Portrait of Anne Devlin
Rathdrum, County Wicklow, Ireland
|Died||September 18, 1851 (aged 70–71)|
The Liberties, Dublin, Ireland
|Resting place||Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, Ireland|
|Known for||United Irish rebel|
Anne Devlin (1780 – September 1, 1851) was an Irish republican famous for her involvement with the United Irishmen, and enduring terrible conditions, as well as torture, when imprisoned by the British authorities. She acted as housekeeper to Robert Emmet and who was also a cousin of two leading United Irish rebels, Michael Dwyer and Arthur Devlin.
Devlin was born in Rathdrum County Wicklow to a family of long-standing nationalist views, but despite this was asked to move to Dublin to live with her landlord’s sister-in-law following the latter's marriage. Following the outbreak of the rebellion of 1798, her family home was often raided and many of her family members imprisoned.
After the acquittal and release from Wicklow Gaol of her father in 1800, her family moved to Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, where she met Robert Emmet who was leasing a house in nearby Butterfield Lane from where he was planning his intended uprising. The constant coming and going of men and materials from the house worried Emmet who feared that the activity might arouse the suspicions of the authorities. As a consequence, Anne's father Bryan was approached by Emmet for help and he suggested Anne's sister would act as housekeeper in order to convey an impression of normality. But she was too timid so Anne volunteered instead.
Although the ruse proved successful and the rising seemed to have taken the authorities by surprise, the lack of support among the people and some confusion in the rebel ranks led to its collapse and disintegration into a night of bloody street clashes. Shortly after the rising was quashed, a party of yeomen arrived at Butterfield Lane seizing Anne and her eight-year-old sister. Anne was interrogated, including the use of half-hanging but, finding out little of consequence, the yeomen eventually departed. Shortly after returning to live in her family home in Rathfarnham the entire family was seized by the military, having been informed on by a neighbor.
Arrest and imprisonment
Her importance and central role in the conspiracy was noted and Anne was interrogated in Dublin Castle by Henry Charles Sirr, Chief of Police in Dublin and arrestor of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. She refused bribes and resisted threats to inform on Emmet. She was then sent to Kilmainham jail and further interrogated where Emmet himself urged her to inform on him to save herself as he was already doomed. She was kept in squalid conditions and subjected to brutal treatment but consistently refused to cooperate despite her entire family being jailed in an effort to break her, which resulted in the death of her nine-year-old brother from illness brought on by the conditions of his confinement.
She was eventually released in 1806 and later married William Campbell in 1811, having four children. Although financially supported by sympathisers for a number of years following her release, she ended her days in poverty, and died in obscurity in the Liberties area of Dublin in 1851. She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in a grave she was moved to by historian R.R. Madden and friends in 1852. There is now a large Celtic cross on her grave, and the grave is in the care of the National Graves Association.
Anne's husband William remains buried in the original grave which Anne purchased on his death in 1846. There has been a memorial service held for Anne Devlin in St. Catherine's Church, Meath Street, Dublin every year since 2005, on a Sunday near the date of her death, organised by Mícheál Ó Doibhilín originally and now continued by Cuimhní Anne Devlin.