FATHER ALOYSIUS SEES CONNOLLY
Father Aloysius protested, says Brian Mary Mac Thormaid in the recently published "Deathless Glory." That he was not allowed to remain with Pearse up to the time of execution, and his protest was so strong that he was permitted to accompany Connolly executed on May 12, and be present at Kilmainham with him to the end.
Following the protest priests were permitted to be with the remaining leaders up to the moment of execution.
As told in ‘Deathless Glory’ Connolly requested to see Father Aloysius but before going Father Aloysius had to promise that he would act only as a priest. When Connolly was informed by Father Aloysius that it was only as a priest that he could see him, Connolly said:
"It is as a priest I want to see you. I have seen and heard of the brave conduct of priests and nuns during the week and I believe that they are the best friends of the workers."
That was on May 1, twelve days before his execution.
Speaking on Newsbeat, Father Leonard referred to the Telefis Eireann ‘Insurrection’ feature on Connolly. A wonderful picture showed Connolly in the ambulance when he was taken from Dublin Castle to Kilmainham for execution. He was shown alone except for the guards, sad, good television but historically not correct.
PRESENT AT EXECUTION
Father Leonard said that on the morning of May 12 word was sent to Church Street asking Father Aloysius to go to see Connolly. Father Aloysius heard his confession, gave him Holy Communion and went with him in the ambulance to Kilmainham and was there when Connolly was executed.
Father Leonard told for the first time a story of Con Colbert from Athea, Co. Limerick, one of thirteen children, who became a pioneer in 1906, never smoked or drank after that was a daily communicant and a model for youth (he was 28).
As he was being led to his death, accompanied by Father Augustine, his hands were tied behind his back and a cloth tied over his eyes. As the soldier pinned a small piece of white paper about four or five inches square on to his coat over his breast Con Colbert said: "Wouldn’t it be better to put that a little higher, nearer the heart."
Said Father Leonard: "It was not irreverent but it was Colbert. He was one of the finest of them all. On Good Friday he was in a friend’s house. They offered him food and all he would take was a bit of dry bread and a cup of black tea in memory of the sufferings of Christ."
BRITISH SOLDIER IN TEARS
It has already been recorded that the soldier who was to bind Con Colbert’s arms before execution grasped Con’s right hand and shook it warmly with affection and tears – "a warm hearted soldier who pionioned Con’s arms gently," said Father Augustine.
Father Leonard told a touching story of the execution of Michael Mallin of the Citizens army whose noble, courageous, spiritual bearing led to the conversion of the Countess Markievicz. When the military lorry came to take Mrs Mallin to see her husband before execution she took the children with her.
Near the time for departure she returned to the cell to say a final goodbye to her husband and left the children in the guard room. One of them, Una, aged 6, was frightened and had no clear idea of what was happening. But she remembers one of the British soldiers going to her, putting his arms around her and saying "My poor little child."
Michael Mallin wrote to his wife, "I would like you to dedicate Una to the service of God and St Joseph" and again he wrote "Una my little one be a nun." Una did and is Mother Dolores, a Loreto Sister in Spain who came home for the jubilee celebrations.
Mallin expressed similar sentiments for the future of his sons and two became Jesuits. "Why they did not become Capuchins, I do not know," Father Leonard jokingly.