It’s amazing how the threads of history reach out to bring together people and places from far and near. Approximately four years ago I wrote of Mark Wilson, a native of Athy, who as a member of the Dublin Brigade Irish Volunteers participated in the 1916 Rebellion. I had little background information on the man from Athy whose colleagues in the Volunteers regarded as a great source of encouragement when spirits were low following their surrender.
James Durney of the Local History Department of Kildare County Library, prompted by my article, undertook to research Wilson’s background and on 19th December 2012 published his findings in an article on the County Library’s history web page under the title ‘Mark Wilson, an Athy man in the Easter Rebellion.’ He discovered that Mark was born on 31st August 1891 to Robert Wilson of Russellstown and his wife Juliana, formerly Heffernan, of Leinster Street, Athy. The family subsequently moved to Dublin and the 1911 census records the Wilson family, now comprising both parents and five children as living in Fontenoy Street, Inns Quay. Mark, the eldest son, was that year employed as a tea mixer. Two years later he married Annie Stanley, the sister of Joe Stanley, who in 1916 arranged for the printing of the Proclamation read by Pádraig Pearse outside the GPO.
Mark Wilson joined the 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade and was part of a Four Courts garrison under the command of Commandant Ned Daly who was later executed for his part in the Rebellion. Wilson and his comrades were captured and in a statement made in 1953 for the Bureau of Military History, Patrick Colgan, formerly of Maynooth, made the following reference to the Athy man. ‘In the ranks in front of me was a volunteer in uniform. When people shouted out at us to keep our heads up he answered that they were never down. He was a source of great encouragement ..... that volunteer was Mark Wilson, a native of Athy.’
Following his release from prison in late 1916 Mark Wilson rejoined the Volunteers and was attached to the 1st Battalion C Company Dublin Brigade where Sean Flood was commander for a time. Sean Flood was the eldest of five Flood brothers who were members of the Dublin Active Service Unit during the War of Independence. Mark Wilson served with Sean Flood and his four brothers, one of whom was Tom Flood who was captured and imprisoned following the burning of the Custom House. In 1926 Tom Flood came to live in Athy following his purchase of the Railway Hotel in Leinster Street and in time he became a Fine Gael member of Athy Urban District Council.
Tom Flood’s younger brother Frank was executed in Mountjoy Jail on 14th March 1921. A friend of Kevin Barry, whose sister later married Athy man Bapty Maher, both Barry and Flood took part in the IRA attack on a British Army contingent at Church Street, Dublin. Kevin Barry was executed following his capture at Church Street, while his friend Frank Flood who escaped that day was subsequently captured following an unsuccessful attack on a DMP tender in Drumcondra. Both young men were executed and buried in Mountjoy Jail and following State funerals in October 2001 were re-buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Another IRA man executed and buried within the precincts of Mountjoy was Patrick Moran from Crossna, Roscommon who for a few years prior to 1916 worked as a barman here in Athy. His remains were also removed from Mountjoy Jail for reburial in Glasnevin Cemetery in October 2001.
Following the Treaty Mark Wilson joined Óglaigh na hÉireann and was based in the Curragh. He retired from the Army with the rank of captain in 1929 and died in Dublin in December 1971 aged 81 years. He was survived by three sons and one daughter, his eldest son Fergus having died following a tragic traffic accident in his father’s native county of Kildare in 1948. He was also survived by his wife Annie who was a sister of Joe Stanley, the printer and publisher of many republican publications and who was responsible for printing the War Bulletins issued by and on behalf of the 1916 rebels.
Athy’s links with the 1916 rebellion are centered on Mark Wilson who was born in Athy but lived his adult life in Dublin. They extend out to Tom Flood who was born in Dublin but chose to live in Athy. The links are further extended to Kevin Barry, Frank Flood and Patrick Moran, three volunteers who were executed in Mountjoy Jail.
We have much to commemorate here in Athy as the centenary of the Easter Rebellion approaches, as does its aftermath the War of Independence and the Civil War.