Kilmainham, May 8th 1916.
Of all the rebel executed for their part in the Rising, Michael Mallin is, for me, the most intriguing. He served in the British Army, spending a number of years in India. He came home, left the army and married the sweetheart he left behind. At the time of the rebellion, he was the father of four children with a fifth on the way. He was an officer in the Citizens’ Army, founded by James Connolly.
During Easter Week, he was commandant in St. Stephen’s Green/College of Surgeons. But despite his military training, he neglected to take control of the Shelbourne Hotel overlooking the Green, which meant the enemy could take it over and fire down on his small group of rebels which included Countess Markievicz , who was second in command. With the British firing down on them from the hotel, the rebels had to retreat to the Royal College of Surgeons.
When Pearse gave the order to surrender towards the end of the week, it was Mallin as commandant who surrendered to British forces. Yet at his trial, he claimed that he was only a normal soldier, didn’t know James Connolly and that it was, in fact, Countess Markievicz, who commanded the battalion at the Green, not himself. He further claimed that he was only obeying her orders when he led his group of men into position. This is astonishing, as apart from any other consideration, he had to know by claiming this that he was endangering Markievicz ‘s life. Perhaps, he said what he did because he realised he was leaving his wife and children behind without a support and that their lives would be harsh and poverty stricken. That seems to be the common belief now. In fact, later on after his execution, while his wife was in labour with their fifth child, Dublin women opposed to the rebellion because they had family fighting with the British army in France, shouted obscenities outside the hospital to show their disapproval of her executed husband role in the rebellion.
Michael Mallin wrote a poignant letter on the night he died to his wife and family. In it, he expressed the wish that one of his sons, Joseph, might become a priest and that his daughter, Una, become a nun if at all possible. Years later, when the children were grown, both Joseph and Úna entered religious life. His son, Fr. Joseph Mallin, aged 102, lives in Hong Kong where he spent most of his life in missionary work and is the only living child of an executed rebel leader.
One hundred years ago today, in the early hours of May 8th,Michael Mallin, no doubt his mind tormented with the worry of leaving his family impoverished behind him, entered the stone breakers’ yard, for his execution. Éamonn Ceannt, Con Colbert who was born in Castlemahon and Séan Heuston were also killed on May 8
Kilmainham, May 8th 1916.