I was born in Dublin, Ireland 38 years after the 1916 Easter Rising in which a band of Irish patriots rose up against oppressive British rule of their country. After an initial success in taking over the Dublin General Post Office, the rebellion eventually failed. The leaders, heroes to the Irish people, were summarily executed.
When I was young my mother used to sing to me the Ballad of Kevin Barry, "just a lad of 18 summers who proudly held his head up high." Despite worldwide protests, including a plea from the Pope, Kevin Barry was hanged by the British for refusing to tell the authorities the names of his accomplices. "Men like Barry will free Ireland" goes the song.
I had heard my mother tell the tales of her own mother who manned the barricades outside the General Post Office, bringing aid and comfort to the rebels who were fighting to free their nation. I always thought those stories were fanciful, that mom may have exaggerated the role that Granny O'Hagan had played in the uprising. It's all true, she told me. She's listed in the Book of Honor in the Museum of History in Dublin.
When Renee and I went to Ireland on our honeymoon in 2008 we visited the Museum of History. After sifting through some old, dusty archives we finally came across the Book of Honor. It listed all the names, written in their own hand, of the people who participated in the 1916 Rising, the battery they manned and the units they fought with during the rebellion. Although it was against the museum rules, I used my cell phone camera to take a picture of the page I was seeking. There, in clear and distinct cursive, was the name Annie O'Hagan. She was not yet 20 years old.
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