John MacBride (1865-1916)

Westport, Co. Mayo in the West of Ireland

"I write it out in a verse
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born".

W B Yeats

The MacBride referred to by William Butler Yeats, in his poem, "Easter 1916", was a Mayo man, Major John MacBride, one of the sixteen leaders executed following the 1916 Easter Week Rising.

John MacBride was born in Westport on the 7th May 1865. His father Patrick, a native of Antrim, came to Westport in the late 1850's and became a merchant. Patrick Macbride died of typhus at the age of thirty-five, just six months after the birth of his youngest son, John. (Another son, Joseph, was elected the first Sinn Fein deputy for West Mayo in 1918). John attended the Christian Brothers school in Westport. He worked for a while in a drapery shop, in Castlerea, and then went to Dublin to study medicine. He left college after a short time and worked with Hugh Moore, a Dublin firm of Chemists. In Dublin, MacBride joined the I.R.B.

John MacBride emigrated to London and went from there to South Africa. When the Boer War started in 1899, he joined an Irish Brigade against the British, and became second in command, with the rank of Major. Michael Davitt resigned his Mayo seat in the British House of Commons in 1900, in protest against the Boer War. Some friends in Westport, and Arthur Griffith nominated John MacBride, then fighting in the Boer War, as a candidate in the by-election. The United Irish League nominated John O'Donnell, who easily won the seat. After the war, John MacBride went to Paris where he married Maud Gonne on the 21st February 1903. Maud Gonne (1866-1953) was the daughter of an English army officer of Irish descent, and an English mother. She became a prominent Irish revolutionary. John MacBride and Maude Gonne had one child, Sean who was born in Janurary 1904. John returned to Dublin, and secured a job with Dublin Corporation.

John MacBride offered his services to Thomas MacDonagh on Easter Monday 1916, and was second in command in Jacob's biscuit factory during the rising. He was captured after the rising, court-martialled, sentenced to death, and executed in Kilmainham Jail, on 5th May 1916.

He was buried in Arbour Hill, Dublin. On 4th August 1963, Eamonn de Valera unveiled a plaque on the house at the Quay in Westport in which John MacBride was born.

Extract from: "MAYO - Aspects of its Heritage", by Bernard O'Hara. Published by kind permission of author.