One of the great mysteries of O’Connell Street for me was always the location of this Cathal Brugha plaque I’d seen photographed. Showing an English visiting friend around Fortress Dublin last week, I was surprised to find it right above Burger King. It’s a small plaque and easy to miss, but a great one to a fascinating character.
Brugha’s plaque was once a vanishing one, as this Irish Press report from 1934 notes:
Cathal Brugha, or Charles Burgess as he was first known before changing his name upon joining the Gaelic League, is one of the most celebrated characters of the revolutionary period. Educated at Belvedere and company director at Lalor’s candle factory on Ormond Quay, he famously survived a grand total of 25 injuries sustained in the 1916 rebellion.
It was out of the building marked by the plaque today that Brugha emerged during the Civil War, a leading figure in the Anti Treaty IRA who had refused to surrender, as ordered. The excellent recently released History of Cathal Brugha Barracks noted that Brugha appeared from the doorway of the building, revolver in hand, and was hit by a snipers bullet from the Findlater’s building. I noted here in a previous article on Nurse Linda Kearns that:
Linda Kearns witnessed the wounding of Cathal Brugha, who had refused to surrender to the forces of the new state. She held his severed artery between her fingers as he was driven to hospital, but he would die two days later. Cumann na mBan activists stood guard over Brugha when his body lay in state.
In a great write-up for sadly lost Tribune, Valerie Shanley put it all beautifully when she noted how the revolutionary history of the city is to be found in a very different one today.
fI the events of Dublin’s rebel past were transported to the modern capital, the result would have a Flann O’Brien touch of the surreal. The Irish Volunteers would be ensconced in the Ambassador cinema, which is now a gig venue; the 1916 leaders fleeing the GPO would emerge from the Swarovski crystal shop on Henry Street; and Cathal Brugha would be shot coming out of Burger King on O’Connell Street.
Notice the bullet holes in the stone work around Brugha’s plaque today. Next time you pass Burger King, look up!