Albinia Brodrick Remembered.

 

Gobnait Ni Bruadair

Albinia Brodrick (1861-1955) as Gobnait Ni Bhruadair, a woman who changed from being an aristocratic English Tory Unionist to an Irish revolutionary Republican.

Today’s lecture in Midleton Library on Albinia Brodrick: from English Aristocrat to Irish Revolutionary Republican (12.00 noon, Saturday, 16th Jan, 2016) was a resounding success on the 61st anniversary of Albinia’s death. Part of the 1916 Centenary Commemoration Programme promoted by Cork County Council, the lecture was attended by some 50 to 60 persons (according to the library staff).

We covered her family background and her family’s link to Midleton (her father and brother held the title Viscount Midleton) and her nursing career. We also looked at the transformation of this Englishwoman to a ‘native’ Irish Gaelgeoir.

I hope that everybody learned something new about Albinia Brodrick’s conversion from Tory Unionism to moderate Home Rule Irish nationalism and then, following the execution of the 1916 rebel leaders, to hard-line Irish Republicanism, a stance she held to the day she died on Sunday, 16th January 1955. This conversion to a more hard-line republicanism was typical of many in Ireland from May 1916 as news of the executions began to hit home.

I wish to thank, first, the library staff for preparing the venue, Conor Nelligan (Cork County Heritage Officer & 1916 Centenary County Co-ordinator), Mr Martin Preston (Midleton College) for operating the computer slide show whilst I addressed the audience from the screen, and everybody who attended the lecture.

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The Honorable Albinia Brodrick: from English Aristocrat to Irish Revolutionary Republican. A public lecture to commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising.

Hon Albinia Brodrick Nurse

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick as a nurse.

As part of the Cork County Council 1916 Centenary Commemoration programme a public lecture will take place in Midleton Library on Saturday 16th January.

The Hon. Albinia Brodrick (sometimes incorrectly called Lady Brodrick) was born into the English aristocratic Brodrick family, the absentee landlords of Midleton in County Cork. Brought up in a firmly Unionist milieu she supported her family’s commitment to preserving the Union between Britain and Ireland and their rejection of Home Rule for Ireland. This stance was so pronounced that as a young woman she read the newspaper to her partially blind father, William, 8th Viscount Midleton, but only on the stipulation that she never read out William Gladstone’s name whenever it was mentioned in the news reports. Gladstone, of course, tried to pacify Ireland with various Home Rule proposals but nothing came of this endeavour.

Albinia's Hospital

The remains of Albinia Brodrick’s hospital at West Cove, near Caherdaniel, County Kerry.

Extremely well educated privately, and well travelled, Albinia later acted as hostess to her uncle who was Warden of Merton College, Oxford. At some point in the early 20th century Albinia underwent an extraordinary change in her political, social and national loyalties. First, she trained as a nurse and became a staunch advocate of reform in nursing education – especially in training nurses to deal with venereal disease. Then she became interested in the condition of the Irish rural poor, particularly in the Caherdaniel are of County Kerry, where she established a hospital to provide improved treatment for local people. But her most radical change was to identify herself entirely with Ireland – she learned to speak Irish, changed her name to Gobnait Ni Brudair. Albinia went further by becoming a radical Irish republican, supporting the 1916 Easter Rising, opposing the Treaty of 1921, supporting the Anti-Treaty forces during the Civil War. During this time, Albinia’s brother, William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 9th Viscount Midleton, was the leader of the Southern Unionists -a very different group from the Ulster Unionists.

St John Brodrick as Minister

William St John Fremantle Brodrick as a British Minister, at the dispatch box of the House of Commons, The leader of the Southern Unionists, he became the 9th Viscount Midleton, and in 1920 was created 1st Earl of Midleton.

Albinia died in relative poverty in 1955 and was buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard in Sneem, County Kerry. She left her property to the members of the old IRA – but in fact the true heirs could not be identified by the High Court in Dublin.┬áThe lecture will illustrate Albinia Brodrick’s life and radicalism.

The 1916 Centenary Commemorative lecture will take place at Midleton Library on Saturday 16th January at 12.00 noon. All are welcome.

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