Julia "Sheila" O' Hanlon

(17/04/1895 - 23/07/1970)

Sheila Lynch, born Julia O’ Hanlon on the 17th April 1895 to parents James O’ Hanlon and Rose (Rosanna) Maguire. The family lived in 2 St. Joseph’s Terrace, Dolphins barn in 1901 and shortly afterwards moved to 7 Camac Place(now demolished), at the junction of Parnell and Crumlin Road. Sheila was the eldest and had five siblings – Mary(1897), Luke(1899), Kathleen(1903), Rose(1904), James(1907) and Constance(1916).  James worked as a clerk in the railway and later in the Dolphin Brickworks and Rose was a dressmaker.

When the call of duty beckoned, Sheila joined the Inghinidhe branch of Cumann na mBan in 1915.  Her sister Mary”Mollie” joined the same Cumann na mBan branch and her brothers Luke and James Jr, joined Fianna Eireann  and father James were also involved during the revolutionary period, both of whom spent time in Arbour hill prison. Before the Easter Rising, the house at 7 Camac Place was used as a safe house for volunteers and was used to store munitions, stretchers and medical supplies.. As the Rising kicked off, Sheila was summoned by Éamonn Ceannt to rally her squad of six women at Cleaver’s Hall. From there, she hustled first aid supplies to Marrowbone Lane Distillery, where she served as a Squad Commander throughout the Rising.

From the witness statement of Margaret Kennedy, commandand of the Cumann na mBan, Senator and family friend:

“On Easter Monday morning I had a mobilisation order. I was in the 4th Battalion group, and we were mobilised for Cleaver Hall. Donore Avenue, at 10 o’clock a.m. Six or eight. of us were sent to O’Hanlon’s, 7 Camac Place, Dolphin’s Barn, to collect stretchers, lanterns and other goods stored there. Two girls of this family were with us. When we returned to Cleaver Hall we were ordered to proceed to Emerald Square to link up with the 4th Battalion. We moved off at the rere of “A” Company in the Battalion; all the girls on parade went together to Marrowbone Lane Distillery with “A” Company, and we all remained there until the following Sunday evening. No one was seriously or fatally wounded,  but none got much sleep or rest, as attack on a big scale was always expected and prepared for.”

After the surrender, Sheila found herself in Richmond Barracks and later Kilmainham Gaol alongside her comrades. Yet, her spirit remained unbroken. Released on May 8th, she wasted no time rejoining the Inghinidhe branch and throwing herself back into the fray. She helped with the reorganisation efforts and even collected funds for the Prisoners’ Dependents’ Fund.

Throughout the tumultuous times that followed, Sheila was a constant presence at public demonstrations, including funerals and anti-conscription protests. She rolled up her sleeves and pitched in during the 1918 General Election, campaigning tirelessly for Sinn Féin alongside her Cumann na mBan comrades.

But Sheila’s contributions didn’t stop there. During the War of Independence, she was handpicked for “special duties” by Margaret ‘Loo’ Kennedy, Commandant of the Inghinidhe branch and family friend. This involved delivering crucial messages and surveilling suspected spies, often dodging military patrols along the way. Despite the risks, Sheila remained undaunted. She played a crucial role in transporting weapons and ammunition for the IRA.

The O’Hanlon home in Camac Place became a hub of resistance, serving as an arms depot and safe house for IRA members and often raided by the Police.

During the Civil war, she administrated first aid to wounded anti-Treaty men and acted as a courier delivering important messages around the city for the intelligence department and Chief of Staff, Mr Frank Aiken and Michael Carolan.  She was arrested in October 1923 by Pro-Treaty forces. Once released, she stopped her activities and Sheila settled into family life with her husband, Gilbert Lynch who she married 12 June 1924, and they had five children. The family was living on 164 Crumlin Road, Crumlin. Gilbert, a former president of the Irish Trade Union Council, served as a Fianna Fáil TD for Galway. Together, they weathered the storms of history, their legacy intertwined with the fight for Irish freedom. Sheila Lynch passed away in 1970, aged 75, leaving behind a legacy of courage, resilience, and dedication to the cause.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Sheila O'Hanlon member of Cumann na Ban who lived in Camac Place, off Crumlin Road.