Footsteps in History: Long Road to Freedom

On Monday, 11 April 1966, the day after the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the then President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, opened the imposing Garden of Remembrance at Parnell Square in Dublin. It is dedicated to all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom. In de Valera’s words “The purpose of the garden is to remind us of the sacrifices of the past, the struggle and suffering over the centuries by which the effort was made to secure independence”.
In the centenary year of the Easter Rising the multitude of official ceremonies and more private events taking place in Dublin and throughout the country serve to honour the heroes of the struggle who sacrificed their lives. Spearheaded by the President, Michael D Higgins … the programme provides a wonderful opportunity to commemorate, in a dignified and ethical way, the actions that led to the foundation of our State … We must embrace the multitude of stories that comprise our past, in all their bewildering contradictions and differences … Let us do it with generosity.
The Rising may well have been a disaster in military terms, but the history will always remind the generations who followed those brave men and women who took part in the conflict that the real legacy of their actions lies very much in the sacrifices they bravely made for the sake of Irish freedom. The 1916 Easter Rising and its aftermath changed Ireland for ever. To quote the historian, Robert Kee, ‘History is indeed a difficult prison to escape from, and the history of Ireland is as difficult as any’.
Irish Heroes Graves: St James’ Graveyard*
The graveyard contains some 750 headstones and among some of its more famous dead are Ms Margaret Leeson, the notorious eighteenth century brothel keeper, Sir Toby Butler (Solicitor General under James the Second) and a number of members of the British Army, Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army. The graveyard has been closed to the public for almost thirty years.
Exceptionally it was reopened for a blessing of the graves. On Monday, 25 April 2016 a special service was held to the memory of Lieutenant George Fullerton of the Irish Citizen Army and his wife, Elizabeth Fullerton, who served in Cumman na mBan, and lived at 52 Bow Lane west, James’ Street. It was attended by family and others and preceded by a religious service at the nearby St James’ Church.
The story of Lieutenant George Fullerton, Late W.U.I I.C.A 4th Bn Dublin Brigade IRA, is one of the many unsung heroes. He was shot and wounded early morning on 25 April 1916. He had supervised the evacuation of Saint Stephens Green and the retreat to the College of Surgeons. He was captured and subsequently interned in Frongoch Prison Camp.
The same day around mid-afternoon his wife, Elizabeth, was carrying a dispatch from James Connolly in the GPO to Commandant Ned Daly’s outpost at North King Street. She had been to Liberty Hall earlier that day looking for news of her husband. She checked into the GPO and was assured her husband was well. Connolly asked if she would pass on a message to Commandant Ned Daly’s position. Having delivered the dispatch she was returning home to her five children when she was caught in crossfire on Church Street. Shot in the leg she carried the bullet to her grave over forty years later.
Upon George’s return from Frongoch, the couple had triplets whose godmothers were Constance Markieviecz, Dr. Kathleen Lynn and Grace Gifford. The triplets were subsequently known as the “Republican Triplets” and each was named after their respective godmother.
Ita Marguet, June 2016
Note: Acknowledgement is given to the Fullerton family* and other sources used in this text. It follows previous articles titled Connaught Rangers Mutiny: James Joseph Daly (1899-1920), A Nations Fight for Freedom (1916-2016), and a visit to Dublin in April 2016 for the 1916-2016 Centenary events.