• November 5, 2015


Next year sees the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and it will be marked by commemorations some of which have the official stamp of approval others less formal.

The big names of the Rising will be to the fore including, of course, all those executed summarily by the British military forces immediately after the Rising had been crushed.

Around Easter of this year I was in Dublin and visited Arbour Hill were those who died by execution are buried. It was a very quiet and reflective visit and I would hazard a guess that (certainly around Easter) next year it will be much busier.

However the significant figures of the Rising did not just include the leaders such as Pearse and Connolly, or De Valera who escaped the executioners bullets and went on to lead the State, but also others whose motives were more altruistic than nationalist.

One of the most unlikely heroines of both the Rising and the subsequent War of Independence was a Scottish women and schoolteacher Margaret Skinnider.

Skinnider’s politics were driven not primarily by Irish nationalism but by feminism (she was a member of the women’s suffrage movement in Glasgow) and social equality (when active during the Rising she was a member of Connolly Irish Citizen Army – ICA – not the IRB of Pearse).

She had joined the revolutionary movement Cummann na mBan in Glasgow and fortuitously and been taught to shoot in a rifle club which had originally been set up so that women could help in defence of the British Empire. Those skills were put to good use and Skinnider gained a reputation of a sniper of some merit. One quote on her role in the Easter weekend fighting demonstrates the authority and respect she commanded:

“When they were going out to attack the nest of snipers she was in charge of the squad. William Partridge, a very famous man in the working class movement, was there and he and other members of the squad accepted that she was in charge”

Prior to the rising Skinnider was active in Connolly’s militant Trade Union movement in Dublin and was clearly moved by the plight and circumstances of working people in the City. When she was shown “the poorest part of Dublin” by Constance Markievicz (ICA member also active in the Rising) she wrote;

“I do not believe there is a worse place in the world.” The street was “a hollow full of sewage and refuse”, and the building “as full of holes as if it had been under shellfire”.

After the Rising Skinnider was also active in the War of Independence and then took the anti-Treaty side during the Civil War. She was imprisoned by pro Treaty forces in 1923 but then almost immediately became active organising within the Prison

After her release from prison, she worked as a teacher in Dublin until her retirement in 1961. She was a member of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation throughout her teaching career and became its President in 1956.

She continued to fight al her life for women’s rights and was prominent in the equal pay struggle

She spent her final years living in Glenageary, County Dublin and died (aged 79) on 10 October 1971. She is buried in the Republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

A truly remarkable feminist and revolutionary socialist!
Issued by: The Celtic News



The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues


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