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Cesca Chenevix Trench (1881 – 1918) was an Anglo-Irish woman who became an Irish Nationalist illustrator. She adopted the Irish identity and took an Irish name Sadhbh Trinseach.

Cesca Chenevix Trench was born into an Anglo-Irish Protestant family. She was the granddaughter of Richard Chenevix Trench, the Archbishop of Dublin. She grew up in a vicarage in Kent. Her mother was a Unionist; like many of her generation, she became an Irish nationalist. Trench's uncle Henry Butcher was a Unionist MP for Cambridge and they drew apart after 1910 when he did not support the move to make Irish compulsory in the new National University.

Her three brothers joined up in 1914 on the outbreak of World War I, Reginald (Reggie), to whom she was particularly close, as an officer in the Sherwood Foresters.

When Trench studied in Malvern boarding school in 1906–1908, she began to support Irish Home Rule in public. In 1908–1913 she lived in Folkestone but spent each summer in Ireland and attended summer school in 1909–1913, notably the influential Scoil Acla[1] on Achill Island. There she met Diarmid Coffey, her future husband.

Trench's cousin Dermot Chenevix Trench (the model for Haines in Ulysses – who committed suicide in 1909 – and her sister Margot were also Irish nationalists. Cesca opened on account at Gleason in Dublin that sold only Irish products and swore off drink and tobacco unless they were manufactured in Ireland. When the new campaign for Home Rule begun in 1912, Cesca and Margot collected signatures for a petition that all Irish taxes should be lodged in an Irish treasury. They collected Irish folklore, customs and traditions.

In October 1913 Trench moved to Paris to study art. There she began to draw political cartoons in support of Home Rule. She also made a Celtic costume, and a poster designs for the Gaelic League paper An Claidheamh Soluis. At the same time she painted Irish scenes. She returned to Dublin in June 1914.

Trench supported the Irish Literary Revival, was involved in the import of guns for the Irish Volunteers and joined their women's auxiliary branch Cumann na mBan, where she learned first aid. In July 1914 she witnessed the Bachelor's Walk Massacre, when soldiers of the King's Own Scottish Borderers fired on civilians, killing three and wounding 32. In Lusk village in north Dublin she founded a new branch of Cumann na mBan. In July 1914 she took up work at the Dublin School of Art (where she worked until April 1916), but still attended meetings.

When the Easter Rising began on April 24, 1916, she left home to join the other auxiliaries in St Stephen's Green. She delivered first aid supplies to the headquarters garrison at the GPO, then withdrew to Killiney Hill and later returned home. In her diary (written in Irish, with parts later published by Hilary Pyle as Cesca's Diary, she wrote of the Easter Rising as a tragic mistake. She and her mother feared that she would be arrested for her involvement, but nothing happened, despite her involvement in Nationalist circles, from which enormous numbers of men and women were being arrested and deported to English and Welsh jails.

After the Rising, Trench continued to attend Cumann na mBan meetings, and to study Celtic art in the National Museum. She organized a play about Brian Boru and painted murals at Carrigaholt Irish College. She made sketches of Sinn Féin and Gaelic League meetings and created Christmas cards. She befriended Lily Yeats of Dun Elmer Press.

On Saint Patrick's Day 1917, 17 March, Trench agreed to marry Diarmid Coffey. Her brother Reggie was killed on the Western Front three days after Coffey's proposal, but the couple decided – as many did in wartime – not to postpone their wedding. Lily Yeats helped her with her wedding gown. Cesca married Diarmuid on 17 April 1918, and had their honeymoon in the Kerry Gaeltacht.

That October, Cesca caught the virulent Spanish flu that October, and died on 30 October 1918, a major loss to Irish art. She was mourned as Sadhbh Trínseach by the Gaelic League.


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