It took months to plan but in the end a unique aspect of Liverpool Irish history was successfully re-enacted in Liverpool yesterday when hundreds marched behind a replica funeral casket that held the coffin of Irish patriot Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, on the centenary year of the original landing of his body in Liverpool.
Organised by Irish community campaigning group, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool (Liverpool Friends of Ireland), yesterdays event retraced the exact steps taken by the men of A and B Company’s of the Irish Volunteers in Liverpool in 1915, when they carried on their shoulders the funeral casket of O’Donovan Rossa from Princes Landing Stage to Nelson Dock nearly 2 miles away. The coffin escort was led at the time by Captain Frank Thornton, who along with many of the men of that day, was to later take part in the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland.
The day was made more special by the participation of members of the Irish community who dressed in period costume and replica Irish Volunteer uniforms. The participants led the parade from Holy Cross in Liverpool, an area with strong Irish connections, through Liverpool city centre to meet the replica funeral casket at Pier Head, close to the original Princes Landing Stage. In line with the statement made by Captain Frank Thornton following the landing of the funeral casket in 1915, O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral casket was then carried on the shoulders of the re-enactors on the 2 mile journey to Nelson Dock supported by the 4 flute marching bands. At Nelson’s Dock the re-enactment was ended by the playing of Amran Na bFhiann (Irish national anthem).
A function held later at St Michaels Irish Centre heard speeches from Seanna Walsh, Belfast Sinn Fein Councillor who outlined the crucial role that O’Donovan Rossa played in the fight for Irish freedom at the time and how his death and burial inspired a generation of Irish women and men to re-double their efforts to achieve Irish self-government and Irish sovereignty. Also heard was a reading delivered by local music artist Ian Prowse of the graveside oration given by the executed Easter Rising leader, Patrick Pearse during O’Donovan Rossa’s burial.
Yesterday’s successful re-enactment shows the important role that the Irish in Liverpool played in Irish political history. It also shows the entitlement of todays Irish community in Liverpool to play its part in remembrance of its history and its heroes. As the Decade of Centenaries proceeds it is important that the rights of the Irish in Liverpool and the Irish across England, Scotland and Wales to commemorate its history is respected. In the coming years, Cairde na hEireann Liverpool plans further innovative projects with community participation to commemorate and remember key Irish historical events that involved members of the Liverpool Irish community.