Mícheál Seosamh Ó Rathaille aka Michael Joseph O'Rahilly aka The O'Rahilly, was an Irish republican and nationalist best known for being the only leader killed in action during the 1916 Rising.
Born in Ballylongford, County Kerry in April 1875 he was educated in Clongowes College.
Age 18, he became interested in researching his family tree having heard mention of a poet connection. He cycled around Co.Kerry, interviewing all families of the Rahilly name. In 1903 he took this further in Counties Kerry, Cavan, and Roscommon. From that time he changed the spelling from O'Reilly to O'Rahilly and adopted the Irish Ua Rathghaille having confirmed the family connection to the great poet.
He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Irish language and was a member of An Coiste Gnótha, the Gaelic League’s governing body.
In 1893 he entered the Royal University of Ireland, Dublin, to study medicine but left the following year as he was ill with tuberculosis. He abandoned his studies to take care of the family business in Ballylongford following his father's death in 1893. Like his father, he served as Justice of the Peace.
He traveled extensively and spent at least a decade living in America.
In 1898 (having heard his sweetheart Nannie Browne had been proposed to in America) he decided to sell the family business in Ballylongford and sailed for New York that September (having first gone to Amsterdam to buy a diamond engagement ring for her).
"Goodbye Darling" is a short film about their romance.
Michael O'Reilly married Nancy Browne in NYC in 1899 before returning to Ireland (in 1903 temporarily) and settling in Dublin in 1909.
In 1903-04 the couple lived at Wilfort Cottage, near Bray, Co.Wicklow before removing to London (and later Philadelphia).
They returned to Dublin in 1909 and lived temporarily at 38/68 Leeson St until 1910 when they settled nearby at 40 Herbert Park in Ballsbridge.
The O’Rahilly was a founding member of the Irish Volunteers and its Director of Arms. He personally orchestrated the landing of German arms on board the Asgard (Childers' yacht) at Howth in 1914.
The O’Rahilly was not a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who were planning the Easter Rising of April 1916 in Dublin.
Even though he was not in favour of it, he took part in the Easter Rising in Dublin. He was killed in a charge on a British machine gun post covering the retreat from the GPO during the fighting.
He was interred at Glasnevin Cemetery.
The O'Reilly residence in Ballsbridge Dublin 4 was demolished by a developer without permission in September 2020.