By Sheila O’Kelly
Leslie Mary de Barra (Barry) was an Irish Nationalist and Republican activist during the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
Leslie was born on the 9th January 1893 at 39, Royal Canal Bank, Dublin. Her parents, Michael and Mary Price, had six children. Leslie was educated in Dublin and later attended Saint Mary’s Training College in Belfast where she qualified as a primary school teacher. She returned to Dublin in 1915 and within days of attending the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, she joined Cumann na mBan.
Her job during the 1916 rebellion was to act as a courier carrying messages and ammunition between the main headquarters in the General Post Office and other posts. She was stationed both in the GPO and the Hibernian Bank. Leslie came close to death in the Hibernian Bank while standing beside Captain Tom Weafer who was shot by British snipers.
Leslie accompanied her Cumann na mBan comrades to Jervis Street Hospital with the wounded rebels. The women were arrested and taken prisoner to Broadstone Railway Station. They were released a few hours later.
In 1918, Leslie represented West Cork in the Cumann na mBan convention and became a member of the executive committee. She resigned her teaching post the following year on being appointed full-time director of the organisation.
She established a communications network and travelled the country encouraging women to join the movement. Within a year the organisation had grown from seventeen branches to over six hundred.