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Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Birth certificate of Michael Kiely


The formative years of Bríd Ní Foghlú (Mrs. Breeid Martin) read like a movie script. Born Bridget Foley on 14 April 1887, she was one of thirteen children born to Richard and Margaret (nee Long) who lived in Knockmonlea, Killeagh, Co. Cork, both of whom were Irish speakers.

Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople

Figure 1: Birth Certificate for Bridget Foley, in the District of Killeagh, Youghal, Co. Cork.

1901 Census - Knockmonlea West, Clonpriest, Cork.

Figure 2: Foley Family, Knockmonalea West (Clonpriest, Cork).

Bridget lived for the first fifteen years of her life in Knockmonlea and is recorded as being one of nine resident on the family farm on 31 March 1901.

1901 Census - Knockmonlea West, Clonpriest, Cork.

Figure 3: 1901 Census - Residents of a house 4 in Knockmonalea West (Clonpriest, Cork).

The Foley family had a deep resentment of British occupation and rule in Ireland. The general school of thought is that this was as a result of the Ponsonby Estate evictions during the Land War is the late 1880s.

Petition of Ponsonby Tenants from the Report of the Evicted Tenants Commission 1893

Figure 4: Petition of Ponsonby Tenants from the Report of the Evicted Tenants Commission 1893.


Dublin - Gaelic League and Cumann na mBan

In 1902, Bridget moved to Dublin to attend school. A number of her siblings were already in the capital, and, similar to them, she joined the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League.

Keating's Camogie Team 1904

Figure 5: Keating's Camogie Team 1904 (Bridget, front row, third on left).

Over the next thirteen years, the Foley family took part in many of the Gaelic League activities such as ‘pageants, turasanna, aeriachts’. In 1915, she joined the Central Branch of Cumann na mBan, the Irish republican women's paramilitary organisation who held their meetings at 25 Parnell Square where she became an active member.

Notice of Cumann na mBan Meeting 1915.

Figure 6: Notice of Cumann na mBan Meeting 1915.

She recalls that in 1916, herself and Effie Taaffe carried two rifles under their coats from Flemings, 140 Drumcondra Road to another house. Flemings was a grocer’s shop where the Volunteers kept arms. The Foley family had a typing office at Reiss Chambers, 11 Sackville Street, Dublin, so between carrying messages and arms for the volunteers and working in the family business Bridget was a busy woman. In the lead up to the Easter Rising 1916, her focus was to shift primarily to revolutionary work.

Thom's Directory 1912

Figure 7: Thom's Official Directory of Great Britain and Ireland , 1912.


Bridget Foley - Revolutionist

Bridget’s older brother, Sean, was an inspector of munitions in Birmingham and regularly sent messages to the Volunteers and she served as the go-between between both parties. Bridget was unaware what was contained in the messages, although Sean McDermott and Eamon Ceannt advised her to know as she was incurring risk. McDermott also advised her to keep a 'nightie and a toothbrush' at the ready as she could be required to deliver a dispatch at any time.

This advice was apt as approximately three weeks before the Easter Rising, she was asked to travel to Birmigham, taking a dispatch to her brother, Sean. This dispatch was in relation to Liam Mellows who had been deported previously. Liam came back to Ireland dressed as a priest, leaving his brother, Barney to take his place in Birmingham. Liam Mellows was accompanied by Nora Connolly, to whom Bridget had loaned a blouse in Birmingham. On receipt of a wire ‘Mother arrived safely’, Bridget made her way back to Ireland, however, it took four attempts to return due to the presence of submarines in the Irish Sea. Not only was the air fraught with tension in Ireland, but the same atmosphere permeated England with World War 1 raging.

Byzantine mosaic at the Chora Church, Constantinople

Figure 8: Liam Mellows (1892-1922).

Just over a week before the Easter Rising, the Keating Branch Ceilidhe was held on Palm Sunday, 16 April 1916, two days after Bridget’s twenty ninth birthday. She observed that the excitement was palpable and it was the first time she realised that something unusual was approaching. Over the next week, Bridget travelled to her native county, Cork, three times to deliver dispatches to Tomas McCurtain, the final time being on Easter Sunday, 23 April 1916, where she and her sister Cait travelled by taxi. Unfortunately the journey was horrendous, heavy rain and four punctures severely hampering their efforts. In addition, news of the Foley sister's journey had reached Cork and the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) were waiting for them at Dunkettle. The two sisters were escorted to the Windsor Hotel on King Street (now MacCurtain Street). They were allowed to remain at the hotel as the RIC barracks was next to the hotel. However later that night, with the vital dispatch hid under the carpet in her hotel room, she was summoned by the RIC.

King Street, Cork

Figure 9: King Street (MacCurtain Street), Cork.

Bridget decided she was going to have the upper hand and demanded to know, ‘What is the meaning of this? It is an extraordinary thing if I can’t come to my native city without being interfered with by the police’. Bridget was searched but the dispatch, hidden in her room was not discovered and remained safe for the moment. The next morning, two men, whom Bridget realised were detectives, took breakfast at