Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington’s Statement: Her Husband’s Last Hours

The following statement was published by Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington respecting the arrest and shooting of her husband.

I last saw my husband on Tuesday evening, April 25, between 5.15 and 5.30 at Westmoreland Chambers. He had called a meeting there to stop looting (see enclosed poster), and was waiting to see if any people would attend same. On that and the previous day he had been active personally, with help from bystanders, at the same work, and had succeeded in stopping some looting by personal efforts and appeals. All this, there is independent evidence to testify. On Monday afternoon outside Dublin Castle an officer was reported bleeding to death in the street, and, the crowd being afraid, owing to the firing, to go to his assistance, my husband himself went, at imminent danger to his life, to drag away the wounded man to a place of safety, to find, however, that by that time the body had been rescued by some soldiers, there being left merely a pool of blood. This incident can also be corroborated.

He stated to me that if none turned up to help on Tuesday at the meeting to prevent looting that he would come home as usual to his house at 11 Grosvenor place. He was afterwards seen by several friends (whose testimony I possess) going home about 6.30. In the neighbourhood of Portobello Bridge he was arrested, unarmed and unresisting. He never carried or possessed any arm of any description, being, as is well known, a pacifist and opposed to the use of physical force.

He was conducted in military custody to Portobello Barracks, wnere he was shot without trial on that night or early on the following morning. No priest was summoned to attend him, no notification was, or has since been, given to me (his wife) or to his family of his death, and no message written before his death has been allowed to reach me.

Repeated inquiries at the barracks and elsewhere have been met with refusal to answer, and when my sisters, Mrs. Kettle and Mrs. Culhane, called at Portobello Barracks on Thursday, April 27, to inquire they were put under temporary arrest.

HOUSE SURROUNDED.

On Friday night, April 28, a large military force surrounded my husband’s house at 11 Grosvenor place, fired without warning on the windows in front, which they burst through without waiting for the door to be opened. They put myself, my son, aged seven, to whom they shouted “Hands up!” and my maid (the sole occupants) under arrest, and remained in the house for over three hours. They found no ammunition of any kind, but burst locks, etc., and took away with them a large number of documents, newspapers, letters, and books, as well as various persona! property, such as linen, tablecloths, trunks, photograph of Mr. Keir Hardie and M. Davitt, a picture of the Kilmainham prisoners of 1882, a green flag, etc. Most of the books taken were German and Irish books (grammars, school texts, etc.) relating to my work as teacher of modern languages and to my husband’s journalistic work. One officer remarked that this was not a “very exciting search.”

On Monday, May 1, during my absence, the soldiers again entered the house and searched it, and took prisoner Margaret Farrelly (the only then occupant), a temporary maid whom I had engaged, my former maid having teen too terrified to stay. She was detained in custody until the following Saturday (May 6) in the Rathmines Police Station, and kept there in custody without the knowledge of her friends, without any charge being made against her. Finally, the authorities in Dublin Castle allowed her to be released, but without apology or compensation.

I demand the fullest inquiry into all the above circumstances, and desire, as my husband’s next-of-kin, to be legally represented at any inquiry that may take place.

(Signed) Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.
May 9. 1915.

PS.—Since the above was written my husband’s body was dug up from Portobello Barracks and transferred to Glasnevin Cemetery, again without my knowledge.

The following are details of his last hours that have reached me through various private sources:

He refused to be blindfolded, and met death with a smile on his lips, saying before he died that the authorities would find out after his death what a mistake they made. He put his hand to his eyes, and the bullet passed through his hand to his brain.

THE POSTER.

The poster referred to above and distributed in the city on Tuesday, April 25, when the police were cleared off the streets, is as follows:—

“When there are no regular police in the streets it becomes the duty of the citizens to police the streets themselves to prevent such spasmodic looting as has taken place.

“Civilians (both men and women) who are willing to co-operate to this end are asked to attend at Westmoreland Chambers (over Eden Bros.) at five o’clock on this (Tuesday) afternoon.

“Francis Sheehy Skeffington.”

Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook, 1917, Weekly Irish Times
(The report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry, Four Courts, Dublin, Wednesday, 23rd August, to Thursday, 31st August, 1916, into the circumstances connected with the shooting of Francis Sheehy Skeffington, Thomas Dickson, and Patrick J. Maclntyre, on 25th April, 1916, at Portobello Barracks, is reproduced in pages 206-224 of the Handbook.)