Of the companies that marched to Mount Leader outside Millstreet, Rathduane was the largest; all its 29 members at Easter 1916 turned out.
By Niall Murray
Like the smaller companies of Mushera and Keale, it had been formed in November 1915.
The Volunteers in Millstreet town had only seven members at Easter 1916, but all turned out, and all but two of the neighbouring Mushera and Keale companies were present.
But, with just over 30 firearms (mostly shotguns), 12 pikes and 12 sticks of gelagnite — and with no orders of where to go — they simply marched about a mile-and-a-half out of Millstreet.
They had little idea — or probably none — that just a few miles south of them outside Carriganima, there were more than 100 Volunteers also awaiting instructions from Brigade commanders. If all had gone to plan, the 400 men assembled at Macroom would also have reached that point, and would pick up the companies from the Millstreet area early on Easter Monday morning to collect the German weapons that should have come that far overnight on Sunday.
Instead, with the Aud by now in the bottom of the sea outside Cork harbour, the North Cork men assembled on the high ground near Mount Leader outside Millstreet. There they dug some trenches with the equipment that their official orders had commanded them to carry, and dispersed again about 6pm, when no further orders had reached them.
Further north, companies from Kanturk, Boherbue and Tullylease (near the Cork-Limerick border) assembled at Barley Hill a few miles outside Newmarket.
Under the command of Daithí Barry, one of Terence MacSwiney’s most active fellow-organisers of the Irish Volunteers over the previous year, they were joined by small numbers from Meelin and Newmarket. The Reallen & Means company was also active at this time, but a mix-up in communications meant just one of their number joined up on the day.
Barry drilled the men under the close observation of several police until the late afternoon. His instructions had been to await the arrival of further men, or further orders; or if neither came, to dismiss his charges.
He probably did so earlier than he should have. But it would be of no consequence in the circumstances.
In the following days, as word of the Rising in Dublin spread to Cork, companies outside the city were awaiting orders to take up arms.
Some, however, re-mobilised on their own initiative like five men of Rathduane company did until nightfall on Tuesday, taking up position overlooking Millstreet RIC barracks.
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