Joseph Mary Plunkett

Joseph Mary Plunkett (Irish: Seosamh Máire Pluincéid, 21 November 1887 – 4 May 1916) was an Irish nationalist, poet, journalist, and a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Plunkett was born at 26 Upper Fitzwilliam Street in one of Dublin’s most affluent neighborhoods. Both his parents came from wealthy backgrounds,and his father, George Noble Plunkett, had been made a papal count.[3] Despite being born into a life of privilege, young Joe Plunkett did not have an easy childhood.
Plunkett contracted tuberculosis at a young age. This was to be a lifelong burden. His mother was unwilling to believe his health was as bad as it was. He spent part of his youth in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and north Africa. He was educated at the Catholic University School (CUS) and by the Jesuits at Belvedere College in Dublin and later at Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, where he acquired some military knowledge from the Officers’ Training Corps. Throughout his life, Joseph Plunkett took an active interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language, and also studied Esperanto. Plunkett was one of the founders of the Irish Esperanto League. He joined the Gaelic League and began studying with Thomas MacDonagh, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. The two were both poets with an interest in theater, and both were early members of the Irish Volunteers, joining their provisional committee. Plunkett’s interest in Irish nationalism spread throughout his family, notably to his younger brothers George and John, as well as his father, who allowed his property in Kimmage, south Dublin, to be used as a training camp for young men who wished to escape conscription in England during World War I. Men there were instead trained to fight for Ireland.
IRB involvement

Sometime in 1915 Joseph Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and soon after was sent to Germany to meet with Roger Casement, who was negotiating with the German government on behalf of Ireland. Casement’s role as emissary was self-appointed, and, as he was not a member of the IRB, that organisation’s leadership wished to have one of their own contact Germany to negotiate German aid for an uprising the following year. He was seeking (but not limiting himself to) a shipment of arms. Casement, on the other hand, spent most of his energies recruiting Irish prisoners of war in Germany to form a brigade to fight instead for Ireland. Some nationalists in Ireland saw this as a fruitless endeavor, and preferred to seek weapons. Plunkett successfully got a promise of a German arms shipment to coincide with the rising.
The Easter Rising

Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the Easter Rising,, and it was largely his plan that was followed. Shortly before the rising was to begin, Plunkett was hospitalized following a turn for the worse in his health. He had an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and had to struggle out of bed to take part in what was to follow. Still bandaged, he took his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising’s leaders such as Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevented him from being terribly active. His energetic aide de camp was Michael Collins.
Marriage and execution

Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham jail, and faced a court martial. 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, a Protestant convert to Catholicism, whose sister, Muriel, had years before also converted and married his best friend Thomas MacDonagh, who was also executed for his role in the Easter Rising.
Aftermath

His brothers George Oliver Plunkett and Jack Plunkett joined him in the Easter Rising and later became important IRA men. His father’s cousin, Horace Plunkett, was a Protestant and unionist who sought to reconcile unionists and nationalists. His home was burned down by the Anti-Treaty IRA during the Civil War.
The main railway station in Waterford City is named after him as is Joseph Plunkett tower in Ballymun. Plunkett barracks in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare is also named after him.
References

^ O’Neill, Marie (2000). Grace Gifford Plunkett and Irish freedom: tragic bride of 1916. Dublin: Irish Academic Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7165-2666-7.
^ “Review Of ‘All in the Blood’”. A&A Farmar Book Publishers. Retrieved 4 Nov 2010.
^ “[Count Plunkett] George Noble Plunkett”. Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco). Retrieved 5 Nov 2010.
^ “A Short History of the Esperanto Movement in Ireland”
Source: Wikipedia

By Sol Mendoza:

Joseph Mary Plunkett working with his radio

By James Langton:

Count Plunkett and his wife with Grace Gifford

Count Plunkett and his wife with Grace Gifford. She married Joseph Mary               Plunkett in Kilmainham Jail Chapel hours before his execution. The song “Grace” by Jim McCann is a very moving tribute to this historical couple.

By James langton:

Grace Gifford This is the actual dress she wore at her marriage to Joe Plunkett in Kilmainham Jail just before his execution.

By James Langton:

A page from Joe Plunketts note book 1916, written at the height of battle. In it he explains how connolly was shot and how bad his wounds were.

New Zealanders at Trinity College Dublin Easter Week 1916

Your readers may be interested in research I am doing on the 5 New Zealand soldiers who assisted in the defence of Trinity College Dublin during Easter Week 1916.
The 5 New Zealanders are listed in the 1916 Rebellion Handbook published by the Irish Times soon after the Rising, but their involvement has never been widely acknowledged in subsequent publications. In most accounts of the Rising they are described as ‘Anzacs’ and are assumed to be Australians. The 1916 Rebellion Handbook lists only 1 Australian soldier who served in the Trinity College garrison.
The New Zealanders were Sergeant Frederick Nevin NZMC from Christchurch, Corporal Alexander Don NZFA from Dunedin, Corporal John Garland NZMC from Auckland, Lance Corporal Finlay McLeod NZE from Milton and Private Edward Waring NZR from Northland. All five men were in Dublin on Easter Monday when the shooting began and they were directed to Trinity College where the university staff and OTC cadets were defending the buildings against the rebels.
Don, McLeod and Waring had served on Gallipoli and were convalescing in Great Britain before rejoining their units on the Western Front. Nevin and Garland were medical orderlies from the New Zealand Hospital Ship Marama but their non-combatant status did not prevent them from picking up rifles with other Dominion troops to help defend the university. Garland had previously served in the New Zealand occupation of German Samoa in 1914. Letters by Garland, Don and McLeod were published in New Zealand newspapers soon after the Rising and these provide interesting eyewitness accounts of events.

 

The letters recount the initial shooting by the rebels was directed at unarmed British soldiers on the streets of Dublin. The slouch hats worn by the New Zealanders appeared to confuse the rebel marksmen and they managed to escape being hit. The letters describe the chaos on Dublin streets as the rebels rushed to occupy buildings, with civilians being hit in the crossfire. Garland claims he was shot at by Countess Markievicz as she sped past in a motorcar!  Don recounts how he saw the rebels barricading buildings and he observed James Connolly standing with arms folded on the steps of the GPO.
There were 14 Dominion soldiers in the Trinity College garrison by Monday evening. The other Dominion troops present were 6 South Africans and 2 Canadians. An Anzac sharpshooting squad was soon formed comprising the 5 New Zealanders and the 1 Australian present, Private Michael McHugh, 9th Battalion, AIF. All 5 New Zealanders must have been handy with a rifle as they were often called upon to counter rebel snipers. The university was reinforced on Tuesday by British troops and later that week it became the Headquarters of Brigadier General W.H.M. Lowe.
For 3 days the Anzac marksmen occupied the roofs of the university and exchanged shots with the rebels. They shot and killed Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh as he cycling past the university early Tuesday morning with 2 other comrades. On Friday the Anzacs ventured from the university to clear nearby buildings, including the belfry of St Andrew’s Church and Westland Row Railway Station. Both Garland and McLeod claim that the Anzacs killed around 30 rebels, however this tally is suspect given the total rebel deaths for Easter Week is 64. It is probable in the smoke and haze the Anzacs misjudged how many rebels they accounted for.

 

Irish Commandant W.J. Brennan-Whitmore describes the compassion shown to him and other rebel prisoners by a cheerful ‘Australian sergeant’ from Trinity College. Frederick Nevin was the only Anzac sergeant at Trinity College so it must have been him who gave the prisoners a tin of biscuits and a jug of cold tea before they were marched off to imprisonment. Brennan-Whitmore also congratulated the Anzacs on the accuracy of their shooting.

 

Film footage of the Easter Rising on the Imperial War Museum website clearly shows Sergeant Nevin and Privates Waring and McHugh walking from the gates of Trinity College soon after the surrender carrying rifles and smoking cigarettes!

 

After the Rising the New Zealanders travelled back to England to rejoin their units. In August 1916 they were each sent a small silver cup commemorating their role in the defence of Trinity College. Edward Waring later served on the Western Front with the 6th Hauraki Company, Auckland Regiment and was invalided back to New Zealand in early 1918. He succumbed to influenza in November 1918 aged 26.

 

Frederick Nevin and John Garland rejoined the Hospital Ship Marama for a return sailing to New Zealand. Nevin was a machinist with the New Zealand Railways and he died in Christchurch in 1953 aged 58. John Garland was still living in Auckland in 1950.

 

Alexander Don served on the Western Front with the New Zealand Field Artillery and was ‘reduced to the ranks’ in 1917 for striking a superior officer!  He was selected for officer training in 1918 but the Armistice prevented this. He returned to New Zealand in 1919 and became a school master in Wellington. Don served in the Home Guard during the Second World War, dying in 1954 aged 57.

 

Finlay McLeod was gassed on the Western Front in 1917 and was invalided home to New Zealand.  He was still living in 1967 when he claimed his bronze commemorative Gallipoli Medallion and Gallipoli Veteran’s lapel badge from the New Zealand Government.

 

The New Zealanders Army Service files make no mention of their unofficial ‘Active Service’ in Dublin during the Easter Rising.   However, there is a letter on Waring’s file from his nephew on the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966 seeking confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that his uncle was in Ireland in 1916.  I  would be keen to hear from any of your readers who may have more information on these 5 New Zealanders.

 

 

Hugh Keane

Hamilton

New Zealand