Mary Spring Rice

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Mary Ellen Spring Rice (14 September 1880 – 1 December 1924) was an Irish nationalist activist during the early 20th century.[1]

Spring Rice was born into an aristocratic Anglo-Irish family in London. She was the daughter of Thomas Spring Rice, 2nd Baron Monteagle of Brandon, and a great-granddaughter of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Thomas Spring Rice.[2] Her maternal grandfather was the bishop, Samuel Butcher. She was brought up on the family's Mount Trenchard estate overlooking the River Shannon. It was a progressive, liberal household and independence of thought was encouraged. So too was the Gaelic culture and, at home, Spring Rice and her brothers were taught how to speak fluent Irish.

Before the First World War, Spring Rice hosted many Irish nationalist and Conradh na Gaeilge meetings at her home, and she became a close friend of Douglas Hyde. During 1913 and 1914, Spring Rice was actively involved in gun-running, most notably the Howth gun-running.[3][4] This involved helping to ship weapons to be used in an Irish uprising from Germany into Ireland. Together with Molly Childers, she raised £2,000 towards the purchase of 900 Mauser rifles from Germany, many of which were used in the 1916 Easter Rising. Spring Rice sailed on the Asgard to collect the guns and helped to unload them in Ireland.[5] During the Irish War of Independence, she allowed her Mount Trenchard home to be used as a safe house by Irish Republican Army fighters and the family boat was used to carry men and arms over the Shannon Estuary.[1] Con Collins stayed with her regularly. She also helped to train local women as nurses so that they could tend to wounded nationalists and acted as an IRA message carrier between Limerick and Dublin. Throughout this time, Spring Rice maintained her aristocratic façade and society connections, inviting senior Liberal Party politicians to Mount Trenchard in order to pressure them into supporting Irish independence. Spring Rice was one of a small number of Protestant Irish nationalists.

Spring Rice started to suffer from tuberculosis in 1923, and died unmarried in a sanatorium in Clwdyy, Wales, in 1924. She was buried in Ireland, where her coffin was draped in the Irish tricolour and escorted by an IRA guard of honour.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Thomas Spring Rice and the Peopling of Australia, Limerickcity.ie (43)
  2. ^ ThePeerage.com (#516123)
  3. ^ Martin, Francis Xavier, 1922–2000 (ed.). The Howth gun-running and the Kilcoole gun-running, 1914 [Recollections and documents]; foreword by Eamon de Valera. Dublin: Browne and Nolan, (1964)
  4. ^ Bruce Nelson, Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race (Princeton University Press, 13 May 2012), 300.
  5. ^ Peter Murtagh, 'Equally audacious: the Kilcoole gun-running', The Irish Times (19 July 2014)