By Becky Hammill
Almost twenty years ago, The Sligo Weekender published an article about a man who had lived in Rosses Point, who was the first Irishman to be appointed to the operational staff of the Electricity Supply Board.
Donnchadh Mac Niallais worked as an electrical engineer, overseeing the transition of work into Irish hands in the 1930’s, but there was more to this man than his work with the ESB.
His son, who recently uncovered the full story of his father’s daring exploits, spoke to the Sligo Weekender about the man behind the uniform, taking us through the journey of Donnchadh Mac
Niallais from engineering apprentice to rebel hero, via arrest, gunfire, caves and the important role played by a clothes line.
Born in Donegal in 1887, he completed an apprenticeship in electrical engineering in England, and moved to Cork to work in a shell factory in 1910.
While in Cork, Donnchadh became active in the Irish Volunteers, and this is where his true story begins.
A 1918 newspaper article from Cork, recently acquired by his son – also called Donnchadh, and a former Sligo Weekender photographer – reveals the tale of his escape from Cork Gaol, described in 1918 as “A sensational occurrence… the details of which read more like the theme of a modern cinema film than actual fact.”
Donnchadh had been jailed following a raid on his lodgings after local police identified him as being an active Irish Volunteer.
Three members of the RIC searched his room looking for arms and found a revolver and some ammunition, and “on the charge of having these in his possession, Mac Niallais was placed under arrest”.
For the full story on Donnchadh’s father pick up a copy of this week’s Sligo Weekender- in shops now.