The history of the Dublin Marathon Medal
Countess Constance Markievicz
Every year the organisers of the Dublin Marathon create a medal which is uniquely different to the last, with a
Last year’s event saw Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift immortalised in the marathon’s iconic blue and grey colours to celebrate 350 years since his birth. A gifted poet and satirist, Swift would go on to influence the works of legendary figures like George Orwell. Though disagreeing with Swift on almost every issue, Orwell held Swift in high regard, describing him as one of the writers he admired the most.
This year, to mark 100 years since women in Ireland received the right to vote, the medal will be dedicated to Countess Constance Markievicz.
A true pioneer of women’s rights, Constance’s story is like something lifted straight from a Hollywood movie.
Born in London in 1868, she was the daughter of famous Arctic explorer and adventurer Sir William Henry Gore-Booth. Inspired by the kind-hearted nature of her father, who offered famine sufferers food and shelter on his estate in County Sligo, Constance was raised with an insatiable desire to help working people and the poor, despite being born into wealth and comfort herself. She married a Polish count, hence the name, but did not settle down to family life. She achieved some level of fame at an early age when national poet and family friend W.B. Yeats wrote of Constance and her sister in one of his poems, which opens:
“The light of evening, Lissadell Great windows open to the south Two girls in silk kimonos Both beautiful One a gazelle.”
“The Gazelle” would prove to be an appropriate title for Constance as her future persona could be summed up as both gracious and fierce. After studying art and painting in her earlier years, she became actively involved in nationalist politics in 1908, joining Sinn Fein and The Daughters of Ireland, a revolutionary women’s movement.
It would not be until eight years later that her political legacy as we know it today would begin to take shape…
In April 1916 Constance took part in the Easter Rising, an armed attempt (ultimately successful) to end British rule in Ireland.
The Countess was heavily involved in much of the assault, shooting and killing or injuring members of the opposing forces as well as setting up defences and digging trenches. But her garrison was forced to surrender due to the severity of the British firepower.
She was sentenced to death but escaped the punishment due to her sex, at which point she told her captors:
“I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.” Instead, she was sentenced to life in prison, but was released a year later along with other fighters when the British government pardoned those who had participated in the Rising.
She would go on to be elected as Member of Parliament in London for her constituency in Dublin St Patrick’s in 1918, the
first woman elected to that parliament. She then became Minister for Labour in 1919 in the new Irish Parliament, making her the first woman in the world to hold a Government ministerial position.
Upon leaving government in 1922 she would remain actively involved in political movements, including fighting for the
republican cause during the Irish Civil War.
The Countess passed away in 1927 at the age of 59 due to complications with appendicitis. At the time of her passing she had given away all of her wealth and died in a poor man’s hospital in Dublin “among the poor where she wanted to be.”
A testament to her importance, both for her causes and Irish history as a whole is that her funeral was attended by a staggering
300,000 people. A fighter, a revolutionary, a suffragette and an Irish icon, it’s only fitting that Constance Markievicz takes her rightful place
on the 2018 Dublin Marathon medal.