Liam Mellows, son of a British Army NCO was born in Manchester England and was reared in his grandfather’s in County Wexford. Even though he got military training in Wellington Barracks in Cork and in Portobello Barracks in Dublin he did not join the army and instead worked in various Dublin firms as a clerk.
He was recruited into Fianna Éireann by Thomas Clarke. Liam was a friend of James Connolly, was active in the IRB and was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers.
In 1915 he took command of the volunteers in County Galway. His headquarters was Athenry and he stayed in Sean Broderick’s house in Old Church Street where the Fields of Athenry Gift Show is now. Later he moved to Frank Hynes’ house in Cross St as it was easier to access this house through Leonard’s Lawn.
During his stay in Athenry he was very friendly with Julia Mary Morrissey who lived in Old church Street where the dentist shop is now! The Morrissey family came from Kilskeagh originally. She organised Cumann na mBan, in Athenry. We are told locally that “Liam left Julia Mary with a broken heart”!
He was arrested and jailed on several occasions under the “Defence of the Realm Act” and spent some time in jail in England.
On Friday, March 24 1916, Liam Mellows was arrested by the RIC in Athenry and was taken on the night train to Arbour Hill prison and later to England where he was under house arrest with relatives in Leek near Stoke upon Trent. Having been transported to Holyhead under a British military escort, Liam had been allowed to travel on alone to his relatives, the Morgan family, in Leek, his father’s birthplace in Staffordshire.
Nora Connolly, a daughter of James Connolly and Liam’s brother Barney travelled by boat to Scotland. They then went via Glasgow and Edinburgh down to Bermingham where they waited for news of where Liam was.
When they found out he was in Leek they met him there and Barney took his place and Liam, and Norah returned to Bermingham and from there to Glasgow and on to the boat in Greenock where Liam boarded the boat, disguised as a priest, travelling via the Connolly residence on the Falls Road, Belfast and was back in County Galway a week before the Easter Rising 1916. This time he stayed away from Athenry and made his headquarters in Killeeneen at the home of Mrs Walsh, the local school teacher.
He led roughly 700 Volunteers in abortive attacks on RIC Barracks at Clarinbridge and Oranmore and took over the Agricultural College near the town of Athenry.
After the insurrection failed, Mellows escaped to the United States! He was executed during the Irish Civil War which followed the War of Independence.
Witness Statements: Alfred White, Frank Hynes, Michael Kelly, Nora Malone (nee Walsh), Nora Connolly O’Brien
“Belleville Mount Browne and Kilskeagh” by Mairéad (Cooley) Madden – www.athenry.org
“A Link with both Traditions” by Finbarr O’Regan – www.athenry.org
Written by Finbarr O'Regan
Published here 04 Feb 2021