Mary O’Rourke remembers GRACE GIFFORD who was married and widowed in the space of a few hours during the traumatic events of 1916


December 13 of this year, 2021, will mark the 66th anniversary of the death of Grace Gifford Plunkett. Grace died on December 13, 1955. So, who was Grace Gifford? Grace was one of 12 children of the marriage of Frederick Gifford to Isabella Julia Burton. Frederick was a Catholic, Isabella a Protestant. They had 13 children; one died shortly after birth so then their family was six boys and six girls.

At that time, there was a pact in place called the Palatine Pact, whereby the boys would be reared in the religion of their father (in this case the Catholic faith) and the girls would be raised as in the religion of their mother (the Protestant faith). Frederick and Isabella ignored this dictum and all 12 children were reared as Protestants, though Frederick remained true to his faith.

They were a prosperous family: Frederick was a lawyer connected with land deals. Readers will recall that this was the aftermath of the various land agreements which had been brought out by the British government, in order, as they thought, to ‘pacify’ the Irish over land issues.

So the Gifford family were wealthy, establishment, unionist to the backbone, both of them, and living in a very salubrious part of Dublin, Temple Villas in Rathmines. That is the background in which Grace Gifford was reared as one of six sisters.

It was a time of growth in education and whilst most boys in families were well educated, as were the Gifford boys, in the case of the girls it was random

As a young girl, Grace showed an artistic flair which activated her parents to arrange for her to study at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin and later, following the advice of Sir William Orpen, she was sent to the Slade in London. She showed definite ability in art and in caricature and various other realms of an artistic life.

Grace came back to Dublin in 1908 and took up her life as a young woman in the Dublin of the time.
Ireland and Dublin were opening up. There was a great growth in the Gaelic League, in Irish games via the GAA, in céilís and dances with an Irish slant, and in lectures and seminars, all based on a growth in Irish nationalism.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own