The Daly Family

Daly Family Profile[1]

The history of Cumann na mBan in Limerick is inextricably intertwined with the history of the Daly family. They dominated the organisation in Limerick. Madge Daly was the President of the provisional committee of Cumann na mBan in the city. She was the driving force of the branch. Laura Daly was also a member of the committee. Madge served as President for almost all of the period from initiation in 1914 until disbandment in 1924. The only exception was a spell in 1921 when the newly widowed Kate O’Callaghan was unanimously elected President for the year. As well as Madge and Laura, their sisters Kathleen, Agnes, Caroline and Nora were all heavily involved. The activities of the branch centred around the Daly women and their home.

In fact, the Daly family as a whole, men and women, are a prime exemplar of family involvement in the republican movement. Edward Daly and his wife Catherine (née O’Mara) lived at 26 Frederick Street (now O’Curry Street). They had ten children, nine daughters and one son. Catherine ran a successful dressmaking business but had less success in running a public house after the death of her husband in 1891. Their son Edward was born after his father died. Edward Senior had taken part in the Fenian Rising of 1867 along with his brother John. John, a leading Fenian, assumed the role of father figure to the family on his release from twelve years of imprisonment in 1896. In the meantime, another brother, James, had paid for Kathleen to complete a dressmaking apprenticeship. She ran her own business in Cecil Street, and later took larger rooms O’Connell Street. Edward Junior joined the Fianna, the IRB and the Volunteers as soon as he was of age. He was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising, as was his brother-in-law Tom Clarke, husband of Kathleen. Kathleen was later elcted to the Dáil and served as Mayor of Dublin. Nora Daly married Volunteer Éamonn Dore. Laura’s husband, Volunteer Séamus O’Sullivan, lived in the attic over John Daly’s home at 15 Barrington Street for a year after their marriage in May 1918. John opened a bakery at 26 William Street, which Madge took over after he was incapacitated. Madge had previously worked in the millinery department at Cannocks. Cumann na mBan often met in the Fianna Hall in Barrington Street or in the bakery.

Most of the Limerick members of Cumann na mBan came from families who were steeped in republican tradition and many were related to Volunteers, members of Sinn Féin or other members of Cumann na mBan. There was a social side to the organisation, and the circumstances of political unrest probably facilitated more open interaction between young men and women than would otherwise have been the case. Many Cumann na mBan members and Volunteers around the country married one another. Following the national pattern, many of the women were related to Volunteers and indeed met their husbands through their nationalist activities.

While the Volunteers were rendered almost completely impotent by the surrender of their weapons and the imposition of what was tantamount to martial law after the Rising, the police were aware of more or less immediate efforts on the part of the ‘Sinn Féin revolutionary movement’ in Limerick to sustain and build subversive momentum at underground meetings and through the Irish National Aid League and Irish Volunteers Dependents’ Fund. Cumann na mBan, led by the Daly sisters, administered the Volunteers Dependents’ Fund in Limerick from June 1916. Not only did Cumann na mBan fundraise, hold commemorations, work for prisoner welfare, contribute to the propaganda machine, and participate in the election and anti-conscription campaigns, but they provided a cover behind which rebels who escaped arrest could begin to rebuild the Volunteers. Madge Daly gave jobs in the family bakery business to two Dublinmen, Peadar Dunne and Peadar McMahon, on their release from Frongoch in December 1916. The police followed the activities of Madge Daly very closely because she provided her premises to the Volunteers for training exercises.

Madge often dictated to, rather than simply followed the lead of, her male colleagues. She had a direct and controlling influence, for instance, on one of the major developments in the republican campaign in Limerick, namely a split within the ranks of the City Volunteers from 1917 until 1921. She did all in her power to discredit the officers who had been in charge at Easter 1916 as incompetent and she was highly effective in this effort.

On 2 May 1918 Lord Dunraven, who advocated conscription, was struck off the Roll of Freemen of Limerick. De Valera, MacNeill and Kathleen Clarke, as representatives of the proscribed Sinn Féin, Gaelic League and Cumann na mBan organisations, were added to the roll in November.

In the summer of 1921, on the morning of the execution of Volunteer Thomas Keane, Laura Daly, carrying a banner she had borrowed from Fr Hennessy of the Augustinian Church, led Cumann na mBan in a procession to the walls of the New Barracks on Lord Edward Street (now Sarsfield Barracks). Several of them were badly beaten by members of the Crown forces.

During the Civil War, the very last group of anti-Treatyite republicans to leave the New Barracks on Lord Edward Street (now Sarsfield Barracks) were the women of Cumann na mBan led by Madge Daly. This was on 22 July 1922, when fire took hold and every building became a blazing inferno following shelling by pro-Treaty Free State forces.

[1] The information in this profile is taken from John O’Callaghan, Revolutionary Limerick: The Republican Campaign for Independence in Limerick, 1913-21 (Dublin, 2010); John O’Callaghan, The Battle for Kilmallock (Cork, 2011); Deirdre McCarthy, ‘Cumann na mBan – The Limerick Link’ (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Limerick, 1992).

 Daly family photos