Honor Ó Brolcháin (b. 1948)
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Honor Ó Brolcháin (b. 1948)


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Honor Ó Brolcháin is a grand-niece of Joseph Plunkett, the son of nationalist journalist Count George Noble Plunkett. Honor emphasises the importance of the Irish language in the Plunkett family. Her parents were Eoin Ó Brolcháin and Blathnaid Dillon. Her Ó Brolcháin paternal grandparents were friends of Arthur Griffith and were involved in the Sinn Féin movement. Her maternal grandparents were Thomas Dillon, who was the expert in explosives for the Rising, and Geraldine Plunkett, sister of Joseph Plunkett. Her ancestors include John Blake Dillon and John Dillon, who were conservative nationalists. She remarks that Count Plunkett renewed his friendships with Fenian members in the USA, having met John Devoy and O’Donovan Rossa there. He also stood as a candidate for Charles Stewart Parnell’s party. Honor reflects on the assortment of minds of those who were involved in the instigation of the Rising. Two elements which are apparent are an interest in education and in internationalism, she says, as she explains that the Plunketts travelled widely and were very aware of the world outside of the British Empire. Mayo-born Thomas Dillon came from a family of teachers and barristers, and the family had intermarried with the Plunketts down the decades. Thomas’s father was an engineer and Thomas himself was Professor of Chemistry in University College Galway from 1919. He knew such people as Francis Sheehy Skeffington and Rory O’Connor, and Tom Kettle was a colleague at UCD. Honor discusses various groupings, such as the United Irish League. Joe Plunkett was a socialist, she explains, but Thomas Dillon did not think it could work. Joseph Plunkett’s childhood and his ill-health are discussed. During the 1910s he edited the Irish Review. The Dillon/Plunkett family lived at Larkfield where there were many outbuildings and outhouses, occupied by various men including those from England who were avoiding conscription. From 1914, Honor’s grandmother, Geraldine Plunkett, looked after her brother Joe, and Honor knew her and remembers her stories. She says that Geraldine’s writings are incredible, in which the conditions in Dublin at the time are recorded. She had begun her studies in Medicine but had decided to change to the study of Chemistry. The connection with Dr. Kathleen Lynn is recalled, as Honor explains that she was a tenant of Count and Countess Plunkett from 1903 and was also Geraldine’s doctor. The opening of St Ultan’s Hospital is discussed, as is the involvement of women in the Rising. Joseph Plunkett would not allow his sister Geraldine to join Cumann na mBan, as he needed her as an aide-de-camp until Michael Collins returned to Ireland in 1915. Geraldine later attempted to join the Galway branch in 1919. Honor recalls her grandmother delivering a talk about Madame Markievicz to schoolgirls. Geraldine felt it was important that the women of the Rising be remembered. Honor’s mother, Blathnaid Dillon, is recalled. Education was very important in the Dillon family, and Blathnaid qualified as a solicitor and her sister as a medical doctor while her younger sister, Eilis Dillon was a novelist of considerable repute. The effects of the marriage ban are considered, and Honor explains that when her husband was very ill, Blathnaid began to practise law, particularly in the area of women’s causes. The family initially supported Fianna Fáil and were later supporters of the Labour Party, she says. The internment of brothers George and Jack Plunkett by Éamon de Valera is recalled, and Honor explains the reason behind this decision. Geraldine claimed that she supported neither side in the Civil War but her family were anti-Treaty. Honor discusses the difficulty they faced following the signing of the Treaty, explaining that her great-grandfather, Count George Noble Plunkett, was imprisoned several times between 1916 and 1923 as a result of his activities. Honor explains that “The 2nd Dáil” was held in his house until 1938. Count Plunkett had been political from his teens in the 1860’s and was sworn into the IRB by his son Joseph in 1916. In 1917 Count Plunkett was the first candidate elected for the abstentionist movement which later became the new Sinn Féin. His constituency was North Roscommon and the campaign was masterminded by Father O’Flanagan, de Valera’s brother-in-law. Count Plunkett remained anti-Treaty all his life, and his daughter Geraldine described his role as the first speaker in the 1st Dáil. Geraldine died in 1986 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery where many members of the Plunkett family have been laid to rest, and Honor recalls the funeral and remarks on her grandmother’s engagement with the community all through her life. Honor’s father’s background is now examined. Pádraig Ó Brolcháin was Honor’s paternal grandfather, and the family originated in Inishowen in Co. Donegal. Branches of the family in Derry changed the name to Bradley, but the name does not really have an English equivalent, Honor says. Pádraig and his wife, Máire Killeen from Cong, were teachers, and later Pádraig became Secretary to the Department of Education from the time of the 1st Dáil, and remained in the Department until his death in 1932. Honor’s grandmother Máire was a founder member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann, and was later involved in Cumann na mBan. She was one of a group of women who travelled to America prior to the Rising. She and Pádraig joined Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin. Máire wrote a witness statement in which she described how Pádraig tried to persuade Griffith to get involved in the Rising. After the Rising the couple were much involved in the Volunteers Dependents ’Fund. The connection between Roger Casement and the Plunkett family is described. Honor’s father, Eoin Ó Brolcháin, was one of six boys. Some of the guns from the Howth gun-running of 1914 were buried in the garden of the Ó Brolcháin home at Drumcondra. Eoin worked for the Valuation Office and surveyed parts of the country, so he was often away from home. He died at the early age of 56. Honor remembers conversations in her childhood home in which her grandmother, Geraldine Plunkett Dillon, participated. The members of the Plunkett family are detailed. The oldest, Philomena, was Joint Secretary of Cumann na mBan with Min Ryan. She was in America delivering messages to John Devoy in 1916 when the Rising began. The next in line was Joseph, who was a signatory of the Proclamation. The third, Moya, took no part in the Rising and entered the religious life, becoming a nun of the Sacred Heart. The fourth was Honor’s grandmother Geraldine, who married Thomas Dillon. The fifth was George who was a Captain in the Irish Volunteers in the Rising, and who died in 1944. The sixth in line was Feena, written ‘Fiona’ (Josephine) who was active in Cumann na mBan until her death in 1976. The seventh and youngest child of the family was John (Jack) who took part in the Rising as a motorbike messenger and who remained a member of the IRA until the 1940s. He survived a forty-day hunger strike, having been interned in the Curragh in 1939. Honor discusses the Plunkett family dynamic. Some conflict existed between the family members, though nothing of a serious nature. She explains that there also existed some mental difficulties which may have been related to life experiences, or to a genetic inheritance. The Plunkett title is discussed, as is the incredible struggle undertaken for Ireland by the Plunkett family. In Honor’s opinion, her grandmother Geraldine’s account of her life and times is particularly interesting, as most people did not disclose these intimate details at that time. Honor’s relationship with her grandmother was important to her, and she talks about Geraldine’s interests, which she shared. Family memorabilia is discussed, and Honor recalls reading her grandmother’s account for the first time. Many family photographs exist from times as distant as the 1870s. The importance for Honor of examining the handwriting of her ancestors is discussed, and she tells an anecdote about a ribbon made by Geraldine, which she now possesses.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

44.91 MB

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Joseph Plunkett (Interviewee’s granduncle)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore