The story of Roscommon native Brigid Lyons is among those set to be told in a major exhibition at NUI Galway entitled ‘A University in War and Revolution 1913-1919’ which offers a glimpse into the lives of many individuals from the University caught up in the historic events of the era.
The exhibition will be officially opened by Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Professor Emeritus at NUI Galway on Monday, 4th April and examines life in University College Galway (UCG), as it was then known, during a period of great social, cultural and political change. Exhibition materials drawn from the NUI Galway archives show that the emerging Ireland was reflected in the increasing numbers of students taking Irish, in the growing popularity of Gaelic games, and in the establishment of a University Corps of Volunteers.
The outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914 came as a shock to many, and it had a tremendous impact on the University, as it had on Ireland in general. In the medium term, the war led to rebellion and political transformation, but more immediately there was a rush to enlist in the British army, which was encouraged by the University authorities. About 140 UCG students, staff and graduates fought in the war, of whom fifteen were killed. Their expectations and experiences are conveyed in the exhibition through poignant images and in obituaries published in the student magazines of the day.
The exhibition offers a glimpse into the lives of many individuals caught up in the historic events of the era, people like Mary Donovan O’Sullivan and Brigid Lyons, who took very different positions politically.
Mary Donovan O’Sullivan, the Professor of History at UCG was still in her 20s in 1916. She had been an active feminist in the Connaught Women’s Franchise League, but in 1915, she married Lieutenant Jeremiah O’Sullivan, a UCG engineering graduate. As chairperson of the Galway Women’s Recruitment Committee, she was a strong supporter of the war effort. Early in 1916, she denounced the campus republicans, urging, “There [is] no doubt that a number of young men here [in UCG] would be better employed at the front.”
Among the republicans Donovan O’Sullivan was criticising, was Brigid Lyons, a second-year Arts student from Scramogue who had taken a lead in establishing the Galway branch of Cumann na mBan. Lyons was at home on her Easter holidays when word of the Rising reached her. She travelled to Dublin with her uncle, Joseph McGuinness, a prominent Longford republican, joining the Four Courts Garrison, where her commanding officer, Frank Fahy, was a UCG graduate himself.
The exhibition will open on Monday, 4th April at 5.30pm in the Hardiman Research Building at NUI Galway. Members of the public are invited to visit the exhibition which will run in the Hardiman Research Building until mid-November 2016.
For further information on the exhibition visit: www.nuigalway.ie/anationrising