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Archiver > IRELAND > 2002-07 > 1026693497

From: "Irish Mom" <>
Subject: [IRELAND] Women of Ireland Series: Margaret Skinnider
Date: Sun, 14 Jul 2002 19:38:17 -0500

Thanks again to George and the Irish Heritage group for this in the series.
Perhaps this will be more to your liking darling Boru?

Margaret Skinnider (1893-1971)

As a child Margaret Skinnider had emigrated from Ireland to Scotland and
grew up in Glasgow where she became a mathematics teacher and joined Cumann
na mBan. She was determined to fight for her country. She learned to shoot
one of the rifle clubswhich the British organized so that women could help
defence of the Empire. She became a very good marksman. In the winter of
1915, at the request of Constance Markievicz, she smuggled detonators and
bomb-making equipment from Scotland to Dublin. In Margaret's own words she
describes the event. " Leaning back in a steamer chair, with my hat for a
pillow, I dropped off to sleep. That I ever awakened was a miracle. In my
I was carrying to Ireland detonators for bombs and the wires were wrapprd
around me under my coat"
A week prior to the 1916 Easter Rising she journeyed again to Dublin
where she lodged with Constance Markievicz. During the Rising they partook
the fighting in in the College of Surgeons, St. Stephen's Green under the
Comma nd of General Mallin. Several days into the fighting Skinnider, an
excellent markswoman, was wounded. She was arrested by the British Army in
St. Vincent's Hospital and imprisoned in the Bridewell Police Station where
she was interrogated until a surgeon from St. Vincent's Hospital contacted
the Dublin Castle authorities to say she was unfit for imprisonment. Soon
after she was released and promptly went to the Castle where an unsuspecting
British Army Officer gave her a permit to travel to Scotland.
Skinnider remained in Glasgow until August, 1916 when she returned to Dublin
but she had to flee to America in fear of internment. Skinnider returned to
Ireland and took up a teaching post in North Dublin in 1917. She was
and imprisoned during the War of Independence and was Paymaster General of
the IRA during the Civil War. Skinnider was a prominent member of the Irish
National School Teachers' Association for many years. This extract is from
Skinnider's Doing My Bit for Ireland(1917) which was first published in

Madam [de Markievicz] had had a fine uniform of green moleskin made for me.
With her usual generosity, she had mine made of better material than her
It consisted of kneebreeches, belted coat, and puttees. I slipped into this
uniform, climbed up astride the rafters, and was assigned a loophole through
which to shoot. It was dark there, full of smoke and the din of firing, but
it was good to be in action. I could look across the tops of the trees and
see the British soldiers on the roof of the Shelbourne. I could also hear
their shot hailing against the roof and wall of our fortress, for in truth
this building was just that. More than once I saw the man I aimed at fall.
those who have been following the Great War, reading of thousands and
hundreds of thousands attacking one another in open battle or in mile-long
trench-warfare, this exchange of shots between two buildings across a Dublin
green may seem petty. But to us there could be nothing greater. Every shot
fired was a declaration to the world that Ireland, a small country but large
in our hearts, was demanding her independence. We knew that all over Dublin,
perhaps by this time all over Ireland, other groups like ours were filled
with the same intensity, the same determination, to make the Irish Republic,
no matter how short-lived, a reality of which history would have to take
account. Besides, the longer we could keep our tricolour flying over the
College of Surgeons, the greater chance that Irish courage would respond and
we should gain recruits...
On Wednesday evening I was up-stairs, studying a map of our surroundings and
trying to find a way by which we could dislodge the soldiers from the roof
the Shelbourne. When Commandant Mallin came in, I asked him if he would let
me go out with one man and try to throw a bomb attached to an eight-second
fuse through the hotel window. I knew there was a bow-window on the side
fartherest from us, which was not likely to be guarded. We could use our
bicycles and get away before the bomb exploded, - that is, if we were quick
enough. At any rate, it was worth trying, whatever the risk. Commandant
Mallin agreed the plan was a good one, but much too dangerous. I pointed out
to him that it had been my speed which had saved me so far from machine-gun
fire on the hotel roof. It was not that the British were doing us any real
harm in the college, but it was high time to take the aggressive, for
would hearten the men in other 'forts' who were not having as safe a time of
it. He finally agreed, though not at all willingly, for he did not want to
let a woman run this sort of risk. My answer to this argument was that we
the same right to risk our lives as the men; that in the constitution of the
Irish Republic, women were on a equality with men. For the first time in
history, indeed, a constitution had been written that incorporated the
principle of equal suffrage. But the Commandant told me there was another
task to be accomplished before the hotel could be bombed. That was to cut
the retreat of a British force which had planted a machine-gun on the flat
roof of University Church. It was against our rules to use any church,
Protestant or Catholic, in our defense, no matter what advantage it might
give us. But this church, close at hand, had been occupied by the British
was cutting us off from another command with whom it was necessary to keep
communication. In order to cut off the retreat of these soldiers, it would
necessary to burn two buildings. I asked the Commandant to let me help in
this undertaking. He consented, and gave me four men to help fire one
building, while another party went out to fire the other...
It took only a few moments to reach the building we were to set afire.
Councillor [William] Partridge smashed the glass door in the front of a shop
that occupied the ground floor. He did it with the butt of his rifle and a
flash followed. It had been discharged! I rushed past him into the doorway
the shop, calling to the others to come on. Behind me came the sound of a
volley and I fell. It was as I had on the instant divined. The flash had
revealed us to the enemy. 'It's all over,' I muttered, as I felt myself
falling. But a moment later, when I knew I was not dead, I was sure I should
pull through...
They laid me on a large table and cut away the coat of my fine, new uniform.
I cried over that. Then they found I had been shot in three places, my right
side under my arm, my right arm, and in the back of my right side... They
to probe several times to get the bullets, and all the while Madam held my
hand. But the probing did not hurt as much as she expected it would. My
disappointment at not being able to bomb the Shelbourne Hotel was what made
me unhappy... Soon after I was brought in, the Countess and Councillor
Partridge disappeared. When she returned to me, she said very quietly: 'You
are avenged, my dear.' It seems they had gone out to where Fred Ryan lay,
Partridge, to attract the fire of the soldiers across the street in the Sinn
Fein Bank, had stooped over the dead boy to lift him. There were only two
soldiers and they both fired. That gave Madam a chance to sight them. She
fired twice and killed both.

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