Michael Collins (1890-1921)

Michael Collins was born at Woodfield, Clonakilty, West Cork on October 16th 1890. He was named after his father Michael who was 60 years old when he married a local girl 23 year old Mary Anne O'Brien. They had five other sons and two daughters.

Michael's father was a major influence on young Michael. He had been a Fenian and was a classical scholar with a good knowledge of French, Greek and Latin. He was also a very widely read man with a good feel for mathematics. Such an unusual background, for a countryman at that time, was attributed to a maternal cousin, Diarmuid O'Suilleabhain, a hedge schoolmaster.

Michael first started school at Lissavaird National school and at an early age showed that he had inherited his fathers zest for knowledge. At night he would listen to all who gathered at Woodfield, to stories of the Fenians and the Land League. This was the key to all that Michael Collins was to become, no other single influence was to lie closer to his heart.

He later attended Clonakilty National school and there he was prepared for a career in the Post Office in London where his sister Annie already worked. He was only 15 years old when he went to London where he lived for nine years and totally immersed himself in Irish activities as well as broadening his reading interests.

Collins was enrolled as a member of the IRB in 1909 and enrolled in the Irish Volunteers in 1914 and so, returned to Ireland in 1916 in a peaked cap and a grey suit to play his part in the Revolution. It was to lead him to the GPO on Easter Monday and to internment, release and the leadership of a war which was to cripple British power in Ireland. It also led him to the negotiation table at 10 Downing Street, London and a Treaty which was followed by the tragic strife in which brother faced brother. When his home in Clonakilty was burned by the British he was heard to say, "they knew how to hurt me most", as despite all he never forgot his home in West Cork and returned whenever he could. Christmas 1921 was spent at Woodfield and eight months later he returned as Commander in Chief of the Provisional Government Army on an August day as the Civil War was tearing the country apart. General Michael Collins died that evening in a lonely valley called Beal Nam Blath when his car was ambushed. He was 31 years old.