JOSEPH HOWLEY STATUE
If you ever visit the village of Oranmore in Galway, you will notice a striking statue at the corner of the main street. It depicts a man in a military uniform, reaching for his gun, with a determined expression on his face. This is Commdt. Joseph Howley, a local hero who played a prominent role in the Irish struggle for independence.
Joseph Howley was born in Oranmore in 1895, the son of a farmer and shopkeeper. He joined the Irish Volunteers at the age of 18 and became the captain of the Oranmore company. He was also a teacher, a poet and a Gaelic scholar.
Howley was one of the leaders of the Galway Rising in 1916, an attempt to support the main rebellion in Dublin by seizing strategic locations in the county. On Tuesday, 25 April 1916, he led an attack on the Oranmore Royal Irish Constabulary barracks alongside Michael Athy, captain of the Maree company. The attack failed, as the barracks was well defended and reinforced by British troops. Howley and his men retreated to Moyode Castle, where they held out until they received orders to surrender on Sunday, 30 April.
Howley was arrested and sent to Dartmoor Prison and later to Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales. He was released in June 1917 and returned to Ireland, where he resumed his activities with the Irish Volunteers. He became a member of the Galway Brigade staff and was involved in several operations during the War of Independence, such as the Merlin Park Ambush on 21 August 1920.
Howley’s life came to an end on 5 December 1920, when he was shot dead by British agents near Broadstone Station in Dublin. He was on his way to meet Michael Collins, the director of intelligence of the Irish Republican Army. He was buried in Oranmore graveyard, where a large crowd attended his funeral.
The statue of Joseph Howley was erected in 1947 by his old comrades of 1916-1920, as a tribute to his courage and sacrifice. The sculptor was Albert Power, who also created statues of other Irish patriots such as Patrick Pearse and Thomas Ashe.
The statue is carved from limestone and stands on a granite plinth with an inscription that reads: “Commdt Joseph Howley. He led his Volunteers in Easter Week 1916 & was murdered by English agents at the Broadstone Dublin 1920.”
The statue is a symbol of pride and identity for the people of Oranmore and Galway, as well as a reminder of the history and heritage of the area. It is also a tourist attraction, as part of the Galway County 1916 Rising Heritage Trail, which features 12 sites related to the events of that year.
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