Children of the Revolution

NUIG exhibition on Galway university students during the Irish rebellion

The University Corps of Irish Volunteers on the front lawn of UCG in 1918.

The University Corps of Irish Volunteers on the front lawn of UCG in 1918.

REBELS AND patriots, soldiers for king and country, all kinds of political opinions and actions could be found among the students of University College Galway during the turbulent years of 1913-1919.

A glimpse into the lives of many of those individuals from the university, caught up in the historic events of the era, will be on display at a new exhibition, A University in War and Revolution 1913-1919, which will be officially opened by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, professor emeritus at NUI Galway on Monday April 4 at 5.30pm in the university's Hardiman Research Building.

Exhibition materials are drawn from the NUIG archives, showing how the emerging Ireland was reflected in the increasing numbers of students ag caint Gaeilge, in the growing popularity of Gaelic games, and in the establishment of a university corps of volunteers.

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 led to a rush to enlist in the British army, something that was encouraged by the university authorities. About 140 UCG students, staff and graduates fought in the war, of whom 15 were killed. Their expectations and experiences are conveyed in the exhibition through poignant images and in obituaries published in the student magazines of the day.

The exhibition offers a glimpse into the lives of many individuals caught up in the historic events of the era, people like Mary Donovan O’Sullivan and Brigid Lyons, who took very different positions politically.

Mary Donovan O’Sullivan, professor of history at UCG was still in her 20s in 1916. She had been an active feminist in the Connaught Women’s Franchise League, but in 1915, married Lieutenant Jeremiah O’Sullivan, a UCG engineering graduate. As chair of the Galway Women’s Recruitment Committee, she was a strong supporter of the war effort. Early in 1916, she denounced the campus republicans, saying: “There [is] no doubt that a number of young men here [in UCG] would be better employed at the front.”

Prominent among UCG republicans was Brigid Lyons, a second-year Arts student from Roscommon who had taken a lead in establishing the Galway branch of Cumann na mBan. Lyons was at home on her Easter holidays when word of the Rising reached her. She travelled to Dublin with her uncle, Joseph McGuinness, a prominent Longford republican, joining the Four Courts Garrison, where her commanding officer, Frank Fahy, was a UCG graduate himself.

The public are invited to visit the exhibition which runs until mid-November 2016. For more information see www.nuigalway.ie/anationrising

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