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Books - a powerful weapon


02-05-2013 10:30

Earlier this month Glasnevin Museum posted a photo of Richard McKee who was killed by the British during the War of Independence in 1920. Richard, or Dick as he was better known, was an apprentice at Gill & Sons. To our astonishment, our Chairman Michael Gill vividly remembers the story of this young fellow and his secret firing range in the basement of the bookshop! Fighting for independence with a humble book - who would have thought?!

 

Dick McKee who was commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA after the 1916 Rising, worked as a compositor in the printing works of Gills in Dublin’s Upper O’Connell Street. Many prominent republicans such as Arthur Griffith and Sean T. O’Kelly were also frequent visitors to the bookshop and confidential messages were often hidden between the pages of selected books.

 

As a result, the building was kept under close surveillance by Black and Tan intelligence officers. Many of these operatives were illiterate and gave themselves away immediately by holding books upside down while pretending to browse the shelves. What the intelligence officers never found out was that Dick McKee had constructed a portable firing range in the basement of the building to enable his colleagues-in-arms to practice their shooting skills. Their target was a picture of King George V.

 

On one occasion when the premises were raided and surrounded by the Black and Tans, my father who was in the shop on his way home from school, was sent to intercept Dick McKee in O’Connell Street on return from his lunch break and warn him not to report for work. No one suspected the twelve year old boy and Dick McKee escaped on that occasion. However we was to die shortly afterwards allegedly trying to escape capture from Dublin Castle where he had been brought for interrogation.

 

Michael Gill

Chairman

 

Richard McKee was buried in the republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery on the 24th November 1920. Read more about his involvement in the War of Independence on Glasnevin Museum’s Facebook page.

 

Discover more about the history of Gill Books here.



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