Born at Woodfield, Clonakilty, Co Cork, was the youngest of eight children. Influenced by his father and teachers who taught him patriotic ballads and poems, he attended national school at Lissavaird. A local policemen described the Collins family of Woodfield as ‘brainy’, ‘disloyal’, and ‘dangerous’. Age 16, Collins went to London and worked as a clerk in a post office, at a stockbroker’s in the bills department of an American Bank. He was a member of Sinn Féin and joined the IRB in 1909. In 1914 he became an Irish Volunteer and was adjutant to Joseph Plunkett in the GPO but did not take part in the fighting. After the Rising, Collins, as a prisoner of war was sent to Stafford (England) and to Frongoch (Wales) where his qualities as leader emerged.
He became a Sinn Fein MP; President of the Supreme Council of the IRB in 1919; a signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921; and Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, Irish Free State.
Collins considered the Treaty the only as a means towards obtaining a 32 county republic and signed it with ‘great reluctance’. He subsequently wrote: “I tell you this—early this morning I signed my own death warrant.” He was killed in an ambush in Co Cork on August 22, 1922.
Collins’ funeral was held on August 28. The Irish Independent reported it as the “greatest pageant of sorrow ever seen in Dublin: a cortege three miles long”.