Ernie O’Malley was a medical student in Dublin when the Irish Rebellion broke out in April 1916. He immediately joined the fray in Dublin and was quickly promoted in the ranks of the IRA as a GHQ organizer who traveled around Ireland. Eventually, as Commandant-General, he was put in charge of three counties. Though he had reported to Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy, Ernie was strongly against the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which they supported. During the tragic civil war, he was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff under Liam Lynch. Ernie was captured, almost put on trial, which would have surely meant execution, but was saved due to his ill health and multiple wounds. Despite this, he went on a 41-day hunger strike while in prison. Ernie O’Malley was one of the last leaders released by the Irish Free State Army in July 1924.
Once out of jail and his health recovered, Ernie was sent to America to raise funds for the establishment of an independent newspaper in Ireland. After nine months of fundraising and lecturing, he dropped out to write in New Mexico about his military experiences. By 1935 he met his future wife, an American artist, Helen Hooker, applied for an Irish military pension, and returned to Ireland to get married. The rest of his life was spent trying to help give conservative Ireland the benefit of the international modernist spirit in terms of literature, poetry, artistic endeavors, and photography. When John Ford came to direct “The Quiet Man” in 1951 Ernie was consulted. Soon thereafter, his health deteriorated, and he died at age 59 in 1957, a man of many ambitions, but few realized in his lifetime.
CORMAC O’MALLEY is the son of Ernie O’Malley. He has been interested in Irish history since his college days. Since his retirement from an international corporate law practice, Cormac has worked to preserve his father’s literary and historical legacy by republishing his father’s earlier autobiographic works, On Another Man’s Wound and The Singing Flame and editing and publishing some newly discovered works. He has also published two volumes of his father’s letters and a multivolume series of his father’s military interviews with survivors of the Irish War of Independence and Civil War, entitled The Men Will Talk to Me: Ernie O’Malley Interviews. In 2015 he published Western Ways: Remembering Mayo through the Eyes of Helen Hooker and Ernie O’Malley.