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Home - Spying - The 1916 Easter Uprising - John MacBride


John MacBride was born on 8 May 1865 in Co. Mayo, into the family of a middle-class merchants.

In a memorandum sent by General Sir John Maxwell to the then British Prime Minister, Herbet Asquith, the following description was provided for John MacBride:

This man fought on the side of the Boers in the South African was of 1899 and held the rank of Major in that Army, being in command of a body known as the Irish Brigade. He was always one of the most active advocates of the anti-enlistment propaganda and the Irish Volunteer movement. He was appointed to the rank of Commandant in the rebel army, and papers were found in his possession showing that he was in close touch with the other rebel leaders and was issuing and receiving despatches from rebels in various parts of the city. He voluntarily stated at his trial that he had been appointed second-in-command of portion of the rebel forces and considered it his duty to accept that position. He was accompanied by over 100 men at the time of his surrender. He had great influence over the younger men in the associations with which he was connected.

John MacBride was tried by Field General Courts Martial on 4 May 1916. The proceedings are contained in the PRO document WO 71/350.

Court Martial Proceedings

The members of the courts martial were Brigadier-General C.G. Blackader (President), Lieutenant-Colonel G. German and Lieutenant-Colonel W.J. Kent.

To the charge of " ... did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intension and for the purpose of assisting the enemy."

The 1st witness was Major J.A. Armstrong who stated

I was present at St. Patrick's Park on 30 April. The British troops were fired upon and there were several casualties. The fire came from the neighbourhood of Jacob's Factory. I was present when the prisoners from Jacob's Factory surrendered at 5pm. I recognise the accused as one of them. He gave his rank as an officer. I had a list of the unarmed men made before the party was disarmed and the accused does not appear on that list. I was present when a Summary of Evidence was taken and I gave the same evidence as I have given now to the best of my belief. The accused didn't cross-examine me but he was in uniform.

When cross-examined by MacBride, Armstrong confirmed that the accused was a member of the party that surrendered but that Armstrong did not produce a list with MacBride's name on it.

The 2nd witness was 2nd Lieutenant S.H. Jackson (3rd Royal Irish Regiment) who stated

I recognise the accused as John MacBride. He gave his name as Major John MacBride. I was in charge of the searching party in the gymnasium. The accused handed his note book to me there, the date being 1 May 1916.

John MacBride declined to cross-examine this witness.

The only witness called by MacBride in his defence was Mrs. Allan (8 Spencer Villas, Glenaquary) who stated

I have known the accused for 25 years. I remember you leaving my house last Easter Monday morning dressed in civilian clothes. I remember receiving a letter from the accused's brother Dr. MacBride saying that he was coming up from Castle Bar and asking the accused to meet him at the Wicklow Hotel Dublin. I remember the accused saying that he was going to lunch with his brother and would be back about 5pm. I remember that Dr. MacBride was to be married the following Wednesday and that the accused was to be best man. I have never seen him in uniform nor has he got such a thing so far as I know.

John MacBride then made the following statement:

On the morning of Easter Monday I left my home at Glengeary with the intention of going to meet my brother who was coming to Dublin to get married. In waiting round town I went up as far as St Stephen's Green and there I saw a band of Irish Volunteers. I knew some of the members personally and the Commandant told me that an Irish Republic was virtually proclaimed. As he knew my rather advanced opinions and although I had no previous connection with the Irish Volunteers I considered it my duty to join them. I knew there was no chance of success, and I never advised or influenced any other person to join. I did not even even know the positions they were about to take up. I marched with them to Jacob's Factory. After being a few hours there I was appointed second-in-command and I felt it my duty to occupy that position. I could have escaped from Jacob's Factory before the surrender had I so desired but I considered it a dishonourable thing to do. I do not say this with the idea of mitigating any penalty they may impose but in order to make clear my position in the matter.

Court Martial Verdict

John MacBride was found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. This sentence was confirmed by General Maxwell. At 3.47am on 5 May 1916, John MacBride was shot in the former stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham Prison. His remains were later buried in Arbour Lane Cemetery.

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