Margaret Skinnider (1892-1971)
At the time of the Census in 1911 Margaret Skinnider was in Scotland.
Margaret Skinnider was born in Scotland and trained as a Maths teacher. Her parents were from Tydavnet in Co. Monaghan and she spent many of her childhood summers there. In her youth she became a crack shot after joining a rifle club which was set up to train young ladies to defend the British Empire. In the Rising she served as a scout, despatch-rider and sniper.
Skinnider joined Cumann na mBan in Scotland and became active in smuggling detonators and bomb-making equipment, guns and ammunition into Dublin from Glasgow in preparation for 1916. Skinnider knew of the Rising before she came to Dublin - she had been told the date though not the exact time. She arrived a week before the rebellion and lodged with Countess Marckievicz. As a sharpshooter she attached herself to the Irish Citizen Army as a Captain so that she could engage in combat. She spent time in Dublin testing dynamite, along with her friend Madeine Ffrench-Mullen.
Skinnider spent the Sunday of the Easter Rising scouting for James Connolly. She was attached to Mallin’s detachment for the St. Stephen’s Green area with upwards of fifteen women including Countess Markievicz. Some of these women worked on the commissariat, some did Red Cross work while others worked shoulder to shoulder with the men1.
Skinnider carried dispatches between Mallin and Connolly in the GPO and outlying posts. On the Monday of the Rising she moved to the College of Surgeons. On the Tuesday she again carried dispatches and also worked as a sniper with the male soldiers, who were shooting from the roof and the semi-circle side windows in York Street towards the University side of the Green2. On the Thursday, she was put in charge of 5 men by Mallin in order to do a job on Harcourt Street. She was shot three times on 27th April while attempting to burn down houses in Harcourt Street to cut off the retreat of British soldiers who had planted a machine gun on the roof of the University Church. Margaret was the only woman wounded in action during the Rising. She was shot once in the right arm, once in her right side under her arm and once in her back. She was taken to the Royal College of Surgeons and then to St. Vincent’s Hospital where she was arrested and taken to the Bridewell. While there she was spotted by Surgeon Kennedy, who had been her doctor earlier and who insisted that she be brought back to St. Vincent’s Hospital as she had serious wounds. She was mentioned in dispatches for her bravery.
Margaret went back to Glasgow for a while but had lost her teaching post and was unable to find another post due to her injuries which meant that she was unable to write on a blackboard. She left Scotland to visit her brother in America and while there met Mrs. Sheehy-Skeffington and Nora Connolly, who were trying to raise funds. She applied for a visa to return to Ireland from the British Passport Office but was refused twice until Mrs. Sheehy-Skeffington intervened.
After the Rising Skinnider was active in promoting the republican cause and was imprisoned during the war of Independence. Skinnider became Paymaster General of the anti-treaty IRA in the Civil War.
She was elected a member of the the Executive Cumann na mBan in 1921 as part of the Fairview Branch and was appointed as Director of Training, a position she held until 1923. She was in charge of the Cumann na mBan operations in Dublin during the attack on the Four Courts. Skinnider worked in charge of the Accounts Branch in the Quartermaster General’s Office in December 1922. She was arrested in December 1922 and released from prison in November 19233.
She applied for a pension in 1925 based on her activities and service but was refused payment as she was a woman.
“The preamble to the Army Pensions Act, 1923, while mentioning allowances or gratuities to ‘widows, children and dependent’ presumably contemplates that the deceased members shall be of the male sex. It would be illogical, therefore, to include the female sex under the terms ‘wounded members’ and ‘the definition of ‘wound’ in Section 16 only contemplates the masculine gender”.
P. Coll, Treasury Solicitor in a letter dated 18 March 1925 confirms this view. “I am satisfied that the Army Pensions Act is only applicable to soldiers as generally understood in the masculine sense4". Though she acted as courier, sniper and was shot, it was only after repeated requests that she was granted a pension in 1938. She was eventually granted £80 per year for her service with effect from 1st October 1934.
Interestingly her name and addresses in each document are signed by her in Irish.
Margaret Skinnider died in 1971 and is buried in the Republican Plot of Glasnevin cemetery.
Go to Margaret Pearse