Ernie O'Malley was born in Castlebar, Co Mayo, Ireland, and fought for the hardline republican side in the Irish civil war. After travelling in the U.S. Ernie O'Malley later settled at Burrishoole near Achill Island. He became a writer, notable for his war memoirs, and a champion of the arts in Ireland.

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Ernie O'Malley & Achill Island : Page 1 of 6

Ernie O'Malley was born in Ellison Street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo in 1897. One of eleven children, Ernie and his brothers and sisters would spend most summers at the O'Malley family's rented house near Rosbeg, Westport, from where he would explore the area around Clew Bay, a wide bay that runs out to Clare Island and Achill Island on its northern shore. In later life Ernie O'Malley would speak fondly of his time spent around Clew Bay as a young boy, both exploring the area and listening to the stories of the West that the O'Malley children's nanny would tell them:

..."we knew the country on either side of the Bay, from grey hungry Connemara to Mulranny. The bare, once ice-covered drumlins gave the land a gloomy look when the sky was clouded or when rain-winds tufted black clouds. But sun made the cold land and the dark green glint and become lush; it shone on the crowded islands, lifting them out of the water, making the cliffs recede ... In rain or sun we loved this country; its haunting impersonal bareness, its austerity, aloofness, small lakes, the disproportionate bulking of the mountains, smells of shrivelled seaweed rotting in grey dirt-spume, brine, storm-wood, tarred rope and riggings; sea-wrack and mud after an ebb tide.... Our life was ringed by the Bay; it was a huge world to us."
(On Another Man's Wound, pp19-22)

In his book 'The Singing Flame' Ernie O'Malley recalls visiting his childhood haunts in March 1922, in his role as Director of Organisation for the Republicans. This trip was made in the early days of the occupation of the Four Courts in Dublin and O'Malley was assessing the support and resources of the Republican faction:

I went to Connacht on a tour of inspection, visiting country I had not seen since I was a boy, country which had always been a vivid, living memory. I motored from Sligo along the coast out to Erris on the rough Atlantic, where our boyhood hero Ferdia had come in; the mountains of Achill and the cliffs could be seen in the distance as I took the road to Mulranny. Clew Bay again, a circular sweep of water running inland, turning at Westport to go out to sea once more, passing beneath the bare-looking climb of the Rock [Croagh Patrick]. The islands shining in the rough water. I spent from early morning until midday looking at the bay near Mulranny. My work could wait. I might never see the bay again. I visited the military barracks in Castlebar, now occupied by our men. I inspected the companies on parade in the barracks square where once from the high wall of Lord Lucan's demense my brother and I had often watched the British soldiers drill. The towns in the west seemed to have a strange grey lichen appearance; there was no warmth in the buildings."
(The Singing Flame, p73)

Ernie O'Malley's parents moved from Co. Mayo to Dublin in 1906 and he was educated at a Christian Brothers school before winning a scholarship to study medicine at University College, Dublin. Ernie, whose elder brother Frank had joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers to fight in the first World War, was deeply affected by the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland. He joined the Volunteers, the organisation that became the IRA, but with his parents opposed to his political activism Ernie O'Malley left home in 1918. He had twice failed his medical exams, but excelled as a Volunteer and became a full time IRA activist under the direction of Richard Mulcahy, IRA Chief of Staff from 1918.

Between 1918 and 1921 Ernie O'Malley worked in Tyrone, Offaly, Roscommon, Donegal, Clare, Tipperary and Co Dublin, organising and activating local volunteers against the British Crown forces. The activities mostly took the form of attacks on local barracks, and after one such attack on the HQ of the British Auxilliaries at Inistioge, Co Kilkenny, Ernie O'Malley was captured and imprisioned at Kilmainham Jail, Dublin. He escaped in February 1921.

Later in 1921 a truce in hostilities was followed by what O'Malley saw as the compromise of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which would establish an Irish Free State of 26 counties with substantial, but incomplete, 'independence'. The IRA split into the pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty factions, with O'Malley coming to the fore of the hardline anti-Treaty faction.

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Further reading

Buy books on Achill Island from Amazon

The Singing Flame
by Ernie O'Malley

On Another Man's Wound
by Ernie O'Malley

Raids and Rallies
By Ernie O'Malley

Ernie O'Malley
By Richard English

The Third Woman
by William Cash