Several newspapers today have picked up on the fact that the remembrance wall unveiled yesterday in Glasnevin Cemetery includes an incorrect Irish language spelling, with ‘Éirí Amach’ becoming ‘Eírí Amach’. You can watch RTE’s coverage of the unveiling of the wall here:
Glasnevin have been quick to state that this will be amended, but there’s another problem with the wall. While the incorrect inclusion of Volunteer Andrew Cunningham as a civilian casualty has gone largely unnoticed, it is a mistake that goes beyond a fada.
Andrew Cunningham was from Pigeon House Road in Ringsend. A member of the Irish Volunteers from the time of the inception of the nationalist organisation, he was a silk weaver by trade. Cunningham was shot on the Ringsend Road on 1 May, which is after the surrender of P.H Pearse and the rebel forces, but sporadic shooting remained a problem in parts of Dublin. Very little is known of Cunningham with regards a biographical sketch; Ray Bateson notes in history Deansgrange Cemetery & the Easter Rising that his death left a widow, Kathleen, and two children living at 11 York Terrace.
He was only 26 years old at the time of his death, a reminder of the youth of many of the participants in the Easter Rising. His brother, Michael Patrick Cunningham (born in 1888) was also a silk weaver and an active member of the Irish Volunteers, and took part in the Rising too. My thanks to Damien McDonald for the comment below this post, which notes that “he fought with the Roe’s Distillery Garrison, which occupied a building on the other side of James’s Street from the South Dublin Union.”
Cunningham’s service was referenced in an edition of the Catholic Bulletin published in 1916, and in the Wolfe Tone Annual on the thirtieth-anniversary of the rebellion. Buried in Deansgrange Cemetery, a simple grave marker of a cross decorated by Easter Lilies was replaced in 2013 by the National Graves Association.
The unveiling of the Glasnevin wall has proven hugely controversial in recent weeks. Artist Robert Ballagh, part of the Reclaim 1916 group, has been a vocal opponent of the wall since plans of it were first announced some time ago. Some relatives have criticised the wall, while others support it.
Glasnevin will remain an important centre of commemoration in the years ahead and throughout the Decade of Centenaries. In 2015, there was some controversy at the centenary of the funeral of veteran Fenian O’Donovan Rossa, with some taking issue with the speech delivered by John Green of the Glasnevin Trust. To quote from the blog of journalist and broadcaster Jude Collins:
Glasnevin Trust Chairman John Green delivered an oration on Rossa. There was no mention of his IRB exploits or the involvement of the IRB preparation for the funeral. He made an assertion that Rossa, as he lay on his death bed, dementia riddled, supported Home Rule and John Redmond – in effect Constitutional Nationalism / politics. How wrong and historically inaccurate.
After the commemoration I spoke with Dr Shane Kenna, biographer of Rossa. He was appalled that the state hijacked the event to suggest Rossa died a constitutionalist. He didn’t. This allegation was proven fictitious as constitutional Nationalists tried to claim Rossa’s legacy, particularly at a time when their support for an unpopular war was doing them considerable damage. Rossa’s wife Mary Jane agreed the allegation was fabricated, yet the State commemoration decided to go with it! Why? Well, to call Rossa anything else would be dangerous ground for them, handing the political initiative to others.
Regardless, on the subject of Glasnevin, it is worth highlighting that the 24 April will see the unveiling of the recently restored 1916 Plot memorial in the St. Paul’s Section of Glasnevin Cemetery.
A memorial was first unveiled at the site of the 1916 Plot in 1929 by the National Graves Association, with Frank Ryan delivering the oration.A new memorial replaced it in 1966 for the Golden Jubilee of the Rising, but in recent years it has weathered badly and required restoration. Among the Volunteers and ICA dead in the 1916 plot is Charles D’Arcy, a fifteen year old member of the Irish Citizen Army who was shot in the vicinity of City Hall early in the rebellion.
We wish the NGA every success with the unveiling of the restored 1916 Plot, which is a fitting memorial to those buried there.