When two paths lead to one – A tale of two brothers

Pictured: Patrick Whelan.

Pictured: Patrick Whelan.

The faces of those who died in the Rising of 1916 are not all known to us. There are many names and lives that have disappeared or are remembered in the stories of the families of the dead who carry on and commemorate the person.

NewsFour met with a Mr. Laurence Whelan whose family came from Ringsend, and still have strong ties to the community.

Lawrence’s Grand uncle, Patrick Whelan of 28 Pembroke Cottages, Ringsend, was a volunteer with de Valera’s 3rd battalion, stationed in Boland’s Bakery and Mills, during the height of the 1916 Easter Rising. According to Lawrence, Patrick had previously been a “ship’s carpenter, who also played hurling for Fontenoys Club in Irishtown, Dublin.”

Lawrence stated that “in Ringsend you either worked on the ships or the Bottle House companies. They were the main source of employment for the time. There was also an ironworks in Ringsend back then.”

Patrick, pictured above, saw action during the battle of Mount Street Bridge, which culminated in the casualties of over 200 young British recruits who were ordered to “take the bridge at all costs.” The Irish volunteers were at a good vantage point on the roof of Boland’s Bakery against the British contingent that came from the school house opposite them.

According to eyewitness accounts, Patrick was on duty on the third floor of the mill, where he was sitting at the window facing the main railway line. Patrick was killed on the day of the engagement, when the battle intensified on both sides, as fire was returned from the British, with snipers firing towards the volunteers. Patrick was hit by a bullet that killed him instantly.

Patrick’s body lay for sometime unattended to, due to the unavailability of men, the sheer fatigue and the firing that commenced around all points of the building.

According to a witness and fellow volunteer, “we had the body removed to the ground floor and placed in its temporary coffin. We decided to bury the remains under a huge pile of clinkers in the yard, outside the engine room. I read some prayers; we said the rosary and our sad task at about mid-day on Friday.”

Patrick Whelan was only 23 years old when he died prematurely. His body has since been moved to Glasnevin Cemetery, where a memorial stone was unveiled in his honour.

Patrick’s older brother Martin Joseph Whelan, joined the Royal Navy at the age of 17, having previously worked on trawlers, most likely as a carpenter. He spent twelve years in active service before his untimely death at the age of 31 at the battle of Jutland on the 31st of May 1916.

Martin was an “able bodied seaman” on board the HMS Defence which was engaged and in pursuit of the German warships – the Goeben and the Breslau. The battle resulted in the deaths of over 8,000 men on both sides and subsequently resulted in the Allied blockade of Germany’s ports.

Martin has been commemorated at the Plymouth Naval Memorial and by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.

Whelan House beside St. Patrick’s Church was named in honour and in memory of Patrick’s tragic and premature death.

“Patrick was always well remembered by the family for the sacrifice he made. Martin was never really mentioned much by the family. These men who went off to fight and die in the British Navy have been forgotten, however it is only in recent times that people can recognise the sacrifice they made and talk openly about it,” said Lawrence.

By Robert Fullarton