Oliver St John Gogarty: Witness Statement #700 – Bureau of Military History

portrait of Oliver St John Gogarty (image courtesy of prabook.com)

Oliver St John Gogarty (image courtesy of prabook.com)

Dr Oliver St John Gogarty cut an enigmatic figure in Ireland’s early 20th century renaissance; turning up in the background of great works (such as James Joyce’ “Ulysses”) and great deeds (in the War of Independence.) A medical doctor, he counted W B Yeats among his patients.  After meeting Arthur Griffith, he became a founding member of Sinn Fein. A poet of the Irish literary revival, he also served as a Senator in Dublin’s early Senate; and was still writing and publishing in the 1950s.

His comments on the death of Michael Collins (included below) are particularly interesting to historians, not only as Collins’s personal friend and physician.  It was Gogarty’s melancholy duty to prepare Collins’ remains for burial.  Witnesses recount his penetrating remarks, as he pointed out to Collins’ family and friends the young General’s fatal wounds, before the lying-in-state.  Although reputed to have performed an autopsy as well, no report by him as medical examiner seems to have survived.  (One of many startling mysteries concerning records of the Commander-in-Chief’s untimely loss.)

Gogarty’s own views on this topic have been difficult to pin down; until the recent release of the Bureau of Military History’s files on the War of Independence and Civil War.  His Witness Statement (below) is the only official documentation of his assessment of Collins’ end.  It must carry considerable weight; especially in view of its having been made in strictest confidence, as not to be released in his lifetime.

(The text below constitutes Doctor Gogarty’s Witness Statement in its entirety.  Note the Bureau’s notation of his “Identity”.)

Identity: Close associate of Michael Collins

Subject: Placing of his home at Michael Collins’ disposal as a hiding place

June 19th, 1952

When the Black and Tans behaved in such an excited and unsoldierly way by endangering my daughter’s life when she was playing in St Stephen’s Green, I resolved to give all the help in my power to the Resistance movement headed by Michael Collins. His confidante, Batt O’Connor was a patient of mine. To him I gave whatever gold I could come by for his reserve which was in a metal box cemented into a wall at Donnybrook where Batt O’Connor was building at the time. I also gave him a latch key of my house, 15 Ely Place and prepared that apparently impassible cul de sac so that Collins, if hard pressed, could use my garden and appear in St Stephen’s Green. There was a passage between the Board of Works and the Church Representative Body house that, through a wicket, gave on to the Green. In order to facilitate the scaling of the wall I had some cases of petrol placed against it under a large ash tree in the garden. These preparations were passed on by Batt O’Connor to Michael Collins and his thanks conveyed.

Collins was an infrequent caller at my house. Emmet Dalton handed me back the latch key which he took from the blood-stained tunic of General Collins, who was murdered by the instigator of the Civil War.

You are at liberty to make whatever use of this you may find good.
Believe me to remain
With every good wish for you and the work
Yours sincerely,
Oliver St J Gogarty (signature)”

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”

The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth? by S M Sigerson - Cover Image

by S M Sigerson
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www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

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Arthur Griffith & Michael Collins: Were their deaths connected?

Photo of Arthur Griffith (1871-1922)

Arthur Griffith 1871-1922)

(The following is an excerpt from the book
“The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?”)

Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein, is considered by many to have been the leading strategist of Ireland’s 20th century independence movement … After ages of continual battle against British imperialism, it was his genius for uniting Ireland’s internal divisions, which brought nationalism into a new, ultimately victorious phase …

… The chances seem astronomical against there having been anything either “accidental”, “random”, or “natural” about the sudden death, within days of each other, of Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, and Harry Boland. Even in the dangerous environment of the Civil War, it would be about equivalent to being struck by lightening while holding a winning lottery ticket.

P S O’Hegerty quotes Griffith himself as saying, in their interview on June 30, “Of course, those fellows will assassinate Collins and myself. DeValera is responsible for this, for all of it. There would have been no trouble but for him.”

[The Cabinet “junta’s”] first step was to isolate Arthur Griffith … shortly before his death [P Moylett] found Griffith sitting alone with not even a secretary or typist available to him.  –  John M Feehan 

Collins, who was working intimately with Griffith on a daily basis at the time, by no means took his death so much for granted as historians have been willing to do. As shown in his personal correspondence:

The death of poor Mr Griffith was indeed a shock to us all, more so naturally to those of us who had been intimate with him, and who thought that his illness was a very slight thing indeed. We shall miss for many a day his cheerful presence and his wise counsel … He had sounder political judgement than any of us, and in this way we shall feel his absence very keenly. 

Although no bounding youth like the C-in-C, Griffith, at 51, was hardly decrepit. The negotiations with Britain, the deterioration of the country into Civil War, certainly would place a tremendous strain on anyone in his highly responsible position. Yet, lest we forget, since the founding of Sinn Fein in 1905, Griffith had lived in the eye of a political storm. His life had consisted of unending controversy, continual persecution; in the course of which he endured years of imprisonment, and constant threat of arrest or assassination.

Yet P S O’Hegerty was even more shocked at Griffith’s demise:

Until the last few months, he never lay in a sickbed. Whoever else died, we felt sure that it would not be Griffith – Griffith with the iron will, the iron constitution, the imperturbable nerve. Griffith, whom we all thought certain to live to be one hundred and write the epitaph of all of us.  Griffith, upon whom we all leaned and depended.

At the time of Griffith’s death, the Civil War was in full swing. A list appears to have issued from some quarter, indicating that members of the Dublin government were to be shot on sight at the first opportunity. Government Buildings became for Griffith and other ministers “a place of internment,” for their own safety…

As for DeValera, that ambitious statesman would never have the most potent political voice in Ireland, as long as Griffith still lived.  Nor would any post-war government led by Griffith ever be supine to British interests …

Read more
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
Paperback or Kindle edition here:
www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714

All other e-reader formats:
www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

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http://www.rabidreaders.com/2014/12/03/assassination-michael-collins-s-m-sigerson-2/

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Assassination of Michael Collins COVER

Wolfe Tone and Michael Collins

Respect our existence: or expect our resistance

picture of Wolfe Tone b&w profile

 

To subvert the tyranny of our execrable Government, to break the connection of England – the unfailing source of all our ills – and to assert the independence of my native country … these were my objects.”

 

 

MC portrait Triskel show

When Michael Collins quoted Wolfe Tone’s words, above, in a 1918 election speech, he knew they would be instantly recognized by his audience. That motto had formed the original seed and core of Ireland’s nationalist independence movement, of which Tone was the idealogical father.

This uncompromising call to action had an impact equivalent to Malcolm X’s pithy summation, over a century later,
“… by any means necessary.”

It was a line drawn in the sand: political change would no longer be a mere debating point.  It was a question of survival.  It was a seizure of the moral high ground, and the right to defend it; in arms if need be.  From this point on, the evil of violent conflict might be considered by nationalists as lesser than the evil of continuing under a regime with genocidal consequences.

Collins’ connection with Tone was not merely rhetorical.  He grew up among those who had fought in the Fenian rising of 1867, and whose grandfathers had risen with Tone and Lord Edward Fitzgerald in 1798.  Collins’ own father had received his education surreptitiously, before the repeal of the Penal Laws; from a cousin, a hedge school master, who had been a school friend of Tone’s.

Tone helped bring Irish politics intellectually out of feudalism, and into the age of modern republicanism.  Along with other thinkers and doers of the 18th century Enlightenment, he promulgated the idea of a democratic society based on universal human rights, and the consent of the governed.

In 1798, the concept of government by and for the people challenged the age-old order of things.  In previous centuries, people had frequently risen up en masse against tyranny and injustice.  But once risen, had nowhere to go; except to choose between one lord or the other, one king or the other.

Human rights and democracy are ideas which many have the happiness to take for granted now.  Even while, in some parts of the world, they remain very much at issue.

We have also lived to see the flaws in democratic systems.  In two centuries of popular insurrections, and the establishment of modern republics, many things have changed.  And many things have not changed.

Yet there is still much to learn from the thinkers and doers for social justice who’ve gone before.  And from their fate.

Wolfe Tone was taken prisoner in the 1798 rebellion, and died in a British prison.  Michael Collins was shot to death under suspicious circumstances; at the close of a war with England, which could with justice be called a continuation and consummation of what Tone began in 1798.  Both their promising careers were cut off in the bloom of young manhood.  Under current Irish law, too young to run for president.

Both have left an undying legacy of courage, innovation, ideas, writings, achievements, which continue to inspire present and future generations.

*****

Why revolution? Why democracy? See previous post:
Revolution and Democracy
https://collinsassassination.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/revolution-and-democracy/

Read more:
“The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”
by S M Sigerson
Paperback or Kindle edition here:

www.amazon.com/dp/1493784714
For all other e-reader formats:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/433954

Or ask at your local bookshop

Book Cover - The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBláth?