An Appreciation of Mr. Charles Hughes by Mr. Patrick Tunney

This gives a good account of the week before and after the 1916 rising from a man who was present

An appreciation
The Late Charles Hughes, Westport

by Patrick Tunney

The recent death of Charles Hughes, Westport, removed from the West of Ireland, one of its most distinguished Irishmen. His demise as an Irishman, a Republican and a business man is a loss not to Mayo alone, but to the Nation, which he loved, served and defended with untiring devotion. No man could conscientiously render more national service with greater zeal. He was sincere, fearless and righteous, and in the Council chamber or on the public platform he was an uncompromising orator, whilst in business circles he was a model for the creation of industries and employment.

Hailing as he did from the fountain-head of Fenianism in Aughagower, he was endowed with a truly Gaelic spirit, and blessed with all the enthusiasm which inspired him as a guiding advocate for the complete emancipation of beloved Banda, and at all times dispensed the counsel which pointed its magnet to the one aim only – Freedom. Yes, the freedom of the subject, the freedom of expression, freedom to live in Ireland, and the freedom of the serf from the galling stranglehold of serfdom, and the general rousing of our people from the service submissiveness of nurturing alienation or living the life of the wanton, willing slave.

In his earlier teens he labored for the resurrection of the Irish language, Irish traits, customs and games. A leading light in the Gaelic movement, his followers were legion, and without any reservations he struggled for just rights for the Irish tenant farmers – secure in their homes on the soil of Ireland – thereby overthrowing the heinous powers of the harrowing system of British designed landlordism: a relentless system. In his efforts he was remarkably successful, causing vast tracts of fertile plains to be ‘cleared’ of the aggressors’ stock, and eventually causing “Crown” protection of the ranches to grow weary, thereby causing the landlords to surrender.


The year 1913 opened new avenues for his alertfulness, as he hoped that new tactics would lend strength for the completion of his endeavours. He went with vigour into the new arena, believing that passive resistance or compromising with the invader would never accomplish the ideals of dead generations of Irishmen and women, and the following three years he devoted his energies to unity, to the revival of dormant hopes, and to organization. Then on St. Patrick’s Day, 1916, immortal O’Rahilly was booked to address a public demonstration in Westport, and to ward off somewhat the suspicions of the “mental note-takers”, it was deemed prudent that the meeting should be advertised as “under the auspices of the Gaelic League”. The burning embers were safely guarded to await the riper movement when they would burst into a living flame. I had the honour of being in company with those leading patriots that day, when I proposed Joseph McBride to preside. Those on the platform were Patrick J. Doris, “Mayo News”; Thady Walsh, Westport; Charles Hughes, The O’Rahilly, the well-known Gaelic historian, Pat O’Donnell, Newport, and Michael Gavin, Kilmeena. Charles Hughes’ address that day was a gem of oratory when he appealed to his multitude of listeners to unite, stand firm, and throw off the shackles of alien domination, and “assert your rights in a free Republic.” His address was a masterpiece of eloquence. Might I observe that the seven trusted Irishmen mentioned are all today resting in eternity, and to my mind, generations will come and go before seven more faithful sons of the Gael will address a public meeting in the town of Westport.

That night O’Rahilly confided in his trusted standard bearers in a small room at the corner of The Octagon and James Street, now occupied by, I think, “Brown and Walsh agents,” and in about 6 weeks after, Easter, 1916, Charles Hughes and every member of his staff were placed securely in custody. His nephew, now deceased. Paddy Hughes, in company with John Berry, Lanmore, were sent to Barlienne jail to pine; another assistant, Michael Duffy, was deported to Surrey county jail, and died a premature death as a result of solitary confinement and penal persecution, and Charles Hughes himself with Joseph McBride, P. J. Doris, and Joseph Gill, were held enchained in Richmond barracks for the framing of a military court martial. They were later exiled to Merrlonethshire. Wales, to undergo a painful term within one of Britannia’s steel guarded fortifications. But all the inflections, servitude or torture of his captors failed to subdue the unconquerable spirit of the noble, the chivalrous, the uncompromising Charles Hughes.

On his return to Ireland he was more vigilant than prior to his captivity. He was on his keeping when enemy forces burned his property in Westport. Yet still, will all the faithfulness of youth’s inheritance, he honorably clung to the last to the sacred-cause of Faith and Fatherland – the lessons which animated his heart in the home of birth, beneath the shades of the tower in Aughagower, where he is laid to rest today. Hallowed be his memory, and may the lights which lit his path light the way for all who may in this – or will in a future generation – follow in his footsteps. May his noble soul rest.