Great Uncle" Mick: happy 120th birthday the family misses you here in America and Ireland, you are truly a great role model for me!
~ Michael Collins Quotes ~
"To me the task is a loathsome one. I go, I go in the spirit of a soldier who acts against his best judgement at the orders of his superior." - Michael Collins on being sent to the Treaty negotiations by De Valera.
“The course of life and labour reminds me of a long journey I once took on the railway. Suddenly, there was a breakdown ahead, and passengers took the event in various ways. Some of them sat still resignedly, and never said a word. Others again, went to sleep. But some of us leaped out of that train, and ran on ahead to clear the road of all obstructions.” Michael Collins, Clearing the Road
"To go for a drink is one thing. To be driven to it is another." - Michael Collins in a letter during the treaty negotiations.
"When you have sweated, toiled, had mad dreams, hopeless nightmares, you find yourself in London's streets, cold and dank in the night air. Think - what have I got for Ireland? Something which she has wanted these past 700 years. Will anyone be satisfied with the bargain? Will anyone? I tell you this -early this morning I signed my own death warrant. I though at the time how odd, how ridiculous -a bullet might just as well have done the job 5 years ago." - Michael Collins in a letter to John O'Kane after the Treaty.
"In my opinion it gives us freedom, not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire ... but the freedom to achieve it." - Michael Collins on the Treaty in debates.
"It is my considered opinion that, in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Michael Collins, and it will be recorded at my expense." ~ Eamon de Valera!
Michael "Mick" Collins (Irish: Mícheál Ó Coileáin; 16 October 1890 – 22 August 1922) was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and MP for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the Old IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the National Army. Throughout this time, at least as of 1919, he was also President of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Collins was shot and killed in August 1922, during the Irish Civil War.
Although most Irish political parties recognise his contribution to the foundation of the modern Irish state, supporters of Fine Gael hold his memory in particular esteem, regarding him as their movement's founding father, through his link to their precursor Cumann na nGaedhael.
Born in Sam's Cross, West Cork, Collins was the third son and youngest of eight children. Most biographies state his date of birth as 16 October 1890; however, his tombstone gives his date of birth as 12 October 1890. His father, also named Michael, had become a member of the republican Fenian movement, but had left and settled down to farming. The elder Collins was 60 years old when he married Marianne O'Brien, then 23, in 1875. The marriage was apparently happy and they raised eight children on their 90-acre farm in Woodfield. Michael was the youngest child; he was only six years old when his father died.
On his death bed his father (who was the seventh son of a seventh son) predicted that his daughter Helena (one of Michael's elder sisters) would become a nun (which she did, known as Sister Mary Celestine, based in London). He then turned to the family and told them to take care of Michael, because "One day he'll be a great man. He'll do great work for Ireland."
Collins was a bright and precocious child, with a fiery temper and a passionate feeling of nationalism. This was spurred on by a local blacksmith, James Santry, and later, at the Lisavaird National School by a local school headmaster, Denis Lyons, a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
After leaving school aged 15, Collins took the British Civil Service examination in Cork in February 1906, and was then employed by the Royal Mail from July 1906. In 1910, he moved to London where he became a messenger at a London firm of stock brokers, Horne and Company. While in London he lived with his elder sister, and studied at King's College London.
He joined the London GAA and, through this, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a secret, oath-bound society dedicated to achieving Irish independence. Sam Maguire, a Church of Ireland republican from Dunmanway, County Cork, introduced the 19-year-old Collins into the IRB. In 1915, he moved to the Guaranty Trust Company of New York where he remained until his return to Ireland the following year.
Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read by Pádraig Pearse outside the GPO at the start of the Easter Rising, 1916.Michael Collins first became known during the Easter Rising in 1916. A skilled organiser of considerable intelligence, he was highly respected in the IRB, so much so that he was made financial advisor to Count Plunkett, father of one of the Rising's organisers, Joseph Mary Plunkett, whose aide-de-camp Collins later became.
When the Rising itself took place on Easter Monday, 1916, he fought alongside Patrick Pearse and others in the General Post Office in Dublin. The Rising became (as expected by many) a military disaster. While some celebrated the fact that a rising had happened at all, believing in Pearse's theory of "blood sacrifice" (namely that the deaths of the Rising's leaders would inspire others), Collins railed against it, notably the seizure of indefensible and very vulnerable positions such as St Stephen's Green that were impossible to escape from and difficult to supply. (During the War of Independence he ensured the avoidance of such sitting targets, with his soldiers operating as "flying columns" who waged a guerrilla war against the British, suddenly attacking then just as quickly withdrawing, minimising losses and maximising effectiveness.)
Collins, like many of the other participants, was arrested, almost executed and was imprisoned up at Frongoch internment camp. By the time of the general release, Collins had already become one of the leading figures in the post-rising Sinn Féin, a small nationalist party which the British government and the Irish media wrongly blamed for the Rising. It was quickly infiltrated by survivors of the Rising, so as to capitalise on the "notoriety" the movement had gained through British attacks. By October 1917, Collins had risen to become a member of the executive of Sinn Féin and director of organisation of the Irish Volunteers; Éamon de Valera was president of both organisations.
Michael Collins' funeral in the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin (contemporary newspaper depiction of the state funeral).The last known photograph of Collins alive was taken as he made his way through Bandon, County Cork in the back of an army vehicle. He is pictured outside White's Hotel (now Munster Arms) on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth (Irish, "the Mouth of Flowers"), Collins' column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA. An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on Collins' convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins' party, but they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out.
Kitty Kiernan, Collins' fiancée.Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted about 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins' body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan.
There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis ("Sonny") O'Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950.
This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. O'Neill was using dum-dum ammunition, which disintegrates on impact and which left a gaping wound in Collins' skull. He dumped the remaining bullets afterwards for fear of reprisals by Free State troops.
Collins' men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin's Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance. Some 500,000 people attended his funeral, almost one fifth of the country's population.
Collins' grave.Collins' shooting has provoked many conspiracy theories in Ireland, and even the identity and motives of the assassin are subject to debate. Some Republicans maintain that Collins was killed by a British "plant". Some Pro-Treaty accounts claim that de Valera ordered Collins' assassination. Others allege that he was killed by one of his own soldiers, Jock McPeak, who defected to the Republican side with an armoured car three months after the ambush. However, historian Meda Ryan, who researched the incident exhaustively, concluded that there was no real basis for such theories. "Michael Collins was shot by a Republican, who said [on the night of the ambush], 'I dropped one man'". Liam Deasy, who was in command of the ambush party, said, "We all knew it was Sonny O'Neill's bullet."