An employee of the Land Commission, Joseph Derham joined the Irish Volunteers in 1915, becoming a member of F Company in the 1st Battalion in the Dublin Brigade. He took part in operations at Summerhill and Ballybrough at the beginning of the Easter Rising, before relocating to the GPO, where he was put in charge of time-keeping by Thomas Clarke. He later occupied Hanlon’s Shop on Moore Street following the evacuation of the GPO. Derham was interned in Wandsworth Prison and Frongoch camp until December 1916 and became a captain of the North County Volunteers in the Fingal Brigade.
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