Liam Mellows: Republican Enigma

Anti-Treaty leader’s personal steel was cloaked by his inoffensive character, writes Conor McNamara

 

LiamMellows_large.jpg
Liam Mellows’ portrait by Mick O’Dea, exhibited at Triskel Christchurch, Cork, in 2015. The 600 men under his command had fewer than 30 .303 service rifles and 300 shotguns.

 

Liam Mellows, who led the Galway Rebels during Easter Week, was shot dead by the Irish Free State on December 8, 1922.

It was one of the first brutal executions of Anti-Treaty IRA Volunteers by the National Army during the Civil War. He was 30 years of age and had given his entire adult life to the cause of an Irish Republic.

William ‘Liam’ Mellows was born in 1892 in Lancashire, England. His father was a military officer and Liam and his brother Herbert, known as Barney, moved to Wexford in their childhood.

Inspired by their love of Irish history, the brothers became indefatigable organisers for Na Fianna Éireann boy scouts and the Irish Volunteers, formed in 1909 and 1913, respectively.

Of small stature, but physically fit, a non-drinker or smoker, Mellows’ sole relief from his life’s work of building an Irish Republic was playing his beloved fiddle for friends and comrades. Sent by HQ to organise the Galway Volunteers in March 1915, Mellows’ personal steel was cloaked by his inoffensive character.

 

Volunteer Frank Hynes recalled: “My impression of him was that he may be a clever lad — he was about 22 years — but couldn’t be much good at fighting… I learned later that he was determined to give his life in the fight.”

Following the Rising, Mellows escaped to the United States where he spent several unhappy years in New York involved in various capacities with Clan na nGael and other branches of the republican movement.

A close friend of Volunteer leader, Patrick McCartan, he was incarcerated in The Tombs Prison in late 1917 for entering the US without a passport.

While abroad he was elected Sinn Féin MP for both Galway East and Meath North in the December 1918 general election. On his return to Ireland in October 1920, he was appointed director of arms purchases at IRA HQ.

He implacably opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was part of the Anti-Treaty IRA leadership that occupied the Four Courts in April 1922. Captured in the attack on the complex by the National Army, he was subsequently shot dead in December 1922, in reprisal for an attack by the Anti-Treaty IRA in which Cork TD Sean Hales was killed.

Mellows’ career is a classic example of the disenchantment among a coterie of republican leaders with the Irish revolution’s political direction. Like Patrick Pearse, he shared English ancestry, but had a profound sense of the republican cause’s righteousness, and could not countenance any form of political compromise.

Like Pearse, he held a close bond with his only intimate friend, his brother. Both were devoted to their mothers, with whom they shared their ideals for their country.

In a letter to an acquaintance in 1919 Mellows wrote with typical lack of ego:

“You place me on too high a pedestal. Someday you may turn iconoclast and then you will find that, like all idols, this one has feet of clay… And after all talk is cheap. It is the deed that counts, and there I have failed lamentably…There are men and women in Ireland today, compared with whom I am as nothing, simple, honest, knowing nothing of the maze of politics or the ways of the great world, yet, they cherished in their hearts great ideals and noble aspirations… Dreamers fanatics, intransigents, fools, yes, but unconquerable and sublime.”

 

Return to The Rising in the Regions

 


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 ( 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 ( 2619 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 824

1

Attach Id ( 2599 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 838

1

Attach Id ( 1536 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 1062

1

Attach Id ( 2631 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 885

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 ( 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 ( 3617 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3470

1

Attach Id ( 3553 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 3479

1

Attach Id ( 5203 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4876

1

Attach Id ( 5209 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 4884

1

Attach Id ( 5193 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5191

1

Attach Id ( 5277 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5233

1

Attach Id ( 5391 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5238

1

Attach Id ( 6361 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5549

1

Attach Id ( 6358 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 5893

1

Attach Id ( 6355 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6191

1

Attach Id ( 6546 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6434

1

Attach Id ( 7282 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 6801

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 ( 8374 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8368

1

Attach Id ( 9112 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 8710

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 ( 10033 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 9837

1

Attach Id ( 29370 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 29331

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 13017 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 12706

1

Attach Id ( 15839 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 13178

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 14882 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 14555

1

Attach Id ( 16282 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 15465

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 ( 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 ( 17770 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16738

1

Attach Id ( 17884 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 16734

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 ( 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 ( 18320 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18310

1

Attach Id ( 18323 ) not integer for post_thumbnail 18282

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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