Máiread McGrath (b. 1939)
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Máiread McGrath (b. 1939)


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At the very young age of 15 years, Richard McGrath had an involvement in the 1916 Rising. His older brother Paddy had come from Bray to join their father in the GPO, and Richard tried to join them but was sent home to his mother. His daughter Máiread recalls the details she heard from her aunt Winnie McGrath about her encounter with Pearse in the GPO. She had been sent by her mother to enquire of her father, P. J. McGrath, regarding names to be given to their new baby. Máiread explains that baby Liam, the youngest of ten children, was to grow and gain the ability to dismantle a gun by the age of 4. Another anecdote featuring her grandfather P. J. McGrath is told. Her uncle Paddy was shot by a sniper during the Rising and lived with a bullet in his brain for the remainder of his life. His sister Winnie is recalled as a cheerful person who married Limerick man Michael Shortt. Máiread explains that when the GPO was evacuated, her grandfather escaped into the Irish Independent offices and got safely home. His son Richard later fought in the War of Independence and was involved in the burning of the Customs House. Máiread has Richard’s brass binoculars and a British Army training manual which he used. He was a member of the 2nd Battalion and trained in North William Street. His father P.J. was quartermaster of the brigade. At this time the McGrath family lived at Fairview. A story is told about an arms dump and the fact that Richard discovered that its location had been leaked to the British authorities. In 1916 Richard was a member of Fianna Éireann. During Easter Week, having been refused entry to the GPO, he was sent to locate the position of British military along Parnell Street to the GPO and Stephen’s Green. He also carried despatches between the GPO, the Mendicity Institute and the Four Courts until he was ordered home by his father. During the War of Independence, P. J. McGrath visited Paddy Moran who was imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol. He offered to exchange places with Moran who would not be persuaded. He was later executed. P. J. McGrath came from a strong Fenian background in Kilkenny. His son, Richard, was later asked to stand for election to the Dáil in Kilkenny but declined. Máiread recalls the fact that as a child she would hear her father having nightmares as he evidently suffered from the after effects of his experiences. After Independence, he joined the Irish Army but left in 1925 after the mutiny because he said he would never take up arms against his fellow countrymen again. Máiread describes him as being bitter and hurt because the ideal Ireland which he had fought for had not materialised. P. J. McGrath knew Michael Collins but he was not one of the Twelve Apostles. Máiread finds it difficult to talk about this connection. The night before Bloody Sunday, her father Richard was one of those sent out to execute members of the British Intelligence. She was to discover this from her cousin after her father’s death, and he had heard the story from Richard himself. Máiread reflects on the effects of this on her father who was 19 years of age at the time. Details she learned from her father about the burning of the Customs House are described. Richard and carpenter Dan Head, who were friends, went together to pour petrol throughout the building. Dan was shot dead by the British military. Richard McGrath met Kathleen Hyland at a céilidh and their daughter explains that they lived on Chester Road at her mother’s family home which was raided and broken up by the Free State Army during the Civil War. She discusses her maternal grandfather, Andrew Hyland, a member of the Engineers Platoon IRA. He was arrested by the Black and Tans while on manoeuvres at Rockbrook, and was detained at Pentonville, at Wormwood Scrubs Prisons and at Frongoch. Kathleen Hyland was a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann and her older sister Molly was a member of Cumann na mBan in Ranelagh. Kathleen was arrested in 1923 and prior to this she had been delivering messages and guns. Máiread explains the method by which these women would operate, and an occasion when her mother was almost caught during a curfew is described. She would tell her daughter about her time in prison and never claimed that she did anything important, suggesting that her husband Richard had a great record. Máiread explains the reasons why her father was a great supporter of Michael Collins. She has kept the books containing the signatures of those who attended her grandparents’ funerals. Her grandmother was a supporter of Fianna Fáil and many fundraising meetings were held in the house. An incident involving her uncle Jim is recalled. Máiread’s maternal grandparents were Andrew Hyland and Margaret Farren. Andrew was a bookbinder by trade, operating from a premises on Drury Street. Máiread reflects on the hard times endured by the family. Máiread’s mother Kathleen, unlike other members of her family, did not support Fianna Fáil. Máiread recounts an anecdote told to her by her mother relating to a police visitor in 1939, and she feels that this related to Sinn Féin internments during the Emergency. A discussion ensues on the situation which prevailed when the Free State Army was being founded and her paternal grandfather joined. Though Richard McGrath had been a lieutenant, he was demoted to sergeant by his own father. Máiread considers that her father’s record was denied but feels that perhaps her grandfather did not want to be accused of nepotism. P. J. McGrath had been working with the Irish Independent, and in 1932 he was asked by de Valera to work with the Irish Press newspaper where he became involved with setting up and organising the new publication. He died in 1940. His son Richard, who had assisted him in 1932 with his work in turning the Tivoli Theatre on Burgh Quay into a newspaper office, continued to work in the Irish Press and retired in 1986, aged 85. Máiread remarks that in childhood she was very proud of her family’s involvement in the Troubles, though as an adult she is more conscious of the price paid. She is grateful to those who fought as it meant that she was born into freedom.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

52.27 MB

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Product ID:



Richard McGrath (Interviewee’s father), P. J. McGrath (Interviewee’s grandfather), Winnie McGrath (Interviewee’s aunt)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore