Rebel Eoin MacNeill gave last coin to singer en route to prison

The last farthing in Irish Volunteers chief of staff Eoin MacNeill’s pocket when he was imprisoned after the Rising could be lying in a British Army grave in France.

He gave it as a token of appreciation to an east Cork soldier in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who sang rebel songs with MacNeill and other prisoners on the sea voyage to an English jail.

John O’Brien and others in the escort empathised with the 10 rebels in their custody. He even bought them stationery and posted their letters before depositing them at Dartmoor. In gratitude for their kindness, MacNeill and other prisoners gave small gifts to the army private in his early 30s.

“Galligan gave me a religious medal as a souvenir, John MacNeill his last farthing which he had received from his little son before he left. I still have both,” O’Brien wrote.

His June 1916 letter recounting the journey is reproduced in today’s Irish Examiner — 100 years after the rebels surrendered their positions around Dublin.

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

He went on to tell his friend Chris Clohessy at home in Cork of the prisoners’ parting wishes that the soldiers would not be sent to the Western Front.

“All they had to offer us was their prayers that we may come back safe and sound from the front, if we go there, which he [Galligan] hoped we would not,” wrote O’Brien.

However, John O’Brien was sent with the 10th Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers to France not long after, and he and dozens of his comrades died on November 13, 1916 — six months after transporting MacNeill, Tadhg Brosnan from Co Kerry, Peter Paul Galligan who led the Volunteers in Enniscorthy, and others.

He died instantly after being hit by machine gun fire and was buried beside fellow Corkman, Lieutenant Jack Guisani, 19. Somewhere in the French clay might also lie the tokens given to John O’Brien for his kindness to a fellow Irishmen who wore a different uniform.

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

More on this topic

President Higgins to lead 1916 commemoration ceremony in DublinPresident Higgins to lead 1916 commemoration ceremony in Dublin

Study: Rising and threat of conscription key to Sinn Féin successStudy: Rising and threat of conscription key to Sinn Féin success

The Irish settlement: An often ignored legacy of World War IThe Irish settlement: An often ignored legacy of World War I

President leads commemorations marking the 1916 Easter RisingPresident leads commemorations marking the 1916 Easter Rising


AS Joaquin Phoenix rose to the podium to collect his Academy Award for Best Actor, ears were peeled as the actor made his speech about inequality and our disconnect with the natural world.Paul McLauchlan: Leading men lead the way on Oscars red carpet

She’s the Cork singer dubbed the next Kate Bush, shortlisted by Universal, the world’s biggest record label, as their artist to watch in 2020. This will be the year of Lyra, writes Ed PowerLyra: Meet the new Kate Bush - and she's from Cork

For relationships to endure, we need to be loving not just on Valentine’s Day but all year round, a Buddhist teacher tells Marjorie BrennanOpen hearts: The Buddhist approach to love and loving

More From The Irish Examiner