The Life and Times of Michael Staines’


Staines as leader of the prisoners in Frongoch



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4.4 Staines as leader of the prisoners in Frongoch


Following the Easter Rising over 1,800 Irish rebels were imprisoned in Frongoch including Staines, the site was a former whiskey distillery in North Wales. It soon became a centre of Revolution and among its prisoners were Michael Collins & Richard Mulcahy. Staines was first sent to Wakefield and later Frongoch.

Frongoch had initially held German prisoners of war. Most of the Irish were interned without trial and many had not been supportive of the rebel cause initially but were converted during their time there. The experience of the prisoners was an important part of the propaganda to win support for the nationalist cause in the lead up to the War of Independence[Tow05].

The total numbers deported to England after the Rising amounted to 2,519. These men were held in various prisons for a few weeks and 650 were released early, leaving 1,863 which were interned in Frongoch. These men were held under the Defence of the Realm Act, 1914, which stated that they were 'suspected of having honoured, promoted or assisted an armed insurrection against His Majesty. Staines was elected Commandant of the prisoners after the former Commandant J.J. O'Connell was sent to Reading jail on 30 June.

Attempts to conscript into the British army in Frongoch proved to be contentious between the prisoners and the guards. The prisoners did not want to fight for Britain, and in addition they were concerned that acceptance of conscription in Frongoch would lead to the introduction of conscription in Ireland. Roughly sixty men in Frongoch had lived in Britain before the Rising and were deemed liable for conscription[Tow05].

W.J. Brennan-Whitmore describes Staines as maintaining “a very difficult position with remarkable efficiency and tact”, throughout the troubles in Frongoch. By December 1916 all the Irish prisoners had been repatriated and the camp was closed down.[Sea15]. W. J. Brennan-Whitmore was a Wexford journalist and British Army veteran who joined Sinn Fein in 1910. Because of his military knowledge he was appointed to the Volunteers general staff in the lead-up to the Easter Rising. He commanded a position in North Earl Street during the Rising, and was interned in Frongoch. He later worked for Michael Collins during the War of Independence and supported the Treaty. He retired from the Irish Army in 1926, and became an active member of Clann Na Póblachta. [Bre14].



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