‘The Irish Times’ report on O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral in 1915

‘Mr P Pearse delivered a panegyric. He said that he spoke on behalf of a new generation’

Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa on his death bed in New York. File photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Fenian leader Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa on his death bed in New York. File photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images


The Irish Times, Monday, August 2nd, 1915

The funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa took place yesterday afternoon from the City Hall, Dublin, to Glasnevin Cemetery.

During the three days when they lay in the vestibule of the City Hall the remains, which were encased in a coffin with a plate glass lid, exposing the features to view, were visited by thousands of citizens.

The public funeral yesterday, as a pageant , was remarkably well organised and was carried through without a hitch, with the single exception of about a quarter of an hour’s delay in the time of starting.

This was scarcely to be avoided having regard to the large number of excursion trains which arrived at all the stations in the city conveying contingents who wish to be present at the funeral, and the marshalling of these visitors involved a great deal of labour and responsibility on the officials in charge.

The major portion of this duty devolved on the officers of the Irish Volunteers, whose headquarters are at 2 Dawson Street.

Thomas MacDonagh acted as Commandant-General, Mr (Edward) Daly was in charge of the military bodies, which included the Irish Volunteers, the National Volunteers and a section of the Dublin Citizen Army.

This was the first occasion in which these three bodies had united in one public procession.

The Nationalists’ societies of Dublin, which were well represented, were in the charge of Mr O’Rahily and Mr Joseph Plunkett was in charge of the delegations.

The coffin was conveyed from the City Hall in the four-horse bier in waiting at 2.25pm and fifteen minutes later the cortege started, headed by a guard of honour of the Irish Volunteers with rifles, a mounted guard being supplied by the same body.

The coffin was thickly covered with wreaths and an open carriage behind was also filled with floral tokens, while many of the contingents carried wreaths to be placed on the grave.

Immediately following the bier were a number of old friends of the deceased, including some from America, Liverpool, Cork and representatives of the Urban Council of his native town of Skibbereen.

Following on were carriages containing the widow and daughter, some clergymen and representatives of various public bodies, including Alderman Corrigan, a representative of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Mayors of Cork and Kilkenny and representatives from Waterford and Limerick.

Immediately following these came several companies of Irish Volunteers with arms reversed.

The National Volunteers, who were allotted a position about the middle of the procession, did not carry any arms.

Contingents of Volunteers, as well as the representatives of the several trade societies and branches of the GAA, INR etc were headed by their own bands, who played the Dead March when the signal for starting was given, but subsequently marching airs were played through the streets.

The Irish Times, August 2nd, 1915

The procession, in marching four deep at a slow pace, took a little over fifty minutes to pass the corner of Dame Street into George’s Street and there was no delay in marshalling any of the contingents.

A conservative estimate of those who actually took part in the procession gives the numbers as exceeding 6,000 and there must have been at least ten times this number lining the streets.

The proceedings throughout were orderly and peaceable. Chief Superintendent Dunne of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, assisted by Superintendents Murphy, Bannon, Curtin, Kieran and Flynn were on duty, in charge of 12 inspectors, 30 sergeants and 200 constables, but their principal duty was as spectators as there was not a single disorderly incident to be reported or dealt with.

Long before the hour at which the procession was to start from the City Hall, spectators began to congregate along the route.

In St Stephen’s Green, where the last parties of mourners were to join the cortege, were many people as early as 1 o’clock. The windows of many houses too were filled with quiet watchers.

The funeral came into College Green about 3 o’clock, headed by a body of Volunteers with the St. James’s Band.

To describe its passing this historic point is to describe the even tenour of its way to Glasnevin Cemetery.

There was no rise or fall of grief in the procession.

The slow music of the bands sounded forth.

The green-clad Volunteers, with arms reversed, paced slowly to its strains company after company.

Apart from the great number of Volunteers, the procession was remarkably long, taking three-quarters of an hour to pass any point.

Although it was little varied in its parts, the spectators’ quiet interest did not wane while it was going by.

It was nearing 6 o’clock when the hearse passed through the main gates of Glasnevin Cemetery.

There was much delay, with companies of Volunteers took up their positions inside and the procession meanwhile was stopped on the Prospect Road whither it had arrived via North Frederick Street, Blessington Street, Berkeley Road and Phibsborough Road, this portion of the route being lined with crowds of spectators.

In North Frederick Street the windows of the Hibernian Hall, the headquarters of the AOH (Irish-American Alliance) were draped in black and American and Irish flags were prominently displayed.

The avenue leading to the mortuary chapel was lined by detachments of Volunteers.

The prayers in the chapel were said by the Rev D Byrne, chaplain. Several priests then accompanied the coffin to the grave, which is situated just beyond the eastern fringe of the O’Connell circle, close to the graves of two other prominent Fenians, John O’Leary and James Stephens.

The burial service was recited in Irish by the Rev Fr O’Flanagan Sligo.

Mr PH Pearse delivered a panegyric on O’Donovan Rossa. He said that he spoke on behalf of a new generation that had been re-baptised in the Fenian faith and had accepted the responsibility of carrying out the Fenian Programme. (Hear, hear.)

He proposed that by the grave of that unrepentant Fenian they should renew their baptismal vows. (Hear, hear.)

Deliberately they avowed themselves, as O’Donovan avowed himself in the dock, Irishmen of one allegiance only.

The Irish Volunteers and others associated with them in the day’s task and duty were bound together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the freedom of Ireland. (Hear hear.)

They knew only one definition of freedom; it was the definition of Tone, Mitchell and Rossa.

In a closer spiritual communion with Rossa, and with those who suffered with him in English prisons, and with their own comrades of the present day who were now suffering in English prisons, they around Rossa’s grave pledged to Ireland their love and to English rule in Ireland their hate. (Applause).

Their foes were strong, wise and wary, but still they could not undo the miracles of God who ripened in the hearts of young men these seeds sown by the young men of a former generation.

The seeds sown by the young men of ‘65 and ‘67 were coming to their miraculous ripening today.

Rulers and defenders of realms had need to be wary if they would guard against such processes.

The defenders of this realm had worked well in secret and in the open.

They thought that they had pacified Ireland, and purchased half of them and intimidated the other half.

They thought that they had foreseen everything, but the fools had left to them their Fenian dead and while Ireland held those graves Ireland unfree would never be at peace. (Applause.)

A firing party then fired a volley, the Last Post was sounded and wreaths were laid on the grave.

It is estimated that at least five thousand rifles were carried in the procession, and that at least seven thousand of the processionists were healthy young men of military age.