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The Irish Volunteers were well represented in Co. Galway since the early days of the organisation. Liam Mellows, a member of the provisional committee, worked assiduously at organising and training the force throughout the county. As the date for the Rising approached, however, he was in England under an exclusion order arising from his para-military activities, but James Connolly arranged for his daughter Nora to go to England and convey him back to Co. Galway, disguised as a priest. The Irish Volunteers in the county were relatively strong in numbers but were poorly armed, their total number of riﬂes numbering little more than 100. The IRB Military Council seems to have had considerable regard for the Co. Galway Volunteers: it planned to address the matter of the arms deﬁcit by dispatching a substantial quantity of the proposed German arms from the Aud by train from Tralee to Limerick and onwards to various points in the county.
But the arms did not materialize and MacNeill’s countermand resulted in a much smaller turn-out then might otherwise have been the case. Nevertheless, when news of the Rising reached Galway on Easter Monday, Mellows managed to mobilize a large force, some sources estimating it at between 500 and 1,000, which seems unlikely as the total strength of the Irish Volunteers at the time was little more than 10,000, of whom almost 3,000 were in Dublin; also many of those in Co. Galway would, presumably, not have mobilised for one reason or another. On Tuesday a force of Volunteers had an initial success at Oranmore when they captured six members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but were then routed by a large force with superior ﬁre-power. They proceeded to Athenry where they took over the agricultural station. On Wednesday a large force of RIC attempted to drive them out but were repulsed. The same day, two companies of Volunteers routed a military detachment en route from Galway to Athenry.
The vast majority of the Volunteers in the ﬁeld were intent on continuing the campaign, a stance endorsed by the large number of members of Cumann na mBan also present. Accordingly, it was proposed to march southwards into Co. Clare. On Friday, however, news arrived that the GPO and other Volunteer strongholds in Dublin had been shelled by artillery and that the Rising was on the point of collapse. Moreover, the remainder of the country had not participated in the Rising. In addition, a force of several hundred marines was approaching: the Volunteers would be no match for such a force, considering their inferiority in terms of arms and equipment.
Early on Saturday it was decided to disperse. The rank-and-ﬁle members returned home and most of the leaders went ‘on the run’; Mellows managed to escape to the United States. Possibly as many as 100 of the Co. Galway Volunteers were arrested and tried by court-martial, the majority being sentenced to terms of penal servitude ranging from life to one year. In addition, approximately 500 Volunteers were deported to Britain, where most of them were interned at Frongoch in Wales.