Theobald Wolfe Tone is regarded as one of the founders of Irish republicanism and a very prominent individual in Irish history. Republicanism in Ireland is widely seen as the use of force to drive British rule and government out of Ireland. In the present time, it has both good and bad connotations depending on your political persuasion and beliefs. Wolfe Tones grave site contains monuments showing casing Republican ideas both from his time and more presently.
During the life of Wolfe Tone and especially at the time of the 1798 rebellion, republicanism and the belief in self-rule was a very popular idea. It had been inspired by events both in France and the early United States.
The life and death of Wolfe Tone is well known in Ireland, however, his final resting place contains its own piece of history and is not as well known.
A brief history of Wolfe Tone
Wolfe Tone along with other political leaders founded the United Irishmen between the late 1780’s and early 1790’s. Their aim was to overthrow British rule in Ireland and set up an independent state. This was the first time a consolidated movement had been formed with the primary aim of independence.
Whilst many of the leaders were in exile, including Tone, attempts had been made to gain assistance from the French government to send troops and weapons to Ireland to fight British forces there. Due to increasing pressure at home, the 1798 rebellion was begun without outside assistance. It quickly developed into a semi-sectarian conflict with many massacres on both sides.
Tone arrived towards the end of the rebellion, as the last Irish strongholds were being overrun. He refused the opportunity to escape and was captured by British forces.
Having been refused a military execution it is believed Wolfe Tone cut his own throat so as to end his life on his own terms. Another theory is that he was attacked while a prisoner. In either case, he died from his wounds before his sentence was carried out. He was 35 years old.
Wolfe Tones gravesite and its history:
Many past and present political and military leaders from Ireland are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. Wolfe Tone is one of the few exceptions. Wolfe Tones grave site is in Co.kildare about 40 minutes from Dublin. There had been a long family connection between the Tone family and the area around Sallins and Naas in Co. Kildare. This had ceased by the time of Tones death due to financial hardships and Tones political life. You can read more about it here.
At the time of his death, only some cousins lived in the area and these were permitted to collect his remains. They were brought back to Naas and from here the government ordered his quick burial. It was decided to bury him in Bodenstown cemetery, due to the old family connections and as it was where other family members had been buried. Although most of his adult life had been spent in Dublin and there were no strong family connections it was deemed the safest and easiest method at the time.
The graveyard itself is quite small but contains the remains of an ancient church dating back to the 1600’s, beside which Wolfe Tone is buried. Following government pressure and the dispersion of his family, the gravesite fell into disrepair and was almost forgotten.
Not until the 1840’s when the Young Irelanders leader Thomas Davis visited the site did commemorations begin. The Young Irelanders were a successive Republican movement. He and colleagues erected the first monument to Wolfe Tone and held annual commemorations on the last week of June. These have continued to the present time with other republican movements.
There are also four flag poles which represent the first four Republican leaders executed in the Irish civil war. The national graves association now cares for the site.
Drive through Sallins town towards Clane (This will be clearly signposted). There is a right-hand turn directing you to Bodenstown Golf club. Take this right and less than a kilometre on your right will be the remains of the church and Wolfe Tones grave site. There is parking outside the graveyard and from here you can walk in and see the monument.
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