Born in Limerick in 1891, John Edward or 'Ned' Daly was the only son in a family of nine. Ned's father, Edward, an ardent Fenian, died before his son was born, but Ned's Uncle John, also a radical Fenian, was a formative influence. John Daly was prepared to use physical force to win Ireland's freedom and was imprisoned for twelve years for his activities. Ned's sister Kathleen married Tom Clarke, a key figure of the Easter Rising. Nationalism was in the Daly blood.
Yet young Ned was seen as frivolous and unmotivated, interested only in his appearance and his social life. How Edward Daly became a professional Volunteer soldier, dedicated to freeing his country from foreign rule, forms the core of this biography.
Drawing on family memories and archives, Edward Daly's grandniece Helen Litton uncovers the untold story of Edward Daly, providing an insight into one of the more enigmatic figures of the Easter Rising.
As commandant during the Rising, Ned controlled the Four Courts area. On 4 May 1916, Commandant Edward Daly was executed for his part in the Easter Rising. Ned was twenty-five years old. His body was consigned to a mass grave.
About the Author
Edward Daly (1891-1916): Born in Limerick on 28 February 1891 he was the only boy amongst nine sisters. Daly's family had a history of republican activity; his father had taken part in the Rising of 1867. He knew Tom Clarke through his uncle John Daly who shared a cell with the "dynamiter"- they were brought closer through Tom's marriage to his sister Kathleen Daly. The Christian Brothers who considered him "not by any means a brilliant pupil" educated him. He tried working in Glasgow as a bakers apprentice but returned to Limerick to work as a clerk in a timber yard. In 1912 he moved to Dublin and worked for the chemist wholesalers on Westmoreland Street, May Roberts. He was one of the first to join the Volunteers and helped to organize for the Rossa funeral in 1915. In the weeks leading up to the Rising, at Seán MacDiarmada's request he worked full time for the Volunteers.
Ned was commander of the Volunteers First Battalion who were based around the Four Courts area of Dublin during 1916. Daly raided the Bridewell Barracks and found twenty-four members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police hidden in their cells. He also raided the Linenhall Barracks, a building which housed the Army Pay Corps, which his men then set on fire in order to disrupt the system. Ned Daly and his men fought pitched battles with the British around the narrow streets of Smithfield and the Market area of Dublin. After the eventual surrender of the 1st Battalion an unfortunate incident occurred when British soldiers apparently lost control of themselves. They battered their way into houses along North King Street and shot male residents indiscriminately.
The discovery of a shallow grave after the Rising that contained two civilian bodies later led to an investigation, which served to help the decisive shift of public opinion against the British forces. On the other hand Daly had captured Col J.P. Brereton and held him in the Four Courts. Later Brereton commended the garrison for their behavior and said "he was treated with kindness by the insurgents." Ned Daly was taken to Kilmainham Gaol and took the dubious honour of being the youngest 1916 leader to be executed, on the 4 of May 1916.
Helen Litton is the author of six illustrated history books, and of two volumes in The O’Brien Press Sixteen Lives series, Edward Daly and Thomas Clarke. She is the editor of Revolutionary Woman, the autobiography of Kathleen Clarke. Helen is married, with two children and two grandchildren, and lives in Dublin.