The trip to America with an engagement ring, the Rising and a dying letter to his wife
A heartbreaking tale of love and sacrifice forever intertwined with the 1916 Easter Rising and the Irish struggle for freedom will be shown as part of TG4's Scéalta Grá na hÉireann season 2 this coming week.
The tragic death of Michael Joseph O'Rahilly, who was killed during a failed charge up a side street outside the GPO, is immortalised by the love letter he wrote to his wife Nancy as he lay dying. This letter serves as a testament to their love and also tells the story of the Easter Rising.
“It’s not just about revolution, it’s about love. Love for his country, love for his wife, love for his family. It is the ultimate love in many ways.”: Mary McAuliffe on The O’Rahilly
The love story
Their love story began with a chance encounter at a party in North Kerry, where Michael Joseph O'Rahilly and Nancy Brown were drawn to each other instantly. They spent a summer together before being separated, with Nancy returning to New York and Michael going to college in Dublin. But Michael was not willing to let go of his love for Nancy. Upon hearing that someone else was planning to propose to her, he sold his family business, travelled to Amsterdam to buy a diamond engagement ring and set sail for America to win her heart.
After a romantic honeymoon and some time living in New York, the O'Rahillys decided to return to Ireland and settled in 40 Herbert Park, Dublin, which became a crucial location for the planning of the 1916 Easter Rising. Michael, now known as The O'Rahilly, and Nancy became deeply involved in the nationalist movement. He co-founded the Irish Volunteers and served as their Director of Arms, while she co-founded Cumann na mBán and sat on its founding Executive Committee. Together they fought for a cause they believed in and their love story became a part of the history.
At the climax of the 1916 Rising, O'Rahilly leads a brave charge from the burning GPO, up Moore Street, in a desperate attempt to secure a safe passage for a retreat. Despite his valiant effort, the mission fails and he is struck by a hail of machine gun fire. In his final moments, he drags himself into an empty doorway and pens a heart-wrenching goodbye letter to his beloved wife Nancy as his life slips away.
But his death does not mark the end of their fight for nationalism. His wife, Nancy, honoured his legacy by continuing the fight. She became Vice President of Cumann na mBán, and the couple's home at 40 Herbert Park remained a vital meeting point for nationalists. Her unwavering spirit and dedication to the cause in the face of personal loss is a testament to the power of love and the strength of the human spirit.
The story of Michael Joseph O'Rahilly and Nancy O'Rahilly's love intertwines with the present-day controversies surrounding the destruction of their home, No. 40 Herbert Park in Dublin.
This raises important questions about the State's commitment and ability to preserve the country's history and heritage.
The fate of No. 40 Herbert Park serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle to ensure that the stories, memories, and landmarks that shape our national identity are protected for future generations. The importance of preserving the historical and cultural heritage of a nation is a vital aspect in understanding the past and shaping the future.
The O'Rahilly's story and the destruction of their home brings to the forefront the need to safeguard our nation's history and heritage and to ensure that it is not lost to development, neglect or disregard.
The programme will be broadcast on Wednesday at 8:30pm on TG4.