Christopher Grehan about his Great Uncle Bernhard Grehan

Bernhard Grehan
Irish Volunteers Company Mobilisation Order | Document: Chris Grehan

Bernard Grehan was a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and he was my grand uncle. He was born on 4 February 1898 and was killed on the Somme on the 1 July 1916 aged 18. The family lived in Emerald Square in Dolphins Barn and his father was a lifelong employee in the Guinness Brewery. He was the youngest of three brothers and he had six sisters. The subsequent political climate in Ireland ensured that he was not spoken of in the family and I only became aware of his fate when my father passed away in 1991 and I started to explore the family history.

A letter exists from his mother to him dated 25 June 1916 (he did not receive the letter), in which she references letters to and from him. In the letter she tells him that his brother Jemmie (James) was delighted to receive his letter in Frongoch Wales where he had been interned for his part in the Easter Rebellion. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and Emerald Square was the mobilisation point for C Company 4th Battalion of which he was a member. She enclosed his letter as he was only allowed to write one letter a week from the internment camp although she indicated she thought he was lonelier, but safer than Bernard.

In the p.s. she remarks that “Home Rule is sealed, signed, but not delivered yet – signed since 1914, but hung up to stagnate until after the war”.

I understand his mother was heartbroken when told of Bernard’s death and she cherished his posthumous medals although his father apparently would not hear his name mentioned for ever after as he was opposed to Irish participation in the war. James went on to live a full life and died in 1960.

This family story demonstrates how some Irishmen (dead and alive) like Bernard were airbrushed out of history because it was politically inconvenient to remember their sacrifice. I am delighted to have had the opportunity in recent years to relate both of their stories and to remember them both as brave young Irishmen. On behalf of the Grehan family I will especially remember Bernard on the centenary of the Battle of the Somme 1 July 2016.