1922 – Michael Collins is ambushed. On the last day of his life, he set out from Cork in a convoy that passed through Bandon, Clonakilty, and Rosscarbery on its way to Skibbereen.

Michael Collins died during Ireland’s Civil War at a place called Béal na mBláth – not far from Woodfield, Clonakilty, Co. Cork where he was born just over 31 years earlier. The ambush was commanded by Tom Hales and Liam Deasy, both of whom were former friends and comrades in arms of the ‘Big Fella’. During the War of Independence, Tom Hales had undergone sadistic treatment at the hands of British Intelligence Officers rather than betray his friend Michael Collins. Liam Deasy later wrote, “When I first met Michael Collins over fifty years ago, I considered him then to be the greatest leader of our generation. I have not since changed that opinion”. A fitting epitaph.

Maybe the best compliment to Michael Collins the ‘Big Fella,’ who fought in the 1916 Rising and forced Britain to the negotiation table, where as he wrote prophetically “early this morning I signed my death warrant” comes from Tom Barry who fought against Collins in the Civil War.

Barry recollected hearing of Collins’ death while imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail by the government of Michael Collins.

“I saw a most remarkable thing …. We heard the hubbub outside……… there was about 1,000 of us, prisoners in Kilmainham Jail… There was about seven or eight hundred men and they were all down on their knees saying the rosary for the repose of the soul of Michael Collins. One time he was their leader against the British, then he was the Commander in Chief of the enemy forces.”

Winston Churchill wrote after the death of “The Big Fella, “Michael Collins was a man of dauntless courage.”

Lloyd George on Collins. “His engaging personality won friendships even amongst those who met him as foes and to all who met him, the news of his death comes as a personal sorrow.”

On August 25th, George Bernard Shaw wrote to Hannie Collins, Michael’s sister:

“My Dear Miss Collins—
Don’t let them make you miserable about it: how could a born soldier die better than at the victorious end of a good fight, falling to the shot of another Irishman—a damned fool, but all the same an Irishman who thought he was fighting for Ireland—‘A Roman to Roman’? I met Michael for the first and last time on Saturday last, and am very glad I did. I rejoice in his memory, and will not be so disloyal to it as to snivel over his valiant death. So tear up your mourning and hang up your brightest colours in his honour; and let us all praise God that he did not die in a snuffy bed of a trumpery cough, weakened by age, and saddened by the disappointments that would have attended his work had he lived”

For more detailed info, General Michael Collins site is brilliant: http://www.generalmichaelcollins.com

Michael Collins

Photo: Michael Collins – 10 days before his death at funeral of Arthur Griffith.

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Photo: Michael Collins (left) “messing around” with his best friend Harry Boland at Croke Park 1921. Both men were on the run from Britain at this time during the Irish War of Independence. Despite their friendship, they would fight on different sides during the Civil War where both would die.

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Photo: Michael Collins (Love of Ireland), 1922, By Sir John Lavery.

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Stair na hÉireann is steeped in Ireland's turbulent history, culture, ancient secrets and thousands of places that link us to our past and the present. With insight to folklore, literature, art, and music, you’ll experience an irresistible tour through the remarkable Emerald Isle.