A significant man of the Rising

This biography of Edward Daly is part of a series on the 16 executed leaders of the Easter Rising. The author is a grandniece of Edward Daly, hence she has been able to enhance her account with some fascinating and insightful family lore.


Daly was born in Limerick on February 28, 1891 into a republican family. The young Edward was deeply influenced by the political activity and Fenian nationalism of extended family.


His uncle John Daly, the national organiser for the IRB, had been imprisoned in 1884. Soon agitation, led by the Amnesty Association, was begun for the release of Daly and the other Fenian prisoners. The Daly home was the centre of this activity in Limerick. While still a prisoner, John Daly was elected MP for Limerick in 1893 and after his release from prison became Limerick’s first Nationalist mayor in 1899. 



Edward (Ned) Daly was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers and began his working life as a clerk in Spaight’s Timber Yard.  At the beginning of 1913 following a number of rows with his uncle he left Limerick and settled in Dublin, where he secured employment with May Roberts Chemists, and stayed with his sister Kathleen and her husband Tom Clarke. On November 25 he attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers at the Rotunda, joined the First Battalion as a private and was later elected captain. He took an active part in the gun-running at Howth and later at Kilcoole in July 1914. After impressing his superiors on both occasions he was appointed commandant of the 1st Brigade by Patrick Pearse in March 1915.


By 1915 Daly had already joined the inner leadership of the revolutionary movement.  He was sworn into the IRB and co-opted on to a sub-committee of the organisation’s Military Council.  By mid-February he was aware of the role he and his battalion would have in the event of a Rising.  His central involvement in the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in July was a clear sign of his new status in the movement.



As preparations for the Rising continued the Military Council were anxious to ensure that Eoin MacNeill would not counter-command their actions, so they had Bulmer Hobson kidnapped to prevent him persuading MacNeill to that end. When James Connolly’s activities appeared to be jeopardising their plans they had him kidnapped also. Daly was involved in the action against Hobson and aware of that taken against Connolly. 



MacNeill’s banning of all parades on Easter Sunday caused confusion among the Volunteers. Thus when Daly mobilised his brigade on Easter Monday only 140 of its 400 members turned out. With the men at his disposal he was only able to occupy the Four Courts and buildings along Church Street to North King Street. Daly and his command successfully defended this area until the general surrender. After his court martial he was executed on May 4.  Like the other Volunteer Leaders he faced his execution with courage and dignity.


In this biography Helen Litton provides a valuable account of the least-known of the 1916 leaders. Her book also includes interesting profiles of Daly’s eight sisters and a collection of delightful pictures of the extended Daly family.