Thomas Clarke - Irish Patriot & Signatory Of 1916 Irish Proclamation
The Clarke family from Co. Tyrone, were exiled for some years in the Isle of Wight and it was a consequence of this that the patriotic Irishman was born there. However the exile for the family was of short duration and it was back to the homeland of Dungannon when they returned to Ireland.
Thomas J. Clarke was fifty nine years old when he was executed and during his lifetime he had travelled extensively before finally settling in Dublin around 1907.
Growing up in the North of Ireland, he lived in a corner of the country where life for Catholics was more harsh than South of Co. Tyrone and he witnessed the depravities of English rule in a hostile environment for members of the Catholic faith.
Before his twenty first birthday, he had decided to aid the Irish struggle and joined his local branch of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He soon became one of the movements most active volunteers in the Northern territory.
At twenty three he left Dungannon for America, unknown to his parents and joined up with the Clann na Gael movement, who were now actively engaged in war with England.
Amongst the many batch of raids carried out by Clann na Gael, dynamiting of public buildings in England was a regular occurance and Irishmen were sent from America to carry out explosions. Thomas Clarke was quick to volunteer for these missions. However his daring bravery was dashed by a spy who had infiltrated the movement. Upon landing in an English port, Clarke was apprehended and arrested and on conviction, a sentence of twenty years penal servitude was pronounced and it would be 1898 before he was released.
After his incarceration he took up residence in Limerick for some time before returning to America once again to work in a variety of jobs. After five years he decided to come back to his homeland, resided in Dublin and opened a small shop in Parnell Street which also became a famous meeting point for comrades who would later fight and die with him in the Easter Rising.
His wife, Kathleen, was also imbued in the national spirit and was a member of Cumann na mBan and was also active in the Irish Republican Brotherhood. When the Proclamation was scripted, the historic name of Thomas J. Clarke was the very first signatory and in the ensuing G.P.O. battle, he stood behind a gun until the call to surrender was given by Padraig Pearse.
Thomas J. Clarke was executed by firing squad on the 3rd May 1916.