Seán Riobaird O Súilleabháin was the acknowledged leader of the Land War in the North Cork area. He was universally known as ‘the Bard’ though he was not a poet but the nickname was taken from the Irish of name, Riobaird. He played such a distinctive role that he had to have a recognisable nickname.
He was born in Glenleigh, Kilcorney on the 4th of February 1852 and became involved in the Land War in the late 1870s when the Land League was leading the struggle for tenant farmers’ rights. Because of his courage and daring in the Land War he quickly became a hero to the people but public enemy number one for the authorities in North Cork.
His wife, Ellen O Mullane was a devoted wife and partner in his struggles. They lived in a house supplied by the Land League in Glantane East.
With constant harassment and convictions the authorities were determined to remove him from the leadership but could not do so in his native area as no jury would convict him… He was eventually convicted on a trumped-up attempted murder charge in Nenagh on 19th December 1891 by a ‘packed jury.’ He was sentenced to 24 years hard labour. Ellen reared their six children while he was in prison and broke stones on these roads to survive. Without the generosity of local people they would not have survived.
He was released on 18 December 1906 and returned to Millstreet. He was an active supporter of William O’Brien and the ‘All for Ireland League.’ He also played an active part in the War of Independence saluting the departure of the Auxiliaries from Millstreet shortly before his death. Ellen lived out her latter years in Ballinatona and passed away surrounded by her family.
This is a monument to both of them and to all those who fought to achieve the ownership of the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland and the political freedom we enjoy today.