Kathleen O’Connell and Peter O’Connell
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Kathleen O’Connell and Peter O’Connell


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Kathleen O’Connell grew up in Swords Co. Dublin and her father, Peter Wilson, worked for the Co. Council. When his brother Willie died, her parents moved to the old home at Balheary. Neither of her parents spoke about the Rising, Kathleen recalls, and the history of the period was not taught at school during her childhood. Her only relevant memory is of the occasion when she and her parents visited Kilmainham Gaol and the cell in which Peter was held. Éamon de Valera was held in the next cell to her father, she says. Peter O’Connell discusses his grandfather’s activities in Easter Week 1916. He describes the call from James Connolly for men on Easter weekend and their trip into the city centre. Thirteen of the men were sent to the Mendicity Institute and the remainder stayed at the GPO. The men were later brought to the Royal Barracks, were tried at Richmond Barracks and sent to prison in England. In 1944 the Fingal Welfare Society was set up, and in the 1980s a commemorative society whose gatherings Peter would attend with his father and grandfather. A bridge in Swords named after Cooty Wilson, who was killed following his capture at the Mendicity Institute, is mentioned, and Kathleen believes that he may have been a distant relation. He was buried at Dr Steeven’s Hospital. Peter Wilson applied for and received the Old IRA pension, and following his death, his widow received a half-pension. Peter recalls being told by his grandmother, Mary, that before he was employed by the Council, Peter worked as a farm labourer, as did his two brothers. Peter Jnr. lived for a time with his grandparents and heard some interesting stories which included an anecdote about his grandfather in an English prison. Peter Wilson is remembered as a quiet man who came from a large family and his mother Catherine died when she was young. His wife was Mary Segrave from Lusk who is described as being strict, and her grandson recounts more stories told to him by Mary. In as much as he knows, his grandparents took no part in the Civil War but he believes that their politics were pro-Treaty. Every Easter after 1959, when the monument was erected in the town, Mass was celebrated to commemorate the Rising, and Peter remembers cleaning his grandfather’s medals in preparation when he was young. He has Peter’s four medals marking 1916 (Rising) and the 50th anniversary medal for 1966, the 1921 (War of Independence) medal and the 50th anniversary medal issued in 1971. Kathleen remembers the fact that her father was proud to wear his medals each Easter Sunday. Peter recalls his grandfather going to various places such as Liberty Hall and the Garden of Remembrance with other Fingalians, people such as Andy Madden, Christopher Moran, and Paddy Stokes from Wexford. Peter describes some photographs of his grandfather and his comrades, all of whose names he knows. He reflects on the hardship people endured during WWI, and it is his opinion that if the 1913 strike had succeeded, the Rising might not have taken place. He recalls the fact that his grandfather thought very well of Thomas Ashe, of whom a large photograph was displayed in the old house, and he says it is difficult to know why those men were so involved as they never spoke about their driving forces later in life. Kathleen explains that Barney Lawless’s father sent a postcard to her grandfather in 1916. Her father died in 1974 and is buried with his family and his gravestone is engraved with the 5th Battalion insignia. His brother, James, is buried in St Colmcille’s cemetary. Another old photograph from 1917 is examined, which shows the men who were released in that year, and Peter reads out some of the names. Kathleen discusses the lives of her uncles after the Rising. Willie had a pension but James worked mostly in construction in England. She recalls that every Easter they and her father went off on their bikes to attend the celebrations. Each June a Mass was celebrated and a ceremony was held. Peter returns to the subject of the march of the men from Swords in 1916. They went initially to the barracks at Swords, then on to Donabate and Garretstown. On the Friday they were marching towards the railway, but a detour was made to Ashbourne Barracks. He describes the sections and the guards at various places in some detail, and says that 35 men, one woman and three officers fought on the republican side at the Battle of Ashbourne. To Kathleen’s and Peter’s knowledge, neither Peter Wilson nor his brothers made statements to the Bureau of Military History. Peter tells us that the only incident of which he is aware in the area was the raid on the train at Malahide, but the Wilson brothers were not involved in this.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

47.12 MB

Number of files:
Product ID:



Peter Wilson (Interviewee’s father/grandfather) William and James Wilson (Interviewees’ uncles/granduncles)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore