Kilmainham Gaol text Collection title

Lily O’Brennan

Biography

A teacher and playwright, Lily O’Brennan was a founding member of Cumann na mBan in April 1914. Along with her sister Aine, wife of Eamonn Ceannt, O’Brennan was active during preparations for the Easter Rising, sending dispatches, putting together medical kits and obtaining material for a tri-colour. She also participated in the Rising, linking up with the Inghinidhe branch of Cumann na mBan, who were attached to Ceannt’s 4th Battalion of the Volunteers. She was stationed at Jameson’s Distillery on Marrowbone Lane for the duration of the week. She was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol in the Rising’s aftermath, and was one morning “awakened at dawn by a volley of shots, followed almost immediately by a revolver shot.” O’Brennan “insisted that they were shooting the prisoners, but the other girls laughed her to scorn.” O’Brennan was made an executive member of Cumann na mBan in 1917 and later joined the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in 1921, working in the secretarial staff. She subsequently joined the anti-Treaty side during the Civil War and was arrested in republican headquarters in November 1922. Initially detained in Mountjoy prison, she spent three months in Kilmainham Gaol before being transferred to the North Dublin Union and later released. She thereafter receded from public life, although she continued to write, publishing a novel based on the Land League in 1929.

 

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