The last remaining son of the 1916 Rising
Michael Mallin was second in command of the Irish Citizen Army under James Connolly and one of the fifteen leaders executed at Kilmainham Gaol after the Rising.
His son, Joseph, was just two years old when his mother took him and his siblings to the jail to see their father for the last time. Just hours before his execution Michael Mallin wrote a letter to his family with his hopes and wishes for their futures. In it, he said: “Joseph, my little man, be a priest if you can.”
Joseph Mallin became a priest and has spent over sixty years as a Jesuit missionary in China, working at the Wah Yan College – a Roman Catholic secondary school for boys run by the Society of Jesus.
In a letter dated July 2011, [..] Fr Joseph also described a 2009 visit home to Ireland, and to Kilmainham Gaol, scene of his father’s execution.
“The young lady at the entrance mentioned the entrance fee. I couldn’t refrain from a wee joke. I said, ‘The first time I came here I didn’t have to pay entrance fee’ – but went on – “Ah, that time I was only two and a half years of age – and I was asleep.
“Later, when she was leading us round the prison and the group had dispersed, I told her who I was.” As he was just an infant, Fr Joseph remembers little of the year 1916, or the day he was first brought to Kilmainham.
“As I said to the young lady in Kilmainham, ‘I was asleep’. I know I was asleep on the metal stairway in the main hall. My sister told me that. A soldier came over and said he was very sorry for me. My first memory comes later.”
Father Joseph said his father or the events of Easter week were not common topics of conversation in the years that followed the executions as his mother did not want to burden him. “Perhaps it was wise of my mother in those years not to speak of my father. She was very wise. Mrs Pearse and Mrs Austin Stack held her in a certain sort of reverence,” he said.
Michael Mallin was survived by his wife Agnes, his three sons (including Joseph) and two daughters, the youngest of whom was not born until four months after his execution. Joseph explained: “The 1916 event took a toll on my mother’s health. I accidentally heard Surgeon Stokes say her breakdown in health was a ‘direct’ result of 1916.”