On Sunday the 14th September, a contingent from Belfast 1916 Societies travelled to Dublin to attend the Anne Devlin Commemoration – a now-annual event organised by Anne’s biographer, the historian Micheal O’Doibhilin. We met in St Catherine’s Church in Meath Street Dublin, a Church which housed the beautiful face of Kevin Barry among the many Saints who adorned the nave above us, his image sculptured from stone in the 1920s.
Anne Devlin’s anniversary was mentioned on the list of the parish dead several times throughout the Mass, and just before the final blessing Micheal was invited to the altar to speak of her memorable life and tragic death. His poignant tribute resonating with the gathered faithful, a huge round of applause marked the finish of a truly inspiring testimony that lifted the hearts of all present.
After mass our group made the short journey with Micheal to yet another St Catherine’s Church – this time on nearby Thomas Street – where the bold Robert Emmet gave his last salute to this world before being transported with excruciating cruelty to the next. A small plaque outside the Church bore testimony to the fact that Emmet had breathed his last in the vicinity. This plaque and Micheal’s descriptive historical account provided us with a glimpse of what greeted the young patriot as he climbed the scaffold to certain death, amidst thousands of onlooking spectators.
That death and the brutality with which it was executed would be witnessed the day after by Anne Devlin on her way to Kilmainham Gaol to Dublin Castle for interrogation. The coach carrying Anne was stopped and the curtain puled back to reveal the bloody block where Emmet was beheaded.
On finishing our brief historical tour we made our way to Glasnevin Cemetery and on arrival were met by friends of Micheal’s and several members of the local Sean Heuston Society. The touching commemoration at Anne’s graveside was both emotive and fitting. Micheal laid a wreath, members of the Anne Devlin Society laid flowers, and after a moving tribute Micheal thanked the woman whose life he believed inspired so many before ending in a tragic death.
A conversation in the restaurant at the end of the tour uncovered the fact two of those in our company looked after the grave of Michael Collins, leading to an impromptu tour of a sizable collection of republican graves. Our tour was good humoured and knowledgeable, spanning the many republican eras of our history.
The day ended with a sit down together in a Dublin pub, a great way to relax and reflect on the day just past. There we raised a glass to the woman whose inspirational life had brought us there – the remarkable and unforgettable Anne Devlin.