Graveside Oration

The Heroic Dead

The oration at the graveside of the late Commander- in-Chief was given by General Mulcahy. Speaking in Irish General Mulcahy said ;- “There was a lot of sorrow heavy on the hearts of our people to-day,our minds like the great Cathedral below after the last Mass had been said and the coffin borne away, and the great concourse of people emptied from it – our minds were dry, wordless, and empty with nothing in them but the little light of faith”.

Continuing in English the Commander-in-Chief said ;-

Our country is to-day bent under a sorrow such as it has not been bent under for many a year. Our minds are cold, empty, wordless, andwithout sound. But it is only our weaknesses that are bent under this great sorrow that we meet with to-day. All that is good in us, all that is strong in us, is strengthened by the memory of that great hero and that great legend, who is now laid to rest. We bend to-day over the grave of a young man not more than thirty years of age who took to himself the gospel of toil for Ireland, the gospel of working for the people of Ireland, and of sacrifice for their good, and who has made himself a hero and a legend that will stand in the pages of our history with any bright page that was ever written there. Pages have been written by him in the hearts of our people that will never find themselves in print. But we lived, some of us, with these intimate pages, and those pages that will reach history, meagre though they be, will do good to our country and will inspire us through many a dark hour. Our weaknesses cry out to us “Michael Collins was too brave.” Michael Collins was not too brave.

Every day and every hour he lived he lived it to the full extent of that bravery which God gave to him, and it is for us to be as brave as he was-brave before danger, brave before those who lie, brave before those who speak false words, brave even to that very great bravery that our weakness complains of in him.

When we look over the pages of his diary for the 22nd August, ” started 6.15 a.m., Macroom, Ballineen, Bandon, Skibbereen, Roscarbery,Clonakilty,” our weakness says he tried to put too much into the day. Michael Collins did not try to put too much into the day. Standing on the little mantle-piece of his office was a bronze plaque of President Roosevelt of the United States, and the inscription on it ran” I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labour and strife ; to preach that highest form of success that comes, not to the man who desires mere ease and peace, but to him who does not shrink from danger, hardship or bitter toil, and who out of these, wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”

” Unless the grain of corn that falls into the ground die’ there is nothing but itself in it, but if it dies it gives forth great fruit,” and Michael Collins’ passing will give us forth great fruit, and Michael Collins’ dying will give us forth great fruit. Every bit of his small grain of corn died and re-died night and day during the last four or five years. We have seen him lying on a bed of sickness, and struggling with infirmities, running from his bed to his work. On Saturday, the day before he went on his last journey to Cork, he sat with me at breakfast writhing with pain from a cold all through his body, and yet he was facing his day’s work for that Saturday, and facing his Sunday’s journey and Monday’s journey and his journey on Tuesday. So let us be brave, and let us not be afraid to do too much in the day. In all that great work strenuous it was, comparatively it was intemperate, but it was the only thing that Michael Collins was intemperate in.

How often with a shout he used get out of bed in the morning at 5 or 6 o’clock crying” all the time that is wasted in sleep,” and would dasharound the room, or into some neighbouring room where some of us lay in hope of another hour or two’s sleep, and he would clear all theblankets off us, or would pound vigorously at the door that prudence had locked.

Crossing the square of the barracks on the Saturday morning that I mention, he told of his visit to one of the barracks in the South on hisfirst trip there, and of finding most of the garrison in bed at 10 o’clock; and thinking of all the lack of order, lack of cleanliness, lack of moralstrength and efficiency that goes with this particular type of sloth, and of that demoralisation following on the dissatisfaction that one has with oneself all the day that one starts with an hour’ disadvantage, “oh,” he said, “if our fellows would only get up at 6 o’clock in the morning.”Yes, get up to read, to write, to think, to plan, to work, or like Ard Riogh Eireann long ago, simply to greet the sun. The God-given long day fully felt, and fully seen, would bring its own work and its own construction. Let us be brave then, and let us work.

“Prophecy,” said Peter, who was the great “rock,” “is a light shining in the darkness till the day dawn.” And surely” our great rock” was ourprophet, and our prophecy a light held aloft along the road of ” danger or hardship or bitter toil” And if our light is gone out, it is only as the paling of a candle in the dawn of its own prophecy. The act of his, the word of his, the look of his was day by day a prophecy to us that loose lying us lay capabilities for foil, for bravery, for regularity, for joy in life and in slowness and in hesitancy and m weanness half yielded to, his prophecies came true in us. And just as he as a person was a light and a prophecy to us, individually he looked to It, and wIshed that this band of brothers, which is the army, will be a prophecy to our people.

Recent writings, recent speeches, the recent break in our National silence that have dIsfigured the last few months, have seemed toemphasise the Army as a thing apart and different from the people. Our Army has been the people, is the people, and will be the people. Our green uniform does not make us less the people. It is a cloak of service; a curtailer of our weaknesses; an amplifier of our strength.

The Army will be a concentration, a crystal that will crystallise out all the good, all the bravery, all the industry, all the clear intelligence that lies in saturation in the people and hold aloft a head line for the Nation. We are jealous for his greatness. Words have been quoted as being his last words, Michael Collins is supposed to have said the fragile words “forgive them.” Michael Collins never said these words, “forgive them,” because his great big mind could not have entertained the obverse thought, and he knew those who sat round him and worked with him that they too were too big to harbour in their minds the obverse thought.

When Michael Collins met difficulties, met people that obstructed him, and worked against him, he didn’t turn aside to blame them, but facing steadily ahead he worked bravely forward to the goal that he intended. He had that faith in the intensity of his own work that in its development and in its construction he would absorb into one homogeneous whole in the Nation without the necessity for blame or for forgiveness of all those who differed from him and all those who fought against him. He is supposed to have said “Let the Dublin Brigade bury me.” Michael Collins knows that we will never bury him. He lies here among the men of the Dublin Brigade. Around him there lie forty-eight comrades of his from our Dublin battalions. But Michael Collins never separated the men of Dublin from the men of Kerry, nor the men of Dublin from the men of Donegal, nor the men of Donegal from the men of Cork. His great love embraced our whole people and our whole Army..and he was as close in spirit with our men in Kerry and Donegal as he was with our men in Dublin. Yes. And even those men in different districts in the country who sent us home here our dead Dublin men-we are sure he felt nothing but pity and sorrow for them for the tragic circumstances in which they find themselves, knowing that in fundamentals and ideals they were the same.

Michael Collins had only a few minutes to live and to speak after he received his death wound, and the only word he spoke in these few moments was ” Emmet.” He called’ to the comrade alongside him, the comrade of many fights and many plans, and I am sure that he felt in calling that one name that he was calling around him the whole men of Ireland that he might speak the last word of comradeshIp and love.

We last looked at him in the City Hall and in the small Church in Vincent’s Hospital. And studying his face with an eager gaze, we found there the same old smile that met us always in our work. And seeing it there in the first dark hour of our blow, the mind could not help travelling back ‘ to the dark storm tossed sea of Galilee, and the frail bark tossedupon the waters there, and the strong calm smile of the Great Sleeper in the stern of the boat.

Tom Ashe, Tomas McCurtain, Trailough MacSuibhne, Dick McKee, Micheal O’Coileain, and all you who lie buried here, Disciples of ourgreat Chief, those of us you leave behind are all too grain from the same handful, scattered by the hand of the Great Sower over the fruitful soil of Ireland. We too will bring forth our own fruit.

Men and women of Ireland we are all mariner on the deep, bound for a port still seen only through storm and spray, sailing still on a sea full of dangers, and hardships, and bitter toil.” But the Great Sleeper lies smiling in the stern of the boat, and we shall be filled with that spirit  which will walk bravely upon the waters.