Folk singer Eddi Reader has discovered a treasure trove of family papers that outline the extraordinary life led by a relative who was involved with the burgeoning Scottish nationalist movement and the early IRA.
Reader has become fascinated by her great uncle Seamus (or James) Reader after unearthing his manuscripts, a Saltire flag and two moth-eaten sets of bagpipes when she went to clear the Dublin home of his only son.
The former Fairground Attraction singer is working on a book about her relative, who spent his youth ferrying munitions from Scotland to Ireland for the Irish republican cause during the First World War.
Seamus Reader became head of the Scottish Brigade of the old IRA when the Irish War of Independence broke out in 1919 and there are claims that he later became a founder of the abortive Scottish Republican Army, which attempted to replicate the Irish struggle in Scotland between the wars.
Although reluctant to talk about her great uncle before her book is published in 2016, the singer – a prominent Yes campaigner ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence – has posted details of her finds on social media.
Other details were mentioned in a foreword the singer wrote for a book about piping by the financial journalist Fergus Muirhead. The foreword says the manuscripts reveal that Seamus Reader was a keen piper who played for the Irish republican leaders James Connolly and Countess Markievicz.
“He died in 1969,” Reader wrote. “I only met him once, but now I feel that I have a closer relationship with him than with other family members who are still alive, and the reason for that is the musical connection and the pipes.”
In a Facebook posting, she said that he “was in command of 4,000 Scots involved in the Irish Rising build-up and the Irish war against England. I am feeling like a baton has been passed on to me”.
She also revealed that he had used Glasgow University’s chemistry department at night to “invent incendiary devices to send to Michael Collins after 1916”.