Thursday 27 October 2016

Connolly's friend Walpole put up 'Irish Republic' flag at the GPO

Rebel stories

Harry Walpole (Pic: Jimmy Wren)
Harry Walpole (Pic: Jimmy Wren)

Robert 'Harry' Walpole was born in 1895.

He lived at Ranelagh Road and, along with his brother Leo, was among the first members of the youth organisation Na Fianna Eireann, formed in 1909 by Countess Markievicz, along with Bulmer Hobson.

While in Na Fianna, Harry came in regular contact with James Connolly, the leader of the Irish Citizen Army.

He joined the Irish Volunteers on their formation in 1913 and was a member of F Company, 4th Battalion.


His commanding officer was Con Colbert, who was later executed for his part in the Rising.

During Easter Week Harry was stationed at the GPO with the rank of lieutenant.

In a later statement to the Bureau of Military History Harry explained one of his duties on Easter Monday - raising the flag at the GPO.

The flag was made of green poplin and had a fringe of gold lace, with the words 'Irish Republic' in white and orange letters.

It had been wrapped in plain brown paper and passed on to James Connolly by Countess Markievicz, at whose home it had been prepared shortly before the Rising.

Harry recalled: "Some 15 minutes after the taking of the position, say 12.15pm, Commandant General Connolly, who was a personal friend, said 'here is a job for you...take this parcel, it is the flag, put it up'.

"On the roof of the GPO I met Sean Hegarty. He asked me where I was going and what was in the parcel. I told him it was the flag and that I was going to unfurl it.

"He asked to come and help and I said certainly.


"We went to the Prince's Street end of the General Post Office. Here there was a flag pole and Sean Hegarty pulled the flag half way. I pulled the flag to the top and tied it."

Harry added: "It flew all through the week and after the surrender...it was still flying.

"The pole had been hit at the height of the parapet and the flag flew out over O'Connell Street."

During Easter week Harry was also tasked with guarding the injured Connolly, who had been shot and wounded on the Thursday.

Harry and was one of the Volunteers who helped carry Connolly to Moore Street after the GPO was evacuated the following day.

Following the surrender Harry was arrested, as was his brother Leo, who had fought during the week at Boland's Mill under Eamon de Valera.

Both men were held at Frongoch internment camp in north Wales until their release in July 1916.

After the Rising the GPO flag was captured by soldiers of the Royal Irish Regiment and hung upside down in their mess hall, until it was returned to the Irish people in 1966.

It is now on display in the National Museum.

Harry Walpole died in 1964 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. His brother Leo died in 1984.

Details submitted by Lenny Martin (great-nephew)

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