Eamon Bulfin and The Easter Rising.
On Easter Monday, in the midst of the 1916 Easter Rising, Eamon Bulfin hoisted aloft, on the roof of the rebel headquarters of the G.P.O. in Dublin, a green flag with the words “Irish Republic” painted on it. When the insurrection was crushed by British forces, Bulfin was sentenced to death for his role in the uprising.
William Bulfin is the inspirational figure for the Bulfin Heritage Cycle Rally. Having returned to Ireland from Argentina at the turn of the century, Bulfin undertook a road trip of his homeland, on a bicycle made by ‘Pierce of Wexford’. As he cycled the highways and byways of Ireland, he duly noted everything he had seen, and everyone he had met along the way. In 1907 the fascinating account of his 3,000 mile exploratory journey was published in a book entitled ‘Rambles In Eirinn’. It is an enchantingly descriptive narrative of an Ireland of old, that so eloquently blends landscapes and geographies, with people and histories.
But this important social document is not William Bulfin’s only legacy. He was a proud Irish Nationalist, and so it was perhaps inevitable that his son Eamon would inherited his father’s deep devotion to Ireland. Eamon was born in Argentina in 1892, at a time when William was writing of his experience on the pampas, for the Buenos Aires newspaper The Southern Cross , which was owned by Cork man, Michael Dineen.
After the Bulfin’s had returned to Ireland, Eamon was one of the first students enrolled in Pádraig Pearse‘s Irish language school Sgoil Éanna (St Enda’s). He forged a strong relationship with Pearse, and after he had graduated, he assisted with teaching at Sgoil Éanna, and continued his own studies at University College Dublin.
In 1913 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and later became a bomb maker, as preparations for the Rising gathered pace. The Rising began on April 24th, 1916, and Eamon Bulfin soon found himself on the roof of the General Post Office, bestowed the honour of raising the flag that proclaimed the Irish Republic.
There were two flags on the Post Office. One was given to me. It was the ordinary Irish flag, green with the harp, and in white letters (inscribed) across the middle were the words “Irish Republic”. I can’t recollect who gave it to me, but I think it was Willie Pearse. The thing I remember most clearly about its hoisting is that I had some kind of a hazy idea that the flag should be rolled up in some kind of a ball, so that when it would be hauled up, it would break out. As a matter of fact, I did it that way because it did open out in the proper manner when hoisted.
That flag was floating on the Prince’s Street corner of the G.P.O. I think Willie Pearse was there when it was being hoisted. Whatever number of men we had – twenty or twenty-five – were all actually present. It was in the corner of the Post Office, behind the balustrade. I think both flags were put up about the same time.
I have no recollection as to who put up the other flag, but I think it was a chap whom we afterwards knew as Redmond. He was one of the Liverpool-Irish in the Kimmage Garrison, and I think his real name was Joe Gleeson. I don’t remember Gearóid O’Sullivan being there, but I did not know him at the time and he may have been there.
The Rising would last for six days, before the vastly superior British military blasted the rebels into submission. Despite suffering heavy casualties in the early exchanges, the crown forces succeeded in surrounding the rebel strongholds, bombarding them with heavy artillery and forcing the inevitable surrender. Retribution was swift. More than 3,500 people were arrested, many of whom had played no part in the revolt, but were nonetheless interned in camps and prisons across Britain. For Pearse and the rest of the leaders, there was no such ‘leniency’.
General Maxwell arranged the courts-martial, of those deemed responsible, and most dangerous to British interests in Ireland. Without affording the accused any option of defence, the illegal trials began on May 2nd 1916. The following day, Eamon Bulfin’s close friend and comrade, Pádraig Pearse was executed, along with fellow signatories of the Proclamation, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh.
Thirteen more executions would follow, and among the number scheduled to die thereafter was Eamon Bulfin. His death sentence was ultimately commuted, perhaps because of the fact he had been born in Argentina. He was interned in Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales, before eventually being deported to Buenos Aires.
Éamon de Valera, another rebel who had had his death sentence reprieved, took advantage of Bulfin’s exile, and appointed him the Irish Representative to Argentina. His brief was to “inaugurate direct trade between Ireland and the Argentine Republic… to co-ordinate Irish opinion in the Argentine, and to bring it into the Irish demand for a republic.” [Irish News]
In his absence, Bulfin maintained a line of communication with Michael Collins, and was nominated to run for a seat in his father’s home county of Offaly, in the 1920 County Council Election. Despite residing in Argentina, he was elected and immediately appointed as chairman of the council. One of his first tasks of office was to rename the Kings County, as Offaly, after the old Gaelic kingdom it’s lands were once part of.
After independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State Eamon Bulfin returned to Ireland. He would live to see the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising, and the return of the flag he had raised above the G.P.O. on that Easter Monday. He died on Christmas Eve in 1968, and is buried at Eglish churchyard, near Birr, Co. Offaly.
The Bulfin Heritage Cycle rally 2019.
2019 Event: August 24th & 25th
In previous years the Bulfin Heritage Cycle Rally has followed some of the routes, as outlined in Bulfin’s remarkable book; through Offaly, Laois, Kilkenny and Tipperary.
In 2018 we mapped our own route, concentrating on the history and heritage of Co. Laois, taking in such wonderful places as the Irish Fly Fishing & Game Shooting Museum, Heywood Gardens, Timahoe Round Tower & Heritage Centre, Emo Court and the magnificent Rock of Dunamase, to mention but a few!
Each year we travel in vintage attire, on High Nelly bikes, and our journey is punctuated by heritage site visits, heritage talks, historical re-enactments, music and food; so ours is a gentle paced leisure cycle, despite the odd difficult hill!
It’s about parking the mountain bike, the 24 gears, the carbon fibre, the racer, and mounting a bicycle from another era…something made of steel…maybe even something a little bit rusty! It’s about dressing up for Ancient Ireland, sharing our heritage in the company of the overseas guests, that regularly join us, and generally enjoying the Craic. Whether you cycle on an old time butcher’s bike, a restored High Nelly charmer, with a stylish wicker basket, a 40’s or 50’s Raleigh, or a modern replica, it doesn’t matter. What does matter, is that you get involved in a novel heritage event where cycling is only part of the fun.
The theme for The Bulfin Heritage Cycle Rally 2019, is ‘Meandering Monks & Medieval Miles’ and we will forge a trail through Ireland’s rich monastic and medieval history. So if you are interested in cycling, history, heritage or just having a wonderful fun filled, couple of days, The Bulfin Heritage Cycle Rally, really is for you! It is a leisurely cycle, along a route that promises to be full of hidden history, and heritage, so chalk it down on the calendar – August 24th & 25th 2019!
We don’t want to say too much, but we can give a few hints, such as medieval buildings, round towers, St. Fintan and St. Canice!
We will update with more specific event and ticket sale details, once finalised.
And remember – All You Need Is A Bike!
Check out last year’s event!
Just follow the link above to see an overview and some photographs of Day One, from this year’s Bulfin Heritage Cycle Rally. There are lots of photographs, so it may take a minute or two to load, so please be patient.
Just follow the link above to see an overview and some photographs of Day Two, from this year’s Bulfin Heritage Cycle Rally. There are lots of photographs, so it may take a minute or two to load, so please be patient. See The Story of Day One Here
For bookings & further details please contact Legends Vintage Cycle Club: