21 February-Ernie O’Malley

Ernie O’Malley, who was a native of Castelbar, Co Mayo, Ireland took part in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. He later served as an Irish officer during the War of Independence and the ensuing Civil War. O’Malley travelled to many parts of Ireland during the wars including Carlow and Kilkenny. He was wounded on several occasions.

Ernie O’Malley was born Ernest Bernard Malley at Ellison Street, Castlebar on May 26th 1897. O’Malley’s family moved to Dublin when he was nine years old. He was educated at O’Connell’s CBS before entering University College Dublin to study medicine. While his brother Frank joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers to fight in World War 1, Ernie took the side of the rebels during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

After the Rising O’Malley left UCD and went on to play a leading role in the War of Independence. When captured in Kilkenny in 1920 he was taken to Dublin Castle and interrogated. He was later sent to Kilmainham Jail from where he escaped in February 1921 with the assistance of a sympathetic British soldier.

In the civil war that followed the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, O’Malley supported the anti-treaty side. He was one of the officers who occupied the Four Courts in Dublin. In the ensuing battle to take the building the Four Courts were very badly damaged and records, including census, dating back to the 13th century were destroyed.

O’Malley surrendered the Four Courts and escaped, eventually making his way to Carlow. He was captured on November 4th 1922 and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail. Following the end of the Civil War and his eventual release from prison, O’Malley went on an extended holiday in Europe before returning to UCD in 1926. He left before graduation and went to the USA where he helped raise funds to establish the Irish Press newspaper.

O’Malley spent much of the rest of his life involved in travelling, journalism and the compilation of the O’Malley Notebooks. The notebooks were his record of interviews with former colleagues of their experiences during the conflict. He wrote three books which were acclaimed by the critics and contemporary writers. His first book, ‘On Another man’s Wound’, which was published in 1936 was a commercial success. His two other books, The Singing Flame and Raids and Rallies were published posthumously. Ernie O’Malley died at the age of 59 on March 25th 1957 and was given a state funeral. On the Mall in Castlebar he is commemorated by a sculpture of Manannán mac Lir, a mythical figure of Mayo.

Ernie O’Malley, who was an Irish officer during the Irish War of Independence and the ensuing Civil War escaped from Kilmainham Jail in the year 1921 On This Day.

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Ernie O’Malley


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