Michael Collins – The “Big Fella” (1890 – 1922)
The town of Clonakilty is home to The National Michael Collins Memorial Statue. The monument was unveiled by the Actor Liam Neeson on August 22nd, 2002. Michael, one of the greatest military and political leaders in Irish History was born in Woodfield, Clonakilty in 1890.
West Cork was the heartland of Fenianism, the Irish nationalist movement founded in the nineteenth century. Jermiah O’Donovan Rossa, one of its founders, had been a teacher in a school in Rosscarberry, three miles away from the Collins household. Michael’s own teacher, Denis Lyons, was a member of the Fenian organisation, the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) and was to prove an inspirational figure. The local blacksmith, James Santry, was also a Fenian. Young Michael would often call to his forge to hear stories of earlier Irish rebellions in 1798 and 1848. Years later Michael Collins was to recall that, “In Denis Lyons and James Santry I had my first tutors capable of, because of their personalities alone, infusing into me pride of the Irish as a race.”
On August 22, shortly after the death of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins was on a tour of inspection in the Cork area. Returning in convoy from Bandon he was ambushed at Beal na mBlath (The Mouth of Flowers) and died immediately of a single gunshot wound to the head.