Remembering Tom Clarke
The Irish Revolutionary and Fenian was executed in Kilmainham Gaol, on May 3rd 1916.
Clarke was born at Hurst Castle, on March 11th 1858., Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, England, opposite the Isle of Wight, to Irish parents, Mary Palmer and James Clarke, who was a sergeant in the British Army.
In 1865, after spending some years in South Africa, Sgt. Clarke was transferred to Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland, and it was there that Tom grew up.
In 1878, at the age of 20, he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) following the visit to Dungannon by John Daly, and by 1880 he was the leader of the local IRB circle, but later that year, following an attack on the RIC, Clarke fled to the USA.
In the United States Clarke became involved in the Fenians, in 1883 under the alias of "Henry Wilson", Clarke was sent to England to take part in the Fenian dynamite campaign advocated by Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, one of the IRB leaders exiled in the United States.
Clarke was arrested in possession of dynamite, along with three others. He was tried and sentenced to penal servitude for life on May 28th 1883 at London's Old Bailey; he subsequently served 15 years in Pentonville and other British prisons.
Following his release in 1898 he moved to Brooklyn in the United States where he married Kathleen Daly, 21 years his junior, whose uncle, John Daly, he had met in prison.
Clarke worked for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1906 the couple moved to a 30-acre (120,000 m2) farm in Manorville, New York, and bought another 30 acres (120,000 m2) there in 1907, shortly before returning to Ireland later that same year.
In Ireland, he opened a tobacconist shop in Dublin and immersed himself in the IRB which was undergoing a substantial rejuvenation under the guidance of younger men such as Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough. Clarke had a very close kinship with Hobson, who along with Seán MacDermott, became his protegé.
Clarke did not get involved in the Irish Volunteers as it had the backing of the Irish Partilametry party, but he kept a keen interest as he and other members of the IRB planned a rebellion.
When the old Fenian Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa died in 1915 Clarke used his funeral (and Pearse's graveside oration) to mobilise the Volunteers and heighten expectation of imminent action.
Clarke was one of the signatures of the proclamation, in fact, his name is the first on the proclamation, it's rumoured he refused any military rank or honours, so instead Pearse was declared the first President of the Irish Republic.
Clarke was located at headquarters in the General Post Office (GPO) during the events of Easter Week, where rebel forces were primarily composed of Irish Citizen Army members under the command of Connolly.
Though he held no formal military rank, Clarke was recognised by the garrison as one of the commanders and was active throughout Easter week.
Clarke was arrested after the surrender. He and other revolutionaries were taken to the Rotunda where he was stripped of his clothing and mocked by the British in front of the other prisoners.
Clarke was court-martialled and executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol, along with Pearse and MacDonagh on May 3rd 1916. Before his execution, he asked his wife Kathleen to give this message to the Irish People:
"My comrades and I believe we have struck the first successful blow for freedom, and so sure as we are going out this morning so sure will freedom come as a direct result of our action...In this belief, we die happy."
Fuair sé bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann