Thomas Ashe

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For other people named Thomas Ashe, see Thomas Ashe (disambiguation).
Thomas Ashe
Irish: Tomás Ághas
Born (1885-01-12)12 January 1885
Lispole, County Kerry, Ireland
Died 25 September 1917(1917-09-25) (aged 32)
Dublin, Ireland
Allegiance Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Volunteers
Years of service 1913–1917
Rank Battalion Commander
Battles/wars Easter Rising

Thomas Patrick Ashe (Irish: Tomás Pádraig Ághas; 12 January 1885 – 25 September 1917) was a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and a founding member of the Irish Volunteers.[1]

He was born in Lispole, County Kerry, Ireland. Having entered De La Salle Training College, Waterford in 1905 he began his teaching career as principal of Corduff National School, Lusk, County Dublin, in 1908. He spent his last years before his death teaching children in Lusk, where he founded the award-winning Lusk Black Raven Pipe Band as well as Round Towers Lusk Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club in 1906. During the summer of 1913, Douglas Hyde, president of the Gaelic League, attempted to expel him and other members.

Commanding the Fingal battalion of the Irish Volunteers, Ashe took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Ashe's force of 60–70 men engaged British forces around north County Dublin during the rising. The battalion won a major victory in Ashbourne, County Meath where they engaged a much larger force capturing a significant quantity of arms and up to 20 Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) vehicles. Eleven RIC members, including County Inspector Alexander Gray, and two volunteers were killed during the five-and-a-half-hour battle.[2] Twenty-four hours after the rising collapsed, Ashe's battalion surrendered on the orders of Patrick Pearse. On 8 May 1916, Ashe and Éamon de Valera were court-martialled and both were sentenced to death. The sentences were commuted to penal servitude for life. Ashe was imprisoned in Lewes Prison in England.

The gravestone of Thomas Ashe, Peadar Kearney and Piaras Béaslaí in Glasnevin Cemetery

With the entry of the US into World War I in April 1917, the British government was put under more pressure to solve the 'Irish problem'. De Valera, Ashe and Thomas Hunter led a prisoner hunger strike on 28 May 1917 to add to this pressure. With accounts of prison mistreatment appearing in the Irish press and mounting protests in Ireland, Ashe and the remaining prisoners were freed on 18 June 1917 by Lloyd George as part of a general amnesty.

Upon release, Ashe returned to Ireland and began a series of speaking engagements. In August 1917, Ashe was arrested and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford where Michael Collins had also been speaking. He was detained at the Curragh but was then transferred to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin. He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and other prisoners, including Austin Stack, demanded prisoner of war status. As this protest evolved Ashe again went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. On 25 September 1917, he died at the Mater Hospital after being force-fed by prison authorities. At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the prison for the "inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct".[3]

Ashe's death had a significant impact on the country, increasing Republican recruitment. His body lay in state at Dublin City Hall, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

He was also a relative of Catherine Ashe, the paternal grandmother of American actor Gregory Peck, who emigrated to the United States in the 19th century. The Ashe Memorial Hall built in 1928, housing the Kerry County Museum, in Tralee is named after him while Nelson Street, also in Tralee, was renamed Ashe Street.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Alcobia-Murphy, Shane (2005). Governing the Tongue. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-904303-60-2. 
  2. ^ Coogan, Tim Pat. 1916: The Easter Rising. Cassel&co. p. 104. 
  3. ^ O'Connor, Ulick (2001). Michael Collins and the Troubles. Mainstream Publishing. p. 124. ISBN 1-84018-427-2. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Denis McCullough
President of the
Irish Republican Brotherhood

1916–1917
Succeeded by
Seán McGarry