The Ashbourne 1916 Memorial pictured here commemorates the battle of Ashbourne, one of the most significant events to take place outside Dublin. The Memorial is a fusion of Irish nationalism and religion, resonant of the Easter Rising itself.
On the Friday of Easter Week, 28 April, men from the 5th (Fingal) battalion of the Irish Volunteers, whose commandant was Thomas Ashe, conducted a raid on the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks just north of Ashbourne. However, the RIC resisted and reinforcements attempted to get through. A gun fight lasting around five hours ensued, before the RIC surrendered. The fatalities included two Volunteers and eight to ten RIC men.
Ashe’s poem ‘Let me carry your cross for Ireland Lord’, composed during his imprisonment at Lewes Gaol, inspired the Memorial’s design. ‘The Threshold of Freedom’ is represented by a post and lintel arch, topped by the mask of Roisin Dubh. Christ and Ashe are depicted in the dual image of a man carrying his cross. The names of John Crenigan and Thomas Rafferty, the two Volunteer fatalities, are carved on the side panels.
The Memorial, commissioned by the committee of the Fingal Old Irish Republican Army Brigade, was officially unveiled by President Sean T. O’Kelly on Sunday 26 April 1959. In his speech, Mr O’Kelly paid tribute to Peter Grant the sculptor, Con O’Reilly the architect, and Collen Brothers, the contractors responsible for its assembly.
These photographs are part of the Collen Archive, housed in M&ARL, which contains the historic records of an Irish construction and engineering business. Although projects involving sculptures were not typical of Collen’s work, the company’s involvement in this project was undoubtedly testament to its reputation for efficiency, and willingness to take advantage of new opportunities.
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library