West Cork man raised Tricolour on historic day

The man who raised the Tricolour over the General Post Office in Dublin on Easter Monday in 1916 was a teacher from a west Cork farm.

Gearóid O'Sullivan: West Cork man was a close friend of Michael Collins.

Gearóid O’Sullivan, from Coolnagurrane, Skibbereen, a second cousin of Michael Collins, was a member of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Gaelic League.

That Easter Monday, the future President of Ireland, Sean T O’Kelly, was instructed by James Connolly to go to Liberty Hall, where he said he would find a large, brown paper bag that contained two flags.

One was a tricolour of green, white and orange, and the other was a green flag with a gold harp in the middle, with the words ‘Irish Republic’ emblazoned on it.

He later recalled bringing the flags to Connolly, who ordered that they be hoisted onto the roof flagpoles of the GPO, towards the front of the building.

Argentine-born Eamon Bulfin, whose father was from Birr, Co Offaly, raised the flag of the Republic, and the Tricolour was hoisted by Gearóid O’Sullivan, who had been chosen by Seán MacDiarmada to be his aide de camp.

O’Sullivan fought beside Michael Collins during Easter week, was interned in Frongoch, and played a leading role in the War of Independence. He had a £3,500 bounty on his head.

A graduate of University College Dublin, he once taught in Kildorrery National School, in Co Cork, and in Phibsboro, Dublin. He was also a professor of languages in Knockbeg College, Carlow, and was the first adjutant-general of the Irish Army.

His wife, Maud, whom he married in October 1922, was a sister of Kitty Kiernan, the fiancée of Michael Collins. The sisters, from Granard, Co Longford, had planned a double wedding, but Collins was killed that August in Béal na Bláth, Co Cork.

Kitty attended Gearóid and Maud’s wedding, dressed in black, as she continued to mourn the loss of the ‘Big Fellow’ just two months earlier.

For regular updates on news and features (as well as twitter action action as it may have happened 100 years ago) to mark the revolutionary period follow @theirishrev HERE

Thirteen years after he had hoisted the Tricolour over the GPO, Gearóid O’Sullivan returned to the historic building, for the ceremonial reopening of the post office after it had been destroyed during the Rising.

It was also the anniversary of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Truce. O’Sullivan again hoisted the flag, but this time it was to a bugle sound and salute from the Irish Army.

Executive Council president William T Cosgrave, who formally reopened the building by purchasing a postage stamp, was clearly sensitive to the symbolic significance of the event.

He said the flag was the same as the one that was hoisted on Easter Monday, 1916, in the presence of Clarke, Pearse, Connolly, MacDiarmada, O’Rahilly, Ceannt, and MacDonagh.

“The hand that hoists it is the hand of one of their comrades who was then present,” he said.

General Gearóid O’Sullivan, who had qualified as a barrister and had been elected to the Dáil on five occasions, died on Good Friday, March 25, 1948.

He was given a State funeral with full military honours on the following Easter Monday — exactly 32 years after he had first hoisted the Tricolour on the GPO.

General O’Sullivan’s coffin was draped in a Tricolour, as it was carried on a gun carriage to his final resting place in Glasnevin Cemetery. That same flag had wrapped the coffin of Michael Collins in 1922.

Enjoyed this? Then check out our dedicated micro-site, developed in collaboration with UCC, to mark the revolutionary period HERE

Cork and 1916

  • Cork and the 1916 Rising will be discussed by John Borgonovo of UCC’s school of history as part of the Cork Lifelong Learning Festival.

Other topics at Cork City and County Archives, Blackpool, on Saturday, April 16, are: ‘Daily life in Cork’ in 1916 (local historian, Kieran McCarthy); ‘The family history and 1916 role of Irish Volunteers officer Riobárd Langford’ (genealogist Rosaleen Underwood); and ‘Blackpool in 1916’ (local historian Mark Cronin).

  • Booking is essential at archivist@corkcity.ie or 021-4505876

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