Heir to the legacy of The O'Rahilly


Aodhogan O'Rahilly who died on May 31st aged 95, was the last surviving son of The O'Rahilly, who had sacrificed everything he held dear for an ideal of political freedom. He was fatally wounded while leading a charge against a British barricade on the final day of the 1916 Rising. He wrote a message to his wife on the back of a note which Aodhogan, then aged 11, had sent to his father. The letter from son to father was endorsed by the dying volunteer's farewell to his wife, and punctured by the fatal bullet.

Aodhogan O'Rahilly lived in the glory of that legacy. He saw his father as a heroic figure: "One of my brothers used to say that it was irresponsible for a man to go out leaving a wife and four young children, and go into a fight inwhich he was going to get killed. I never felt that. I felt he did what had to be done."

Aodhogan O'Rahilly was born in England on September 22nd, 1904. He was educated at Mount St Benedict, Gorey, Co Wexford. Schoolmates included members of the Dillon and Sweetman families and Sean MacBride. He studied engineering at University College Dublin and qualified in 1926, having missed a year while serving with the anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War.

In the aftermath of that disaster he went through various political shades of red and green. He joined the Friends of Soviet Russia, and tore down, with George Gilmore, a Union Jack from Trinity College on Armistice Day in 1924. A visit to Russia in 1936 confirmed his disillusionment with communism. In his book, Winding the Clock: O'Rahilly and the 1916 Rising, he an wrote that the Irishmen who died in the first World War deserved to be honoured with the patriot dead.

As John Henry Newman said, to live is to change. Not that Aodhogan O'Rahilly changed much in political affiliation. He remained a Fianna Fail republican. He contested a Dail seat unsuccessfully in 1932. Despite several requests from Eamon de Valera to stand again, he opted out of active politics to concentrate on his business career.

In 1936 he was appointed a board member of the semi-state company which became Bord na Mona. In 1974 he retired, having been chairman for 15 years, and was awarded an honorary degree by the National University. Other business activities included the purchase and revival of Greenore port in Co Louth. After the second World War he started forestry at Drumhierney, his wife's ancestral home in Co Leitrim. He was a man of enthusiasm and energy, who loved the Irish language and admired efficiency. He had a generous heart and independent mind. He helped to develop the State which The O'Rahilly gave his life to found.

His biography of his father, Winding the Clock, was described by an Irish Times reviewer as "far more than an act of filial homage . . . Exegi monumentum aere perennius". The title came from the lines of Yeats's poem, The O'Rahilly: "Because I helped to wind the clock/I come to hear it strike." Like his father he married an American, Marion O'Connor, in 1934 and they had five children.Aodhogan O'Rahilly is survived by his daughters Nuala; Roisin; Iseult and his son Ronan. His wife Marion and son Eoin predeceased him.

Aodhogan O'Rahilly: born 1904; died, May 2000