Francis Skeffington was born of the 23rd of December 1878 in Bailieborough, Co Cavan.  He was educated by his father, Joseph Bartholomew Skeffington, who was a schools inspector and became a student in University College Dublin in 1896.

He met Hanna Sheehy while in college and they married in 1903.  They had one son, Oscar in 1909.

What makes Francis Sheehy-Skeffington worthy of further examination as a person of note in our history?

The first thing that stood out to me is the fact that when he married Hanna he took her Surname and became Francis Sheehy-Skeffington.  This was unheard of in 1903.  Francis was involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and co-founded the Irish Women’s Franchise League with his wife Hanna in 1908.  So Francis was by his actions a feminist, who was an ally to the women of his time and stood with them to fight for their rights.

He was also a pacifist and mediator, who attempted to reconcile the two sides during the 1913 Dublin Lockout.  He stood against the Catholic Church’s wishes during the strike and spoke in favour of sending the children of strikers to families in Liverpool to be taken care of when things were so bad for them at home.  The church opposed this for fear they might end up in protestant families, even though many could starve to death if they remained in Dublin.  Francis, proved himself to be a humanist who felt empathy with the oppressed and wanted to see a more equitable society.

Francis was also a Nationalist and strongly believed in the cause of Irish Freedom, but he was also a pacifist who did not take up arms or directly support the rebels during the Easter Rising.

He did travel into Dublin City Centre on Easter Sunday in order to organise some civilians to protect businesses from the looting that had begun.  At no point did he take up arms.

On his way home that evening he was stopped and arrested on Portobello Bridge and was executed the following morning by Captain Bowen-Colthurst.  He was one of the first to be executed during the Easter Rising.

His body was initially buried in Portobello Barracks, but his remains were then interred in Glasnevin Cemetery on the 8th of May 1916.

Captain Bowen-Colthurst was later brought in front of the Simon Commission and found guilty of the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, but by reason of insanity was sentenced to 18 months in Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane.  He later retired to Canada with a full pension from the British Army.

Links

Birth Record – Francis Skeffington 1878

Francis Skeffington – Aged 32 – Census 1911

Francis Sheehy-Sheffingon Grave

‘Hairy Jaysus’- the 1916 pacifist who was killed in cold blood – Irish Independent 25th July 2023