I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized ‘A Full Life, A Good End’

‘A Full Life, A Good End’

Liam Hennessy
O’Brien Press and series editors Lorcan Collins and Ruan O’Donnell are to be congratulated on conceiving the project of publishing accessible and populist (in the best sense of that word) biographies of the sixteen men – leaders and “others” ‑ who were executed, mostly in the stonebreakers’ yard in Kilmainham Gaol, following the suppression of the 1916 Rising in Dublin and elsewhere. The project is deliberately timed so that all sixteen will have had biographies of this kind published under the soubriquet 16 Lives in time for the centenary (celebration/commemoration?) of the Rising, now just over two years away. It is true that some of the foremost leaders have been the subject of intense research and concomitant and exhaustive biography (one thinks, for example, of Donal Nevin’s labour of love on James Connolly, A Full Life, and Ruth Dudley Edwards’s revisionist treatment of Pearse in her paradoxical The Triumph of Failure). Others, perhaps, not so well known, such as Michael Mallin and Michael O’Hanrahan, have not been so extensively studied. The purpose of the O’Brien Press series is to rectify these omissions, while still covering the major figures. In this context, it seems entirely fitting that among the first to be published were biographies of James Connolly and Michael Mallin, who was chief-of-staff to Connolly’s commandant-general of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) during the Rising. The two men who were to be so formally, if not personally, close in the run-up to the Rising offer some interesting comparisons and contrasts as two of the leading three socialist figures in the Rising (the third was, just about arguably, Countess Markievicz, who served as Mallin’s second-in-command of the St Stephen’s Green garrison). The author of the Connolly biography is series co-editor Lorcan Collins, co-founder of the popular 1916 walking tour, while Brian Hughes extends his M Phil thesis in addressing Mallin and extracting him from the traditional focus on Connolly and Markievicz. The two future insurgents had similar formative experiences in their childhood and adolescence. They were both born into large Catholic families which often suffered grinding poverty. Connolly was born of Irish parents in the Canongate slum of late nineteenth century Edinburgh. Suffice to say that his father worked intermittently for the municipal council as a dung carter and Connolly himself left school and began working at the age of eleven as a printer’s devil. Mallin was born in the Dublin equivalent of…

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