In the spring of 1919 the Minister for Labor, Countess Constance Markievicz, arrived in Cork to deliver speeches in the city and county but, it resulted in the rebel countess ending up in Cork City Gaol

On a soft spring Sunday, in May, word spread around the north Cork village of Kiskeam that Markievicz was on her way. Panic swept the sleepy village and a platform was hastily erected in a field to accommodate her.

The reason for her appearance at Kiskeam lay in the fact that Markievicz had to run away from where she was originally scheduled to appear - Newmarket.

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An open air feis hosted by the Newmarket Gaelic League was scheduled to take place and Countess Markievicz was invited to give a speech at the event.

The authorities placed a ban on the feis and when they found out who was due to speak at the banned feis in Newmarket they flooded the town with detectives and constables.

Countess Constance Markievicz.

Countess Constance Markievicz.

When the Countess arrived at Newmarket, she booked into the Railway Hotel. The authorities watched her every move in the North Cork town, and it was considered too risky for her to make a 'seditious speech' there, so an alternative was planned. 

The Countess went to the family home of Sean Moylan, Captain of the Newmarket IRA Company and future Fianna Fail Minister, where she changed her own clothes for men's attire. She then climbed out a small window at the back of the house and made her way through fields until she met local man Corney Lenihan who was waiting for her in a pony and trap in a small dusty lane and took her away in the direction of Kiskeam.

As the authorities surrounded the Moylan house, local lady Madge McCarthy agreed to put on the Countess's clothes and serve as a decoy. As she was of the same build and height and had similar facial features, Madge took on the role of Countess Markievicz.

Countess Constance Markievicz and a companion photographed in 1922.

Countess Constance Markievicz and a companion photographed in 1922.

 As Madge McCarthy emerged from the house, she was linked arm in arm with Mamie Moylan, Sean's sister, who guided her up the street to the Railway Hotel. McCarthy waved at the crowd of locals who had gathered and shouted "Up the Republic" in a faux aristocratic accent. 

In the Railway Hotel the 'Countess' went upstairs to her room while a number of constables and detectives stayed on the street outside, all night!

At dawn next morning, Madge MacCarthy donned her own clothes once again and left the hotel as herself. Detectives ordered the hotel manager to name the guests staying there but he could tell them only one guest booked in the previous night. When asked for a name he stated "ah 'twas only Miss MacCarthy from up the street."

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Later that night Madge MacCarthys windows were shot at by a number of masked RIC men. Undaunted, she calmly took to her piano in the drawing room and played Irish tunes in the face of state sponsored hooliganism!

At Kiskeam a large crowd greeted the arrival of Markievicz, and the meeting went off without a hitch, the telephone lines had been cut to make sure no enemy uniform would be called for!

Countess Constance Markievicz.

Countess Constance Markievicz.

The following Sunday the Countess was due to give a speech in Cork City Hall followed by a concert. She did make it to Cork city but, not to the City Hall. She was arrested at home in Dublin and sent on a train to Mallow. Escorted by 30 RIC constables, Markievicz was brought to Mallow Court on charges of making a seditious speech in Kiskeam. 

Markievicz was sentenced to four months in Cork City Gaol. Behind bars the countess was allowed her own food which was made by local Cumann na mBan comrades and delivered daily. She enjoyed gardening and even made a rock garden for the governor in the prison grounds!

 Countess Markievicz also enjoyed a fine view from her cell, as she wrote in a letter to her sister Eva: "I have a lovely view over the River Lee, a garden full of pinks, constant meals sent in by local friends, and at night the most beautiful moths fluttering against the bars."

In another letter to her sister, dated June 21st, 1919, Markievicz wrote about the support she got from local ladies in the Cumann na mBan: ''I got lovely roses and such heaps of strawberries and cream too. Friends are so good to me. If you want to be really appreciated in Ireland, go to jail!"

Countess Markievicz was released on October 1st and she left Cork to continue her fight for Irish Independence.

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Markievicz mugshot.