19 October 1888|
Moanlena, Castlemahon, Newcastlewest, County Limerick, Ireland
|Died||8 May 1916
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland
Irish Republican Brotherhood
|Years of service||1913–1916|
|Commands held||F Company fourth Battalion|
Cornelius "Con" Bernard Colbert (Irish: Conchúir Ó Colbáird; 19 October 1888 – 8 May 1916) was an Irish rebel and pioneer of Fianna Éireann. For his part in the 1916 Easter Rising, he was shot by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, on 8 May 1916.
His family moved to the village of Athea when Con was three years old. He was educated at the local national school. In 1901, his family were living in the townland of Templeathea West. A younger brother, James, and a cousin, Michael Colbert, would later serve as TDs.
He left Athea at the age of 16 and went to live with his sister Catherine in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin. Colbert continued his education at a Christian Brothers school in North Richmond street. He was employed as a clerk in the offices of Kennedy's Bakery in Dublin. In 1911, he was living with Catherine, two other siblings and two boarders at a house on Clifton Terrace, Rathmines.
Colbert was a deeply religious Catholic, and refrained from smoking or drinking.
Fianna and Volunteers
Colbert was sworn into the IRB by his cousin Art O'Donnell in Art's home in 1908. He joined Fianna Éireann at its inaugural meeting in 1909, and rose to Chief Scout. The following year he became a drill instructor at St. Enda's School, founded by Patrick Pearse. In 1912 he became head of an Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) circle within the Fianna started by Bulmer Hobson. During 1913 he was one of a number of Fianna who conducted military training at the Forester's Hall in Rutland Square (now Parnell Square), and in November that year he joined the Provisional Committee of the newly formed Irish Volunteers.
In the weeks leading up to the Rising, he acted as bodyguard for Thomas Clarke. Before the Rising, because he lived out of the city he stayed with the Cooney family in the city centre. During Easter Week, he fought at Watkin's Brewery, Jameson's Distillery and Marrowbone Lane. Thomas MacDonagh at 3.15 p.m. Sunday, 30 April surrendered to Brigadier-General Lowe. He was then allowed to return to the other garrisons to arrange for their surrender.
Colbert surrendered with the Marrowbone Lane Garrison along with the South Dublin Union Garrison, which had been led by Éamonn Ceannt. When the order to surrender was issued, he assumed the command of his unit to save the life of his superior officer, who was a married man.
They were marched to Richmond Barracks, where Colbert would later be court-martialled. Transferred to Kilmainham Gaol, he was told on Sunday 7 May that he was to be shot the following morning. He wrote no fewer than ten letters during his time in prison. During this time in detention, he did not allow any visits from his family; writing to his sister, he said a visit "would grieve us both too much".
The night before his execution he sent for Mrs. Ó Murchadha who was also being held prisoner. He told her he was "proud to die for such a cause. I will be passing away at the dawning of the day." Holding his bible, he told her he was leaving it to his sister. He handed her three buttons from his volunteer uniform, telling her "They left me nothing else," before asking her when she heard the volleys of shots in the morning for Éamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin and himself would she say a Hail Mary for the souls of the departed. The soldier who was guarding the prisoner began crying according to Mrs. Ó Murchadha, and recorded him saying "If only we could die such deaths."
Colbert was shot by firing squad the next morning on 8 May 1916.
- Colbert Railway Station in Limerick city is named after him.
- Con Colbert Road in Dublin is named in his honour.
- Fianna Fáil Cumann in the University of Limerick is named after him.
- Colbert Street in his native Athea, County Limerick is named after him, as is the local community hall.
- "16 Lives: Con Colbert". p. 31.
- Piaras F. Mac Lochlainn (1990), Last Words: Letters and Statements of the Leaders Executed after the Rising at Easter 1916, The Stationery Office (Dublin), ISBN 0-7076-0101-0, pg.147
- D.J. Hickey & J. E. Doherty, A New Dictionary of Irish History from 1800, Gill & MacMillan (Dublin), ISBN 0-7171-2520-3, Pg.75
- Michael Madden, Captain Con Colbert Defender Watkins Brewery Marrowbone Lane Distillery Area, Easter 1916 (Limerick, 1983)
- "General Registrar's Office". IrishGenealogy.ie. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
- "National Archives: Census of Ireland, 1901". www.census.nationalarchives.ie. Retrieved 2017-04-01.
- "Con Colbert - CSO - Central Statistics Office". www.cso.ie. Retrieved 2017-04-01.
- "National Archives: Census of Ireland, 1911". www.census.nationalarchives.ie. Retrieved 2017-04-01.
- 16 Lives: Con Colbert. p. 92.
- White, Lawrence William (2009). "Colbert, Cornelius ('Con')". In McGuire, James; Quinn, James. Dictionary of Irish Biography (PDF). Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- "Statement By Witness Document No. W.S. 805 Witness (I) Mrs. Annie O'Brien Thomond House, Ballyboden Road, (II) Mrs. Lily Curran Rathfarnham, Dublin." (PDF).
- Mac Lochlainn (1990), pg.145
- Mac Lochlainn (1990), pg.146
- Mac Lochlainn (1990), pg.151
- 16 Lives: Con Colbert page 225
- O'Callaghan, John, Con Colbert, Dublin: O'Brien Press, 2015.