Miriam Brennan (b. 1961)
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Miriam Brennan (b. 1961)


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Miriam Brennan’s father, Tom O’Reilly, who was born in 1924, would tell her stories about her grandparents’ activities in the 1916 Rising. Liam and Lily Reilly, both from Dublin, lived in Kevin Street before moving to Mount Drummond in Harold’s Cross, and eventually to Fortfield Drive in Terenure. Miriam discusses the origins of the O’Reillys as researched by her father, and the loss of documentary material after her uncle’s death. Tom O’Reilly’s mother, Lily Corcoran, was one of the leaders of Cumann na mBan. In 1922 she was offered a seat in Seánad Éireann but due to her political beliefs she refused, as she felt that Éamon De Valera had ‘sold the country out’. She took no further part in politics, Miriam explains. To her knowledge, her grandfather, Liam Reilly, was stationed in Sackville Place in 1916, while his brother Paddy was in Dublin Castle. The brothers grew up in Kevin Street and her father would tell Miriam stories which he had been told about raids on the house by the Black and Tans. Lily Corcoran was known as a person who was involved in activities outside the home, and when she withdrew from politics she became involved in organising groups relating to the church. Miriam gives her views on the role of women as protagonists in war. She recalls her grandmother’s work with the Pensions Trust for Cumann na mBan members and she talks about Lily’s suitcase which had always been kept in the attic of her own family home. When the house was sold in 2011, it was Miriam’s job to clear everything out and she discovered the case and its contents which included a Fianna Ếireann uniform, letters and documents. She discusses the probable sense of betrayal felt by her grandmother after her participation in the struggle for independence. In her case are letters from the 1940s relating to the Military Service Pensions Act 1934. She helped many women to get the pension and collated information from women in Mayo, Birmingham and Manchester, among other places. Miriam describes a photograph of Lily which was printed in the Irish Press and she reads a statement made by a deputation of Cumann na mBan members regarding applications for the military pension. Miriam remembers her grandfather showing her his autograph books from Kilmainham Gaol and Frongoch, his medals and a flag. Unfortunately, these items are no longer with the family. Her brother, Thomas, was badly affected by the bombings in Talbot Street in 1972 and she explains that he would have known both his grandparents. There was never any discussion about her grandparents’ activities at home during her childhood, she says. She has become more conscious of the loss of records, and would like to have more in-depth information about her grandparents but has no records to assist her. She is not aware if they gave witness statements. Her father described Lily as a tall, thin, hard woman who was extremely strict. Miriam tells a story about how Lily directed her son’s life and she says that he did what he was told. Liam Reilly worked in the ESB but Miriam has no further detail about this. Miriam’s mother described her mother-in-law Lily as a career woman, and certainly not a housekeeper. [Note: Much of the contents of the suitcase mentioned in this interview possibly belonged to Senator Margaret L. ‘Loo’ Kennedy of Donore Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin. This has been ascertained from examination of the documents, many of which are addressed to Senator Kennedy].

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

31.47 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Liam Reilly and Lily Corcoran (Interviewee’s grandparents)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore