The National Collins22 Society | My Uncle – Michael Collins

Michael collins family tree

michael collins – my uncle

by his nephew, the late michael collins

(with the kind permission of justin nelson, author of “michael collins the final days”)

michael collins was born in “woodfield” near sam’s cross, clonakilty, west cork. The Collins family was evicted from their Limerick homes in the latter part of the 17th century. they were troublesome even then, and they caused so much trouble that the magistrate’s decision was to banish this rebellious and troublesome clan to the lower regions of the king’s realm, known as west cork, where they and their descendants would never return. cause no difficulty to the men and women vassals of his majesty. They were successful at this for a few hundred years, but after that, michael collins made up for it!

Collins’ father, who is my grandfather, was nearly 60 when he married, having to wait, as was normal in those days, until my great-grandfather had died. then he took the land that was occupied by three brothers, maurice, thomas, and himself michael john collins. he married mary anne 0′ brien of sam’s cross who was 34 years his junior. They had a most wonderful marriage, from which eight children were born, five girls and three boys. In early 1877 his first daughter, Margaret, was born, followed by Johnny (my father), Johanna (called Hannie), Mary, Helena (later to become a nun), Patrick, Kathleen, and finally Michael.

grandpa michael collins and mary anne o’brien could speak fluent greek and latin and also irish which they learned from high school teachers at the time. although there was a great difference in years between them, theirs was a very close and fruitful relationship. Michael Collins was the youngest of a family of eight and was born in Woodfield on October 16, 1890. From the time he was a young child, he had a reverence for older people, and had a not unusual but unique relationship with his father over the years. few years they shared together. My grandfather had the particular habit of dedicating twenty full minutes once a week to each of his children separately.

My father, Johnny, the eldest in the family, absorbed his father’s knowledge of agriculture, horticulture, and mariculture. Hannie, the eldest of the girls, absorbed her extraordinary knowledge of English literature, while Helena, who later became a nun, knew all the constellations in the sky thanks to the teachings of her father. she reminded me how clearly she told him one day when one of the comets was passing,-

“I haven’t had much time in my busy life, Helena, to get on my knees and pray, but when I’m out here like I am tonight and I see the majesty of the heavens, he says, ‘I think you made it, and I also think that I am a little subject of yours’. “You can pray a lot, Helena,” he said, “but you won’t get much closer to God than when you’re under the creation of the stars.” michael, at the young age of four, heard the kickham and davis poems from this old man who was his father. my grandfather, michael john collins, had in his library all the works of shakespeare, and the works of thomas hardy and sir peter barrie. He was an insatiable reader and each one of the children imparted his philosophy of life to them in turn.

“I have not been overloaded with the wealth of this life, but I will give you three things that I hope will always support you in life, namely a strong faith, a work ethic, and a love of education, because as Let them educate themselves, if it is within their potential, they will become men and women who think for themselves.” “I will impart to you the love of my country, which is one of my greatest gifts.” This was not the “pint-inspired” love of Ireland. This was an old man who passed on to his children his love of culture, heritage, true Irish tradition, the music of Ireland and the writings of men like Charles Kickham and Davis.

my grandfather and michael’s father, michael john collins senior, was with the fenians in 1867, and his grandfather was with taigh o’donovan at clonakilty, which was the only rising apart from emmet’s rising outside wexford in 1798 .my grandmother mary anne o’brien made every stitch on the clothes everyone wore. She was an extraordinary woman and she also gave them the very strong character that her husband also transmitted to them. the young michael collins absorbed everything the old man told him and the relationship was extraordinary because michael collins died when the son who named him in his honor was only six years old. he had already planted in him the seed of love for the country and it is a registered fact, because I myself read it just as my aunt wrote it in 1896. “we gathered around dad’s deathbed and he told us; “Take care of your youngest son, because one day he can do great things for Ireland.”

after my grandfather michael collins died, young collins transferred much of that love and affection to his older brother, my father johnny, helping him with the work on the family farm. he went to school as lisavaird where the schoolteacher was denis lyons, an old fenian. on his way home every day he passed james santry’s forge. I mention these two men, because history will never say much about them. Denis Lyons was an extraordinary teacher and only stuck with him at school because, fortunately, the British paid more attention to his educational skills than to the Irish nationalism that burned within him.

collins absorbed from denis lyons the love for these traditions that i mentioned before. Lyons saw in return, a young man eager to learn and ask questions, and eager to use his god-given intelligence. On his way home from school he made the inevitable visit to James Santry’s forge. james had made the pikes for the 1867 rising and james’s grandfather was another who was with taigh o’donovan at the shannonvale rising outside clonakilty in 1798. michael collins said to my father one day, “james santry He is one of the best men I have ever met.” “why would you say that?” said my father. “I saw,” he said, “the spark from the anvil when he made the gates to all the farmhouses here, but I also got from him the spark that put a love for Ireland in my heart.”

It was because of those two men, and the quiet national spirit at home, that Michael Collins set out, even at a very young age, to become a slave to his country’s freedom.

When he dragged a bucket of potatoes out of my grandmother’s garden in 1898 at the age of eight, he asked my father, who praised him for his extra work, if he would reward him by giving him Trupenses. my father, johnny said “of course i will, but what do you want it for?” “Dad,” he said, “lately I’ve been reading the works of a man named arthur griffith given to me by james santry.” “He is beginning to speak,” he said, “on Dublin street corners and telling a growing number of his listeners that we must no longer look to France, Spain or the pope’s red wine. “Sinn fein,” he said, “we alone,-that’s what we must depend on.”

what coincidences does the story show? an eight year old who hadn’t even been to cork city never mind anywhere else, reading the booklet called ‘scissors and paste’ which took its name from the way the salient points griffith was trying to to transmit. , were pasted on a hard cardboard background.

34 years later, arthur griffith, who was undoubtedly our country’s least considered patriot, was able to say in the last weeks of his life: “I have no ambition to make my name go down in Irish history, but If so, I want him to be associated with the name of Michael Collins, because he is the man who carried on the fight, and after having brought it to a successful conclusion, he faced the reality of the events of that time.”

Michael Collins finished his formal education at the age of 12, but had to read every play Shakespeare ever wrote, the complete works of Thomas Hardey and Sir James Barrie, and many other books this great old man, his father, had. picked up at his home in woodfield. knocknagow, for which he wept, was an inspiration to him, and he would try to ensure that something similar did not happen again in a future generation.

He had also read books like Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations by the age of 12. This basic foundation of economic thought is still valid today and, in fact, was the textbook when I took my accounting final exam on economics. i think you will accept how unusual it was for a young man from sam’s cross, woodfield, to have read it at 12 years of age and made notes on the side of the book of the relevant elements in similar countries like ours.

after leaving the national school, he went on and did further study to prepare for the English civil service. that was the only work outlet in those days, because everyone had to go in shifts with the exception of johnny, my thther, his older brother. michael went to the london post office at the age of 16 in 1906. in his first week there, his mother died, but he sadly had no money to return home for his mother’s funeral. he, along with his sister hannie and his second cousin nancy o’brien attended mass for his mother at brompton oratory. this was the same church that he would attend daily Mass during those days of negotiating the treaty fifteen years later.

collins launched into the gaelic league in london. He joined the Geraldines football and hurling club and soon became its secretary. he was entered into the irb by the man whose name is now famous on the all ireland football trophy, sam maguire. but i think one of the biggest benefits he had in london at that time was his sister hannie, who lived in kensington gardens. she had preceded him by several years and was now earning a promotion in the British civil service. She took her father’s words to heart and until the day she died, she too was a voracious reader. Collins attended many plays in London and broadened the scope of her readings.

She attended three-hour classes to improve her English reading three nights a week, and also took classes on putting thoughts on paper concisely. she wrote essay after essay, her second cousin nancy o’brien, who also worked at the post office, was amazed at the improvement in expression and in putting her thoughts together in writing. he would give her essays to criticize constructively and she, who was the same age as him, would ask: “what is all this about michael? “.

“Nancy,” she said, “if I’m ever going to lead my country to freedom, I’m going to want to know how to express myself, how to put into words my overriding conviction that instead of being a victim of events, it will make things happen. then I’ll practice for as long as it takes me to express myself clearly without notes, because when talking about a written script, the heart isn’t in the words. the nuances of the word, and the inspiration in the words come from the heart and have to be expressed through that organ so wandering that is the tongue”. These are extraordinary expressions for a 17- and 18-year-old man, and that’s what he unwaveringly threw himself into doing.

often he would have liked to go out with the boys, or go with nancy o’brien and her sister hannie to the plays, but collins was attentive to events at home in ireland. he was ensuring and slowly bringing his potential to his full development.

when news of the rising came, he returned to dublin and was james plunkett’s aide-de-camp in the gpo in 1916. i don’t know how many people have read his comments about it: “it was the biggest fiasco we ever were in involved. there was courage, there was patriotism but there was bloody everything else. there was no organization.”

following this, yet another failed uprising, collins, now 26, was imprisoned on the grounds of the rotunda hospital, which even then, and still is, one of the most famous maternity hospitals, not only in ireland, but perhaps in the world. collins was there a couple of weeks. meanwhile his second cousin nancy o’brien had been transferred back to dublin for a promotion. when she found out that prisoners were to be sent from dublin docks to frongoch prison, to brixton and other gaols, he thought she would look for him on his way along the docks to alexander basin from where the ships would leave. /p>

in his own words, “never was there a more despondent, despondent, and dispirited group of men.” Dublin city women pelted them with rotten eggs and tomatoes. Understandably, because there was no employment for them in Dublin at the time, and they were dependent on money coming in from their husbands and sons fighting with the British Army. they considered these youngsters as a multitude of puppies.

Through all the despondency and despondency, he heard the familiar hiss from the shores of my beautiful lee. She found Michael lush and full of the joys of spring. “What has he in such a good mood for you? “She asked Michael as she walked past him. “I have twelve names here, Nancy, and after six weeks, I know we’ll be ready for the next round. and we will win the next round with upright and committed men.”

“michael,” he said, “you’ll be 26 soon and shouldn’t you be thinking about your future?” Will you be able to return to civil service? He put his arm around her and said, “come here nancy, where can you do better conceptual thinking than on the maternity hospital grounds in the roundabout?”

These were prophetic words and would come true in a very short time. As he was led through the docks, he thought about the gpo uprising fiasco and decided that next time things would be planned differently. there would be no sitting target, no static positions where helga could ride up the elevator and blow the hell out of us.

“We were like lambs to be slaughtered. ‘noble’ they called him. ’embarrassing’ I would call it”. surely by this time in the 20th century these true honest Irishmen should have learned from the mistakes of the past and ensured that they would never find themselves in that position again.

Upon his release from frongoch prison, he began collecting men and women for his movement. collins spent four weeks in southhampton, manchester and liverpool. throughout the city of dublin he met the laborers, the dockers, the sailors, the waiters and, in particular, the milkmen and fruit sellers because these people in a natural situation would not arouse suspicion among the british during their daily rounds selling your fruits and vegetables on moore street and other places.

Collins met the vast majority of this disparate group of people only once. I spoke to several of them who remember their meeting like it was yesterday, still remembering the impact of that meeting that showed his power and determination, and the conviction that he could overcome the vital need for confidentiality. “If they cross the Irish Sea, I will have safe men take them (ie weapons) to safe houses and they will never be under suspicion,” he told the men working on the cross-channel boats. He established for himself around the perimeter of Dublin City seven or eight hideouts where he could go when he was under extreme pressure.

The British were beginning to see the movement gain momentum, and throughout the War of Independence they were convinced that the best way to dress up was not to dress up. Now it’s hard to imagine that Collins fought the might of the British Empire from a bicycle as he went from one of these hideouts to another.

There was a price of £10,000 on his head, and where the average wage for a laborer in those years was £2, two shillings a week, no Irish citizen entertained the idea of ​​betraying this young man of the west. from Cork who was becoming the main figure of hope in this fight.

dan breen had set things in motion with the soloheadbeg ambush in co. tipperary on january 21, 1919 with his classmates sean treacy, seamus robinson, sean hogan, tim crowe, patrick o’dwyer, michael ryan, patrick mccormack and jack o’mara. dan arrived in dublin to report to collins, his commanding officer ironically at the time collins’ working day was 5am. , which would be the closer it was to the time that dan would go to bed, never mind coming on a date!

i visited dan breen, who later became t.d., many times during the last years of his life, most of which were spent with the brethren at st. john of god in kilcroney, and learned an invaluable amount of irish history from him. those who have seen him on eireann telefis in his early years may remember listening to maurice o’doherty trying to get some criticism out of dan on collins, and when asked towards the end of the interview what he thought of collins, that powerful face crudely the man looked at the television camera and shamelessly said “I loved him”.

Breen himself told me that he went to that meeting with Collins in 1919 in the spirit of Solohead at 5 o’clock in the morning and Collins told him, “I’ve got a quarter of an hour left, so let’s get down to business.” “I want to tell you comdt. Breen that his command is at risk. you broke two of my orders in that ambush.” and dan told me that he was really amazed. “You had a married man in the ambush,” he said, “and you as commander were flashy and flashy to the end.”

dan the raw faced tipperary man said “christ mick what are those fucking words you said”? “They are critical, and they should not have happened.” Dan was caught off guard and dejected, but before he knew where he was, Collins was on the other side of the desk and, having grabbed him by the shoulders, they ended up crawling on his back to the floor where they wrestled for a few minutes. Dan then told her that in many a night in the galtees he would never have been able to do without a wad of tobacco and a small jameson.

collins asked dan breen nine months later to do a special assignment that needed a special man. he was summoned to dublin and michael detailed what he wanted done. “You will be accompanied by a man who knows Dublin like the back of his hand,” he said. they met in the drumcondra area at 2 am. m. in the morning with the british army around and his partner said “don’t worry dan we can always escape through professor carolan’s back garden on the other side of the wall and we’ll be on a way back then and we’ll get out safe and sound”

they forgot that teacher carolan had built a glass house under her bedroom window and as breen told me, she jumped right through it with her hat on! dan was jailed in mater hospital where he told me he was so hurt that he had no interest at that point in ireland’s future, and he couldn’t care less what happened to collins in the fight. in his own words; “He was falling into a broken sleep when at 6:30 a.m. a little nurse came in and said; “and how are we this morning, mr. breen?“. “I told him,” he said, “in non-dictionary language how he was and I hoped he was a little better.” “she fluffed my pillows. now he was awake and I saw that there were two British soldiers at each door of the room. she was nice, although I didn’t appreciate it at the time. she told me, ‘take that medicine under your pillow when i leave, mr. breen”. Breen put her hand under the pillow and tearfully told me “damn michael, under that pillow was mick mcquaid’s plug and a jameson baby, the two things he needed the most.”

I recount this incident to illustrate how, for michael collins, his men and women were first in his thoughts and in that extraordinary organizational capacity that defeated the british, nothing was left out. for him, no task was too big or too small. here was a man who stood against the might of the empire, and yet he registered in his mind what dan would cherish most at this moment. It’s no wonder Dan loved it, and though they later disagreed, Breen spoke with extraordinary clarity and conviction about the tragedy that Collins’ death meant to the nation.

The curfew was at nine o’clock, but Collins didn’t know the meaning of the curfew. he was running this war from 5 in the morning until midnight and he knew that the most vital ingredient in the war with the British was to beat them to the end. There, the only successful revolutionary in Irish history realized that even if he wanted a chance to win, he had to get into the British thought process.

in neil jordan michael collins’ epic film, the main person in dublin castle is depicted as eamon broy. The point is, the main man in the castle was the great and brave dave nelligan who wrote those absorbing articles 30 years later in the evening herald called the spy in the castle detailing what life was like in the castle then. he, broy, kavanagh of kilmacow in co. kilkenny and james mcnamara risked their individual collective lives every day they entered that castle and with every document they made it out safely to collins. it is a fact that during that vital period of 1919 and early 1920, the training papers of all the armies and barracks in ireland were in the hands of collins before they were obtained by the officers and chief constables of those barracks. p>

That was the tremendous organization and clear thinking of an extraordinary mind who finished his formal education at the age of 12 but used every minute and hour of every day to turn a young man’s dream into the reality of the freedom he you and enjoy today.

in 1919 mr. de valera decided that as an american citizen he would win the entrance of president wilson and have an influence in america in this fight for freedom. de valera was married and had a young family and it is incredible that he spent seventeen months in the united states. throughout that period, a terrifying war was going on at home, where the British, with an eye on world public opinion, could not allow their armies to carry out despicable acts to defeat this group of dedicated young men who were seizing power. of the great british empire.

However, they brought in the “auxiliaries” and the blacks and tans, and the war, in which collins’s overriding determination was that as few as possible be killed, turned dirty. villages, towns, towns were shot, burned and brutalized. collins met fire with fire. the ambushes continued and became more successful.

The tide was beginning to turn. the vast majority of people were fighting and following the instructions of this man whom they idolized for what they knew were his characteristics. each of them were men and women who were not expendable. no one should be in danger, but no one opposed the last sacrifice that was asked of them to guarantee that the headdresses, the centuries-old hairstyles and the castles and stately homes that were a reminder to boys and girls that we were a slave nation. would change forever. that would not be the lot of the Irish again and therefore there was this tremendous will to win. Collins went from post to post, solving the problems of the day, and every commander, no matter how small the unit across the island, knew that if there was a problem, “get Mick, and he’ll figure it out.”

The British were now desperately concerned about how they would cope with these will-o’-the-wisps that would hit them and then disappear. In late 1919, Nancy O’Brien, whom I mentioned earlier, got a quick promotion at the post office. she was sitting in her office when she called her the head of the british post office, the civil side of the british government in ireland, the hon. james mcmahon told him, “we are aware of your dedication and your work.” “I must tell you,” she said, “there is a young man from your own country who, like all the idiots of century after century, would see the might of the British Empire and think she could take it on. Michael Collins is his name. “Oh yeah!” She said, “I’ve heard of him.” “That man,” she said, “will inevitably fail like all those damn fools before him. to cut to the chase, miss o’brien,” she said, “we must admit that he has the military information even before the officers he is dispatched to. whitehall is now so concerned that they are going to send the vital civilian information necessary to run this outpost of our empire in code, and we have decided, due to your dedication and your lack of interest in this person, that you will be the person to whom decode all these messages

nancy o’brien was shocked to say the least and having been given instructions that it would start from next wednesday, she contacted joe mcgrath and said “i need to see mick”. joe mcgrath knew nancy o’brien wouldn’t be looking for mick unless something important happened. he replied, “mick will meet you at vaughan’s hotel at 8 o’clock tonight.” “I’d better be on time,” said Nancy 0′ Brien, “because curfew is 9 o’clock and as a faithful servant of the British Empire, I have to be home in bed by then!”

He went to vaughan’s hotel at 8 o’clock, where he recognised, -swaying from the parapet by his fingertips, her corky bottom. Collins got out of that trouble and talked to christy, the hotel concierge, who came out of her and told her where to go in parnell square, and that collins would meet her there.

when they met, she told him what had happened, saying he laughed through all the stress and worry: “damn it, nancy,” he said, “you’ve heard me express my admiration for the great empire that could keep so many parts of the world in chains for so many centuries, and now,” he said, “they are allowing all civil information from ireland to come through my second cousin!” “from wednesday, every day between 2 :30 and 3:30 you will have what you decode in the hands of joe mcgrath, liam tobin or desmond fitzgerald. I don’t want excuses,” he said. “Be there! How do you get it out, that’s your concern, because when you work for me You express your own wit, and from what I know of you, you’re smart enough, even if you’re from the other side of clonakilty.” “Miguel,” she said, “what am I going to do with lunch?” He looked at her. up and down and said “don’t eat lunch and it will help take some of that weight off your shoulders”.

The messages were flowing and the war was now raging. Collins was now under tremendous stress and one thing in particular was troubling him. he met nancy 0’brien and said, “do you have a message for me that you’re not giving me?” he was carrying out the coded message in the bow he wore in his hair. “I’m getting worried about one or two of my colleagues wondering what’s going on. I have given you everything I have,” he said. so he left her and five days later he came back and managed to meet her. “nancy,” he said, “are you sure you’re giving me everything?” “Well,” he said, “apart from this very strange letter I got a few days ago that’s supposed to be from a secret admirer. I couldn’t understand it neither head nor tail. he was referring to the canal seat where he and I were sitting when the angelus bells rang, and the beautiful shine of my auburn hair catching the glimmer of light from the third window, and all that kind of nonsense “nonsense? “he said” the third window is where beasley and stack are in prison 6pm “i’m expected to fight a war with the might of britain and my own second cousin falls for it like a fan

It’s about time I told you that said nancy 0’brien is my own mother, and I’ve experienced similar occasions in the next minute or two when she turned around and said, “I’ve risked my life for you.” for the last six months and that’s all you have to say to me: abuse and contempt. “You can run your own bloody war, mick, in the future for your own ireland. I am the remains of the near escapes, the anxieties and all the worries” and she stormed off and left him there.

at 2 a.m. m. The next morning, at the height of the Dublin Troubles and the war, she awoke in their lodgings on Iona Rd, Glasnevin, to the sound of gravel being thrown at his bedroom window. she said “what a nerve. this is probably someone mrs. murphy, my landlady’s worried for a few weeks, because she’s running away from tipperary or limerick or something. she went to the window and there, standing on the little square of grass, was michael collins. he put on his robe and went downstairs to the hall door.

“nancy a gradh,” he said, “you sure are mine and you’re the best i have. You have no idea the pressures I’m under. I’m not quite right, but now we must deliver the final blow and win. “I’m in touch,” she said, “with my brother johnny back home, and the woodfield area is where they’re starting to plan a big heist. I was anxious tonight and I’m sorry I hurt you. I was upset about it and there was no way I was going to go to bed without coming over to apologize to you.”

This is just another example of the hundreds of incidents in which Collins proved that risking his own life was nothing because others were prepared to fight to the death if necessary. she was shocked and terrified that he had to walk back to 0’connors (over 4 miles to donnybrook) during curfew. As she walked away from her, she looked back over her shoulder and yelled, “damn Nancy, I forgot, I left the “bull’s-eye” candy bag on the windowsill for Mrs. Murphy.” “

if any of you are ever in west cork you should go to collins birthplace near lisavaird. stand on the foundation of the new house my father built for my grandmother in 1900, and there, in your mind, you can visualize the magnificent country house that stood there before the British forces burned it down. Inside that upper room, my father Johnnie, along with Tom Barry and Liam Deasy strategized the Kilmichael ambush that took place on the 28th of November. kilmichael was the catalyst for the war, with the entire force of 23 soldiers being wiped out by the west cork brigade.

That was the kind of guerrilla warfare that was later adapted by Yitzak Shamir in the 1967 Israel War, Mao Tse Tsung in China, and the countless revolutionaries in Africa. It was the first example of guerrilla warfare carried to its maximum conclusion and that was the thought of the young Michael Collins. Shamir even called his crack regiment “the mickail” during that Israeli war.

One of the best scenes in the recently released michael collins film featured collins’ beloved henchman joe 0′ reilly approaching him on a night of his first relaxation in years with harry boland and kitty kiernan at the royal marine hotel in dunlaoire. kitty xvas dancing with harry and michael in the movie was relaxed and fell asleep while she listened to frank patterson singing on stage.

joe o’ reilly ran in and said “damn michael i was looking everywhere for you”. They are looking for a truce.” The utter joy that Neeson portrayed in his brilliant characterization of Collins summed up that moment of precious success: contentment. the joy of winning that we all know after many losses on the way up, was what collins enjoyed the most. however, he wondered what awaited him now. what would be the final agreement?

dc valera had returned after an extraordinary seventeen months in america and harry boland wrote to michael to say that his 50th attempt to see president wilson had the same result as his previous 49. he never managed to reunite with the united states. President. there were eleven Irish – American societies in the eleven major cities of the states at that time. Mr. de valera visited each of them. he asked them to accept that they were first Irish and then American. Irish Americans, they won’t accept this now any more than they would then.

First they were Americans for the simple reason that their parents had taken them from an Ireland where there was no possibility of work and they had that opportunity in America and to the extent that they took advantage of it, they moved up in American society and if they didn’t they took, sank into the depths and became ghettos.

when he spoke to john devoy, the greatest fenian ever with o’donovan rossa, devoy stood in front of him in seattle and said, “no, dev, being american first doesn’t make me any less irish, but my father brought me here after spending 12 years in british prisons. i came here and i had a chance. i have made a success of my life, but that does not diminish my love for the country. it accentuates it to such an extent that now i have earnings that can help.”

each of those eleven companies dissolved or ceased to function within seventeen months. Mr. de valera returned to ireland and was nominated for president of the republic by “the blacksmith of ballinalee”, sean maceoin. dev was now a man of international stature, due to the worldwide publicity he was given. in 1916 after being comdt. At Boland’s Mills he wrote claiming his right to life on the grounds that he was an American citizen, and so he was saved.

Then the truce came, and many of these simple and elegant Irishmen returned to their homes and threw pints into their hands. It was a period of great unrest in Ireland. Collins saw the discipline dissolve. breen and tom barry saw this and expressed an urgency to the irish republican brotherhood to make some sort of deal.

the first clear sign of jealousy emerged between dev and collins. dev wanted collins to go to america, and collins knew there was no place in the world he would be more out of place. eamon de valera then went personally to london to speak with lloyd george about what the contours of the possible deal were. Over two days, he met Lloyd George alone for seven and a half hours.

mr. de valera was a brilliant man, a man who later showed great negotiating skills, and yet he knew from his intelligence and from the clarity with which lloyd george put it to him that the only deal available would embody in stone what was already enacted by the British Parliament, the fact that six of the northern counties (although Carson searched for nine) were now part of an Ulster that wished to remain part of the British Empire.

Finally, it was decided to send a delegation to negotiate the agreement. michael collins obtained the second copy of the document from the five plenipotentiaries and it is the copy of him signed de valera that is shown here. the document states, and note the wording; “negotiate and conclude”.

Collins was beginning to discern the dissensions that were beginning to accumulate and at first categorically refused to go. one of his closest associates was the great bat o’connor, whose home, lovingly cared for by mrs. o’connor was his favorite hiding place. many, many years later i met her at the graveside of her husband, who was buried as close as possible to mick. with a smile on her 82 year old face she said she

“Michael, you know what I was saying to the bat and I felt like he understood me, even though he’s been buried there for 36 years? “bat,” said he, “I don’t know which one I love more, but there was nothing to it, so take the odds”! that was the kind of relationship there was. His eldest daughter is now 87 and a Carmelite nun in Simmonscourt Road, Ballsbridge.

She tells the story that one day, as a child, she had hurt her leg the day before and was home from school. when collins called at her house, she always cleaned michael’s bike, and in return, she received diana’s candy from him. That night she heard her father and Michael arguing in an adjoining room until 5:00 in the morning. she remembers that it was the only time in her life that she heard two men cry. collins would not go home.

“They’re fooling me,” he said, and finally, around 5:00 a.m. m., she heard her dad say, “well, all seems to have failed, mick, but dev had anticipated this happening and asked me to ask you, to go-for ireland’s sake?” >

in his thirtieth year, collins sat down at a table to negotiate

with the power of that British empire. remember that extraordinary genius who won the 1939-’45 world war for britain, winston churchill, who was only fourth in the british delegation; formed by lord george, chamberlain, birkenhead and churchill.

when the british negotiators brought the signed treaty back to the house of commons, as you can read in hansard, if they were given a chance to see it, they were chastised, demonized and absolutely abhorred by the opposition and the english general . people for what they gifted this upstart collins to, and were asked how they couldn’t beat “this bunch of rice paddies” into submission.

Years later, my father spoke to Birkenhead, who told him that Chamberlain, Churchill, and himself were amazed by this man’s learning, by his knowledge of economics, by his planning for the future of his country, by the conquest of all the concessions, at some point, that could be obtained in the negotiations. Said treaty was signed on June 6. December 21st and it is absolutely true that as birkenhead was leaving the chamber he said;

“well collins, I signed my political death warrant.”

“That’s nothing,” Michael replied, “I just signed my royal death warrant.”

Collins knew the rumors at home. I must emphasize here that each time they returned from these negotiations, collins would intercede with dev to meet with him and discuss tactics. dev would have nothing to do with it. collins then turned to the organization sam maguire was sworn to, the irish republican brotherhood, the highest accountability organization. Without exception, Michael was told to do the best he could, and that no man could do more than he could.

what he did.

Collins returned to a cabinet that was divided. Austin Stack had been promoted, though his department, due to his inefficiency, was a joke to his colleagues. collins felt hurt and belittled. he told nancy o’brien that night, “our cabinet now is more divided than the cabinet in hell. I see sad times ahead.”

the terms of the treaty were debated in the chamber and bitterness developed, but when we look at government majorities around the world now, how many nations would be happy with a majority of 2 or 3, never mind a majority of 7 given ? in favor of accepting the terms of the treaty?.

collins begged, with all the powers he had, “dev, now that you weren’t yourself, by all means oppose us in this house, punish us, push us further so we can go again, as we have.” . the right under this treaty to discuss it for years to come, but do so within the dail.” “One of the best things we have,” he said, “is the conviction that the boundary commission can meet on the equal footing of two sovereign governments. the British have pledged that “if three of the six counties wish to join the 26, then there will be no valid reason for storms accordingly.”

However, jealousy and narrow-mindedness prevailed. collins said in those prophetic words; “It gives us freedom to achieve freedom. the ideal must always be there, and ultimate freedom will be the determination of successive generations of Irish men and women working within the democratic process because the time for fighting is over. if we pursue that ideal, and if we unite now that we have removed the British army and British power traps, there is no limit to how far we can go.”

I think history has now recorded that one of the two greatest mistakes made by a great statesman, mr. de valera, it was his choice not to go to london as head of the treaty negotiating team. he was the educated man, being a teacher. he was president of the republic. he was an american citizen who had great power and if he, even after deciding not to go to london, had followed the democratic process and literally stood against what the deal failed to achieve, then democracy could have prevailed and ireland could have made more progress.

mr. de valera met the great field marshal smuts. if you read smuts biography you will see that he who became governor general of south africa after the boer war had come to meet mr. de valera, not as an emissary of lloyd george but as an emissary of the king. he expressed to de valera his great admiration for the work done by collins to achieve the military freedom of ireland. In Smuts’ biography, it is stated that Mr. de valera accepted that it was not a question of a republic being achievable for future generations.

the cabinet tried to install the treaty, which was approved by the majority itself. Mr. de valera left the chamber and democracy was not allowed to prevail. they broke the oath that was an empty formula. then came the second mistake of this man, who later became a great Irish statesman. Mr. de valera throughout his life was a deeply conservative and religious man. he was a man of great ability and a man of deep faith. After mass on March 17, 1922 (believed to be Carrick-on-suir) he addressed a crowd of 20,000 and said:

“to prevent this treaty from working, we will sail, if necessary, through brother’s blood.”

sadly, that’s what happened, and michael collins was ambushed by his fellow irishmen at beal an blath, one of many tragically killed on both sides.

later, michael sought to justify his actions for the pact with de valera, in a lengthy statement that was later republished in “the road to freedom”, the collection of his writings that appeared posthumously:

“the policy of the anti-treaty party had now become clear: to prevent the will of the people from being carried out because it differed from their own, to create trouble to break up the only possible national government, and to destroy the treaty with utter recklessness in as to the consequences. a section of the army, in an attempt at military despotism, seized public buildings, took possession of the nation’s main law courts, disrupting private and national business, reinforced the Belfast boycott that had been discontinued by the people’s government , and ‘requisitioned’ public and private funds, and property of the people.

Known for this reckless and devastating opposition, yet reluctant to use force against our own countrymen, we made attempt after attempt at conciliation.

We called on soldiers to avoid conflict, to let the old feelings of brotherhood and solidarity continue. we met and made advances on the politicians time and again, standing alone on the one fundamental point on which we owed an unquestionable duty to the people: that we must maintain for them the position of freedom they had secured. we were unable to obtain any assurance that we would be allowed to perform that duty.

The country was face to face with disaster, economic ruin and the imminent danger of losing the position we had won with our national effort. if order could not be maintained, if no national government was allowed to function, a vacuum would be created into which the English would necessarily be drawn. to allow that to happen would have been the ultimate betrayal of the Irish people, whose only desire was to seize and secure and make use of the freedom they had earned.

Seeing the trend of events, the soldiers of both sides met to try to reach an understanding, on the basis that the people were recognized in favor of the treaty, that the only legitimate government could be based on the will of the people, and that the practicable course was to keep the peace and make use of the position we had secured.

These honorable efforts were defeated by politicians. but at the last minute an agreement was reached between me and señor de valera for which I have been severely criticized.

It was said that I gave too much, that I went too far to find them, that I exceeded my powers in making a pact that, to some extent, interfered with the right of people to choose freely and fully in elections, it was a last resort effort on our part to avoid conflict, to avoid the use of force by the Irish against the Irish.”

the purpose of his visit there was to meet with the remaining leaders of the brigades, these men he loved (and they loved him in return), in the hope of finding some way to end this civil war , which collins more than anyone in government tried to stop. to such an extent that as a sovereign government, they were entitled to criticize him for not taking up the situation of the four courts sooner, but they could not understand this enduring loyalty of collins, his men, and his reluctance to engage in hostilities. with them.

presented magnificently in that tragic five seconds of the film when the young soldier who killed harry boland justifiably said that —“he was one of them”. a heartbroken commander-in-chief thinking of the times that had been, he said

“no, god almighty, he was one of us.” every one of those who participated in the fight were collins until their last breath.”

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