Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: A lifelong friendship intersects with history

Elizabeth O'Farrell and Sheila (Julia) Grenan are interred side by side in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.  Elizabeth and Sheila had been friends since childhood and both women played a significant role in Irish history. Both women were members of Inghinidhe na hÉireann, the group which preceded Cumann na mBan, and both women joined Cumann na mBan after its inception. At the request of James Connolly both women joined the Irish Citizen Army and participated in the Easter Rising. They engaged in the very dangerous task of delivering dispatches in Dublin and acting as couriers thoughout the southern counties.

During Easter week Elizabeth and Sheila were also responsible for providing sustenance for the men and caring for the wounded in the General Post Office. Despite what films based on the period may show, it was in fact a woman, specifically Elizabeth O'Farrell, who was chosen by Padráig Pearse to deliver the documents of surrender to the British forces. The work of both women, as well as that of many others in the period, is detailed in the excellent book No Ordinary Women by Sinéad McCoole.


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