Harry Boland Badge


Harry Boland (1887-1922)

Harry was born on April 27, 1887 in Dublin. He was the second son born to Jim and Catherine Boland. His older sister Nellie was born in America in 1884 and his older brother, Gerry was born in 1885 while the family lived in Manchester. A younger sister Kathleen was born in 1890 and Edmund the youngest was born in 1893.

Jim Boland was very active in Dublin GAA circles and he was also politically active. After the death of Parnell, Jim opposed Tim Healey for control of the Irish Party. In a dispute over control of the United Ireland newspaper office, Jim received a blow to the head. While thought to be a minor injury, it later developed into a cyst that exerted pressure on his brain. As time went on he experienced severe headaches and loss of memory. After an unsuccessful brain surgery, Jim's health deteriorated rapidly. Catherine fetched a priest from nearby Phibsborough church to give her husband last rites. The priest refused to administer the last sacrament because Jim was an adamant Fenian. *"Catherine sent for Fr. Headley, a sympathetic Dominican priest who gave Jim the last anointing….Harry was eight years old when he lost a father he loved and admired very much."

Harry was educated at the Synge St. Christian Brothers' School but after a personality clash with one of the brothers, Harry refused to return to school. Nellie was sick with TB and Harry went to live with Tom Tynan and his wife and for 3 years he attended de la Salle College, Co. Laois as a novitiate. He excelled at sports in the college, hurling was his dominant game. The atmosphere of the Peafield House was very nationalistic and Harry did the same work as the three Tynan brothers, with Thomas Jr. being the same age as Harry, so they spent a good deal of time together. Harry's older sister, Nellie died from the effects of TB

Both Harry and his brother Gerry joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood on the same day in 1904. He was a prominent member of the Gaelic League and a celebrated Dublin hurling player. *In 1907, he became a member of the Dublin County Board GAA at the unusual early age of 20. When Harry went to London in 1909 on GAA business he met Michael Collins for the first time. Collins was involved in the GAA in London and was treasurer of the Geraldines club. Boland suggested to Collins that he join the IRB and Harry then brought him to Sam Maguire who initiated Collins into the organization.

He joined Irish Volunteers along with brothers Gerry and Ned at the inaugural meeting at the Rotunda. Harry, Ned and Gerry all participated in the Easter Rising of 1916. He was imprisoned for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916. After being identified by a prisoner he had taken and then released during the evacuation of the GPO, he was separated from the main body of Irish prisoners and told that he was to be court-martialled. *Harry was sentenced to ten years penal servitude (with five years remission). After a brief stop at Mountjoy, Harry along with others was shipped to Dartmoor prison in England and then ultimately transferred to Lewes Gaol outside London. During this time the idea arose of putting some of the imprisoned men as candidates in the upcoming by-elections. Opinions differed on whether or not to do this, with Collins, Boland and Ashe in favor of it and De Valera and others opposed to it. However, Joe McGuinness a fellow prisoner was elected in the Longford by-election and he was hoisted on the shoulders of his mates and paraded around the gaol. Harry participated in activities to gain prisoner of war status for those imprisoned for the role in the Rising. As a result, Harry was identified as one of the ringleaders and was transferred to Maidstone Prison and treated as a convict along with De Valera and several others. Harry got to know De Valera well in prison and he admired him greatly. *Boland and De Valera had also learned that passive resistance, properly operated, could achieve political aims.

Through the help of funds raised by a hurling match, Harry opened a tailor shop at 64 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin. This shop would later be used as a drop point for notes in Collins' intelligence network. In the elections of 1918, Harry won South Roscommon taking 72% of the votes cast.

On January 21, 1919 while the first Dáil Éireann was assembling - Harry Boland and Michael Collins were on a boat to England to perform a special undercover job - namely, breaking deValera from jail - others answered the roll call for them and they were officially marked present.

After being freed from jail, deValera decided to go to America to bring Irish-American pressure on President Wilson to push for Ireland's claim at the upcoming Peace Conference. Collins was against this idea, thinking Dev's place was in Ireland, this was the start of the conflict between deValera and Collins.

Harry took the place of Séan McGarry on the Supreme Council of the IRB and shortly after he became president. The IRB did not disband after the formation of the Dáil Éireann, although Cathal Brugha, the Minister of Defence, thought that its existence was no longer needed. Collins and Boland believed the IRB had important work still to do.

On April 30, 1919 Éamon de Valera appointed Harry as a special envoy from the elected government of the Irish Republic to the government and people of the United States.

He was later named Honorable Secretary of Sinn Féin, working closely with Michael Collins, 1917; Roscommon TD, 1918; ambassador to US, 1919, organising de Valera’s fund-raising trip; supported him in rift with Devoy; opposed Treaty; re-elected for Roscommon, June 1922; assassinated in Skerries Grand Hotel during Civil War, May 1922; there is a painting of the ‘Funeral of Harry Boland’ by Jack B. Yeats in the Sligo Public Library Collection.

Jim Maher, Harry Boland (Cork: Mercier Press 1999), 284pp.; David Fitzpatrick, Harry Boland’s Irish Revolution, 1887-1922 (Cork UP 2003), 420pp.

Source: http://www.pgil-eirdata.org/html/pgil_datasets/authors/b/Boland,Harry/life.htm and *Jim Maher, Harry Boland

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