Lot 151: 1916 Rising Medal to Joseph Plunkett.
January 21, 2017
Dublin, IrelandLive Auction
1916 Rising Medal to Joseph Plunkett.
Awarded posthumously to Plunkett, a 1916 Rising bronze medal on green and orange silk poplin ribbon, the reverse numbered ''70'' and named ''Joseph Plunkett'', in box of issue.
Provenance: Gifted by Grace Gifford to Cathal Gannon, thence to the current owner. The circumstances of the gifting of the medal by Grace Gifford to Cathal Gannon are related in Gannon, Charles. Cathal Gannon: The Life and Times of a Dublin Craftsman, 1910-1999; 2006 Lilliput Press, Dublin, p.149.
Other Notes: Plunkett was born in Dublin, son of George Noble Plunkett, a papal count and Irish nationalist.
Plunkett contracted tuberculosis at a young age and which afflicted him for the rest of his life. He was educated at the Catholic University School (CUS) and by the Jesuits at Belvedere College in Dublin and later at Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire, where he acquired some military knowledge from the Officers'' Training Corps. Throughout his life, Joseph Plunkett took an active interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language. He joined the Gaelic League and began studying with Thomas MacDonagh, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. The two were both poets with an interest in theatre, and both were early members of the Irish Volunteers, joining their provisional committee. Plunkett persuaded his father to let a family property at Kimmage be used as a training centre for Irish Volunteers.
Sometime in 1915 Joseph Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and soon after was sent to Germany to meet with Roger Casement, who was negotiating with the German government on behalf of Ireland. Plunkett successfully got a promise of a German arms shipment to coincide with the rising.
Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the Easter Rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed. Shortly before the rising was to begin, Plunkett was hospitalised and had an operation on his neck glands days before Easter and had to struggle out of bed to take part in what was to follow. Still bandaged, he took his place in the General Post Office with several other of the rising''s leaders such as Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke, though his health prevented him from being terribly active. His energetic aide de camp was Captain Michael Collins.
Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham Gaol, and faced a court martial. Seven hours before his execution by firing squad at the age of 28, he was married in the prison chapel to his fiance, Grace Gifford.
His widow became a prominent republican, opposed the 1921 Treaty and was imprisoned by the Irish Free State government. In 1941 she refused to attend a ceremony to receive her husband''s 1916 Rising medal. This was probably a protest against the government''s wartime policy of internment of IRA members, many of whom were known to her. When the medal was posted to her she threw it in the bin, where it was rescued by Cathal Gannon; Grace told him to keep it as she didn''t want it. She was also embittered with the Plunkett family as they prevented her from receiving anything from her husband''s estate and she had had to sue Count George Plunkett to receive a settlement of only £700 in 1934.