Thursday, March 31, 2016

Daisy Patterson, the 1916 Rising, and Kilcullen

A young Naas woman who eventually came to live in Kilcullen and married there, played an active part in the Republican movement before, during and after the 1916 Rising.

Mary Ellen Patterson came from a strong Republican family in Naas. She was born in the family home at No 11 Main Street on 6 December 1896 and grew up in a strong Nationalist ethos. During the notorious Black and Tans era, the family were frequently on the receiving end of some of those 'Auxies' activities, drinking in their shop and leaving without paying. On one occasion they moved out of their home, which was regularly visited by Liam Mellows, on a warning that they were about to be attacked by the Tans — who actually burned another nearby house instead.

On 1 August 1914, Mary Ellen — known in the family as 'Daisy' — moved to Dublin and began her apprenticeship at Moran's Drapery in Talbot Street. She lived over the shop, and when she finished there in December 1920 she was given a reference that she was 'courteous, efficient, trustworthy and an excellent saleswoman'.

Shortly before she went to Dublin, the Nationalist organisation for women, Cumann na mBan, had been founded. Applying for membership, Daisy was proposed by James McNamara, a member of the IRB and part of Michael Collins's inner secret council. McNamara later fought in Easter Week, and subsequently was president of the Old IRA in New York. Accepted into the organisation, Daisy was enrolled into the Central Branch in Parnell Square. Her commanding officer there was Miss Lesley Price, who later married Colonel Tom Barry. Coincidentally, she was an aunt of Fr Cathal Price, who served as a curate in Kilcullen during the 1970s.

Over the following years, Daisy carried out a myriad of duties as a member of Cumann na mBan, including going on parade in full uniform at the funeral of O'Donovan-Rossa in June 1915. Details on her application for a Military Service Medal note that she also carried mobilisation messages to Naas Town & District prior to the 1916 Rising, attended Wolfe Tone anniversaries at Bodenstown and carried firearms and ammunition for Volunteers who were to take part in armed duty there.

During Easter Week she reported for duty on Sunday 23 April and played an active part in the activities of the Rising until stood down a week later. These included carrying ammunition and communications for Volunteers engaged in the conflict. Afterwards she helped many of those same Volunteers with food and clothing when they were 'on the run'.

She lost her job temporarily in Morans due to her activities in Easter Week, but was subsequently reinstated by the owner, MJ Moran, and completed her service.

In the period up to 1922, when she resigned from Cumann na mBan, she continued to be very active in the Republican movement, operating as a despatch rider and also working on the Sinn Fein General Election campaigns. She collected parcels and delivered them, along with transferring verbal messages, to Volunteers who had been interned in the Curragh, Mountjoy, and Cork Jail. She carried firearms and ammunition to Volunteers operating the the Naas district, and acted as a scout for the IRA in relation to Black and Tan patrols. The Military Archives show names that testify to her military service, including Tommy Harris TD; Miss Graham, The Garage, Sutton, Dublin; Sean Kavanagh, (later Governor of Mountjoy Jail); Joe McGrath TD; Louis Moran, Ballysax; Dan O’Connor, Solicitor, Naas; and her sister, Kitty Patterson, Naas.

After she resigned from Cumann na mBan, she played no part in the Civil War. She came to live in Kilcullen, and some years later, in 1933, she married James Collins, a miller in the town. He had also been active in a number of IRA conflicts subsequent to the 1916 rebellion, which he was too young to have played a part in. James and Daisy had two sons, John and Jim, and after her marriage she took no further interest in politics. She busied herself with family activities, and raising fowl, particularly ducks and geese. She was an active member of the parish, and also acted in drama productions in the new Town Hall.

Daisy died on 18 February 1959, and was buried in New Abbey Cemetery with full military honours.

(From an article by Nuala Collins, published in The Bridge, Kilcullen's Community Magazine.)