Rebel Captain: Liam Mellows and the Easter Rising in Galway, 1916 (Part II)
Having absconded from his English exile, Mellows returned to Ireland in time to take his place at the head of the planned insurrection in Galway, where he had worked as an organiser for the Irish Volunteers there. After a few days in the company of friends in Dublin, he passed through the country, dressed alternatively as a priest or a beggar, both disguises proving good enough to fool even acquaintances.
He arrived back to find the Galway officers torn between the conflicting orders from Dublin, one set cancelling all plans for an uprising on Easter Sunday and the other confirming them. The final decision for the Volunteers to step down came so suddenly, according to one witness, "that one Company actually received the countermanding order as they took up a position around the local RIC Barracks on Sunday night."
Had the Volunteers gone ahead as originally planned, it was argued, they could have taken the police entirely by surprise.
As it was, the RIC quickly recovered, withdrawing constables from outlying outposts and concentrating them in their barracks. When news reached Galway on Tuesday about the fighting in Dublin, it was decided to hold back no longer. Mellows issued dispatches to all Volunteer units in Galway, while he led the Clarinbridge Company in an attack on the local police barracks, and then later on the Oranmore one.
(Site of the former Clarinbridge Barracks, with plagque commemorating the attack next to the door)
When the Volunteers were forced to withdraw from Oranmore by enemy reinforcements, Mellows:
|…was the last to leave and took cover at the gable of Reilly’s public-house until the RIC arrived in the village from the station and, when they were about to enter the RIC barrack, he opened fire on them with, I think, an automatic pistol from a distance of 25 yards.|
|Anyone reading this account would be inclined to think that we were acting in a rather cowardly manner...Why did we keep retreating, etc, etc?|
(Limepark House, site of the Irish Volunteers' last base in Galway)