1858 – Irish revolutionary Thomas James Clarke is born of Irish parents on the Isle of Wight and arguably the person most responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising.

“I have lived to see the greatest hour in Irish history.” –Thomas Clarke

As seemed often the case, Clarke’s father was in the British army. At a young age, Clarke took up the nationalist cause, joining the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In 1883, he was sentenced to penal servitude for life for treason (planning bomb attacks in England.) He served fifteen years.

Following his release in 1898 he moved to Brooklyn, New York where he married Kathleen Daly, 21 years his junior, whose uncle, John Daly, he had met in prison. Clarke worked for the Clan na Gael under John Devoy. In 1906 the couple moved to a 30-acre farm in Manorville, New York and bought another 30 acres in 1907, shortly before returning to Ireland the same year.

The first signatory of the Proclamation of Independence because of his seniority and commitment to the cause of Irish independence, Clarke was with the group that occupied the GPO during the 1916 Rising. He opposed the surrender, but was outvoted and the second in line to be executed. He was executed on 3 May 1916.

Photo credit: 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour


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