Terence MacSwiney

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Terence MacSwiney


Terence MacSwiney


Terence Mac Swiney.

(Born 28.3.1879 – Died 25.10.1920).
“... it is not they who can inflict most but they who can suffer most will prevail...”. Words spoken by Terence MacSwiney on his election as Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920.
1835 Terence Mac Swiney’s father John “born in a farmhouse near Crookstown, Co. Cork in the year 1835” - an area where Mac Swiney’s have lived since before the sixteenth century.
1879 Terence, the fourth of eight children, is born in Cork to John Mac Swiney and Mary Wilkinson.
1895 Aged 16 Terence had to leave the Christian Brothers School at North Monastery to help support the family following the death of his father John in Australia. Terence worked for the next 17 years at Dwyer and Company on Washington Street where he trained as an accountant.
1899 Terence enrolled at Royal College where he studied for a degree in Philosophy – continuing to work by day and study by night.
1901 Helped found the Celtic Literary Society-along with Tomas Mac Curtain, Daniel Corkery, Sean O’Hegarty and Liam de Roiste.
1902 Wrote a letter on behalf of the Cork Literary Society protesting at the Royal Visit of King Edward to the Cork Exhibition of 1902.
1903. Elected Chairman of Cork Literary Society.
1904 His mother dies –by all accounts a heroic woman to whom Terence was deeply attached. She is said to have fostered in her children a love for literature and learning. She faced life’s difficulties with a simple conviction that “God knows best”.
1905 The Fenian O’Donovan Rossa visited Cork from the United States. Terence’s sister Annie at the time recounts “Behind the carriage came a small group of those who had gone to welcome him home, and amongst them was Terry. His face was uplifted and shining. I had been thinking what a wretched crowd it was, how cold and indifferent the streets, until this glance at Terry startled me, and the street, the people, the moving tram on which I sat, all faded. I carried that look with me and wondered what he saw”.
Terence Mac Swiney believed in preparing himself for his future role. He believed that Ireland’s “separation - complete independence from Great Britain- was the only way of safety for a small nation- it must not be drawn into the wars and quarrels of its great neighbours”.
1906 His sister Mary (the eldest in the family and eight years older) returns to Cork to from Farnborough where she had been teaching.
1907 Terence graduates from the Royal University (now University College Cork) and published his first book The Music of Freedom.
1908 Along with Daniel Corkery he was a founding member of the Cork Dramatic Society – primarily made up of members of the Gaelic League. Terence continued to work on his four Act play The Revolutionist
1911 Appointed a Commercial Teacher by Cork County Council with responsibility for organising classes in towns throughout County Cork.
1913. Along with Tomas Mac Curtain and Sean O’Hegarty, Terence Mac Swiney founded the Cork branch of the Irish Volunteers. “He threw himself into the work of the movement with a controlled, yet burning passion that overcame all difficulties and everywhere drew men round him”. Dermot Mc Curtain was Commanding Officer of the Cork Brigade with Terence Mac Swiney second in command.
1914 Terence founded a newspaper in Cork named Fianna Fail –used as an outlet for his political writings. To raise much needed funds he sold his much loved books, against his sisters wishes, for £20 saying “a bed to lie on and enough food to keep life in us, to enable us to work is all any of us should think of having now”- the newspaper was suppressed after 11 issues.
1915 August 1915. Terence Mac Swiney appointed full-time organiser of the Volunteers for County Cork. Mainly cycling, throughout Co. Cork helping form branches of the Irish Volunteers. T.J. Murphy of Lissarda, Crookstown, Co Cork writes “the example of the hard life of Terence Mac Swiney... carried us on ... (He came) amongst us in frost and snow, drilling us, getting us ready for the day... devoting hours in a bleak country-side on many a winter’s evening, and rushing off on a push-bike, perhaps at 10.00 o’clock, to meet another Company”.
Attended Irish language Summer course in Ballingeary to improve his Irish and visit an area he loved.
1916 Easter Week. The ship the “Aud” fails to land German guns and ammunition in Co. Kerry - to be used in the Rising. Roger Casement is arrested – the Aud scuttled with its munitions when under escort in Cork harbour. No armed rising takes place in Cork following countermand of orders issued by Gen. Eoin Mac Neill Volunteer HQ Dublin. Mac Swiney later quoted bitterly “Order, counter-order, disorder” – a lesson perhaps learned for the future.
On Easter Sunday 1916, hundreds of Cork City and other Irish Volunteers marched past the museum building in Kilmurry that was once home to ancestors of their vice-commandant and later Cork’s Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney.
Terence Mac Swiney arrested and imprisoned at Frongach, North Wales and later moved to Reading jail in England and later released.
1917 In February he is re-arrested and interred at Bromyard in England where Terence MacSwiney marries Muriel Murphy - of the Murphy brewing family in Cork -whom he had known since 1915. At their wedding Terence Mac Swiney wore an officer uniform of the Irish Volunteers which one of the bridesmaids, Geraldine Neeson, had helped smuggle over from Cork.
1918 In June their only child, a daughter, Maire Og, is born in Cork. (In 1945 Maire Og married Ruairi Brugha , son of Cathal Brugha a 1916 volunteer and first Ceann Comhairle ( Chairman) of Dail Eareann).
Terence Mac Swiney, as a Volunteer leader, was by now under close surveillance by both police and military and was arrested a number of times. He rarely spent the night at his own home but at carefully selected houses all over Cork
In Ireland there was a complete swing in the mood of the people towards the idea of a Republic.
Terence Mac Swiney is elected to Dail Eireann ( Irish Parliament) –as a Sinn Fein candidate for Mid –Cork constituency.
1919 The first Dail Eireann was held in the Mansion House Dublin in January- when it adopted a Constitution and approved the declaration of independence as signed by the 1916 leaders –setting up a separate Irish Parliament, Government and Republic. Terence Mac Swiney strongly advocates that Gaelic Irish should be the spoken language of the Irish people and he endeavoured to have motions conducted through Irish.
1920 March 19th. Tomas Mac Curtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, is shot at his home. The coroner’s verdict is the Lord Mayor “was wilfully murdered, under circumstances of most callous brutality; that the murder was organised and carried out by the Royal Irish Constabulary -officially directed by the British Government”
Terence Mac Swiney was appointed Lord Mayor of Cork- unopposed. “.... I am more of a soldier stepping into the breach than as an administrator to fill the post in the Municipality.....by showing ourselves un-terrified -cool and inflexible for the fulfilment of our chief purpose – the establishment of the independence and integrity of our country, the peace and happiness of the Irish Republic”.
He enjoyed music in all its forms and at this time took an active part in the reorganisation of the Cork Municipal School of Music.
March 1920 saw the arrival in Ireland of the “Black and Tans” and Auxilaries – with increasing use of force by the British military – resignations from the R.I.C. became frequent.
August 12th. Terence Mac Swiney, Lord Mayor, arrested at Cork City Hall –charged with being in possession of seditious documents. On arrest he commenced his fast saying “ I shall be free alive or dead within a month”. He is sentenced to 2 years in Brixton prison, England arriving there on August 18th.
His fast would gain world-wide attention and bring focus on Ireland and its quest for Independence.

30th September . He wrote to Cathal Brugha “... ah Cathal , the pain of Easter Week is probably dead at last.... God bless you again and again and God give you and yours long years of happiness under the victorious Republic”.
As his health deteriorated usually present were his wife Muriel, his sisters Annie and Mary, his brother Sean his Chaplain Fr. Dominic O.F.M Capuchin –to share bedside vigils. Dr Coholan, Bishop of Cork also visited as well as Bishop Mannix of Melbourne among others.
25th October Terence Mac Swiney dies, age 41, following his 74 day fast.
His body is removed to Southwark Cathedral where over thirty thousand people visit to pay their respects.
His body is returned by mail-boat direct to Cork under military escort to avoid possible demonstrations in Dublin. Following Mass at the North Cathedral and funeral attended by huge crowds in Cork City Terence MacSwiney is buried in the Republican plot at St. Finbarr’s Cemetery, Cork - alongside his comrade Tomas Mac Curtain

Note, Sean O’Hegarty referred to (at 1901 and 1913) is buried in the old graveyard in Kilmurry.
Daniel Corkerry writing to Mary Mac Swiney a few days after Terence MacSwiney’s death “ ...I know how much he loved Mid-cork, every hill of it, and its fine people, and know quite well that certain of its features would recur to his memory with terrible intensity”.
Bishop Coholan in a letter to the Cork Examiner Newspaper wrote “ Periodically, the memory of the martyr’s death will remind a young generation of the fundamental question of the freedom of Ireland”.
Petit Journal , Paris said “The death of the Lord Mayor of Cork has interested the whole of humanity in the cause of Irish Independence.
Prof. Liam O’Brien then in Paris says “that Europe was ringing with MacSwiney’s name”.
Corriere d’Italia “ his wish has been to sacrifice his life for (his country) in testimony to his faith – and the same sacrifice may well be the equivalent for England as a crushing defeat”.

Terence Mac Swiney writings.
• The Music of Freedom by 'Cuireadóir'. (Poems, The Risen Gaedheal Press, Cork 1907)
• Fianna Fáil : the Irish army : a journal for militant Ireland weekly publication edited and mainly written by MacSwiney; Cork, 11 issues, (September to December 1914)
• The Revolutionist; a play in five acts (Dublin, London: Maunsel and Company, 1914). Internet Archive.
• The Ethics of Revolt: a discussion from a Catholic point of view as to when it becomes lawful to rise in revolt against the Civil Power by Toirdhealbhach Mac Suibhne (pamphlet, 1918)
• Battle-cries (Poems, 1918)
• Principles of Freedom (Dublin: The Talbot Press, 1921)
• Despite Fools' Laughter; poems by Terence MacSwiney. Edited by B. G. MacCarthy (Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son, 1944)
• "It is not those who can inflict the most, but those that can suffer the most who will prevail”
• "I am confident that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release." (On his hunger strike)
• "I want you to bear witness that I die as a Soldier of the Irish Republic." His last words to a visiting priest.

Mac Swiney clan background.
In Ireland the Mac Sweeney or Clann Suibhne were primarily engaged as professional captains or Galloglass or Galloglaigh from (1200-1600). Galloglass (g. Galloglaigh), are defined as a class of elite mercenary warriors, principally members of the Norse – Gaelic Clans of Scotland, between the mid thirteenth and late sixteenth centuries. In Donegal the MacSwineys divided into three Branches, MacSuibhne Fanad, Mac Suibhne na dTuath and Mac Suibhne Banaghin. Their services as Galloglass were much in demand from both Irish Chieftains and indeed Anglo Norman families. In a document compiled in 1602 by Sir George Carew, Lord President of Munster, it records that an Edmund MacSwiney was ‘drawn out of Ulster’ by Cormac MacCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, who died in 1494. This was the likely commencement of a migratory move South by the Mac Swineys whose role it was to train men in the skills of warfare and lead them in battle. They were also in demand as custodians of castles and in return for their services received rents, cattle and in time also acquired lands. This association with the MacCarthys in Muskerry lasted into the seventeenth century. In 1570 it is recorded the MacSwineys are fighting on the side of James Fitzmaurice (Fitzgerald) when the then Viceroy, the Earl of Sydney, reports that he is moving against the MacSwiney Galloglasses ‘who supply the chief forces of the traitor’. The MacSwineys are linked with a MacCarthy castle at Castlemore, near Farnanes, and held castles held in their own right at Clodagh (Cloghda) near Crookstown and Mashanaglass near Macroom. The ‘castles’ at Clodagh and Mashanaglass were built in the period (1400a.d. to 1600a.d) and could more accurately be described as ‘tower houses’. Both castles, especially Mashanaglass, are in advanced stages of disrepair and decay. In 1598 a Brian MacSwiney and his wife Honora Fitzgerald are recorded as occupiers and owners of Clodah castle (towerhouse) where a stone upper-floor mantelpiece has the inscription ‘Anno Dni. 1598 B.M.S.O.G. Decimo Die Julii’ . In 1610 this Brian is applying for a re-grant of the Castle but it was awarded to an Edward Southworthe. In 1834 (Tithe Applotment Book) the castle is held by the Earl of Bandon and probably used as a hunting lodge.
When Cromwell invaded Ireland his armies over-ran Muskerry and the lands and possessions of the MacSwineys were seized and given to Cromwell’s followers. Many of the MacSwineys lived on in Muskerry and from one of these, and descendent of the last owner of Clodagh Castle came John MacSwiney, Terence’s father “ He was born in a small farm-house near Crookstown, in the year 1835-just before the famine. While still a young man he shook of his restricted surroundings and made his way to Rome, in order to serve in the Papal Guard during the war against Garibaldi. He arrived in Rome too late the fighting was already over. On his way home, in 1870 he obtained work in London, as a school teacher. A year later he married another school-teacher, Miss Mary Wilkinson. Her father was English, or partly so, her mother’s family had emigrated from the South of Ireland two or three generations earlier. The first three Mac Swiney Children, Mary, Catherine and Peter were born in London, later on the family moved back to Cork where Terence, Margaret, Annie and Sean were born. Following the failure of a business venture with his brother in law John Mac Swiney went to Australia in search of work where he had relations and where he died in 1895. This placed a heavy burden on Mrs Mary Mac Swiney to rear her family and Terence left secondary school at age sixteen to work in the office of Dwyer and Company on WashingtonStreet. (Return to Dates sheet).

T.McSwiney ( KHAA 12/2015).



Indpendence Museum Kilmurry


1879 - 1920


Kilmurry Historical & Archaeological Association