#OTD in 1916 – Letter written by Thomas MacDonagh to his family.

Signatory of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, Revolutionary leader of the Easter Revolution, Tomás Mac Donnchadha:

Letter written about midnight on 2nd May in Thomas MacDonagh’s cell in Kilmainham Gaol, approximately 3 hours before he was shot. The original is on loan to the Kilmainham Gaol museum. He was given 2 sheets of paper and started to write a statement, but was told he could only write a letter or letters. He asked for fresh paper but this was refused. The British crest was embossed at the top of each page, so he turned the page upside down. Muriel tried to get to the Gaol but the soldier who came to tell her he was due to be executed (and did so in front of their 3 year old son, terrifying him) did not give her a pass and she could not get through the barricades. There was only one house near where they lived in Ranelagh with a phone and they would not allow her to use it to phone the Gaol. Thomas MacDonagh and his wife Muriel had two children, Donagh born in 1912, and Barbara, who was just a year old when her father was executed by the British.

In a letter to his family, Thomas MacDonagh recalls “I was astonished to receive by a messenger from P.H. Pearse, Commandant General of the Army of the Irish Republic, an order to surrender unconditionally to the British General. I did not obey the order as it came from a prisoner. I as then in supreme command of the Irish Army, consulted with my second in command and decided to confirm the order. I knew that it would involve my death and the deaths of other leaders. I hoped that it would save many true men among our followers, good lives for Ireland. God grant it has done so and God approve our deed. For my self I have no regret. The one bitterness that death has for me is the separation it brings from my beloved wife Muriel, and my beloved children, Donagh and Barbara. My country will then treat them as wards, I hope. I have devoted myself too much to National work and too little to the making of money to leave them a competence. God help them and support them, and give them a happy and prosperous life. Never was there a better, truer, purer woman then my wife Muriel, or more adorable children than Don and Barbara. It breaks my heart that I shall never see my children again, but I have not wept or murmured. I counted the cost of this and am ready to pay it. Muriel has been sent for here. I do not know if she can come. She may have no one to take the children while she is coming. If she does”.

Photo: Thomas MacDonagh, his wife Muriel Gifford MacDonagh and their son Donagh, credit: My Colorful Past

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