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Home - Spying - The 1916 Easter Uprising - Thomas Clarke

Introduction

Thomas Clarke was born in 1858 on the Isle of Wright, the son of a British army sergeant and Mary Palmer from Cloghern, Co. Tipperary.

In a memorandum sent by General Sir John Maxwell to the then British Prime Minister, Herbet Asquith, the following description was provided for Thomas Clarke:

This man was a signatory to the Declaration of Irish Independence. He was one of the most prominent leaders in the Sinn Fenn movement in Dublin. He was present with the rebels in the GPO, Sackville Street, where some of the heaviest fighting took place and was proved to have been in a position of authority there. On 20 May 1885, under the name of Henry H. Wilson, he was sentenced in London to Penal Servitude for life for treason felony, and was released on licence on the 20 September 1898. He exercised a great influence over the younger members of the organisation with which he was connected.

Thomas Clarke was tried by Field General Courts Martial on 2 May 1916. The proceedings are contained in the PRO document WO 71/347.

Court Martial Proceedings

The members of the courts martial were Brigadier-General C.G. Blackader (President), Lieutenant-Colonels G. German and W.J. Kent.

To the charge of " ... did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intension and for the purpose of assisting the enemy." Thomas Clarke pleaded not guilty.

The 1st witness was 2nd Lieutenant S.L. King (12th Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers) who stated

Between 10 and 11am Tuesday 25 April 1916 I was in Sackville Street, 2 men rushed across from the direction of the Post Office, and took me prisoner taking me into the main entrance of the Post Office. While I was detained there I often saw the prisoner. He appeared to be a person in authority although he was not in uniform. Some of the men obtained a key from him at different times and some wore uniform. I have no doubt that he was one of the rebels.

When cross-examined by Thomas Clarke, 2nd Lieutenant King confirmed that he had been well treated during his term of imprisonment.

Thomas Clarke did not call any witnesses or make a statement in his defence.

Court Martial Verdict

Thomas Clarke was sentenced to death by shooting. This sentence was confirmed by General Maxwell. Between 3.30 and 4am on 3 May 1916, Thomas Clarke was shot in the former stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham Prison. His remains were later buried in Arbour Lane Cemetery.

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