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This is the first of an occasional series of portraits about famous Devlins. None of them are related to the Devlins that are the subject of this web site.


Anne Devlin was born in County Wicklow. Her cousins, Michael Dwyer and Arthur Devlin took part in the 1798 Rising and were subsequently imprisoned for two and a half years, together with her father Brian who had not taken part in the Rising. She later recounted how she and other 'women volunteers' disinterred the bodies of two Antrim militiamen who had been killed in the fighting and buried them alongside Wicklow rebels in Cronebeg Churchyard, County Wicklow. Arthur Devlin introduced his cousin Anne Devlin to Robert Emmet and she participated in the planning of the 1803 Rising while acting as 'housekeeper' in Emmet's house in Rathfarnham, County Dublin.

After the abortive Rising Devlin was arrested and tortured but she refused to identify the insurgents and was imprisoned in solitary confinement for three years in a damp, underground cell in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Anne Devlin's entire family were also imprisoned and seven of them died in Kilmainham Gaol before her release due to ill-health.

Devlin worked briefly as a lady's companion before going into obscurity. When she was in her seventies she was befriended by Brother Luke Cullen who recorded her story as told by herself. Anne Devlin died in extreme poverty in the Liberties of Dublin. In this extract, from The Life, Imprisonment, Sufferings and Death of Anne Devlin (1851), she relates the sequence of events on the day of the Emmett Rising, July 23rd, 1803 and those of September 20th, 1803, the date of Robert Emmet's execution.

"This [July 23rd, 1803] was a lonely day with me. There were no visitors. Towards evening there were a few messages, principally with regard to arms and ammunition that were under my care. These messages were carried to me by a Wexford man...

"I was alone in the evening, and sent over to my father for a little sister to keep me company. She was a great favourite with Messrs Emmet and Russell. Her innocent prattle helped to dissipate the gloomy thoughts that were frequently intruding on me. About eleven o'clock that night I was getting some cases of powder for the above mentioned messenger who had left Thomas Street a little before 10 and was about to return in haste when I heard some voices. My first impression was that soldiers were approaching. I told the messenger to throw off his light-coloured jacket and get something dark and make his escape. He said, 'What will become of you?' and reluctantly retired. I never heard of him afterwards.

Immediately afterwards Mr. Emmet, Mahon, Wylde, Heavey, Stafford and Quigley entered. Gazing over them as they rushed in, and not seeing my brother or friends, returning, I said, 'Oh, what have you done? Bad welcome to you. Have you destroyed the whole kingdom and all belonging to me, you set of cowards? What has become of all your preparations? Are they all gone and lost?'

Notwithstanding that each one of them attributed the defeat to Quigley's imprudence, no one reproached him for it publicly. It was Quigley's duty on that evening to keep a lookout in Marshalsea Lane to prevent surprise. Some of the country car men had notice of what was to go on that night. They communicated the information to each other. There were some car men's stages in Dirty Lane and all was hurry and bustle in those places getting the loading ready to get out of the town before night. They were all in the street with their horses in part loaded, and a considerable deal of excitment was evident.

At this moment Quigley went out and, perceiving the confusion, thought that the Army was coming over the Queen's Bridge from Barrack Street. He ran in and in haste said, 'All is lost, the Army is in Dirty Lane.'

This mistaken alarm drew them out before the appropiate time. Most of Arthur Devlin's men fell in Francis Street and on the Coombe. They endeavoured to keep together the whole night. Arthur did not return until daylight on the Sunday. I think more soldiers fell that night than the public knew of. I am well informed that no person was allowed to go through Francis Street on the Sunday morning until the dead soldiers were carted off from it. Still anxious to know the fate of my brother and cousin I suppose I said, 'You have left them among the dead. I don't know what my brother would do but I don't think that Arthur would run away.'

It was then that Mr Emmet and Stafford came over to me and told me of Quigley's mistake... On the days of Mr. Emmet's trial and execution [September 20th, 1803] I was kept securely locked in my solitary cell. I felt what I cannot describe. I plainly saw my position and was resolved to make the best I could of it. Sighs could do nothing for me and I was resolved to have none of them, as they would only please my persecutors... After the execution I was ordered into a coach which drove off rapidly to Birmingham Tower at the Castle. The jailer sat in front of me with a pair of pistols partly concealed. A soldier sat on each side of me with a drawn bayonet.

Coming down to St. Catherine's Church in Thomas Street, the coach stopped at a signal from the jailer. The windows were on a sudden let down. I looked out. Horror overcame me when I perceived the blood of Mr Emmet on the scaffold where his head had been cut off. Dogs and pigs were lapping up his blood from between the paving stones. In a few minutes more I was at Dublin Castle. The Secretary was soon with me and preached to me a feeling sermon, but it was lost on me. They were sure of obtaining the conviction of Mr Russell and they wanted to draw in Mr Thomas Cloney and some others who were then in prison. I told them I knew nothing of them or their visitors, who were but few, that it was not likely they would allow me, a strange servant maid, know their secrets. On which the questioners looked sternly on me, and one of the officials said, 'Your cousins in Wicklow were deeply engaged in this as well as in the former rebellion and a near relative of yours was the principle agent in Dublin for them.'

After some other importunities and promises of reward and protection, I told the officials it was useless to ask me any more questions that I had nothing to tell. They smiled and said something in a language I did not understand. In a few minutes more I was on my way back to Kilmainham Jail, and although dark and dismal the abode, I was glad to get to it to be free from their importunities."

1951 - Anne Honoured in Her Own Town: Article by Eddie O'Byrne

Princess Grace Irish Library Monaco
Robert Emmet, by Kevin Kelly
Remembering Robert Emmet 1778 - 1803