Easter Rising

Rising participant and defender of Short Strand to be remembered on International Wall

An Easter Rising parade passes the International Wall on Belfast's Falls Road last month. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
John Monaghan

A MAN who was involved in preparations for the Easter Rising and defended the Short Strand during the 'Belfast pogroms' of the 1920s is to be remembered on the city's International Wall.

Captain Manus O'Boyle, who was from Mountcharles in Co Donegal, lived in Belfast for several years after the 1916 Rising.

In a witness statement given to the Republic's Bureau of Military History in 1949, he charted his involvement in the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

He moved to Belfast, where his sister lived, from London following the introduction of conscription during World War I.

Having slept in a barn in Coalisland on Easter Saturday night in 1916, with the intention of participating in the Rising, Mr O'Boyle awoke the following morning to be informed of the order to stand down.

He said: "We were told about it after breakfast. We had already been to Mass and Communion. We were told by our officer commanding, Peter Burns, to march back to Cookstown to take the train back to Belfast.

"We all went back to work on Wednesday or Thursday... the rounding-up started then. I felt perfectly safe as I was hardly known, being in the city only about a month."

It was while working in the city that Mr O'Boyle witnessed sectarian violence in the 1920s.

"In Harland and Wolff's shipyard there were always murmurings about clearing out the Catholic workmen... the Orange workmen started throwing rivets, bolts and all sorts of missiles at the Catholic workmen who were hopelessly outnumbered," his statement said.

"I was detailed then by the brigade (of Irish Volunteers) to organise a company of volunteers for the defence of Ballymacarrett. I succeeded in forming a company of about 120 men."

After praising some policemen who leaked information of possible raids and operations, Mr O'Boyle also noted the contribution of nuns in St Matthew's Convent who provided "hundreds of rounds of ammunition".

The republican eventually moved back to spend his final years in his native county and is buried in Mountcharles.

Artist and former republican prisoner Danny Devenney said the mural on the Falls Road, to be unveiled on the anniversary of Roger Casement's execution on August 3, will aim to tell "what it was like for people living in the north at that time".

Mr Devenney said: "No Irish republican from Belfast has ever told that story. We want to say to Manus O'Boyle and others like him 'Thank you for being there and thank you for doing what you did.'

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access