Saturday, 13 November 2021 12:21


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Born 1868  Died 1916 [executed]   

John MacBride was born at The Quay, Westport, Co. Mayo, to businessman Patrick MacBride and his wife, Honoria Gill. As was the custom in the mid 19th to 20th centuries, the vast majority of young boys attended the local Christian Brothers schools. After his primary education John MacBride was exiled to the famous St. Malachy’s College, Belfast, to continue his secondary education and leaving the North of Ireland, he found employment in the drapery trade in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon. The field of medicine also beckoned but the longevity in this business category was brief.


With All Ireland under English domination, Irish people with a scrape of nationalist fervor were likely to become active as a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. John MacBride joined the ranks and amongst his close associates he numbered people such as Michael Cusack of G.A.A. fame and Arthur Griffith.

At just 25 years old John, like Michael Collins, come to the attention of the invaders and was described as a “Dangerous Nationalist” simply because he sought the extinction of English Rule in his native land. Fearing capture and the loss of such a powerful member, the Irish Republican Brotherhood dispatched John to the United States in 1896 where he set up several Irish aid programmes, but with concern still for his freedom still in the air in Ireland, he exiled to South Africa from his native land.

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 JOHN MacBRIDE..Refused To Be Blindfolded

In the far off African colony John took part in the Second Boer War and within he raised the Irish Transvaal Brigade. Without a military apprenticeship, he realised he had little leadership abilities as a commander o govern the Irish Transvaal Brigade and so it was an Irish American, a Colonel John Blake, who took on the role of Commander of MacBride's Brigade.

Rising to new military heights, John MacBride was now commissioned with the rank of Major by the Boer Government and awarded Boer citizenship. The Brigade numbered around 500/600 Irish and Irish American soldiers and they were aggressive towards the British occupiers. In a series of various battles against the enemy, John Blake, fell victim to injury, had to retire from his commander role and MacBride was now the new commander and No.1 leader of his own Brigade.

Meantime the military experience resulting from John MacBrides Boer War conflicts, was instilling invaluable know how in war zone territories, but before returning to Ireland, John set out for Paris. This was now the home city of Irish Freedom Fighter, Maud Gonne, and MacBride and Gonne became a love story of great interest. Author, W.B. Yeats believed he was going to hold the hand of Maud at the altar rails but when MacBride stepped in, there was no room for three in the new relationship when John and Maud married in 1903.  

The following year their son Seán, also incorporated here as a Famous Son Of Ireland, was born, but the romance failed to sparkle resulting in a messy separation that denied their son the constant presence of a father figure in his life. Following the marriage seperation, John MacBride, crossed the Irish sea in 1905, with Dublin as his destination.

After returning permanently from Paris to Dublin MacBride played an important part with other Irish nationalists in preparing for an Insurrection, but because he was so well known to the British, the Irish conspirators thought it wise to keep him outside their secret military group planning a Rising. As a result he happened to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice.

He was in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning to meet his brother, Dr. Anthony MacBride, who was arriving from Westport to be married on the Wednesday. The Major walked up Grafton Street and came upon Thomas MacDonagh in full uniform. He offered his services to McDonagh and was appointed second-in-command at the Jacob’s factory.

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The end story resulted in a sequel of many fatal executions by English soldiers at Kilmainham Jail and amongst the Irish patriots was Wesport’s Famous Son Of Ireland, John MacBride. He was executed on 5th May 1916.

Facing the British firing squad, he refused to be blindfolded, saying…

"I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence."

Maud Gonne, mother of Seán MacBride, and former wife of Irish patriot, John MacBrideis one of Ireland’s most revered freedom fighters is commemorated all over Ireland.

W.B. Yeats was later scolded by Maud Gonne for an unfavourable poem considered in poor taste for an Irish patriot and she commented

“As for my husband he has entered eternity by the great door of that praying for him I can also ask for his prayers”


Tribute Composed by Derry JF Doody

Last modified on Saturday, 13 November 2021 17:11
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