Cathal Brugha

Prisoner in an Improvised Hospital in The Castle

Fr Eugene Nevin's evidence

Bureau of Military History

Hearing that Cathal Brugha was badly wounded and a prisoner in an improvised hospital in The Castle, I managed to get a pass for a visit. Wounded? He was riddled, his body almost shattered to pieces. Downhearted? Most assuredly no. Unlikely then, if able even, with Goldsmith’s broken soldier to shoulder his crutch and show how fields were won; or to indulge in the idle day dream of Dryden’s ode, when the King growing ‘vain fought all his battles o’er again, thrice routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain’.

But he surely must have lived over and over again, and many times those crowded hours of that glorious week’s struggle and thought of the gallant comrades that fell in the fight or were afterwards executed. Reluctant to admit he did anything beyond his plain duty, he patiently, cheerfully bore his wounds suffered in the country’s cause, prepared and ready at any moment for the supreme sacrifice in the manner of James Connolly.

Of medium height but well knit frame, he was truly lion-hearted with a valour that bordered on recklessness as the danger increased.

I wonder was his counterpart Richard of the Crusades the huge man we are apt to picture him as represented by the historian, demolishing camel after camel with one stroke of his powerful sword arm, just as we miserable of this degenerate age might strike the head off a field flower. In those days of old when Knights were bold where men in general built on the generous proportions of life-guardsmen of the D M P of a former generation? We hardly think so, and a visit to a Museum will furnish evidence in support of this opinion. There we see the actual coats of mail in which those doughty warriors locked in steel rode forth to the spearing of dragons or the rescuing of princesses and maidens imprisoned in deep moated dungeons and when measured we find those coats of mail were tailored, if we may so put it, for normal or comparative statures. Imagination, the romance of fiction with facts of history often get hopelessly inter-mixed, producing pleasing, colourful pictures of unrealities for which we must be grateful, for without them life for youth and age alike would be a dull and stale business,

Whatever the proportions or disparity in girt or height between Richard Coeur de Lion and Cathal Brugha, their hearts beat in unison to the same chivalrous note – loftiness of purpose, resolute determination in face of death to defend the right and redress the wrong.

Certain it is that Cathal was born 500 years late; he would fit so well and feel so much at home as one of the mail clad crusaders before the walls of Jerusalem; or later on in the Army of Ferdinand and Isabella storming the Moorish strongholds of Granada. In all which we may be confident he would do honour to his country and his flag. But great little man that he was he would be at home and an inspiration in any period of our history. On reading account of his last disastrous fight and death, July 1922, I couldn’t help recalling Patrick Sarsfield’s sigh as his life’s blood ebbed away on the plains of Landen, July 1693.

Some years previous to 1916 I knew him in a business transaction as Charlie Burgess an active member and director, if I mistake not, of the firm he was associated with until his death. May he rest in peace.


This page was added on 11/04/2016.

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