5 May 1916: Major John McBride was executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Jail on this day. He was shot for his part in the Easter Rising. He had fought the British in the Boer War and only joined the Rising as it begun and while still in mufti.
In the second Boer War he was instrumental in the raising of the Irish Transvaal Brigade and led it in action against the British. When organised resistance collapsed he and the surviving members crossed the border into Mozambique. After the War he married the famous beauty Maud Gonne and they had a son called Sean McBride - who was also to make a name for himself in Irish Politics. However the marriage was not a success and they went their separate ways. McBride kept up his associations with Republican activists but did not become personally involved other than making the odd speech in support of Ireland’s Cause.
By chance he found himself in Dublin’s City Centre on Easter Monday 1916. He had arranged to meet his brother at the Wicklow Hotel to discuss his role as Best Man at his sibling’s wedding a few days hence. With time to kill he wandered up Grafton St and onto St Stephens Green where he encountered members of the Irish Volunteers assembling to launch the Rising. He promptly offered to join in the enterprise and was gladly accepted. He walked with Thomas McDonagh to Jacobs Biscuit Factory which was occupied and held through Easter Week until the order to surrender was received. He became 2nd in Command of the garrison. As he was in Mufti throughout the whole time he was there he could have made good his exit without too much difficulty but decided to go with the others into captivity.
Tried by Court Martial he was found guilty and sentenced to death. Two days before his 51st Birthday he was led out to be executed. Facing the British firing squad, he refused to be blindfolded, saying:
I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence.
He is buried in Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin.