Joseph Plunkett was the youngest signatory of the Proclamation, and the chief military strategist of the Rising. His grand-niece Honor O’Brolchain recently spoke to us about his life and death, and the extraordinary contribution of the Plunkett family to Irish history.
Although Joseph was born into a wealthy family, his childhood was difficult. His mother was distant and unreliable, and the Plunkett children moved from house to house and school to school. Joseph’s difficulties were increased by his poor health. He suffered from TB from a young age, and spent much of his time bedridden.
As a young man, Plunkett studied Irish. His teacher was Thomas MacDonagh, and the two became lifetime friends. MacDonagh was also executed for his role in the rising.
Honor spoke about the complexity of Irish history. Her talk was entitled “Finding the Rising” she said, because it’s such a difficult subject to understand fully. It’s particularly difficult to follow the story of the women involved, as they had to change their name on marriage. This is one of the reasons so many women ‘disappeared’ from Irish history.
Honor also spoke about writing Joseph’s biography. She was lucky, she explained, to have lived with her grandmother, Plunkett’s sister Geraldine, for over thirty years. “My grandmother talked [about history] all the time,” she said. “She wrote and published lots, but never a book.” Honor was able to call on her grandmother’s writings and archives to write the first full biography of Joseph.
Honor kindly brought along several artefacts belonging to her family, including the bullet-holed hat that Joe’s brother Jack had in the GPO, a brick from the original Liberty Hall (demolished in the 1960s), and several early family photographs.
Her speech was a fascinating insight into a remarkable man and a remarkable family. It ended on a positive note:
“The executions and Proclamation have become part of who we are,” Honor said. We’ve created a great country, become more accepting and more humane. And we need to continue to do so. Otherwise, we become ordinary, less extraordinary.”
Honor has generously agreed to share some of her private family photos with us. Click on the images below to see full-screen. (These images are reproduced with permission and must not be used or reproduced.)