Madame O’Rahilly

Born in New York (see: complied by Sheila Schneider) on 4 September 1875 as Annie Hickey Brown, she was known as Nannie, Nancy, Anna and Neans, the Irish form. 

She was one of five daughters Mary, Sadie, Margaret, Madeleine and Celie of John Brown who had been born in Ireland in 1805. He became the owner of a wool and linen business which traded under the title John Brown and sons. He had three sons, James, John and Robert. 

Nannie was educated in an Ursuline Convent in Fontenay-aux-Roses, Paris. In the summer of 1893 she met Michael O’Rahilly (later known as Ua Rathghaille, The O’Rahilly) at a party in County Kerry. They married in New York on 15 April 1899. Their first child, Robert (Bobby) was born in Philadelphia in 1900. In 1902 the family returned to Ireland. Bobby died of peritonitis aged 3, on 19 August 1903 in Bray, County Wicklow.

Over the next few years the couple lived in Ireland, where their second son was born in Dublin in 1903, he was named Richard Macalister, always known as Mac.

They moved to Paris and later London. Their third son Egan was born in Hove, Brighton, on 22 September 1904, he was always known by his name in Irish Aodogán. They were back in the US in 1905 where a fourth son Niall was born on 3 January 1907. 

In 1909 the family returned to Ireland on a permanent basis. The O’Rahillys became involved in nationalist politics, and the Gaelic League. Nannie became proficient in the Irish language. Irish and French was spoken in their home. She was known as Madame O’Rahilly. Her husband wrote for a number of publications and later became managing editor of An Claidheamh Soluis

In 1911 the family are recorded living at 40 Herbert Park. The census is filled in the Irish language, using the Ua Rathghaille name. Nannie gave birth to their fifth son, Maolmuire, known as Myles or Milo later that year. 

Nannie joined Cumann na mBan when it was formed in 1914 and elected to its Executive. The O’Rahilly, a founding member of The Irish Volunteers, was killed during the 1916 Rising. Their sixth son was born on 25 July 1916 at 40 Herbert Park, he was named Michael Joseph O’Rahilly after his father but always known as Rory. 

In 1917 Nannie became the Vice President of Cumann na mBan and remained a public figure associated with that organisation from 1920-1922. She sat on the Executive Committee of the White Cross Organisation during the campaign of independence, travelling to America on behalf of the organisation. See Toward America. She acted on the winding up Commission in 1925. She remained as joint honorary treasurer of The Children’s Relief Association until 1946, when the organisation completed its work. She was active in the Society of St Vincent de Paul. 

She was opposed to the acceptance of the Treaty. She was imprisoned briefly during the Civil War from 4-11 November 1922.