Continuing their series of short stories in the run-up to the Centenary, the Thomas Clarke Society Dungannon tell of Clarke and MacDiarmada: ‘The minds behind the Rising’.
A few years ago Liz Gillis, author and historian, gave a talk in the Thomas Clarke GAA Club entitled ‘Tom Clarke and Sean MacDiarmada: The minds behind the Rising’. These two men for the last 100 years have remained in the background in the minds of most historians, authors and the public alike, with the exception of those from their hometowns. And yet without them there would not have been a Rising.
Their backgrounds were very similar. In May 1883, Thomas Clarke was captured in England for his part in the Dynamite Campaign, aged 25. At the time, Sean MacDiarmada (pictured above) was just four months old. In January 1883 John Joseph McDermott (Sean Mac Diarmada) was born in Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim, the eighth of ten children.
His father was a child during the so called Famine – ‘An Gorta Mhór – an event he later recalled to his children. This left a major impression on Sean, giving him a keen interest in history. His mother died when he was just nine, which helps explain his close relationship with Kathleen Clarke when he was older.
Thomas Clarke’s father, James Clarke, was born in 1830 in the townland of Errew outside Carrigallan, Co. Letrim – just twenty miles south of Kiltycogher. In December of ‘Black ’47’ – one of the worst years of An Gorta Mhór – a young seventeen year-old James Clarke, faced with the possibility of starvation or death, made his way to Ballyshannon and boarded a Coffin Ship to enlist in the British Army. Like MacDiarmada, his father’s account of An Gorta Mhór had a major impact on Tom.
With ‘The Aud’ having set sail on the 9th of April and with only three weeks to the Rising, both Tom and Sean were fully aware their years of commitment and dedication were soon to bear fruit.