Rebel Runaway: Liam Mellows in the Aftermath of the Easter Rising, 1916 (Part III)

Feb 2016
Dublin, Ireland
Article on Liam Mellows and his escape after the failure of the Rising in Co. Galway.

Rebel Runaway: Liam Mellows in the Aftermath of the Easter Rising, 1916 (Part III)

THE ELUSIVE MELLOWS, read a headline in the 'Connacht Tribune' newspaper in May 1916, a month after the Rising, HOW HE HAS OUTMANOEUVRED THE AUTHORITIES – STORIES THAT READ LIKE A ROMANCE.

"Romance, comedy and tragedy are strangely blended in the stories of the Rising in County Galway," continued the article: "Whether it be that Captain Mellows and the last of his army got beyond the cordon, I know not. Stories here are in abundance, but it is difficult to trace them to their sources."

Such tales included Mellows fleeing by motorcar, on a turf boat to Connemara, or whil disguised as the bride of a honeymooning couple. But the true story of how Mellows escaped the British authorities was scarcely less dramatic.

Accompanied only by two of his senior officers, Alf Monahan and Frank Hynes, he had fled Limepark House, the last base of the Irish Volunteers before disbandment, and took sanctuary in a succession of friendly houses, always keeping one step of the police and military. When a British patrol investigated Limepark, it found no one, only discarded weapons and food items.

The decision by the Volunteers to abandon the fight had been an agonized one but, in the face of the overwhelming odds against them, there had been little choice, as one man described:

"We knew that neither Mellows nor Monahan did not like to give the order to disband and I am sure they knew that the men would have followed them to the bitter end, Mellows and Monahan considered themselves responsible for all our lives, had to make a decision which they hated to do."

So sudden had events been that the authorities still assumed the Galway Volunteers to be at large as a coherent army. Rumours that the rebels had retired to Island Eddy prompted a search party there, though a sudden tide submerged the boats and trapped the fifty soldiers. Only the speedy intervention by a passing boat that saw their distress signals saved the men from drowning.

Mellows, Monahan and Hynes remained at large, although constantly hungry and at the mercy of the elements. Even so, the runaways managed to retain a sense of humour. "Remember," Mellows told a shivering Hynes in a parody of Matthew 22:14, "many are cold but few are frozen."

When the trio reached a crossroads, they saw in the dark the shape of something lurking nearby. Fearing it might be the police, Mellows whipped out his revolver and crept over but soon returned, exasperated.

"Damnit," he said, "it is only an old ass."

"Well," quipped Monahan, "he can be thankful for once in his life for being an ass instead of a peeler."