Thomas Patrick Ashe (Irish: Tomás Pádraig Ághas; 14 January 1885
– 25 September 1917) was a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish
Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and a founding member of the Irish
2 Prior to the rising
3 The Easter Rising
4 Death and legacy
5 See also
7.1 Primary Sources
7.2 Secondary Sources
8 External links
Thomas Ashe was born in the townland of Kinard East, Lispole, Dingle,
County Kerry, Ireland, to Gregory Ashe (d. 1927), a farmer, and his
wife Ellen Hanifin, on 14th January 1885, according to his baptismal
record and his sister Nora, or 15 March 1885, according to state
birth records. His was a family of ten, seven boys and three girls.
Thomas was the seventh child, with three brothers following him. His
mother died aged 58, some years before Thomas died. Both Irish and
English were spoken in their house, with Thomas's father being a
great Irish Scholar and learners of Irish used to come to listen to
Having entered De La Salle Training College, Waterford, in 1905 he
began his teaching career as principal of Corduff National School,
Lusk, County Dublin, in 1908. He taught Irish in Corduff school. He
was fond of the
Irish language and started branches of the Gaelic
League in Skerries and other neighbouring villages. According to his
sister Nora he would get the children to march over a Union Jack.
He spent his last years before his death teaching children in Lusk,
where he founded the award-winning Lusk Black Raven Pipe Band as well
as Round Towers Lusk
Gaelic Athletic Association
Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club in 1906.
Prior to the rising
Thomas Ashe Memorial in Cavan
Ashe joined the
Irish Volunteers upon its foundation in November 1913.
He was a member of the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League. He was a
member of the Lusk company of the volunteers and probably founded
it. He sat on the governing body of the
Gaelic League and collected
considerable sums of money during a trip to the USA in 1914 for both
the Volunteers and the League.
The Easter Rising
Commanding the Fingal battalion (5th battalion) of the Irish
Volunteers, Ashe took a major part in the 1916
Easter Rising outside
the capital city. Ashe was commandant of 5th battalion of the Dublin
brigade; a force of 60–70 men engaged British forces around north
Dublin during the rising. Ashe was sent a messenger Mollie
Adrian by Pearse with orders to hold the main road from Fairyhouse.
She was sent back to report to Connolly, who returned an order to send
40 men to the GPO. Ashe was only able to send 20 due to his
shortage of men.
He was to contact 1st battalion at Cross Guns Bridge, although he
found no one there because vice-commandant Piaras Beaslai knew nothing
of this plan. The area was dominated by the central feature of
Broadstone station, at the end of the line to Athlone, an important
British army barracks. But for some reason they decided not to occupy
and garrison the station; similarly the Citizens Army had been
confusingly required to withdraw from Mallin. The lack of co-operative
communication was later discussed in Piaras Beaslai's books, the
research for which included taking accounts from
Thomas Ashe whilst
they were incarcerated. The failure of inexperienced volunteers to
properly co-ordinate their deployments was a critical factor at
defeat. Ashe himself had only been appointed commandant shortly
before Easter. They were armed only with a few rounds, about a dozen
service rifles, a dozen Mausers, and a dozen Martini carbines; some
had only a shotgun against well-equipped army regulars.
The battalion won a major victory in
Ashbourne, County Meath
Ashbourne, County Meath 
where they engaged a much larger force capturing a significant
quantity of arms and up to 20
Royal Irish Constabulary
Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) vehicles.
Eleven RIC members, including County Inspector Alexander Gray, and two
volunteers were killed during the five-and-a-half-hour battle.
Twenty-four hours after the rising collapsed, Ashe's battalion
surrendered on the orders of Patrick Pearse.
When he received the order to surrender he had his doubts as he had
difficulty believing the rebels in
Dublin had not had success as he
did. He sent
Richard Mulcahy to
Dublin to verify its authenticity.
On 8 May 1916, Ashe and
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera were court-martialled and
both were sentenced to death. The sentences were commuted to penal
servitude for life. Ashe was imprisoned in Frongoch Internment camp
and Lewes Prison in England. While in prison he wrote the poem “Let
Me Carry Your Cross for Ireland, Lord”.
The gravestone of Thomas Ashe,
Peadar Kearney and
Piaras Béaslaí in
With the entry of the US into
World War I
World War I in April 1917, the British
government was put under more pressure to solve the 'Irish problem'.
De Valera, Ashe and Thomas Hunter led a prisoner hunger strike on 28
May 1917 to add to this pressure. With accounts of prison mistreatment
appearing in the Irish press and mounting protests in Ireland, Ashe
and the remaining prisoners were freed on 18 June 1917 by Lloyd George
as part of a general amnesty.
Death and legacy
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Thomas Ashe was released from jail in June 1917 under the general
amnesty which was given to republican prisoners. Upon release, Ashe
returned to Ireland and began a series of speaking engagements. In
August 1917, Ashe was arrested and charged with sedition for a speech
that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford, where Michael Collins had
also been speaking. He went on the run but was captured in
detained at the Curragh but was then transferred to
Mountjoy Prison in
He was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour. Ashe and
other prisoners, including other Kerrymen
Fionán Lynch and Austin
Stack, demanded prisoner of war status. As this protest evolved Ashe
again went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. As this was a breach
of prison discipline the authorities retaliated by taking away the
prisoners' beds, bedding and boots. After five or six days lying on a
cold stone floor the prisoners were subjected to forcible feeding. On
25 September, Fionan Lynch saw Ashe being carried away to receive this
treatment and called out to him: 'Stick it Tom boy'. Ashe called back
'I'll stick it, Fin'. That was the last time they spoke to each other.
Ashe was carried back, blue in the face and unconscious. He was
removed to the Mater Misericordiae Hospital (which faces the prison)
where he died within a few hours. "Tom Ashe's body lay in state in the
hospital morgue, dressed in his Volunteer Republican uniform, and
30,000 mourners filed by.
At the inquest into his death, the jury condemned the staff at the
prison for the "inhuman and dangerous operation performed on the
prisoner, and other acts of unfeeling and barbaric conduct".
The death of
Thomas Ashe and the subsequent funeral procession had a
striking effect on the attitude of the Irish people and became a
rallying call to the standard of the Irish Republic. Though not on
the scale of O'Donovan Rossa's funeral two years previous, the
military aspect of the funeral proved that the
Irish Volunteers were
well on their way to being restored to pre-1916 levels. Thomas Ashe's
remains lay in state in Dublin's City Hall before a funeral procession
of over 30,000 marched to Glasnevin Cemetery on 30 September 1917.
Michael Collins delivered the funeral eulogy in Irish and English,
following the firing of a volley by uniformed Irish Volunteers. The
English eulogy being " nothing additional remains to be said. That
volley which we have just heard is the only speech which is proper to
make above the grave of a dead Fenian".
He was related to American actor Gregory Peck.
List of people on stamps of Ireland
The First Hunger Striker:
Thomas Ashe 1917, Sean O Mahony. Publisher:
^ Alcobia-Murphy, Shane (2005). Governing the Tongue. Cambridge
Scholars Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 978-1-904303-60-2.
^ "Church records". IrishGenealogy.ie. Retrieved 12 January
^ "General Registrar's Office". IrishGenealogy.ie. Retrieved 12
^ a b c d "Witness Statement of Nora Aghas" (PDF).
^ a b "THOMAS ASHE". glasnevintrust.ie.
^ C Townshend, "Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion", (London 2006), pp.
^ Townshend, pp. 215-19.
^ "Ashbourne lit the blue touchpaper for future battles".
^ Irish Bureau of Military History WS 261 (Piaras Beaslai)
^ Townshend, p169.
^ 'The Battle of Ashbourne':
^ Coogan, Tim Pat. 1916: The Easter Rising. Cassel&co.
^ "Michael Collins", autobiography by Tim Pat Coogan.
^ O'Connor, Ulick (2001). Michael Collins and the Troubles. Mainstream
Publishing. p. 124. ISBN 1-84018-427-2.
^ THOMAS ASHE FUNERAL:
Boyle, J.F., The Irish Rebellion of 1916 (London 1916)
Dublin Burning. The
Easter Rising from Behind
the Barricades text (
Coakley, J, '
Patrick Pearse and the "Noble Lie" of Irish Nationalism',
Studies in Conflict and Violence, 62 (1983), p. 119-34.
Hobson, Bulmer, A Short History of the
Irish Volunteers (
O'Luing, Sean, I die in a good cause. A Study of Thomas Ashe, Idealist
and Revolutionary (Tralee 1970)
Lawless, joseph, 'The Fight at Ashbourne', Capuchin Annual (1966),
Mulcahy, Richard, 'The Development of the
Irish Volunteers 1916-22',
An Cosantóir, 40(2) (1980), p. 35-40; (3), p. 67-71; (4),
O'Malley, Ernie, On Another Man's Wound (London and
Boyce, D.G., Nationalism in Ireland (London 3rd ed. 1995)
Hayes-McCoy, G.A., 'A Military History of the 1916 Rising', in
K.B.Nowlan (ed.), The Making of 1916. Studies in the History of the
Martin, F.X., (ed.), Leaders and Men of the Easter Rising:
Townshend, C, 'The Irish Republican Army and the Development of
Guerilla Warfare 1916-21', English Historical Review 94 (1979),
Townshend, C, 'The Suppression of the Easter Rising', Bullan,
I(I)(1994), p. 27-47.
Thomas Ashe song by Martin Dardis
Thomas Ashe at Find a Grave
Thomas Patrick Ashe 1885-1917
2017 Newspaper article
President of the
Irish Republican Brotherhood
Signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic
(executed after the Rising)
Seán Mac Diarmada
Also executed for their role in the Rising
Other Irish figures
Éamon de Valera
Irish Republican Brotherhood
Physical force Irish republicanism
Irish in the American Civil War
Irish Race Conventions
Declaration of Independence
Irish Civil War
Irish Free State
Fenian Rising (
Clerkenwell explosion &
Fenian dynamite campaign
Irish War of Independence
James Stephens (1858–1866)
Thomas J. Kelly (1866–1869)
J. F. X. O'Brien (1869–1872)
Charles Kickham (1873–1882)
John O'Connor Power
John O'Connor Power (1882–1891)
John O'Leary (1891–1907)
Neal O'Boyle (1907–1910)
John Mulholland (1910–1912)
Seamus Deakin (1913–1914)
Denis McCullough (1915–1916)
Thomas Ashe (1916–1917)
Seán McGarry (1917–1919)
Harry Boland (1919–1920)
Patrick Moylett (1920)
Michael Collins (1920–1922)
Richard Mulcahy (1922–1924)
Thomas Miller Beach
Francis Frederick Millen
Red Jim McDermott
Patrick Sarsfield Cassidy (allegedly)
Clan na Gael
United Irishmen of America
Irish Republican Army
Cumann na mBan
Emmet Monument Association
Friends of Irish Freedom
Irish National Invincibles
Irish National Invincibles (Phoenix Park killings)
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