John Collins (b. 1934)
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John Collins (b. 1934)


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Con Collins was in Dublin during the period leading up to the Rising. He was involved with the Gaelic League but his son John explains that he cannot find evidence that his father was a member of the Irish Volunteers. In addition, he does not know whether he was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He believes that his father was very secretive about his membership of these organisations and he explains his reasons for this belief. Con Collins came from Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick, and having passed the British Civil Service exams he went to London in about 1901. John feels that it was there that his father got involved in nationalism. He recalls that his grandmother, a member of the Mulcahy family from near Rockchapel in north Cork, was very nationalistic. John recalls his father’s journeys back and forth between London and Dublin for his work, explaining that a large number of civil servants returned to work in Dublin in about 1906. Con Collins worked as a sorter with the Post Office. John remembers his father’s activities with the Abbey Theatre, the Gaelic League, the Commercials GAA Club, the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League and the Brian Ború Gaelic Football Club. He lived on the North Circular Road and his son imagines the kind of lives these young people might have lived at the time. Con Collins’s time in Kerry during 1916 has been documented, and his son John considers what his own researches have shown. In his opinion, his father was sent to Kerry because he was acquainted with Robert Monteith who accompanied Roger Casement from Germany to Banna Strand. Monteith had worked as a porter in a club in London. John mentions the fact that his father knew Éamon de Valera because he was acquainted with his wife, Síle Flanagan, from their time in London. Another great friend of his father was Seán MacDermott. The days before Easter Week and Con Collins’s trip to Kerry are recalled. He was never to reach Banna Strand because he was arrested, and it is John’s belief that his father had been under surveillance for some time. He explains the possible reason for this, following the appointment of Arthur Hamilton Norway as General Secretary of the Irish Postal Service. John recalls that his father later met Daniel Bailey who was travelling under another name (possibly Mulcahy). Bailey was the third man who had accompanied Roger Casement to Banna. John discusses his father’s time in detention and explains that Austin Stack and Roger Casement were being held at the same time. He talks about the disappearance of Monteith to the USA, and recalls seeing Monteith’s daughter when he was a child. He also discusses the apparent court-martial of Monteith at Richmond Barracks. Con Collins was tried with Austin Stack in London before Casement went on trial, and John discusses details of his father’s trial found in the court transcription. Con was sentenced to penal servitude for life and thus was expelled from his position in the Civil Service. He was released from prison in 1917. John describes the scenes when the prisoners arrived back in Dublin at Westland Row railway station in 1917. Con returned home to Arranagh near Newcastlewest, and John describes the effects of his imprisonment. The reasons why Irish men were so eager to work in the Post Office at this time are considered. Con Collins was approached to stand for election for the constituency of Limerick West for the Sinn Féin party, and was elected to the 1st Dáil in 1918. It is John’s opinion that two people persuaded him to stand, namely his mother and Helena Molony. Helena had been on the Aonach Committee in London and John recalls her socialist activities and her connection with Jim Larkin. He remembers, as a very small boy, a meeting between Helena and his mother. John reads from the transcript of the court-martial of Austin Stack and Con Collins at Richmond Barracks. The trial of Roger Casement is also discussed. In John’s opinion, Casement was a social pariah in England as he was perceived to be undermining financial power due to his exposés of slave labour and social injustice. In the general amnesty in England in 1917, hundreds of men were released. John explains that on his release his father, along with many others, travelled from Euston Station in London to Dublin and from this detail he deduces that Con was not detained at Frongoch. John recalls that at the time of his first election, his father remarked that he did not know anyone in the Dáil, except for one or two people. He feels that there were many different channels, including Fenianism and Communism, through which people came to the point of the Rising. Con Collins would visit Gavan Duffy at his house in London, and the only photograph of his father which John has from this time is one which was taken in 1907 when he was a member of the Aonach Committee [Gaelic League of London]. He lists the people included in the photograph, the location for which he has learned was the Lavery’s home at Cadogan Square in central London. John has a photograph of his father and Austin Stack which was taken at Ardfert in Co. Kerry. He discusses Daniel Bailey, his reappearance at the trial of Roger Casement under the name of Sylvester Beverley, and the possible reasons why he testified against Casement. Thomas Ashe was a friend of Con Collins from childhood, and both were teachers of Irish at various stages. John tells a story about an Irish language course being introduced to the British Civil Service in this period and explains that the person who set the paper and examined it was Pádraig O Conaire. John reflects on the sources of his information, and he considers the youth of the people involved in revolution at the time and their innocent inexperience. His father died when John was three years old, and he remembers his mother telling him that his father never discussed Irish history ever again after the Civil War. Con Collins’s brothers, Frank and Michael, also sat the Civil Service exams and followed their brother to London in their youth. Michael later joined the Oblate order in Limerick and became a priest. He was posted to England, though John knew him well as he would visit his family in Ireland while on holiday. The women in the Collins family are recalled. John explains that his father was very disillusioned after the Treaty and was in poor health for many years. Despite this, he was elected a TD on two further occasions. John feels that none of those elected had the experience for the onerous job of running a country. Benners Hotel in Tralee was where Con Collins met his future wife. The couple moved to Limerick to start, as John remarks, the second phase of his father’s life. He again emphasises his theory that the Rising was a result of unfinished business, and says that because Irish men and women worked in the British Civil Service, they acquired useful information in relation to the undermining of the British empire.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

62.72 MB

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Product ID:



Con Collins (Interviewee’s father)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore