1916 Rising: Photographic reconstruction past and present

Future presidents and Proclamation signatories among Gaelic League Oireachtas 1913

Éamonn Ceannt, Douglas Hyde, Pádraig Pearse and Constance Markievicz were in anything but insurrectional mood when they gathered in Galway for a very special photocall at the weekend.

Then again, they were only stand-ins and the occasion was a reconstruction of a historic meeting over a century ago that is regarded as a “tipping point” in the lead-up to the Rising.

Back in 1913, a group of 164 men and women who attended a Gaelic League national convention or "Oireachtas" in Galway posed for photographs on the steps of the city's town hall – now a theatre.

Among them were George Russell (AE), Bulmer Hobson, Kathleen Clarke, the O'Rahilly and Eoin McNeill.


Standing with them were Pearse, Ceannt, Douglas Hyde, Seán T O'Kelly and Éamon de Valera, who would become either Proclamation signatories or presidents of the new State.

"That Oireachtas was a rallying point for many of the nationalists who later led the rebellion of Easter Week," Connemara author Colm Ó Gaora recalled in his memoir, Mise.

Ó Gaora, who was also photographed, was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood at the 1913 Galway event by Seán Mac Diarmada.

One of the original prints was found in an attic in Dublin by the Curran family several years ago, and was presented to the Town Hall Theatre.

As part of Galway's 1916 centenary programme, a group of actors in period costume, volunteers and relatives of the original Oireachtas attendees staged a partial reconstruction of the event on Saturday, under the direction of Pádraic Breathnach.

Inis Mór

Among participants were Brian Ó Cuív, a relative of de Valera, Marcas Ó Droighneáin, whose father Pádraig was in the original photo, and Caomhán Ó Fatharta from the Aran island of Inis Mór, who had several family links.

A local team including Tom Kenny, Dara Folan, Jackie Ní Chionna and Deirdre Ní Chonghaíle of NUI Galway has been working on identifying the line-up, and Town Hall Theatre manager Fergal McGrath says this project will continue – with over half of the group of 164 now identified.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times