Rebel Scout: Liam Mellows and His Revolutionary Rise, 1911-6 (Part I)
When Mellows stepped off the train at Athenry in April 1915, the Irish Volunteers who had assembled to greet him were disappointed at the delicate-looking young man Dublin had sent to help organise them. They soon learnt their mistake when Mellows took them on a marching exercise, where he drove them mercilessly until many dropped from exhaustion, while he remained unruffled.
(Liam Mellows, doing his best 'intense' expression)
Mellows, remembered one Galway man, "was very boyish-looking and full of enthusiasm for his work. He impressed us tremendously by his determination and, looking at his slight figure and boyish appearance, we wondered where all his determination came from."
Despite his tender years, and his father's career in the British Army, Mellows was already an old hand in the budding revolutionary scene. He had made his mark in the Fianna Éireann, the Fenian answer to the Boy Scouts, where he displayed a natural rapport with the younger lads, with the gift of imparting his own enthusiasm onto them.
At the same time, he was inducted into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), through which he made contacts with other up-and-coming leaders such as Bulmer Hobson, Con Colbert and Seán Mac Diarmada. He also became acquainted with James Connolly, becoming, as Ina Connolly remembered, "firmly attached to my father and family."
When the Irish Volunteers were formed in November 1913, Mellows was among those Fianna officers who joined. His IRB contacts and an aptitude for hard work ensured his rise among the Volunteers was a swift one, and he was soon appointed Executive Secretary. As much a doer as a planner, Mellows helped oversee the gun-running operations in Howth and Kilcoole, July and August 1914 respectively, which saw the Irish Volunteers suddenly flush with firepower.
(Irish Volunteers on parade)
Later, Mellows took on the role of on-the-road organiser for the Irish Volunteers, making Galway his base of operations. In March 1916, he told Alf Monahan, a fellow IRB member, to impress upon the Galway men that any attempt by the authorities to confiscate their weapons was to be resisted.
"From this it will be seen that [the IRB] G.H.Q. had reasons for having Galway very specially organised and equipped for the coming Rising," Monahan later explained. When news came of the plan for a countrywide insurrection, set for the Easter Week of 1916, it was of no surprise to either him or Mellows.
Arrest and deportation, however, threatened to derail Mellows' planned role in the big event. It was up to Nora Connolly, daughter of James, to find her old friend and bring him back in time.