Today marks the 100th anniversary of the executions of Seán Mac Dermott and James Connolly. On the morning of 12 May, the two men were executed in the Stonebreakers’ Yard at Kilmainham Jail. The following are excerpts from the memoirs of Father Eugene McCarthy, a chaplain in Kilmainham, and Father Aloysius Travers OFM Cap., a Capuchin Friar who ministered to Connolly in his final hours.
Father Eugene McCarthy
I, Seán Mac Diarmada … desire to make known to all my fellow-countrymen that I die, as I have lived, bearing no malice to any man, and in perfect peace with Almighty God. The principles for which I give my life are so sacred that I now walk to my death in the most calm and collected manner. … I have asked the Rev. E. McCarthy who has prepared me to meet my God and who has given me courage to face the ordeal I am about to undergo, to convey this message to my fellow country-men.
Source: Statement written in Kilmainham Jail, 12 May 1916.
Following his death, Mac Diarmada’s rosary beads were given to Monsignor Patrick Browne, a priest of the Dublin diocese who had visited him on 10 May. Monsignor Browne paid this tribute in verse to his friend shortly after his execution:
‘As last I saw you, captive in the net,
And heard you in Kilmainham’s prison cell
Review the patient years with no regret
And say in sight of death that all was well’.
Source: Piaras F. Mac Lochlainn, ‘Last Words / letters and statements of the leaders executed after the Rising at Easter 1916’ (Dublin, 1990), pp 172-3.
Father Aloysius Travers OFM Cap.
Before leaving for Kilmainham, I had a few words with James Connolly. I said that the men who would execute him were soldiers – probably they knew nothing about him and like soldiers, they would simply obey orders and fire. I wanted him to feel no anger against them but I wanted him to say as our Lord did on Calvary “Father forgive them” and to say a prayer for them.
“I do Father”, he answered, “I respect everyman who does his duty.”
James Connolly was laid on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance. I sat beside him and had a last word with him before they took him from the ambulance in Kilmainham yard. He was sitting in a chair. The order was given and the soldiers fired. Fr. Eugene McCarthy, who had earlier been in attendance with Sean McDermott went over and anointed Connolly.
I had stood behind the firing line. It was a scene I should not ask to witness again. I had got to know Connolly – to marvel at his strength of character … [and] now I had to say goodbye. All I could do was to return to Church Street and to offer the Holy Sacrifice for his soul. May he rest in peace’.
Source: Memories of Easter Week, 1916. (Irish Capuchin Archives).
Source: Capuchin Franciscans, Dublin.