Royal Irish Academy

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Alice Cashel 1878-1958

Alice Cashel was born in 1878 in Birr where her father Blennerhassett Cashel was a station master for the Great Southern and Western Railway. As a result of Blennerhasset’s job, the family moved several times during Alice’s childhood and eventually settled in Cork. Alice’s sister Agnes married James O’Mara, whose family operated a large bacon factory at Limerick. O’Mara originally sat as a Home Rule MP, but he later embraced Sinn Fein, took part in de Valera’s American tour and voted to accept the Treaty.

Alice trained as a teacher, was a member of the Gaelic League and early manifestations of Sinn Fein. She helped Annie MacSwiney to establish Cork branch of Cumann na mBan in 1914 and attempted to assist Terence MacSwiney in the run up to the 1916 rising.

Throughout 1918 she took part in election campaigning and Cumann na mBan organisational work across Ulster. Based at a property owned by the Mara family she became a prominent figure in Galway throughout the War of Independence.

Co-opted on Galway council she served as a parish justice in the Dail courts, regularly hearing cases dealing with robbery, land disputes and poteen distilling.

Arrested in 1921 she was released shortly after the Truce and went to work in Erskine Childer’s propaganda department. Rejecting the Treaty, she was once again active in Galway during the Civil War recounting that …

‘I co-operated with the IRA carrying dispatches, feeding them etc. I was raided at least twice here. It was known that I had a revolver as, on being called for by the villagers I had gone to clear the village where there was trouble owing to poteen drinking’(1)

Employed in the civil service in Dublin, she returned to Galway suffering from bad heath. She lectured for a time at UCG and published a novel ‘The lights of Leaca ban’. Her funeral in 1958 from St Joseph’s church to the new cemetery Galway was attended by representatives of the President and the Taoiseach, along with members of the old IRA and Cumann na mBan. Her coffin was draped in the tri colour and in his oration Senator Liam O’Buachalla commented…

‘Alice Cashel was a lover of peace The terrifying roar of the Crossley’s; the shouts and jeers of their maddened crews; the crackle of the blazing roof, these things were not music for her. But her great love of Ireland steeled her to overcome the fears of war and enabled her to carry out her mission of national service and mercy solidly and courageously, and no braver soul ever stood sentinels at the lonely post or faced through the danger gap than Alice Cashel.’ (2)


Sources:

Bureau of Military History Statement. Alice M. Cashel (Witness 366) Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913- 1921/bmhsearch/

Military Service Pension Files. Alice Cashel MSP34REF55390. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923

Connacht Tribune. 12 June 1920. 1 March 1958.

Cork Examiner. 29 November 1912. 15 April 1920.

Freemans Journal. 20 April 1920

Irish Press. 24 February 1958.

Christine Cozzens. Alice M. Cashel: A Fenian at heart online at http://www.christinecozzens.com

(1) Bureau of Military History Statement. Alice M. Cashel (Witness 366) Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913- 1921/bmhsearch/

(2) Irish Press. 26 February 1958.

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