BALLAD OF BRIDGET HEALY
Written by GREGORY PAGE
Featuring ERIC RIGLER
“Ballad of Bridget Healy“ tells the true story of Gregory's grandmother living through the 1916 Rising.
The vivid imagery of their family heartbreak ultimately rises above bitterness: “I forgive but I can’t forget.” At the end, the artist emerges from the poverty, history and loss to “a beautiful day” all realized with eloquent Celtic-inspired music & melody.
Sean Healy — the boy Healy — is one of the most remarkable characters in the story of the Easter rising, being the youngest casualty on the republican side. Born in Phibsboro, Dublin, in 1901, he was educated at the adjacent St. Peter's N.S.
On leaving school he was apprenticed to the plumbing trade with his father and at thirteen years of age he joined Fianna Eireann. On Easter Sunday night he helped his father to move arms and ammunition in preparation for the Rising.
All day on Monday he waited expectantly for his mobilisation order. But he waited in vain, as the Fianna executive had decided that the younger boys were not to be called upon. On Tuesday morning he decided to go out and fight without orders. So he made his way across town and reported for duty to Commandant Thomas MacDonagh in Jacob's Factory, near Aungier Street. Some hours later he was given an urgent dispatch to carry to the officer commanding at Phibsboro Bridge. On his way he stopped at his home to let his mother know that he was safe and well. He left home within a few minutes and he had travelled only a short distance when he was shot at Byrne's Corner, Phibsboro. As he lay fatally wounded his dying words were, "God bless the Volunteers".
This first-hand testimony, recorded in the Bureau of Military History’s collection of eyewitnesses to the Rising, comes from an unnamed member of the Sisters of Mercy who was a nurse at the Mater hospital at that time. She describes the abysmal conditions under which hospital staff laboured in 1916 – and details sights which would stay with her for the rest of her life.
During Easter Week, Mr. Alexander Blayney (Surgeon) was on duty in the hospital. He never left it that whole week.
He was operating day and night. There was neither gas nor electricity and he had to operate by the light of candles brought from the sacristy. There was no sterilisation of instruments or dressings as there was no boiling water at hand, yet there was no case of sepsis following any of the operations. We were instructed that patients with abdominal wounds should be brought straight to the theatre without waiting to remove any clothes except the shoes and stockings. Tuesday was the first day that any wounded were brought. Nine of these were detained and the rest were treated and discharged. One of the badly wounded, Margaret Nolan who was a forewoman in Jacob’s factory died that day, as did also James Kelly – a schoolboy who was shot through the skull. Another schoolboy Seán Healy aged 15, a member of the Fianna whose brain was hanging all over his forehead when he was brought in, died after two days.
Today, one finds the Volunteer hat of Sean Healy in the Soldiers and Chiefs exhibition in Collins Barracks. At fifteen, it is difficult to picture any youngster as a ‘soldier’ of course. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery
This plaque can be seen at what is now Doyle’s corner, off the North Circular Road, just a short distance from Sean’s family home.