Fuair siad bás ar son Saoirse na hÉireann!
“Give us the future, we’ve had enough of your past. Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in, to love.” –Michael Collins
Michael Collins was killed during Ireland’s Civil War at Béal na mBláth – not far from Woodfield, Clonakilty, Co Cork where he was born just over 31 years earlier. 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 Gaol 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.”
On 25th August, 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.”
UCD Archives-held Michael Collins papers are available online via UCD Digital Library: bit.ly/2vZkjDh
Image: Michael Collins Funeral Cortege