Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa commemoration

We attended two Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa funeral commemoration services this weekend.

Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa was an Irish Fenian, originally from Cork, he established the Phoenix National and Literary Society, which later merged with the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  He was imprisoned by the British and was eventually exiled to America, where he continued to campaign for Irish freedom.  He is most remembered today for his funeral, where Pearse gave a famous speech. Which was said to be the start of the 1916 Rising.

Colourised version of the famous O'Donovan Rossa funeral from 1915
Colourised version of the famous O’Donovan Rossa funeral graveside photo

We heard about the first service on the Ireland 2016 Facebook page two weeks ago and applied for free tickets on the Glasnevin Cemetery website.   This first commemoration is part of the State’s official events.  We arrived at 9.30 am and queued up, along with 1500 people, we had got tickets to be inside the cemetery by the O’Connell Tower, near the Republican plot, although this been 2015, not 1915, we were about 100 metres back behind barriers from the grave site and watched on big screens.   On arrival, we received a souvenir copy of the funeral service, it was a copy of the original funeral booklet and had some old photos and an old photo of the grave site which had been colourised.

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The first service started at 10.30 am  in Glasnevin Cemetery, the American descendants of O’Donovan Rossa were in attendance and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D. Higgins arrived and inspected the Irish Army, Defence Force’s 6th Infantry Battalion as the Army band played.

The director of the Glasnevin Cemetery trust, John Green, spoke and gave an account of O’Donovan Rossa, he also stated controversially that O’Donovan Rossa near the end of his life, had become repentant about his campaign on Britain, but this is widely disputed as untrue.

President Higgins laid a wreath on Rossa’s grave and the actor Jim Roche played the part of Padraig Pearse and gave the famous oration speech.

The fools, the fools, they have left us our Fenian dead and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.

This was followed by a gun salute by Defence Forces firing party.

The weather was lovely and it was blue skies and the sun came out. After the service, we headed off and got the bus into town and got some lunch.

We then walked over to Dublin City Hall, for the second commemoration.  This service was organised by Sinn Féin and was a re-enactment of the O’Donovan Rossa funeral, which took place on the 1st August 1915.  Hundreds of people had dressed up in old costumes, ladies with big hats and long skirts and men in waistcoats and flat caps.  We only heard about this re-enactments a few days ago, so didn’t have time to gather a costume, but I would have loved to have taken part.

In the main hall, there was a coffin draped with an Irish tricolour, surrounded by men in Irish soldier costume.  An actor played the part of the priest Father Flanagan who gave a sermon before the coffin was removed.  Father Flanagan hailed from Cliffoney in Sligo.

Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa Funeral re-enactment City Hall Dublin (17)
Soldiers guard O’Donovan Rossa coffin in Dublin City Hall

We saw Gerry Adams there and he was in an old tweed suit costume and he was posing for photos with people in costume. Outside there was an ornate horse-drawn carriage, with two black horse’s dressed in feather headwear and the bands practising and getting ready to depart.  We walked up ahead, as we wanted to take some photos as the cortege made its way passed the iconic GPO.

Rossa funeral cortege
Rossa funeral cortege

We stopped by College Green and the GPO and took photos, the pipe bands went by, four Army officers on horseback, the horse-drawn carriage with the coffin, some relatives of Rossa followed along with Gerry Adams in costume and Mary Lou McDonald and Martin McGuinness, followed by soldiers and then hundreds of people in costume, pipe bands and many more people marching along, it was quite a spectacle and lots of tourists and people shopping, stopped to line O’Connell street and watch the parade re-enactment.  We didn’t follow it along as they were going back up to Glasnevin Cemetery for the rest of re-enactment and we didn’t have tickets.

Here are some more photos from the O’Donovan Rossa funeral re-enactment.

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Before heading home, we popped into the GPO and bought a commemorative O’Donovan Rossa stamp.



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