Ernie O’Malley



Ernie O’ Malley

O’Malley, Ernest Bernard (‘Ernie’)
Mayo-born Ernie O’Malley (1897 – 1957) was initially an Irish Republican exponent of the physical force tradition, who later became an author, poet and art critic. Born in Castlebar, O’Malley spent his summers at Rosbeg, Westport.  In 1907, his family moved to Dublin, but he was to return to Mayo in the 1930’s to live at Burrishoole Lodge in Newport.  His two autobiographical volumes, On Another Man’s Wound and The Singing Flame, are important accounts of the revolutionary period of 1916-23.   His book Raids and Rallies, based on a series of articles in the Sunday Press newspaper, was published posthumously.

O’Malley joined the Volunteers soon after the 1916 Rising and quickly established himself as a natural leader.  He interrupted his medical studies in 1918 and joined the IRA, becoming one of its fulltime organisers and working alongside leading IRA men Dan Breen and Seán Treacy.  O’Malley was firmly against the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and was appointed Director of Organisation for the Anti-Treaty Republican forces, led by Éamon de Valera, In April, 1922, he participated in the take-over of the Four Courts in Dublin.  The bombardment of theses buildings in June by the pro-Treaty forces saw the commencement of the Civil War.  O’Malley acted as Assistant Chief of Staff of the Republican forces, responsibility for Leinster and Ulster.  He was badly wounded during his capture in November, 1922. While still in prison, he was elected TD for Dublin North in August 1923 and in November he participated in a 41-day hunger strike.  After his release in 1924, he was in poor health and travelled throughout continental Europeto recuperate.  He returned to his medical studies in 1926, but these were interrupted again when in 1928 he went on a fund-raising tour of the USAon behalf of the Irish Press newspaper, which de Valera was in the process of establishing for the Fianna Fáil party.  He returned toIreland in 1935 and married an American artist Helen Hooker. 

In 1938, after leaving his medical studies for a third time, O’Malley moved to Mayo where he farmed for some years, as well as photographing Early Christian monuments and collecting folklore around ClewBay.  He also pursued his literary interests as editor of The Bell and artistic pursuits in writing art criticism and organising a Jack B. Yeats’ exhibition in Dublin in 1945.  In 1951, he acted as an assistant to John Ford, the film director, in the making of The Quiet Man at Cong and in a second film in 1956

 From The Story of Mayo, Mayo County Library, 2003, 

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