Welcome to our Dining Room, here we will set the scene for the Michael Collins story and hear about the previous generations who would help sow the seeds of the revolutionary that Collins would become. For further information and insight click the Learn More button at the foot of each page.
Michael Collins was born in an area known as Woodfield, close to Clonakilty, Cork in 1890. Born into a tenant farmer family Collins grew up listening to stories of rebel risings in school, at home and from family friends. One such tale was of the 1798 Rebellion and the local Battle of Big Cross, where he learned of local hero Tadhg an Asna O’Donovan and the United Irishmen.
Armed mainly with pikes, 300-400 rebels, lead by Tadhg, fought the British ‘Westmeath Militia’ in a bloody and ultimately unsuccessful battle at Shannonvale, near Clonakilty. Hearing these tales of bravery from his father and the local blacksmith James Santry fired the imagination of young Collins and instilled a lifelong patriotism.
The overall failure of the 1798 Rebellion resulted in the enforcement of the Act of Union 1801 and the beginning of a 120 year struggle for an independent government in Ireland.
Another significant influence on Collins was Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa and the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
Rossa lived through the Great Irish Famine, the negative impact of which propelled propelled Rossa towards a life dedicated to Irish freedom. He became one of the leaders of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.), a secret, oath-bound, revolutionary society committed to over-throwing British rule in Ireland by force. Rossa was arrested in 1865 for his part in organising a ‘Fenian Plot’ and spent the next five years suffering severe punishment for his actions while in prison. He was released in 1870 and forced into exile in the United States of America. In the US, Rossa did not relent and continued his campaign for Irish freedom. He died on 29th June 1915.
While in life O’Donovan Rossa would never realise his goal, the legacy he left behind would change the history of Ireland. When Rossa died his body was returned to Ireland so that the I.R.B. and Irish Volunteers could transform his funeral into a massive propaganda spectacle. Between 50,000 to 70,000 attended his funeral and for the first time it became apparent the nationalist movement had the support and strength of numbers to start a revolution. Six months later the 1916 Rising would take place.
O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral was immortalised by Pádraig Pearse’s passionate graveside speech:
The fools, the fools, the fools! They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree, shall never be at peace.
In 1909 Michael Collins would join the IRB and would later go on to become its president.
Please explore the information boards and artefacts in this room. When you are ready, proceed into the next area, through the door on the left.