Remembering Thomas Ashe. – Irish Revolutionaries

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Remembering Thomas Ashe.

Remembering Thomas Ashe.

Thomas Ashe was born on the 12th January 1885 in Lispole, County Kerry. His father was a well known Irish language enthusiast in the area and learners of Irish used to come to listen to his stories.

Ashe entered De La Salle Training College, Waterford in 1905 at the age of twenty to train as a national teacher. After qualification, he began his teaching career as a principal in Corduff National School, Lusk, Co. Dublin in 1908.

His love of the Irish language led him to join and starting branches of the Gaelic League in Skerries and other neighbouring villages in North Dublin, Ashe was also elected to the governing body of the Gaelic League.

Ashe joined the Irish volunteers in 1913 and founded the local company of volunteers in Lusk North Dublin, in 1914 he went on a tour of the USA which collected large amounts of money for the Gaelic League and Irish Volunteers.

During the 1916 rising Ashe led a company of Volunteers which engaged the RIC in north Dublin and Ashbourne in Co Meath where after a five-hour gun battle resulted in the deaths of eleven RIC men and the capturing of many vehicles, weapons and ammunition.

When the notice of surrender came from Dublin, Thomas Ashe found it difficult to believe and had to send Richard Mulcahy to verify its authenticity.

For his part in the Rising, Ashe was court-martialled on May 8th 1916 and sentenced to death. This was later committed to penal servitude for life.

Ashe was imprisoned in Frangoch internment camp in Wales & Lewes Prison in Englan but was released with all remaining Republican prisoners in a general amnesty in June 1917, mostly due to the publicity received when Ashe and other Republican prisoners went on hunger strike in May 1917 to publicise prison conditions.

Ashe did not get much time to enjoy his freedom, In August 1917, Ashe was arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford, where Michael Collins had also been speaking.

Ashe went on the run but was captured in Dublin and detained at the Curragh and was then transferred to Mountjoy Gaol in Dublin. Ashe was sentenced to one-year hard labour.

Ashe and other Republican prisoners demanded they receive political status, having been deprived of a bed, bedding and boots Ashe went on hunger strike on 20th September 1917.

After a few days on hunger strike, the prison authorities decided to force feed the prisoners, on September 25th Ashe was force-fed, he was carried back to his cell unconscious and blue in the face.

Ashe was removed to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital (which faces the prison) where he died within a few hours of pneumonia, which was caused by force-feeding by the prison authorities, he was 32 years old.

Ashe's body lay in state at Dublin City Hall and his funeral was followed by 30,000 people, led by armed Volunteers in uniform as it made its way to Glasnevin Cemetery. It was the first public funeral after the Easter Rising of 1916.

Michael Collins gave the graveside oration in Irish & English, following the firing of a volley by uniformed Irish Volunteers.

The English eulogy being " nothing additional remains to be said, that volley which we have just heard is the only speech which is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian".

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