A little bit about cycling during the Easter Rising
Ever wondered about the cyclists of the Easter Rising?
This Sunday we will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland and recently there have been many TV programmes, exhibitions and talks on the subject. We want to share some stories of those who participated by cycling and transferring messages during the rebellion.
In 1912, Ireland and Scotland were permitted by the British Olympic Assocation (BAO) to represent themselves at the Olympics. The Irish team used Lucania bicycles which were made by John O’Neill at the Lucania works on Pleasants Street in Dublin. Apparently the building still exists today. The team managed to complete the competition despite not having any spare bikes or spare wheels which is a testament to the Lucania bikes!
The Irish brothers, Michael and John Walker, were both selected for the cycling team and a year later, they used their cycling agility to aid The Irish Volunteers whose aim was “to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland”. Michael Walker attended the launch of the Irish Volunteers and in Easter 1916, the two brothers mobilised, among other cyclists, to relieve pressure on De Valera. Read more here: (http://www.thebikecomesfirst.com/the-irish-olympic-cyclist-who-fought-in-the-easter-rising/).
We are learning more and more about the part women played women played in the Easter Rising too; and yes they cycled! The women’s organisation, Cumann na mBan was battling alongside The Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army. Already at this time Cumann na mBan promoted gender equality with the Irish women suffragettes notably getting the right to vote in 1918, which was much earlier than other Nations. The files released from the Army show how women had a key role in the rising, and carried messages between prisoners Michael Collins and Austin Stack, among others.
One of them, Margaret Skinnider, was an Irish teacher in Glasgow when the Easter Rising took place. She joined the Irish side, after hearing about the women’s struggle through the suffragettes. She reached Ireland…by bike.
In her book “My bit for Ireland”, she wrote:
“As I rode along on my bicycle, I had my first taste of the risks of street-fighting. Soldiers on top of the Hotel Shelbourne aimed their machine-gun directly at me. Bullets struck the wooden rim of my bicycle wheels, puncturing it; others rattled on the metal rim or among the spokes. I knew one might strike me at any moment, so I rode as fast as I could. My speed saved my life, and I was soon out of range around a corner”.
Thankfully we can now cycle our bikes around Stephen’s Green un-threatened and in peaceful co – existence with other road users (most of the time)!