried in Castletown cemetery, County Wexford and is commemorated by statues in Oranmore and Eyre Square in Galway, in the official name of the Irish Defence Forces army barracks at Renmore (Dún Úi Maoilíosa) and in the naming of Mellows Bridge in Dublin.
Liam Mellows is also commemorated in the names of two hurling clubs (one in Galway, and one in Wexford), and by Unidare RFC in Ballymun and their “Liam Mellows Perpetual Cup”.
"Tone knew he was fighting a losing battle, Pearse knew it too. But they fought because they believed in another generation. In the name of Tone, In the name of Pearse, In the name of Ireland, fight on."
Oration By Liam Mellows 1922