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Waterford Women of The Revolution 1914-1923

This new book by authors Eddie Cantwell and Christina Knight - O’Connor-   is now on sale at the museum and David Walsh office supplies, Dungarvan and retails for €25. Copies are selling fast, so get yours before it sells out. Congratulations to the authors on a significant work, beautifully printed, the fruit of many years of research. 

The early 20th century was a period of intense, conflicting, contrasting, and political, social views and ideals. Ideals that were to collide and launch the country from a world war to a determined campaign for Irish independence and eventually a bitter Civil War. During this period of unrest, many Waterford women grasped the opportunity to become actively involved in the fight for a free and United Ireland. Most people will have some knowledge of the stories behind the revolutionary Dublin women who were actively involved in this period, but know virtually nothing about Waterford women. Why is this? Why were these brave women who risked all in the fight of independence ignored by historians, and, Ignored by the male officers that they served under? Yes, when they fought for a medal and pensions in the 30s the men did sign their application, and submitted the odd letter outlining their attributes and their involvement in the fight for freedom. But look at the statistics; in Waterford more than six hundred women were members of Cumann na mBan or working as Intelligence officers for their local Volunteer Battalions. Cumann na mBan or the Women’s Council, was a female Nationalist Organisation founded, on 2 April 1914. Waterford Cumann na mBan provided safe houses, took on non-combat roles in sieges, ambushes, and they carried guns to locations of ambush sites. They found suitable locations to hide guns in preparation for these ambushes, and were there to remove them after.

They manufactured explosives, in their own houses! And, of course they served prison sentences. Chrissy Knight- O’Connor and Eddie Cantwell do not claim to have all the answers of why these brave revolutionary women were ignored in the passage of time. But they have set out to at least shine a light, no matter how small, on the sacrifices that these women made

Their book details the stories, personal accounts and recollections of many Waterford women including Nora Foley (née Mulcahy) Abbeyview, Dungarvan. What a significant and historical role she played when she carried the ceasefire message to Dublin that heralded the end of the Irish Civil War. On this occasion Miss Fiona Plunkett arrived from Dublin to Nora’s home and she escorted her to an executive meeting in the Nire. Miss Plunkett was a leading member of the Cumann na mBan Executive and sister of Jack, George, and Joseph Plunkett. All three brothers took part in the Easter Rising. People will be more familiar with Joseph, who was executed for his part in the Rising and as a signatory of the Proclamation following the surrender. Seven hours before his execution by firing squad at the age of 28, he was married in the prison chapel to his sweetheart Grace Gifford who was a Protestant convert to Catholicism. Her sister, Muriel, had married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh, who was also executed for his role in the Easter Rising. Grace never married again


 Nora tells us. ‘I conduced Miss Fiona Plunkett to the Nire from Dungarvan to an executive meeting, where we both waited through the night in the kitchen of the cottage, where the meeting was being held. At the termination of the meeting a dispatch was brought out to us, and we were instructed to carry same to Dublin. As far as I can remember this dispatch was the ‘Dump arms and ceasefire order’. Miss Plunkett carried the dispatch as far as Waterford City, because in the Waterford area I might be recognised and searched. In Waterford she handed the dispatch to me, and I carried it to Dublin unaccompanied. Acting on Miss Plunkett’s instruction, I met her in Dublin and delivered it to her. Still acting on her instruction I called to An Stad restaurant and handed a dispatch, which I took to Tipperary having to remain there until a special messenger was sent to collect it.

 ‘An Stad’ 30 North Frederick Street, Irish for the ‘The Stop’ was a well-known meeting place for Nationalists and people who wished for the revival of the Irish Language and culture from the late 19th century. During the Civil War its proprietor Mollie Gleeson took the anti-Treaty side, and it was used as an underground command centre for the IRA and Cumann na mBan.

To read more about Nora and many more Waterford women copies of Waterford Women of the Revolution 1914-1923 are available at Waterford Book Centre, David Walsh’s, Lower Main Street, Dungarvan, Lismore Heritage Centre and Waterford County Museum, 05845960 or history@waterfordmuseum.ie https://www.waterfordmuseum.ie/revolution/

Funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media under the Decade of Centenaries - History Ireland 2012-2023 initiatives and Waterford City and County Council Commemorations Committee.

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