Elizabeth O'Farrell (Farrell) – Airbrushed from History
Photo: Elizabeth O'Farrell (Farrell) with Pádraig Pearse at the surrender
Census 1901 Address: 9.1 Mark's Lane (Trinity, Dublin)1
The 1901 Census return for Elizabeth Farrell included her father Christopher aged 64, a Dock Labourer and her mother Margaret, aged 59, a Housekeeper. The return also included her sister Bridget who was aged 19. Both Elizabeth and her sister Bridget are single and neither of them had an occupation recorded. There was also a visitor in the house, Mary Anne Dowling aged 19, who was single and who also had no occupation recorded. Elizabeth was the only person in the household proficient in Irish and English. The family was recorded as Farrell rather than O’ Farrell
Census 1911 Address: 17, Hasting's Street (Pembroke West, Dublin)1
The 1911 Census return recorded Elizabeth’s sister Bridget White as head of the household on Census night. Bridget (29) had been married for 9 years. She had given birth to fivechildren but only two were still living; a daughter also called Bridget - who was (3) and a son Seagan (1). Elizabeth’s mother Mary (69) was a widow by 1911. Elizabeth Farrell (27) was proficient in Irish and English. There was also a visitor to the house, Julia Grenan (27) who was a dressmaker and was also proficient in Irish and English.
Elizabeth O’Farrell was born in Dublin in 1884. She was educated by the Sisters of Mercy and was a very close friend to Julia Grenan who lived nearby. They were both members of the Sacred Heart and Total Abstinence sodalities2. Elizabeth trained as a nurse and midwife at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin. Both Elizabeth and Julia joined the Gaelic League and we can see from the 1911 Census report they were proficient in Irish. They had joined the Irish Women’s Franchise League and were suffragettes. In 1906 they joined Inghinidhe na hÉireann and also joined Cumann na mBan, the women’s branch of the Irish Volunteers. Elizabeth and Julia were sent around the country as couriers delivering important information.
On Easter Monday several women were in the General Post Office in Dublin including Elizabeth and Julia who tended to the wounded. When the order came to evacuate, the two women decided to remain behind together with Winnie Carney who wouldn’t leave the wounded James Connolly.
On Saturday 29th April the decision was made by Padraig Pearse to surrender. Elizabeth was chosen to deliver the unconditional surrender to General Lowe who was the Senior Officer of the British troops. She dodged sniper fire and dealt with confrontational British authorities. She returned with a note and instructions from the British. The British refused to treat until Pearse himself surrendered and met with the British at the British Headquarters in Britain Street. Elizabeth then criss-crossed the city to convince the Rising leaders that the decision to surrender was genuine, ordering them to lay down their arms and line up in O’Connell Street. Later she was recommended for clemency as General Lowe stated that she had been of “Great assistance by voluntarily accompanying a staff officer to various Rebel Commandants3” and asked for this to be taken into consideration.
After a short period of imprisonment she was released. She remained an ardent republican for the rest of her life. She carried dispatches for the IRA during the war of Independence and opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty.
She spent the rest of her working life as a midwife in the National Maternity Hospital.
Elizabeth died on June 25, 1957 while on holiday in Fatima House in Bray, Co. Wicklow and she is buried in the republican plot in Glasnevin cemetery, next to her friend Julia Grenan.
National Library of Ireland: http://catalogue.nli.ie/Record/vtls000652475
The Irish Times Book of the 1916 Rising Shane Hegarty and Fintan O'Toole, Gill & MacMillon publishers
With thanks to Patricia Aitchison relative of Elizabeth Farrell
Go to Grace Gifford