The prison where Michael Collins thrived and William Halpin went mad
Rebels imprisoned in Wales after the Easter Rising were released as Christmas approached. Many emerged as hardened revolutionaries, others as broken men
A painting of Frongoch by Cathal Mac Dubhghaill, a Carlow native who was interned at Frongoch. Photograph: National Museum of Ireland
Prisoners at Frongoch internment camp in 1916. Photograph: National Museum of Ireland
On the morning of December 24th, 1916, a Sunday, some 250 men disembarked together at the North Wall in Dublin. They were in celebratory mood, glad to be home for Christmas, but their joy had deeper roots. They had been released from an internment camp at Frongoch, in north Wales, where they were held in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. Four days earlier HE Duke, the secretary of state for Ireland, had announced the camp’s closure. In the intervening days the 500 or so internees suddenly began arriving in Dublin.
Their release in batches was an attempt to minimise demonstrations of support for the radical nationalist cause that the prisoners had come to symbolise. In this minor regard the strategy was almost successful. Despite the hour and bad weather a large number of “friends” did turn out to greet that Christmas Eve group. According to one reporter, however, it was a “touching scene, having nothing in it of the demonstrative – just a quiet family meeting in every instance”. The rebel internees were home – or, more accurately, most of them were.