Alice Milligan

Alice Milligan (1866-1953)

Born in Omagh, one of thirteen children, to Seaton and Charlotte (née Burns) Milligan, a middle class Protestant and Unionist family. In the 1870s the family moved to Belfast where Seaton Milligan managed the Bank Buildings department store (now Primark). Seaton, who was a member of the Royal Irish Academy, co-wrote Glimpses of Erin with his daughter Alice. Alice and her siblings attended Methodist College and Alice then studied at King’s College, London, before returning to Ireland to train as a teacher in Dublin. She taught in schools in Belfast and Derry. She became an Irish nationalist following the death of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891, soon becoming an active figure in the Gaelic League. In 1898, Alice initiated women’s commemoration of the centenary of the United Irish rising, leading tours to the newly-restored graves of those who had been active in the rising. She founded three branches of the Women’s Association around the north of Ireland and organised events such as tableaux vivants, or ‘living pictures’, where people dressed in costume to illustrate scenes from Irish history.

With her friend Anna Johnson (who wrote under the name ‘Ethna Carbery’, she edited the Belfast journals the Northern Patriot and the Shan Van Vocht, publishing the first articles of James Connolly. Amongst the poems written by Alice is ‘When I was a little girl’, about a child excited by the thoughts of the Fenians, even though the child comes from a different background.

After the Easter Rising, Alice supported Sir Roger Casement, standing outside Pentonville Prison when he was hanged. She returned to Belfast to support the election campaign of Winifred Carney and during this time she visited republican prisoners in Crumlin Road jail.  She helped to found the Anti-Partition League in the 1930s and remained active, despite living a quiet life back in Omagh, where she cared for her brother. In 1941, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by President de Valera, in recognition of her work for Irish language and culture.