Liam Mellows

Liam Mellows

Liam Mellows (25 May 1895 – 8 December 1922), often spelled 'Liam Mellowes', was an Irish Nationalist and Sinn Féin politician.


Mellows was born in Manchester, England to William Mellows, a British Army officer, and Sarah Jordan, of Inch, Co Wexford, ["Irish Independent", 2 December 1952.] where he grew up. His family moved to Fairview, Dublin in February 1895 when Sergant Mellows was transferred there; however, Liam remained in Wexford with his grandfather Patrick Jordan due to ill health. He attended the military school in Wellington Barracks in Cork and the Portobello garrison school in Dublin, but ultimately refused a military career much to his father's disappointment, instead working as a clerk in several Dublin firms. A nationalist from an early age, Mellows approached Thomas Clarke, who recruited him to Fianna Éireann, an organisation of young republicans. Mellows was introduced to socialism when he met James Connolly at Countess Markiewicz's residence, recuperating after his hunger strike. Connolly was deeply impressed and told his daughter Nora 'I have found a real man'. He was active in the IRB and was a founder member of the Irish Volunteers, being brought onto its Organising Committe to strengthen the Fianna representation. He was arrested and jailed on several occasions under the Defence of the Realm Act. Eventually escaping from Reading Jail he returned to Ireland to command the "Western Division" (forces operating in the West of Ireland) of the IRA during the Easter Rising of 1916. He led roughly 700 Volunteers in abortive attacks on Royal Irish Constabulary stations at Oranmore, and Clarinbridge in county Galway and took over the town of Athenry. However, his men were very badly armed and supplied and they dispersed after a week, when British troops and a battleship were sent west to attack them.

After this insurrection failed, Mellows escaped to the USA, where he was arrested and detained without trial in the Tombs, New York on a charge of attempting to aid the German side in the First World War. After his release in 1918, he worked with John Devoy and helped to organise Éamon de Valera's fund raising visit to America in 1919–1920. He returned to Ireland to become Irish Republican Army "Director of Supplies" during the Irish War of Independence, responsible for buying arms. At the 1918 general election of December, he was elected to the First Dáil as a Sinn Féin candidate for both Galway East and for North Meath. (According to United Kingdom law, these were Westminster constituencies but Sinn Féin did not recognise them as such, but rather took them as de facto Dáil Éireann constituencies). He considered the Anglo-Irish Treaty to be a betrayal of the Irish Republic, saying, in the "Treaty Debates" of 1921–22:

He wrote a social programme based on the Dáil's Democratic Programme of 1919 aimed at winning popular support for the anti-Treaty cause.

Civil war

Mellows was one of the more strident TDs on the approach to the Irish Civil War. On 28 April 1922 he told the Dáil:

:"There would no question of civil war here now were it not for the undermining of the Republic. The Republic has been deserted by those who state they still intend to work for a Republic. The Volunteers can have very little faith at this moment in the Government that assembles here, because all they can see in it is a chameleon Government. One moment, when they look at it, it is the green, white and orange of the Republic, and at another moment, when they look at it, it is the red, white and blue of the British Empire. We in the Army, who have taken this step, have been termed “mutineers,” “irregulars,” and so forth. We are not mutineers, because we have remained loyal to our trust. We are not mutineers except against the British Government in this country. We may be “irregular” in the sense that funds are not forthcoming to maintain us, but we were always like that and it is no disgrace to be called “irregulars” in that sense. We are not wild people." [ [ Dáil Éireann - Volume 2 - 28 April, 1922 - DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE. ] at]

In June 1922, he and fellow republicans Rory O'Connor, Joe McKelvey and Richard Barrett, (among others) entered the Four Courts, which had been occupied by anti-Treaty forces since April. However, they were bombarded by pro-Treaty Free State forces and surrendered after two days. Mellows had a chance to escape along with Ernie O'Malley, but did not take it. (See also Battle of Dublin).

Imprisoned in Mountjoy Gaol, Mellows, O'Connor, McKelvey and Barrett were executed by firing squad on 8 December 1922, in reprisal for the shooting of TD Seán Hales. (see Executions during the Irish Civil War)


Mellows is commemorated by a statue in Eyre Square, Galway, in the official name of the Irish Defence Forces army barracks at Renmore, "Dún Úi Maoilíosa" and a bridge, Mellows Bridge, in Dublin. There is also a commemorative statue in Oranmore, about 10 km from Galway city.A hurling club was also established in honour of Mellowes which was also named after him,Liam Mellowes in Galway City Orginally Galway Heart of Hurling

Mellows is buried in Castletown cemetery, County Wexford, a few miles from Arklow. An annual commemoration ceremony is held at his grave site in December, in which a wreath is laid by a member of the Liam Mellows Commemoration committee. Liam Mellows is also commemorated by the local hurling club, which takes his name Liam Mellows.

Mellows has also been commemorated by Unidare RFC and at their annual Youth Development tournament in Ballymun, clubs from across Dublin city and county compete for the Liam Mellows Perpetual Cup. [ -]


Further reading

* Greaves, C. Desmond. 2004 [New edition] . "Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution". Belfast: Foilseacháin an Ghlór Gafa. ISBN 1-905007-01-9.
* [ Dáil Treaty Debates]
* [ Photo of Mellowes 1922]
* [ 'Fleshpots of Empire' speech (see above) 4 January 1922]

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