Fergus Shanahan (b. 1953)
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Fergus Shanahan (b. 1953)


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Bríd Connolly, a prominent member of Cumann na mBan, was the grandaunt of Fergus Shanahan. She acted as a courier during the 1916 Rising, carrying messages between the various garrisons. She also brought girls out of the GPO near the end of the week. Fergus discusses her family background and explains that her brothers were members of the IRB. Until 1960 Bríd lived in Artane and she then moved to live with Fergus’s mother, Rosaleen Shanahan, in Whitehall when Fergus was a young boy. He describes her as a quiet, very religious person. Originally she had worked as a teacher but following the foundation of the new State she was employed as a clerk. She would help Fergus with his homework and take care of him while his mother was on night duty as a nurse. He does not recall her speaking much about her part in the Rising. Fergus describes what he knew about his grandaunt while she was still alive, and he has since learnt that she was interned at Kilmainham Gaol in 1923. She is not remembered as a bitter person with regard to her political views. It is probable that she took part in the hunger strike with other women in 1923, and while Fergus remembers her as being physically tough, her health would have been affected by this action. Fergus explains that she was trusted because she was given a pass by Pearse to get in and out of the GPO during Easter Week. After the Rising she was engaged in fundraising. She was in receipt of a military service pension. The letters to Bríd Connolly during her time in Kilmainham Gaol, written by a male doctor from Naas, are recalled. The writer appeared to have been a friend and was concerned about her health. Fergus discusses her friendships and her travels to mainland Europe, and he remembers her interest in geography and in the wider world. He recalls her close friends in the insurance company where she worked. She is remembered as a gentle, unimposing presence who never tried to push her views on her grandnephew as a young boy, or on his family. Fergus Shanahan’s mother was Rosaleen Murphy, and her mother Catherine was Bríd Connolly’s sister. Catherine was very much a de Valera supporter, unlike her sister. The Connolly family background which led to Bríd’s passionate support of the cause is considered. The Shanahan family background is examined. Fergus’s uncle, William Shanahan, was a captain in the IRB and was murdered by the Black and Tans. Fergus’s father was born in 1907 and was a supporter of Fianna Fáil after Independence. He was proud of the actions of his brother but was disapproving of the Civil War. Fergus recalls that his father would point to a photograph of Arthur Griffith, De Valera, Michael Collins and another person and say that these men had the same aim but they fell out over a detail. His father and Bríd Connolly, though of different politics views, agreed that the Civil War should not have happened. Fergus considers Bríd Connolly’s life and the effect of her great attachment to a cause. He is aware of the fact that she was familiar with the handling of guns. He believes that in later life she and his father would consider that a united Ireland could not be achieved at any cost. She never commented on the modern Troubles from the 1960s onwards. She passed away in 1981 and is buried in Carlow alongside members of her family. The presence of the Tricolour at her funeral is recalled. Bríd Connolly possessed very few artifacts or papers from her revolutionary past. Fergus does not recall seeing any of her medals and feels that perhaps these went to her brothers. He discusses the forthcoming centenary of 1916 and he recalls the events of 1966 and his memory of watching the Insurrection documentary series on television.

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Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

34.15 MB

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Bríd Connolly (Interviewee’s grandaunt)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore