John MacBride fought imperialism in South Africa and Ireland

John MacBride was a major figure in the Second Boer War, and one of the 16 men executed after the 1916 Rising.

By Donal Fallon

 

Many of the leading figures of the Easter Rising were relatively unknown in the years leading up to the event, owing to their own youth or late political development.

ODonovanRossaFuneral_large.jpg
John MacBride, to the right and behind the shoulder of Patrick Pearse (in uniform) at Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral on August 1, 1915.

This certainly wasn’t the case with Major John MacBride (1868-1916) however, as he was something of a household name in Ireland thanks to his participation in the Second Boer War (1899 -1902). He was part of a small band of uitlanders (Afrikaans for foreigners) which militarily-aligned with the Boers as they fought the British Empire, becoming known popularly as the ‘Irish Brigade’.

For many participants in the Irish revolutionary period, the war in South Africa was an important influence. Seamus Robinson, who would fight in the Easter Rising, recalled: “Heavens! What thrills we got out of that great struggle. Bonfires in the streets on the news of a Boer victory, complete disbelief in Boer reverses! The Irish Boer Brigade! How we wished we were old enough to be with them.”

John MacBride left Ireland in 1896 and travelled to South Africa, but it should be noted by that stage he was already a hardened Fenian, having taken the secret oath of the Irish Republican Brotherhood at only 15.

By the late 19th century, there were some Irishmen travelling to South Africa in search of work, drawn to the goldmines and the tales of prosperity. MacBride himself claimed years later however the central factor in his decision to leave Ireland for South Africa was political, writing that “shortly after the Jameson Raid, I resolved to go to the South African Republic as I knew that England had her mind made up to take the country, and I wanted to organise my countrymen there, so as to be in a position to strike a blow at England’s power abroad when we could not, unfortunately, do so at home.”

Major John MacBride. Taken from 1916 memorial card.
Major John MacBride. Taken from 1916 memorial card.

The Jameson Raid that MacBride referenced was an ill-fated and botched raid on the Boer Transvaal Republic orchestrated by mining magnate and governor of the Cape, Cecil Rhodes.

The Second Boer War formally broke out on October 11, 1899, following an ultimatum issued two days earlier to the British government by Paul Kruger, the Boer president, who had given the British 48-hours to withdraw from the borders of both Boer Republics, stating that failure to comply would result in a declaration of war.

In Ireland, an ‘Anti-War’ movement quickly emerged, though in reality it could better be described as ‘Anti-British.’ At one meeting in October 1899, a crowd of 20,000 listened as a letter was read from the mayor of Kilkenny, who proposed that two maxim guns be sent to the Boers with which they could defend themselves. One could be called ‘Parnell’, and the other ‘Wolfe Tone’.

By September 1899, a proposal for an Irish Transvaal Brigade was put to the Boer government and accepted. This Brigade was, in reality, led by John Blake, a maverick Irish American who had military experience in the US armed forces. Mayo radical Michael Davitt, who travelled to South Africa, remembered that Blake had “a slight suggestion of Buffalo Bill in his general appearances.”

MacBride was a hugely important figure in the Brigade however, and would assume control for a period when Blake was wounded in fighting. The idea of it being ‘MacBride’s Brigade’ is something that was fostered by the nationalist press in Ireland, in particular Arthur Griffith’s United Irishman.

Griffith, a close friend of MacBride who had himself spent some time in South Africa, published poems and songs loaded with praise for MacBride, with one noting:

“Revenge! Remember 98! And how our fathers died! We’ll pay the English back today, cried fearless John MacBride.”

Another man who took his place in the Brigade was Tom Byrne, who would later fight in the Easter Rising.

While the Irish Brigade was numerically small, consisting of circa 300 men, it should be noted that in the region of 28,000 Irishmen fought in South Africa as members of the British forces. From time to time, these two bands encountered one another, for example at the brutal Battle of Dundee.

The participation of Irishmen on both sides of a foreign conflict led to some ridicule. One contemporary song joked that:

“McGarry took O’Leary, O’Brien got McNamee, That’s how the English fought the Dutch at the Battle of Dundee!”

Ultimately, the Boers were defeated, and their two Republics subsumed by the Empire. One reminder of Irish participation in the war today is the Fusiliers’ Arch memorial at Dublin’s Stephen’s Green, erected to the memory of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died in the conflict.

It is telling that the monument was quickly rechristened ‘Traitors Gate’ by some nationalist voices, giving insight into the divisive nature of the Second Boer War.

 

John MacBride 1916100years    16Lives via Niall Murray

Donal Fallon is a lecturer and historian, and co-founder of the social history website Come Here To Me. He is the author of John MacBride in the 16 Lives series from O’Brien Press, biographies of the 16 men executed after the Easter Rising.


News & Events

University College Cork, Western Road, Cork, Ireland   |    +353(21) 480 2110   |   [email protected]
Copyright © UCC 2015/Irish Examiner 2015   |   Website by Doodle

1

Attach Id ( 626 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 482

1

Attach Id ( 630 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 489

1

Attach Id ( 636 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 495

1

Attach Id ( 2614 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 804

1

Attach Id ( 2594 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 816

1

Attach Id ( 2619 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 824

1

Attach Id ( 2599 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 838

1

Attach Id ( 2609 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 850

1

Attach Id ( 2605 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 860

1

Attach Id ( 2622 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 868

1

Attach Id ( 2625 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 876

1

Attach Id ( 1536 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 1062

1

Attach Id ( 2628 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 880

1

Attach Id ( 2631 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 885

1

Attach Id ( 2647 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 910

1

Attach Id ( 2641 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 893

1

Attach Id ( 2635 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 900

1

Attach Id ( 3114 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 915

1

Attach Id ( 1862 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 921

1

Attach Id ( 1867 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 925

1

Attach Id ( 1870 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 929

1

Attach Id ( 1879 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 950

1

Attach Id ( 1883 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 938

1

Attach Id ( 1887 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 933

1

Attach Id ( 2587 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 2408

1

Attach Id ( 3562 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3451

1

Attach Id ( 3609 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3461

1

Attach Id ( 3544 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3466

1

Attach Id ( 3617 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3470

1

Attach Id ( 3559 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3474

1

Attach Id ( 3553 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3479

1

Attach Id ( 3809 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3713

1

Attach Id ( 4740 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3840

1

Attach Id ( 29980 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 29935

1

Attach Id ( 4310 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4212

1

Attach Id ( 4735 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4223

1

Attach Id ( 4769 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4748

1

Attach Id ( 5200 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4872

1

Attach Id ( 5203 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4876

1

Attach Id ( 5206 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4880

1

Attach Id ( 5209 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4884

1

Attach Id ( 5193 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5191

1

Attach Id ( 5314 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5218

1

Attach Id ( 5319 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5222

1

Attach Id ( 5521 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5226

1

Attach Id ( 5277 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5233

1

Attach Id ( 5391 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5238

1

Attach Id ( 5422 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5242

1

Attach Id ( 6361 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5549

1

Attach Id ( 5737 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5557

1

Attach Id ( 5874 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5553

1

Attach Id ( 6358 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5893

1

Attach Id ( 6355 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6191

1

Attach Id ( 6536 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6419

1

Attach Id ( 6533 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6423

1

Attach Id ( 6551 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6428

1

Attach Id ( 6543 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6438

1

Attach Id ( 6601 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6442

1

Attach Id ( 6546 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6434

1

Attach Id ( 7285 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6797

1

Attach Id ( 7282 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6801

1

Attach Id ( 7293 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6805

1

Attach Id ( 7535 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7459

1

Attach Id ( 7719 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7607

1

Attach Id ( 7741 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7596

1

Attach Id ( 7748 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7602

1

Attach Id ( 7874 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7630

1

Attach Id ( 7803 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7618

1

Attach Id ( 8155 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 7887

1

Attach Id ( 8335 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8184

1

Attach Id ( 8374 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8368

1

Attach Id ( 8687 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8386

1

Attach Id ( 8660 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8378

1

Attach Id ( 8887 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8704

1

Attach Id ( 9112 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8710

1

Attach Id ( 8901 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8720

1

Attach Id ( 8904 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8724

1

Attach Id ( 8836 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8730

1

Attach Id ( 9117 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8735

1

Attach Id ( 9540 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9525

1

Attach Id ( 9653 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9616

1

Attach Id ( 9656 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9620

1

Attach Id ( 9939 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9819

1

Attach Id ( 9942 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9824

1

Attach Id ( 10242 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9833

1

Attach Id ( 10030 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9841

1

Attach Id ( 10033 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9837

1

Attach Id ( 29370 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 29331

1

Attach Id ( 10061 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9815

1

Attach Id ( 10476 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 10255

1

Attach Id ( 29490 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 29435

1

Attach Id ( 10621 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 10482

1

Attach Id ( 10616 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 10488

1

Attach Id ( 10627 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 10493

1

Attach Id ( 10624 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 10541

1

Attach Id ( 29730 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 29714

1

Attach Id ( 11012 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 10962

1

Attach Id ( 11286 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11048

1

Attach Id ( 11489 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11053

1

Attach Id ( 11482 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11068

1

Attach Id ( 11760 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11077

1

Attach Id ( 11496 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11090

1

Attach Id ( 11648 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11512

1

Attach Id ( 11734 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11511

1

Attach Id ( 12134 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11807

1

Attach Id ( 12141 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12020

1

Attach Id ( 12131 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 11811

1

Attach Id ( 12503 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12433

1

Attach Id ( 12523 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12437

1

Attach Id ( 12506 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12497

1

Attach Id ( 13009 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12695

1

Attach Id ( 13012 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12701

1

Attach Id ( 13017 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12706

1

Attach Id ( 15839 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13178

1

Attach Id ( 14236 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13272

1

Attach Id ( 15858 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13183

1

Attach Id ( 14404 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13187

1

Attach Id ( 15412 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13195

1

Attach Id ( 15423 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13200

1

Attach Id ( 15419 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13205

1

Attach Id ( 15427 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13214

1

Attach Id ( 15845 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13220

1

Attach Id ( 15430 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13224

1

Attach Id ( 14091 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13231

1

Attach Id ( 15437 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13237

1

Attach Id ( 15388 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13242

1

Attach Id ( 15380 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13253

1

Attach Id ( 14334 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13260

1

Attach Id ( 15850 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13266

1

Attach Id ( 15842 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13276

1

Attach Id ( 14353 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13281

1

Attach Id ( 15855 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13285

1

Attach Id ( 15377 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13289

1

Attach Id ( 15831 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13295

1

Attach Id ( 16697 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14508

1

Attach Id ( 14939 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14513

1

Attach Id ( 16700 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14517

1

Attach Id ( 14968 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14521

1

Attach Id ( 16288 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14525

1

Attach Id ( 14882 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14555

1

Attach Id ( 16282 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15465

1

Attach Id ( 16279 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15469

1

Attach Id ( 16162 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15884

1

Attach Id ( 16264 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15880

1

Attach Id ( 16261 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15876

1

Attach Id ( 16270 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15892

1

Attach Id ( 16153 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15872

1

Attach Id ( 16074 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16053

1

Attach Id ( 16123 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15740

1

Attach Id ( 16672 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16298

1

Attach Id ( 16675 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16303

1

Attach Id ( 16694 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16307

1

Attach Id ( 16682 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16311

1

Attach Id ( 16685 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16315

1

Attach Id ( 16679 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16319

1

Attach Id ( 16688 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16539

1

Attach Id ( 17893 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16752

1

Attach Id ( 17770 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16738

1

Attach Id ( 17884 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16734

1

Attach Id ( 17780 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16747

1

Attach Id ( 17890 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16769

1

Attach Id ( 17767 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16761

1

Attach Id ( 17897 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16742

1

Attach Id ( 17880 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16757

1

Attach Id ( 17887 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16765

1

Attach Id ( 17787 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16730

1

Attach Id ( 17874 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 17602

1

Attach Id ( 17877 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 17606

1

Attach Id ( 18187 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18115

1

Attach Id ( 18718 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18196

1

Attach Id ( 29241 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 29162

1

Attach Id ( 18313 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18192

1

Attach Id ( 18320 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18310

1

Attach Id ( 18323 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18282

1

Attach Id ( 18456 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18317

1

Attach Id ( 19238 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18722

1

Attach Id ( 19228 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18726

1

Attach Id ( 19231 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18747

1

Attach Id ( 19594 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18742

1

Attach Id ( 19179 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18738

1

Attach Id ( 19190 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18760

1

Attach Id ( 19225 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18764

1

Attach Id ( 19205 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18768

1

Attach Id ( 19838 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 19598

1

Attach Id ( 19784 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 19603

1

Attach Id ( 20573 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 19607

1

Attach Id ( 20580 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 19611

1

Attach Id ( 20567 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 20324

1

Attach Id ( 20833 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 20728

1

Attach Id ( 20861 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 20850

1

Attach Id ( 21000 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 20956

1

Attach Id ( 21563 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21008

1

Attach Id ( 21410 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21012

1

Attach Id ( 22185 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21016

1

Attach Id ( 21267 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21029

1

Attach Id ( 21560 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21042

1

Attach Id ( 21586 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21046

1

Attach Id ( 22191 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21020

1

Attach Id ( 21352 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21025

1

Attach Id ( 21400 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21033

1

Attach Id ( 21589 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21038

1

Attach Id ( 21407 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21050

1

Attach Id ( 21805 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21596

1

Attach Id ( 22174 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 21921

1

Attach Id ( 22045 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22042

1

Attach Id ( 22374 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22358

1

Attach Id ( 22488 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22384

1

Attach Id ( 22493 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22388

1

Attach Id ( 22499 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22396

1

Attach Id ( 22623 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22400

1

Attach Id ( 23090 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 22986

1

Attach Id ( 23087 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23017

1

Attach Id ( 23409 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23193

1

Attach Id ( 23414 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23197

1

Attach Id ( 23455 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23201

1

Attach Id ( 23640 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23205

1

Attach Id ( 23368 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23211

1

Attach Id ( 23994 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23649

1

Attach Id ( 23736 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23677

1

Attach Id ( 24143 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 23998

1

Attach Id ( 24146 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24002

1

Attach Id ( 24149 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24006

1

Attach Id ( 25081 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24495

1

Attach Id ( 25063 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24571

1

Attach Id ( 24846 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24575

1

Attach Id ( 24797 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24582

1

Attach Id ( 24784 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24586

1

Attach Id ( 25059 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 24591

1

Attach Id ( 25324 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25085

1

Attach Id ( 25320 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25090

1

Attach Id ( 25431 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25095

1

Attach Id ( 25879 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25441

1

Attach Id ( 25882 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25445

1

Attach Id ( 25875 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25437

1

Attach Id ( 25868 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25678

1

Attach Id ( 25871 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 25683

1

Attach Id ( 26692 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 26142

1

Attach Id ( 27051 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 26962

1

Attach Id ( 27149 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27016

1

Attach Id ( 27188 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27176

1

Attach Id ( 27318 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27195

1

Attach Id ( 27472 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27332

1

Attach Id ( 27475 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27336

1

Attach Id ( 27614 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27552

1

Attach Id ( 27765 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 27744

1

Attach Id ( 30638 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 30544

1

Attach Id ( 30641 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 30548

1

Attach Id ( 31168 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 30907

1

Attach Id ( 33152 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 33140

1

Attach Id ( 35478 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 35325

1

Attach Id ( 35801 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 35599

1

Attach Id ( 35791 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 35660

1

Attach Id ( 35796 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 35768

1

Attach Id ( 36182 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 36105

1

Attach Id ( 36428 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 36395