Every year, on the Sunday closest to her anniversary, I organise a commemoration of Ireland's greatest women - Anne Devlin. I have been dong this for the last nine years now, and each year the format is the same: Midday mass in St. Catherine's Church on Meath Street in Dublin's Liberties. This is the church where Anne got married in 1811, and where her children were baptised - all four of them. At this mass, I give a short eulogy.
After mass, I go to Glasnevin Cemetery where Anne is buried, to lay a floral tribute on her grave. I usually say a few words at the graveside, and some prayers.
This year’s Anne Devlin Commemoration was a great success with people travelling from, for example, Belfast and Tyrone to attend. We were especially happy to greet our friends from the Anne Devlin Society, Belfast who hired a coach for the day to travel down. (I had given a talk on Anne at their inaugural meeting in April of this year.)
There were many new faces at this year’s commemoration and it is good to see that word is getting out about this forgotten Irish hero. Indeed, several people/organisations put up notices on their websites/Facebook pages, for which we are very grateful. Mile buiochais, a cairde uilig.
The day started out with 12 noon mass in St. Catherine’s Church, Meath Street. This church had a special meaning for Anne – it was where she got married, and where her children were baptised.
Fr. Niall said the mass, and I gave a short eulogy after the Communion which was received with a warm round of applause from the large congregation. After mass we had a chance to gather and talk for a while in the warm sunshine. Several local people shared stories and memories of their own parents or grandparents who had fought in the struggle for Ireland’s freedom with me, and expressed their gratitude and pleasure that a local hero was being remembered.
We went to the other St. Catherine’s Church in Thomas Street, then to visit the site of Robert Emmet’s execution on September 20, 1803, and where Anne Devlin was brought in a carriage from Kilmainham Gaol the following (under heavy armed guard, much to her amusement) and was forced to look at the pigs rutting around in Robert’s blood which still stained the roadway.
Declan McKernan, of Arthur’s Pub beside St. Catherine’s, was among the large attendance at the mass and afterwards invited everyone back to Arthur’s for tea or coffee – a lovely and generous act by a man who respects and honours Irish history.
Others put flowers on the grave too, so for a few days at least, it will show that Anne is not forgotten.
We all repaired to the Cemetery Restaurant and spent some time there mingling and chatting. On the way, we caught the end of the presentation of Patrick (not "Padraig" as Glasnevin insists on calling him) Pearse’s speech at the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa. Our congratulations to the actor, whom we have heard and seen perform this before – he is excellent and infuses his rendition with genuine passion.
Over the next couple of hours, people wandered off to view various graves in the graveyard and, eventually, we ourselves departed about 5:00 pm.
Once again, our thanks to all who attended, and we hope that all arrived home safely. We hope to see them all again next year, le Cunamh De.
Photos were taken by Kevin Devlin and more can be seen on my website - www.KilmainhamTales.ie