Simon Walker (b. 1962)
10.0020.00 Select options

Simon Walker (b. 1962)


Want unlimited access to the Irish Life and Lore Oral History Archive? Subscribe by purchasing Gold Subscription, Silver Subscription or Bronze Subscription!

Walter Cole and Moira Redden were Simon Walker’s grandparents, and he explains that a forty-year age gap existed between the couple. They had two daughters: Simon’s mother Dorothy and his aunt Pauline. Walter also had three sons by his first marriage to an American lady, Priscilla Harrison. Walter Cole and his brother Vincent were born in Liverpool to a Dublin-born father, George Cole. Simon has discovered that Walter was very interested in Gaelic and artistic studies. He studied at art college in Liverpool, and became a member of the Royal Academy. In the early 1890s he came to Dublin, and in 1895 he set up in business as a trader in the fruit and vegetable market in Dublin city centre. The business still survives today as Cole’s Catering. Simon explains that at the time of the Rising, Walter Cole was already fifty years old. He was a friend of Arthur Griffith, and when Walter was fined for having his name written in Irish on his market stall and delivery carts. Sinn Féin took up the cause and publicity surrounded the case. At this time Walter was an agitator for the Gaelic language and studies. He became Secretary of the Sinn Féin Party and was quite close to the republican leadership right up to the Rising, though as an older man he took no active part. His house at 3 Mountjoy Square became a place of sanctuary and shelter. Walter’s exterior persona, which provided cover for his clandestine activities, is recalled by his grandson, who also discusses the effect of his death on his two daughters, Dorothy and Pauline. Simon recalls the fact that his grandfather was always remembered as ‘Dear Walter’. He recalls his grandmother Moira who became a young widow, and he explains that the house at Mountjoy Square was attacked several times during the War of Independence. After the 1916 Rising, Walter Cole was interned at Frongoch and subsequently spent time at Pentonville, Wandsworth, Parkhurst and other prisons. His principal internment was for a period of almost six months at Reading Gaol. Simon discusses the characters of the older men such as Darrell Figgis, Bulmer Hobson and W. T. Cosgrave, and their important influence in keeping up the morale of the younger men. He is in possession of Walter’s jail journals, which are essentially autograph books. He mentions some of the names of his grandfather’s co-internees and the drawings made by him of these men. The grim conditions which prevailed in Victorian prisons are discussed. Walter Cole accommodated Seán Connolly’s widow and her children at Mountjoy Square after the Rising, and Simon describes the large house, well fitted out with a lift and a steam generator for the supply of electricity. He remarks that another advantage to the house was that it had several escape routes, both over the roof and through a tunnel under the back garden. It was attacked many times, including attacks by the Dublin Metropolitan Police. His grandfather stood his ground, and Simon considers the resilience of the leaders in their assumption that the Republic had already been won. The influence of the older men was significant, he says. Simon has little evidence regarding the position taken by his grandfather during the Civil War. By 1925 he was already a TD, and in that year he stood for Seánad Éireann. His interest was in agriculture and forestry. Simon feels that at this stage of his life, his grandfather was more interested in getting on with setting up the new State and could have been considered a Free Stater, possibly due to his loyalty to and close friendship with Arthur Griffith. He remembers that his mother was proud of the fact that she had lived at 3, Mountjoy Square and he says that a large portrait of his grandfather hung in the kitchen at their own house near Baggot Street. In 1946 Dorothy left Ireland to live in Paris for seven years, and on her return she discovered, to her disappointment, that 3, Mountjoy Square had been sold. Recently, Simon visited the house, which is now used as an adult education centre. Some photographs are examined which show the house in the background, and one photograph which shows Arthur Griffith and others sitting on the roof is considered. Simon remarks on a group photograph of the 1st Dáil, taken in the Round Room at the Mansion House, which includes Walter Cole. Subsequently the Mountjoy Square house became a safe house for frequent meetings of the 2nd Dáil, the so-called “Dáil-on-the-run”. The artistic talent in the Cole family is discussed. Dorothy was a talented designer and musician, and while in Paris she worked for the New York Times for a period. Following her return to Ireland, during the 1950s, she ran the design agency Signa which had been founded by Michael Scott and Louis le Brocquy. She also worked as an art critic and journalist, a career she maintained for the rest of her life. Walter was a member of the Royal Academy and the Royal Hibernian Academy, while Simon himself became an architect. Walter’s three sons are recalled. Arthur, the eldest, served in the British Army, Brendan emigrated to California while Oscar, also an artist, lived in Glenageary. Simon describes his discovery, though Pamela Manahan of Sandycove, of the fact that the Connolly family lived at 3, Mountjoy Square. He discusses his fascination with that era and the importance of knowing the origins of a Republic based on equality. After Walter Cole’s death, his widow Moira developed a relationship with William Coyne, and items relating to Coyne in the Cole family archive are discussed. Simon considers what the people involved in the Rising would think about the Ireland of today. He believes that modern developments such as the European Union, and achievements in equality, would align with their views. He reads an obituary written on the death of Walter Cole in 1943, at the age of 76. His burial place is at Glasnevin Cemetery. His widow died in 1990. Simon remarks that she had lived in an apartment in Fitzwilliam Square which was furnished with pieces from the old house. Simon’s mother, Dorothy Cole, married Robin Walker. She was educated in the Dominican Convent in Wicklow, and was a fervent republican and Catholic. Her husband Robin was an Anglo-Irish Protestant, and Simon remarks on the circumstances of the couple’s marriage.

Additional information



Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

41.22 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



Walter L. Cole (Interviewee’s grandfather)

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore