Thomas Ashe
County Kerry

Thomas Ashe

Thomas Ashe, 1916 between guards at Kilmainham

In his autobiography of Michael Collins, Tim Pat Coogan describes the campaign of hunger strike by 40 republican prisoners in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, for political status. It began on 29th September 1917. The leader was a Kerryman, Austin Stack:

"As this was a breach of prison discipline the authorities retaliated by taking away the prisoners' beds, bedding and boots. After five or six days lying on a cold stone floor the prisoners were subjected to forcible feeding. On 25th September, Fionan Lynch saw Ashe being carried away to receive this treatment and called out to him: ' Stick it Tom boy'. Ashe called back 'I'll stick it, Fin'. That was the last time they spoke to each other. Ashe was carried back, blue in the face and unconscious. He was removed to the Mater Nisericordiae Hospital (which actually faces the prison) where he died within a few hours. "Tom Ashe's body lay in state in the hospital morgue, dressed in his Volunteer Republican uniform, and 30,000 mourners filed by. Michael Collins delivered the funeral eulogy in Irish and English, the English one being " nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian".

Taken during Clare bye-election, 1917 Tom Ashe was the leader at a battle at Ashbourne, near Dublin at the time of the 1916 Dublin Rebellion at Easter. The Asbourne ambush was the only republican military success. A lawyer friend rescued the original inquest statements and reports from official destruction about six years ago. About 1913 Tom Ashe applied (unsuccessfully) for a position as a teacher in my old junior school in a small town - Edenderry in County Offaly, near the middle of Ireland. After his death, thousands of copies of "The last poem of Thomas Ashe", which he wrote in Lewes Jail, England, were circulated.' Let me carry your cross for Ireland, Lord'...contained a prophecy that did not come true...

"And few are the tears will fall for me....When I go on my way to you."

Let me Carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord

by Thomas Ashe

Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord
The hour of her trial draws near,
And the pangs and the pains of the sacrifice
May be borne by comrades dear.

But, Lord, take me from the offering throng,
There are many far less prepared,
Through anxious and all as they are to die
That Ireland may be spared.

Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord
My cares in this world are few.
And few are the tears will for me fall
When I go on my way to You.

Spare. Oh! Spare to their loved ones dear
The brother and son and sire.
That the cause we love may never die
In the land of our Heart's desire!

Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord!
Let me suffer the pain and shame
I bow my head to their rage and hate,
And I take on myself the blame.
Let them do with my body whate'er they will,
My spirit I offer to You.
That the faithful few who heard her call
May be spared to Roisin Dubh.

Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord!
For Ireland weak with tears,
For the aged man of the clouded brow,
And the child of tender years;
For the empty homes of her golden plains;
For the hopes of her future, Too!
Let me carry your Cross for Ireland, Lord!
for the cause of Roisin Dubh.

Thanks to Declan O'Connor for sharing this excerpt with us and to William Ashe for the photo, and to Kate Healy Coburn for the poem.


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