• March 1, 2023

Countess (Constance Georgina) Markievicz (whose birthday it is today) was an unlikely revolutionary let alone socialist and suffragist. Born into the Anglo-Irish aristocracy the Gore Booths had a palatial home and estate at Lissadell in Co Sligo.

It’s fair to say that Countess drifted into nationalism but once she was on board she went the full distance and became a member of Connolly’s Citizen Army and was sentenced to death for her part in the Easter Rising in 1916. Fortunately that was commuted.

She was ahead of the general pack becoming a member of Inghinidhe na hÉireann and founding Fianna Eireann. She could have enjoyed the fruits of victory – already being a TD (for Sinn Fein) – in the new Ireland but being a revolutionary she took the anti-treaty road although finally going on with De Valera to form Fianna Fail.

Part of the upper crust coterie around Yeats it is fair to say she went towards the fighting as Yeats went the other way. Yeats of course obsessed with her and her sister but then he seems to have obsessed with all the ladies that he encountered. Of Constance and her sister Eva he wrote:

“The light of evening, Lissadell,

Great windows open to the south,

Two girls in silk kimonos, both

Beautiful, one a gazelle.

But a raving autumn shears

Blossom from the summer’s wreath;..”

Apparently ‘the gazelle’ was Eva however as with Maud Gonne Yeats passion seems to have been misplaced.

The famous pic of Countess Markievicz is the one where she poses in Citizens Army Uniform with a revolver. I’ll go for something more maternal and use the photo of her with her daughter Maeve.

Plenty online and Lissadell and indeed the whole Yeats country from Ballyshannon to Sligo including Lough Gill is stunning well worth a visit if you are in the area

Sadly she died in 1927 after illness so did not live to see the Free State become ‘The Republic’. However given her socialist zeal I doubt she would have been best pleased with the road De Valera took.

An all round Celt she was part of the Gaelic revival in 1900 and the Gaelic League – stirring times! In a footnote to present times her husband Count Markevizc was Polish aristocracy from Ukraine.


Image: Lissadell House, Sligo – Inset: Countess Markievicz

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League (4th February 2023)

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