Stories Behind The Rising: March, A Seminal Month In The Lifetime Of Tom Clarke

Continuing their series on Tom Clarke in the run-up to the Centenary, the Thomas Clarke Society Dungannon note the significance of March in the life of their namesake.

The month of March seen a number of significant events in the course of Thomas Clarke’s life. His son Thomas was born on the 3rd of March 1908 while he himself had been born on the 11th of March 1858. Ironically, six days later on 17th March 1858, the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood was founded, later to be called the Irish Republican Brotherhood – the IRB.

In March 1865 the Clarke family returned to Ireland. His father James was a sergeant in the Ulster Militia, whose headquarters were in Charlemont Castle. As there was no suitable family accommodation in the barracks they rented a house in Ann Street, Dungannon. Tom was now seven yrs old. It would be in Ann Street fifteen years later, in 1880, that events unfolded that would change his life forever.

In March 1883 Tom was selected to join the Dynamite Campaign in England. He had been training for two years at the Napper Tandy Club, New York. England’s oldest colony was to strike at the heart of the Empire and Thomas Clarke was determined to play his part.

In March 1899, following his release from prison the previous September, having served over fifteen years, he went to stay with his friend John Daly in Limerick. It was here he met John’s niece Kathleen Daly for the first time.

On the 11th March 1916, while celebrating his 58th birthday, Tom would no doubt have reflected on such memories, while of course being focused on plans for the Rising – now only forty-three days away. He would also have been unaware of a scheduled meeting in Dublin Castle, for the 17th March, to discuss the arrest of Tom and other leaders.

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