Memoirs of Connie Francis Neenan 1916-1920s, 1939-1940

From the collections of Cork City and County Archives Service.

Memoirs of Connie Neenan

Memoirs Of Connie Neenan

Notes; These pages have been e dited to make the narrative more easily readable. The original is a typed draft copy with handwritten notes, deletions and additions. There are also a considerable number of typos, spelling errors and other textual mistakes which have been edited out. There are three types of source document. 1) A draft version of Connie’s personal history after an initial editing by an editor who is unknown. 2) A series of unedited pages (longer than A4) dealing with the years after Joe McGarrity’s death in 1940. 3) A transcript of 10 magnetic bands from an IBM214 dictation machine which still exist. The original documents were either scanned with Omnipage and subject to OCR processing, exported to Word2003 and then further spell checking and editing or photographed using a digital camera, converted into .tif format and then imported into Omnipage. The original documents use pages which are either larger or smaller than A4 and have been formatted to A4 with the original page numbers indicted thus [23] within the text.

EASTER WEEK The fiendish brutality of the British and the execution of the leaders of the 1916 Insurrection brought about a protest in Ireland unequalled in history. Sixteen outstanding men, from all walks of life, either shot or condemned to life sentences in prison -- and all this only because they wanted Freedom for their own Nation and willing to lead their own people out of century-old oppression. During World War I it was England, mainly, which sanctimoniously used the famous slogan "Freedom for small Nations" but with the savage order to execute sixteen idealistic men she showed her true colours for the whole world to see. James Connolly, one of the sixteen leaders, was so seriously wounded in the weeklong fighting in Dublin that he actually had to be strapped to a chair, thus to face the firing squad and be executed. In addition to the storm of protest in Ireland from men such as Bishop O'Dwyer of Limerick, Yeats, AM, Russell, Gogarty, and many other famous personalities, similar protest and condemnation of British savagery poured in from well-known figures all over the world among them Bernhard Shaw, Joyce, Kilmer, Rev. Father Thompson, and many, many more. Tom Clark, another one of the leaders, whose dedication to Irish Freedom went back to his Fenian days, and whose loathing of England grew while incarcerated in an English prison, was actually and cruelly tortured in the prison yard, after his capture, by the notorious District Inspector Lee Wilson, R.I.C., the torture being witnessed by Michael Collins and Michael McDonnell. Four years later Wilson paid the supreme penalty for his inhuman savagery when he was shot to death in retribution. General Maxwell, England's "Chief Butcher" in Ireland, tried to severely penalise two priests in Co. Limerick, but he met more than his match in Bishop O'Dwyer. The courageous stand of this Bishop gave heart to the entire nation which at that time, was almost desponded and crushed with grief over the executions and the jailing of thousands of men after the Insurrection. The famous Easter Rising was the second time in my generation that the Irish people stood up to the Imperialistic tyranny and slavery of England. During 1913, the workers of Dublin dared to strike for decent wages and [2] living conditions. The employers closed ranks and used the most ruthless and unfair tactics. James Connolly, executed in 1916, was the most outstanding Labour Leader then and later, and with his keen mind, great ability, and particular flair for effective strategy, he fought the viciousness of the employers and their pro-British friends. Throughout the country the common man took sides and for the first time was heartened by the firm decisiveness of the Dublin workers. Even in my own family, my Mother made me contribute sixpence per week to the Workers Fund, and while this was 25% of my total weekly wages then, it was most cheerfully given. In the years that followed, it always gave me great satisfaction to aid the Irish Transport Workers Union in my place of employment as that Union endeavoured to gain decent wages and working hours for the many boys and girls working alongside me in the same firm. In my own case, I well remember that my wages amounted to precisely two shillings per week, for a sixty-hour work week! And even that pittance was not secure since the employer had the right to levy a fine for any act which, in his estimation, he felt was not right. If one had the great misfortune to be late even one or two minutes on a given morning - and no matter how valid an excuse one might have - one would be docked not for those couple of minutes but for a whole half hour. And if one was late again, on a second morning and a second time then half a days pay would be lost. It was under such tyranny that young Ireland had to exist - yet, the blows rendered in the 1913 workers strike, and then the Insurrection of 1916, ended that chapter of slavery in Irish History. EASTER WEEK ON The Irish Catholic Hierarchy, in a 1918 conclave, denounced the English Conscription Bill and proclaimed their opposition to it. This was its death knell, giving the people all the greater determination to resist all British efforts to rule and control Ireland. The British tried every ruse even going to the extent of hinting to some of our Catholic Leaders that many of the English people would convert to Catholicism if only Irish men would agree to fight for the Empire! As Archbishop Walsh said so very truthfully "We will sacrifice 50,000 young Irishmen on England's battlefields as a price for the conversion of English people to Catholicism yet, [3] and as soon as the war is over these self-same people will quickly revert back again to their


former religion; obviously, the Archbishop made that proposed English dodge very unacceptable indeed. Conscription was not wanted at any price, and the movement for Irish independence and freedom from English tyranny received further strong impetus. Back in the Fenian days, his Holiness the Pope once sent for Archbishop Croke and Bishop Walsh and demanded their resignation but His Holiness received the determined reply that their resignation would be given ONLY to the people of Tipperary and of Dublin. Thus the brilliant and famous summing up both these great men gave to the people of Ireland at a gigantic meeting which was held in Dublin on their return from Rome: "We came back unchanged and unchangeable." The people of Cork subscribed the sum of £23,000 to fight Conscription. This money was held by Bishop Cohalan. The election of 74 Irish Republican TD's in 1918 was the forerunner to the creation of Dáil Eireann and the legitimate Government of the Irish people. This gave Dáil Eireann the power to legislate and to rule. The Lord Mayors of Cork Thomas McCurtain and Terence McSwiney were both also members of Dáil Eireann. Thomas McCurtain was murdered in his own home and before the eyes of his family in March 1919; Terence McSwiney died by hunger strike in a British prison in October 1920. The heinous murders by the British and the constant terrorism, practised on the Irish people, went on relentlessly. Despite the action of the Catholic Hierarchy in 1918, and despite the wave of murders by the British, Bishop Cohalan of Cork saw fit to produce his edict of excommunication on all soldiers of the IRA. This outrageous act has little parallel in history from any Irish bishop. It was an act of treachery and most outrageous disloyalty towards his own people. For 700 years they had courageously battled against English oppression and when, at last, there was hope of securing Freedom for country and people, Bishop Cohalan stabbed his own people in the back and took the enemy's side. However, the patriotism of many of the Priests was remarkable; few read out the edict, those who did read it out hurriedly, while the congregation - apparently prepared for the document - left the Churches while it was being read, so, they did not hear it. Instead of supporting the treacherous Bishop they showed their [4 1 ] contempt for this type of slavishness by burning down the entire centre of Cork City, It is worth noting that Bishop Cohalan kept the £23,000 subscribed to fight Conscription. Later, when he had the temerity to accuse others - who were innocent - of accepting stolen bank money, it is to the eternal credit of Sean Hegarty who wrote a letter to the Cork Examiner, which was published, in which Sean stated "If annexing the sum of £23,000 by the Bishop of Cork and refusing to give an account of the monies, is not robbery, then WHAT is? The aftermath of 1916 left most of the country badly disorganised with the exception of Cork which had not taken part in the fight, thus retaining a well-trained disciplined force, and capable of dispatching some of its men to other spots there to kindle sympathy, organise benefits to raise money for the Prisoners Dependents Fund and to restore calm and order wherever possible. At that time the entire movement seemed to employ and direct all its resources towards the harnessing of the newly gained sympathies with the recruiting of the "Volunteers" as they were then called. Life seemed to settle down peacefully and the Sinn Fein movement held its first Convention in 1917. Delegates were screened most carefully and only those who held the right opinions were selected. The Volunteers grew in numbers despite the fact that each section could only receive instructions and hold drillings and parades at night, usually in some field and under circumstances often far from secure or comfortable. Yet, the amazing enthusiasm of the Volunteers easily overcame all these difficulties. The Company to which I belonged trained under the continued command of Sean Hurley, right through to the autumn of 1918 at which time we were attached to a different Battalion. Sean spared no time of effort to see that each man was instructed and trained in every aspect of the armaments at our disposal (mainly rifles and revolvers) explaining to us the different calibres and their different effect on impact. Bombs only came later as at that time we dependent on our home-made concrete explosives. Our Company also had its own group of cyclists. Almost all men could [5] ride bicycles and that included our engineers, intelligence, red cross and medical men. As a matter of fact, all those who held officers rank were given courses in special services, being greatly helped by the successful fund raising efforts of the local Cumann na mBan. Prior to the threat of Conscription the men received thorough training

1 While there is no page 3 there is no gap in the narritive so I have assumed it is a typing error.


in all-night route marches, attack and defence manoeuvres, surprise mobilisations - in short - nothing was left undone to train and discipline the men at our disposal. The results were most gratifying and due, mainly, to the marvellous enthusiasm our Volunteers maintained throughout the entire period of exhaustive training. This was a constant source of great encouragement to all of us. The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) while comparatively small in number in Cork held within their ranks all those men who proved invaluable in the subsequent fight for freedom. Every IRB member, officer, or soldier was worthy of the highest trust and confidence. Early in 1918, some of our members lodged a complaint against Michael Collins. I happened to be the Secretary of our Circle for that night and the charges were filed and sent to Dublin, the Headquarters; they, in turn, assigned a man by the name of Walsh to conduct an investigation. Walsh made two trips to Cork, both unsuccessful, then returned to Dublin there to report that he was unable to make any headway. Along came another delegate from Headquarters; we did not know him at the time but he later turned out to be Harry Boland. Harry seated us in a semi-circle and, turning to each one of us in succession he fired rapid questions at us demanding just either a "yes" or a "No". On my right I had Denboy Coughlan, a lovable character, much older than any of us who whispered to me "Now, don't let him pass you by!" So, when Boland came to me he said very sternly: "You were the Secretary that night. You heard the questions I asked of the others here. Now, I want an answer from YOU." "I refuse to answer that type of questioning", I shot back, "because it is contrary to the rules and out of order". "Well, so you want preferential treatment?" he snapped back. "Oh no," I countered, "I just object to the method of your questioning. I did report the charges against Mick Collins because it was my duty to do so as Secretary. The fact that I strongly disagreed with those charges then [6] and disagree with them now is totally irrelevant. However, I strongly feel that it is your duty to tell those members here who made the charges that there is no foundation whatever in them and that they, as a matter of fact, are nothing but a pack of lies!" Denboy Coughlan immediately declared himself in full agreement with my statement. Boland then assured us all that there was not a shred of truth in the charges and that we should forget the whole matter once and for all. Later, on leaving the meeting, Sean Hegarty was waiting for me outside. He introduced me officially to Harry Boland, who immediately stated to us: "Listen, you have some fellows in there who do not belong." I asked him to let us know whom he suspected and from then on we would not have to inform them of our meetings. Not long afterwards, the official organ of the IRB published an article, attributed by many to Mick Collins and P.S. O'Hegarty. Summarising its content, the article stated that "If the Clergy wish to be treated as Clergy they should stay Clergy; but if they wish to act as politicians, then they will be treated as politicians." When this article was read out at our next meeting, four of our members protested; they were the very same four who had agreed with the charges against Collins - and from that night on they ceased to be active in the IRB. As a matter of fact, after 1919, the IRB very rarely met; there was no purpose in it any more since the I.R.A. activities took up all our spare time. The St. Finn Barrs (or "The Lough") Parish was splendidly loyal and 1917 brought many new soldiers to our ranks, by early 1918 we had a well-organised line of all different units. Then came the case of Conscription early in 1918 and still more joined us; however, and after that date we did not accept any more recruits except for those who were transferred to us from other units. The usual training and parades went on, weekdays and Sundays, Manoeuvres and military activities continued, keeping us all we could do to keep pace with our drilling. Sinn Fein Clubs sprang up all over the Country and Ceidhlithe and Aeriocht became popular means to raise funds and support. Towards August 1918, the Chief of M Staff, Dick Mulcahy escorted by Diarmuid O'Hegarty, came to Cork to investigate alleged acts of indiscipline amongst officers in the 3rd Batt. (this Battalion had four Companies.) The enquiry was held in the City Hall in Cork, and Thomas McCurtain and Terry McSwiney were present. A new Battalion staff had to be appointed and the [7] Chief of Staff proceeded to do so by balloting each member. I objected on the grounds that a general vote was bound to result in the


election of the most popular hurler or footballer as the new Battalion O.C. while, what we really needed would be a well-trained, resourceful fighting man and not a Gaelic sports hero. Subsequently, I suggested that a Committee of Senior Officers should carefully screen promising candidates and then appoint the best man. The C.S. insisted that we had to obey the constitutional laws, so, my suggestion was not accepted. On the first ballot I was elected unanimously but I declined to accept the position. Next, Sean Mitchell was elected and he too refused to accept. Finally, the vote went to an absentee and when he also refused, the Battalion was split up with two of its Companies being added to the 1st Batt., Cork 1. drawn from Glasheen, Bishopstown, and Washington Street, Mardyke, etc. The other two Companies that came from Barrack Street, Bandon Road, Greenmount, Gillabbey, The Lough, Pouladuff and Togher were added to 2nd Batt. Cork 1. Our Company became G. Company, 2nd Batt. The year 1918 was an election year with general interest widespread to elect Sinn Fein candidates. Prior to all this, at the Sinn Fein Convention in 1917, we were asked NOT to send a civilian as our delegate from the Club but rather send an officer of the Volunteers so that our people would be sure of who would hold control in future policies. So, our Club sent forth Josh Richardson, who was a Company Captain at that time. The interest in the local elections, following the successfully contested Dáil Eireann elections, created a rather difficult situation and several of us got together and decided not to allow any active Volunteer Officer to become a candidate. This was discussed various times. On one occasion, I remember pointing out to Thomas McCurtain and Terry McSwiney in conversation, that matters would be alright until such time that an ARREST Would be made (a frequent happening in those days) and then I added: "If any of your are arrested, numerous and very vitally important jobs will be lost to us and, with it, much of the control we have fought for so very desperately." My fears were proved right only too soon. Thomas McCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork at that time, as also O.C. of Cork 1, Brigade and very active in Sinn Fein and other nationalistic circles (as well as ex-officio of almost all [8] the Committees in the Corporation and thus had to attend numerous meetings and receive all types of delegations) was murdered by the British and this great man's potential was lost to the movement and to all of us. Meanwhile, we had in our ranks many men, somewhat older and well versed in Corporation and County Council work, who were perfect for the jobs we planned to fill and to control. Consequently, and while nominating very few IRA officers or active soldiers, we were fortunate enough to come up with and nominate a sterling group of our members to carry on the work in the Corporation, the County Council, and the Urban District Councils. Later, in 1921 and 1922 many of these men were arrested and interned in Ballykinlar Camp, including men such as Stephen Riordan (famous All-Ireland Hurler from the Blackrock section of Cork) Charlie Coughlan, Maurice Walsh Simon Daly (all belonging to the 2nd Batt.) with others, such as Tadgy Barry, from 1st Batt., Cork 1 Brigade. Some others like Jerry Kelleher and Jack Fitzpatrick managed to escape. During 1919, some of our best workers: Jack and Tom (Dodger) Aherne, who were carpenters, Bob Fitzgerald a pattern maker, John Horgan an electrician, and so many others, all pooled their skills and knowledge and proceeded to develop and assemble the various parts of a Mills Bomb. Later those above named were ably assisted by Jimmy Mehigan and his brother of the Lough Road and by my brother Willie Neenan, all three of them being moulders by profession. Great strides were made, work proceeded rapidly, and patterns were successfully constructed to complete the lower section of the bomb. It gave me great satisfaction that all this work came mainly from the members of G Company, 2nd Batt., Cork 1. Brigade. Unfortunately, the countersinking of the upper part of the bomb could not be mastered by our lads so, I was sent to Dublin where I was put in touch with Sean 0'Tuama, Cork, who in turn brought me to Croke Park on a Sunday where I saw Mick Collins, Dick Mulcahy, Liam Tobin (whom I knew), and Tom Cullen then Quartermaster of G.H.Q. While there, Dick Mulcahy came over to me and, as in a manner of chastisement, told me that "I had defied G.H.Q. in the election of the officers for 3rd. Battalion." No doubt, I was rather startled and even hurt by this stern reprimand, still, I managed to keep my temper and just replied quietly that I was sure time would prove me correct - and, as a matter of fact, it DID. The following day Sean 0'Tuama introduced me to a prominent Engineering [9] Officer, by the name of Michael Lynch, to whom I then proceeded to tell about the problems we had


encountered with the top of the bomb. Right away, he showed great enthusiasm in the progress we had made so far and promised to help. Some weeks later, I was back in Dublin together with the Cork team and this time, Tom Cullen showed his "trust and friendship" (if that's what it is to be called!) by handing Mick Murphy and myself a bag containing 300 detonators. We accepted that lethal little package; returning to Cork on the night train, Mick and I gingerly placed our load underneath our seats and, after spreading our coats over it carefully and lovingly we then proceeded to play cards with the rest of the lads all the way home. None of them had the faintest idea of the contents of our little bag! Mick and I, though dutifully appreciative of Tom Cullen’s trust and "generous" gift were also rather apprehensive in case of explosion by foot activity. In 1918 Ray Kennedy, O.C. of the College Company and also a Chemistry Instructor at University College Cork, set up "special classes" for us which many of us attended, including myself. All of his "Students" gained so much knowledge in the manufacture of explosives that they were later transferred to engineering units of the IRA. But at that time, our efforts to produce failed, solely due to the need of manufacturing the enormous pressure needed to create even one cubic or square inch of gun cotton. Consequently, the only way out of our dilemma was to try and acquire gelignite by raiding, and this was done all over Ireland. Our desire and urgent need for equipment resulted in constant experimenting. I remember one time when one of our soldiers somehow secured a .44 revolver but no ammunition. We discovered that by cutting down a .303 rifle bullet and countersinking the revolver barrel, we might be able to use it yet. When all the adjusting had been completed and we were ready to test fire it, I insisted that the revolver be first tied to a tree and triggered off with a string. Fortunately, my suggestion was accepted and that probably saved a life because the explosion blew the gun to smithereens. We then realised that all of us had overlooked the fact that, in a rifle bullet, cordite is used as a primer, this being entirely too powerful for use in a revolver. [10] Early in 1920 an attack was planned on Farran Barracks to take place on a Saturday night. Meeting that afternoon in Thomas Ashe Club, Cork, and discussing the details concerning the explosive charge with Mick Murphy, Myles Guerin, and Tom Corcoran, I noticed that some of the 20 sticks of gelignite we planned to use were frozen; the nitro- glycerine had disintegrated to a dusty residue. Our Engineers had thought the 20 sticks quite sufficient to blow a breach in the barracks gable-wall but now, only 12 sticks were intact and I was convinced that this severely reduced quantity would fail to make a sufficiently large breach. So, I suggested that we go to Suttons there to get some petrol and a hose in order to set fire to the barracks. After being assured by some of our lads that there was no need for that precaution and that the remaining 12 sticks would do the job, we set off in cars stopping about one mile from the barracks, and then walking the rest of the way. To help Myles and Tom Corcoran, I lifted the charge on my shoulder and, right away, the irrepressible Jimmy Walsh, also one of our party, whispered to met "In the name of so and so, what would you carry that thing for?? It might go up and blow us all to pieces”. I did recognise the merit in Jimmy's remark and put the charge down off my shoulder and carried it myself more carefully. Directly adjacent to the barracks was a cottage, occupied by a woman and her five children. We went into the house, telling her of our plan, and explaining that, if our plan to make the breach was to be successful, she and the children would have to leave their home for safety's sake. We then manned our positions and I was placed at the back door of the barracks. As I lay there stretched out flat on the grass, armed with a .45 revolver and three egg bombs (named so by ourselves for their small size -- but we had overrated ideas as to their effectiveness). I suddenly saw the mother and her five children as they passed by behind me quietly departing from their home, carrying just a few of their meagre possessions which they had been able to grab quickly. There was not a whimper nor a sigh out of any of them! To me, one of the most remarkable and unforgettable displays of courage and unquestioning sacrifice I ever experienced. The next thing I knew was the charge going off with a roar and the dust settling on me for what seemed to be an endless time. Then Verey lights of distress signals sprang up from the barracks, lighting up the whole countryside and through the [11] rapid cracks of rifle fire that came from inside, I heard Tadg Sullivan's voice yelling: "Surrender in the Name of the Irish Republic or accept the consequences!"


At that moment - and often in later years - the last four words caused me to break out in a derisive laugh. Sure enough, and right after Tadg's dramatic call for surrender, I heard Jimmy Walsh's loudly whispered comment: "D'ye hear him (meaning Tadg), he'll sure bring them out on top of us". Meanwhile, I threw my three egg bombs at the back door, but they made no impression whatever and just fizzled out like so many wet firecrackers. There and then, I was cured of my exaggerated opinion of their power and effectiveness. While the firing continued, Mick Murphy came back to me, told me that our charge had misfired and, instead of detonating in a forward direction, most of the force had been thrown back doing heavy damage to the little cottage. Mick then admitted that the misfiring of the charge and the absence of a hose and petrol, plus the lack of any really suitable and powerful weapons, left us no choice but to retire; and our withdrawal had to be effected as quickly as possible because any delays might bring on British reinforcements and, thus, result in probable casualties and almost certain captures of some of our men. Others in the party that night were Curly Collins (who later became a medical doctor), Pat Collins, and Jerome and Peter Donovan, as also Steve O’Riordan and Maurice Walsh, the latter two driving part of the way back to Cork with a horse-and-sidecar in which they had stashed away some of our materials and weapons. Some weeks later a man, named Quinn, was drawn to our attention. He was well dressed, well spoken and had come to the Thomas Ashe Club, stating that he had important information and then telling those present that the R.I.C. planned a raid on the Club. His warning was disregarded by most of the members and, subsequently, four lads of "D” Company, 2nd Batt. were arrested. Quinn returned later pretending to be highly indignant that his information had been ignored. Prior to this, however, we had learned that he was a spy for the British. He had come to Cork from Dublin on a special mission shadowing Michael Collins. Late that same [12] night I met Thomas McCurtain, Dommy O'Sullivan, and some others of our lads who told me that Quinn was going back to Dublin the following day and who suggested a plan to have him "escorted" and then eliminated. I strongly disagreed with that plan pointing out that "to get" Quinn on a train and then try to escape would be equal to committing suicide. The others saw reason in my objection and, consequently, Mick Murphy went up to Quinn and asked him to stay over that night, telling him that he and some friends wanted to show him a machine gun which they did not know how to operate properly. Quinn fell for this ruse and he was promptly executed the following night. The newspapers headlined the discovery of the body making special mention of the note "SPY" which was pinned to it. The following night upon entering Father 0’Leary's Hall on Bandon Road, Ned Carey from Lough Road (who, incidentally, had lost a leg in World War I) called me over first asking if it was safe to talk to me. I assured him it was, and he then informed me that the executed man's name had not been Quinn but QUINLISK and that they had been together as Prisoners of War in the same camp in Germany. Ned then proceeded to give me other details about the man's background, such as that he hailed from Clonmel, etc., all of which I passed on to the Brigade O.C. right away, realising that this was additional and very important information for GHQ. Quinlisk, incidentally, was the first of his outfit to be trapped and swiftly dealt with. His special mission had been to hunt down "big game" - such as Michael Collins - and it was fortunate, indeed, that we got to him before he had a chance to succeed. On the night of March 20th, 1920, Tomas McCurtain was murdered in his own home. Two members of the R.I.C., who sympathised with us, later told us that they were forced against their will to participate in that murder patrol. Reprisals were planned by Cork 1 Brigade. Scouting the City, night after night, we found that more than 70 members of the R.I.C., armed with carbines, revolvers, etc., were stationed at strategic points on the streets of Cork. So, it was decided to disarm them and to shoot any who tried to resist and who, thereby, would endanger life and liberty of our own soldiers. All plans were made for a Saturday night to commence at the stroke of 10 PM. On the previous Thursday night, I was ordered by Terry MeSwiney, the then Brigade O.C. to go with an escort and check out the reports of all our scouts. [13] I found that every single one proved to be correct. Then, a special call came from Dublin on Friday and when Florrie O'Donoghue went up there he found, to his consternation, that there were not only strong objections to our planned reprisals but, actually even threats of resignations if they were carried out. Florrie returned and, consequently, the operations for reprisals were called of. Quite understandably, there was a lot of bitter feeling over this


cancellation. (At this date I venture to say that, if we had been allowed to carry out our reprisals as planned, the Black and Tans might very well have got the warning, I even go so far as to say that they might have been very reluctant to risk their lives and safety in Ireland) A short time later, when Tom Hales and Dick Barrett of Cork 3. Brigade, were in Dublin they made it quite clear at R.Q. that Cork 1. Brigade were very disgruntled with GHQ. Again a few days later, when Hales and Barrett were on their way back to Cork, Michael Collins saw them off at Kingsbridge station and said to them: "When you see Sean Hegarty tell him from me that, in future, it is always best to shoot first and to ask permission afterwards!" Subsequent events proved how effective this advice and policy turned out to be. In direct and severe warfare, the local Officers had the authority to deal with all matters arising in their area of command. Back in 1918 with the threat of Conscription hanging over Ireland, each Battalion and each Company was assigned a line of defence in case of a British attack. The area assigned to our Battalion and Company was about one mile wide, along the river Lee to beyond the little town of Coachford. Our precautions, however, turned out to be unnecessary since the Irish Bishops opposed Conscription thereby quite definitely helping to save young Irish men from the draft. During the early summer of 1918, Jerry O'Driscoll (Quarter Master of our 2nd. Batt.) befriended a young lady whose father was a diver hailing from Clonakilty. The girl told Jerry that her father had spoken of a ship which had been sunk off the coast carrying a load of rifles. It must be remembered that, during all this time, the possibility of capturing or acquiring additional firearms took precedence over any and all other assignments. In short, we were simply desperate for weapons. So, and on the following Sunday morning, I set out with Jerry bright and early at 6 AM., and after attending Mass at Bandon. We then cycled to Clonakilty to investigate the "hot news". Well, we were back in Cork that very same night, bone-tired and most disappointed. The whole story was nothing but gossip and empty talk with not a shred of truth to it! There was a certain shoe store in Grattan Street, Cork, that served as a "front" for some of our soldiers of G. Company, 1st Batt. They used the premises after hours for grinding down black powder which had become caked. So, one evening and while they were again employed in that job some unfortunate accident happened and the place blew up. One of our best men by the name of Tobin, who hailed from West Cork, was killed on the spot while the other lads present escaped with burns. Since there were also quite a lot of concrete bombs hidden in that same store, we were, obviously, most anxious to try and salvage them. So, on the following Sunday night, accompanied by Sean Hegarty and several other of our lads, we successfully managed to remove the bombs to a spot in Glasheen. [14] In the meantime our friendly contacts with certain soldiers in Ballincollig Barracks began to pay off and we received quite regular supplies of ammunition from there. It was about this same time too, that the 2nd Battalion received substantial help from the Murphy Brothers who were then doing business in Manchester. The brothers supplied us with revolvers and ammunition and I will always remember the one night when the late Paddy O'Donoghue (the last time I saw him alive), Mick Murphy, and myself checked over, I can only say with delight, a newly arrived consignment of .38 and .45 revolvers that had just come from England. Paddy was killed some months later while I was in a British Prison and I did not hear or know of his death until many months later still. Paddy was a great type, and it was he who wrote the well-known parody on the attack on FARRAN Barracks. All throughout the years from 1919 on, one no longer dared to sleep at home due to the fact that the nightly raids by the British were getting ever more frequent. Still, we were most fortunate in always securing suitable and safer accommodations. Although, we almost always had to leave such hiding places at 6 A.M. and earlier, thereby disrupting the entire household routine, our hosts were simply wonderful and quite unsurpassed in their uncomplaining kindness and hospitality to us. In those days each Company had its so-called “safe" houses which were kept available to us for use in any emergency. Late in 1919 contact was made with a soldier stationed at Ballincollig Barracks, Cork, who was friendly to our cause and ready to sell rifles, ammunition, revolvers and, at our request, even machine guns if possible. Especially the latter we had not been successful in securing. To avoid duplication and/or outbidding and on the instructions of Terry McSwiney, Paddy Healy, then Quartermaster of 1st Batt. and myself, representing 2 nd Batt., met our soldier


contact near Ballincollig where we held the first, introductory discussion. This soldier proved very dependable and, during the first week of July 1920, accompanied by Pat Collins I got a rifle and .303 ammunition; because it got very late that night I buried my treasure in the coal in the backyard of my parent’s home. That same night, we noticed Dick Lynch a notoriously bad local type hanging around. Pat and I felt quite sorry to also notice, in Lynch's evil company, a very decent young man, whom both of us knew well, realising what it would do to the young lad to be exposed to that man's bad influence. As indicated before, this was my first night home in many, many months. I was barely asleep for one hour when I was awakened by the noise and shouting of a British Military raiding party demanding to search the house. Clad only in pants and a shirt, I pretended that I had urgently to go to the backyard but, at the backdoor, I found my way barred by a soldier with rifle and fixed bayonet. The raiding party was led by a 1st Lieutenant; I was arrested [15] and taken to Cork Jail together with Charlie Murray, another local lad. Following the usual procedure the British always took along a member of the R.I.C. to point out the correct houses which were slated for a raid. That night it was R.I.C. Sergeant Murphy who accompanied the British. I knew Murphy to be very friendly to us so, there and then, I openly attacked him with sharp words in front of the British officers, although I knew that the latter had employed their usual lying techniques by telling my Mother "You can thank your neighbours for this," Of course, my Mother had immediately recognised that statement as just another one of John Bull's vicious methods and, therefore, ignored it completely. Also attached to the local R.I.C. Barracks, - the same as Sgt. Murphy - were R.I.C. members Hayes and McCarthy and they too were known to be quite friendly toward us. The raiding party, arriving at the College Road Bar racks that night, were led by two officers, a 1st and a 2nd Lieutenant, who had a list of ten or twelve names in their possession. Among those listed were John O'Connell, George Bourke, Jeremiah Keating, Jim Riordan, Pat Collins, Jack Spillane, Dan Coughlan, Charles Murray, with my own name the last one on the list. The British officers, while reading out the names one by one, asked R.I.C. members Murphy, Hayes, and McCarthy if the knew any of these men but their answer was a clear “NO" in each case. Finally, my name came up but, "NO", I was not known either! With that the 1st Lieut. lost his temper, jumping up he shouted at Hayes: "You follow football a lot, don't you?" Turning to McCarthy, he yelled: "And as to you, I know that you are a great fan of hurling; I also know that you are greatly interested in all types of sports and athletics, but NOW suddenly not one of you have ever seen this man although he is known to be active in hurling and football?!!" Later, and after I had been released from prison, I met the three policemen whom I chided quite severely for their foolishness to deny knowing me no matter how good their intentions. I told them that, while they had nothing to lose by just saying that they had seen me play hurling and football. They were now completely useless to our side since the British would never trust [16] them again. 2 When Mick Murphy was arrested on a Saturday in May 1921, he gave his name as Jack O'Brien, with the address 97 Barrack Street Cork. This was a lucky guess, indeed, for there were actually O'Brien's living at that address. The same night that Mick was arrested, a Sergeant McCoy of the R.I.C. came out to give me the news. Immediately, I collected some of Mick's clothes from his Mother, rushed over to the O'Brien family, told them the story of Mick's giving the false name, and had them make up a bed and hang his clothes in the room. Soon after the British appeared and the O'Brien's kept up the story, insisting that "Jack" was, of course, one of their family and what in the name of heaven was wrong that poor "Jack" was arrested? Meanwhile we were busy arranging an airtight alibi for Mick "alias" Jack O'Brien. I had Mr. Dick Sisk, a building contractor, place him on his employee records, while M. J. Hurley, of the Stonecutter Masons, entered him in their membership books. Next I warned the O'Brien's that the British would probably come back to check again. Sure enough, they did, but this time it was the Black and Tans who showed up in charge of none other but I.R.C. Sgt. Murphy, the same who had been present at my arrest. Sgt. Murphy ordered the Tans to stay outside the house while he went inside and quickly told Mrs. O'Brien, as well as her 2 (A margin instructs that this section be transferred to page 61)


daughters Mary Kate and Margaret, and her son Stephen that, although HE knew that they had no "Jack" in the family, he would convince the Tans that here was, indeed, another son by that name and the family should do nothing else but back him up. True to his word, Sgt. Murphy invented so many facts about the legendary "Jack" that his report was fully believed and accepted. This, may very well be the reason why Mick Murphy was only interned instead of being court-martialled. Hunger Strike In the Cork Jail I was lodged in Wing No. 10 together with a number of untried prisoners. Among them were Larry Breen, Mick Sheehan, J. Kenny (Tipperary), Michael Ivory (Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny), Joe Murphy, Sean and Frank Nolan, Tadgh Hanley, Charlie Murray, and others from Cork; also there were Connie McNamara, Frank Glasgow, Taddy Kelly, Sean Hennessy (Limerick City), M. Burke (Co. Clare). Dan [17] O'Brien (Liscarroll, Co. Cork), the brothers John Joe and Tom Crawford (Ballylanders)y Mick Crowleys Jerry Callaghan (Knocklong), Sean Riordan, M.Sheehy (Kilmallock), L. Keane, J. Connors (Galbally) Co. Limerick)p as also three men from Youghal, some more from West Cork, and quite a number of young prisoners from Worth Kerry whose names I do not recall. In addition, but located in Wing No. 4 there were Mick Fitzgerald (Fermoy), Seamus Quinlan, Dan O'Sullivan, and J. O'Callahan from Cork who had already been tried and, like Mick Murphy, were on serious charges. Most of the Warders resided in my home Parish (St. Finbarrs West) and I knew everyone of them. In order, I list those who were the most understanding and best: Tom O'Shea (Kerry), Quigley and Fitzpatrick (Midlands), Deady (Kerry), all of them were very human and decent men. With us, and in charge of us prisoners, was Maurice Crowe (Tipperary) who had been on several hunger strikes; as also Tadg Manley, who was moved to Wing 4. after he was tried, and his companion J. Murray, an ex-British soldier who, although he had had no part in the Middleton Ambush, yet remained steadfast in his attitude and loyalty. Soon after we had been incarcerated, some of the prisoners agitated for a hunger strike so, after a few days, a vote was taken. I was one of five prisoners who opposed a hunger strike on the grounds that it was nothing but a subterfuge since some of the prisoners were found guilty while others were caught carrying firearms. These very charges entitled us to treatment as "Prisoners of War" and, as such, we were not bound to recognise the authority of the British Government. The voting was well over 100 against the four of us opposing. Mick Fitzgerald and Joe Murphy joined me in the opposition, and while I am not quite sure of the fourth, I believe it was Mick Sheehan. Obviously, and with the very small minority of the four of us, the Hunger Strike was called; it is all the more tragic to recall that both Mick Fitzgerald and Joe Murphy, who had strongly opposed the vote, died an agonising death in that very hunger strike! The hunger strike started on a Wednesday morning when all food was left outside the cells, untouched. On Thursday night 26 or 28 prisoners were removed for deportation, Tadg Manley being one of them. Consternation was widespread the following morning when the remaining prisoners learned that those leaving had [18] broken the strike and partook of food before their departure. The following week consternation was even greater when Tom Shea, the friendly warder, came to my cell at 7 a.m. to give me the sad news that a number of arrests had been made on the previous night and that now lodged in Wing No. 4 were: Terry McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork and, also, O.C. of Cork No.1 Brigade; furthermore incarcerated were Liam Lynch, Sean Hegarty, Dan Donovan, Michael Leahy, Joseph O'Connor, Michael Carey, and Lar Cotter, with the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth of the prisoners all giving false names. I arranged with the warders, O’Shea and Quigley, that I would go on the exercise yard of Wing No. 10. Then, and because all of us were under observation from the tower while on exercise, I insisted that Terry McSwiney should be the ONLY one to be brought to that yard, there to recognise me and to come right over and shake hands. The others, who had given false names, were NOT to know me. Later by arrangement, and again helped by Tom O'Shea, we all met in my cell. An escape plan was discussed then, with warders O'Shea, Fitzpatrick, Deady, and Quigley all having a big part in it. Warder Quigley, being a mechanic by profession, had a "roving" job and he could go to any part of the prison. The same applied


to Tom O'Shea, he too was free to move around. Fitzpatrick, who was attached to the infirmary, used to accompany the Doctors on their rounds to the sick prisoners. All this represented a good organisation right inside the prison for us. Two of the warders agreed to smuggle in guns, they fully participated in the planning from inside the jail, and they also provided us with floor plans of all the various locations. Yet, the very day we had set for our escape plans, Terry McSwiney was taken out for trial; inside 24 hours he was deported to Brixton Prison, London, and our plans became obsolete. Indeed, a crushing blow and disappointment to all of us. Our cell doors were usually locked at 4 P.M.; but, some days after all this happened, one afternoon, my cell door suddenly opened and I saw Maurice Crowe our leader standing outside escorted by a 1st and a 2nd Lieutenant of the British forces, as also by Prison Governor King, Chief Warder O'Donoghue, and warder Tom O'Shea. Maurice stepped up to my cot and quickly informed me of the situation at hand. While whispering his advise how best to act under the circumstances, he mentioned in particular that "The lads from Kerry were far too young for deportation and [19] for such a trip without decent food, care, or medical attention. That was all the preparation I needed, an idea quickly formed in my mind. Maurice wanted my advice and asked me to talk. Still lying on my cot, I invited the entire escort into my cell and asked the 1st Lieutenant what "this was all about". "I am instructed by my Commanding Officer", he said, "to order you to break this hunger strike. If this order is not obeyed, you will all be deported tonight." "Who is your Commanding Officer?" I queried. And since he would not answer, I added, "I presume it is General Strickland", then I continued, "You may go back to General Strickland, or to who ever gave you that order, I do want you to tell him to 'GO TO HELL”. You may tell him that this is not the first time you have deported Irishmen nor, I am sure, will it be the last time." “I think you are making a grave mistake”, the Lieutenant broke in to which I simply replied, "I distinctly tell you that there was NOTHING personal in my answer to you. Please note that both, you officers, came in here with an ultimatum from your Commanding Officer whose authority we prisoners do not recognise. Now, you have the temerity to try and discuss the matter with me. Well, there is NO discussion to your ultimatum. I repeat, just tell your Commanding Officer to G0 TO HELL"!" That ended the matter, and as the whole crowd left, I quickly caught Maurice Crowe by the leg and whispered, "Listen to me carefully, if they are going to deport any or all of us tonight, send for the Doctor right away and tell him that HE will be held responsible if anything happens to any of the young lads. Of course, he will not accept that responsibility but you can scare the daylights out of him anyhow." That same night, beginning at 6:30 pm. and lasting to about 8:30 pm. there was a continuous din. While one could clearly distinguish the banging of doors, cars being revved up pm outside, yelling and shouting, there was none of the [20] customary singing, nor shouting out of orders that might have explained the commotion. The first I knew, and after lying awake all night (one does not sleep well when on hunger strike) was the warder Tom O'Shea, bursting into my cell at 7:30 am. with the exiting and delightful news, "Listen, it really worked, they released all the others last night, including Liam Lynch, Sean Hegarty, Dan Donovan. Michael Leahy, Joe O'Connor, and also all the young lads from Kerry!" I asked him about Mick Fitzgerald and Maurice Crowe, and he told me that they were kept back the same as myself. During the afternoon, Tom O'Shea then brought me a message from Liam Lynch who, in thanking me, also stated that he had heard the reply I had given to the British Officers. The rest of the day was quiet until late that night when Chief Warder O'Donoghue, warder Fitzpatrick, and some other warders came in to my cell with a stretcher. I was told that I was up for deportation and, offering me some brandy, O'Donoghue suggested to me in kindly terms that I take since "I would need it". Up to then we had regarded O'Donoghue as not too


friendly toward us, on the other hand, he could not really be called unfriendly either. Consequently I thanked him politely for his offer but refused to take the stimulant. Resigned to immediate deportation, I was utterly amazed to find myself lifted instead into an ambulance and being taken to the Military Hospital in Cork Barracks, with Maurice Crowe and John Joe Crawford occupying adjoining beds! Throughout the following day we underwent several examinations by various doctors; One of them was particularly friendly and understanding but since we were on hunger strike he too could not help us. Then, around 10 p.m. one of the doctors came up and told me, "You are all being deported tonight"! Only too true because somewhat later still, we found ourselves back on stretchers and inside an ambulance again on our way to the boat. Guarded by soldiers with rifles, the officer in charge came over, and said loudly, "If there is any attempt to escape, ...shoot”! Immediately, I asked one of the soldiers to call the Officer back which he promptly did. When the officer arrived I only said to him, "Listen, you must have an extraordinary sense of humour to expect a man on a stretcher to make a run for it!!” For a minute there, he looked quite startled [21] but then he suddenly saw the joke, and he walked away from me laughing. Placed on the deck of a sloop, the stretchers were all taken away, so we were taken below. About an hour later, we suddenly heard a lot of noise and voices, and soon we were joined by 26 other prisoners. They all seemed in good form and I said to Maurice Crowe, "Listen, something seems very wrong here; these fellows must have taken food." My suspicion was quite correct; the British had given the men food in Cork Jail prior to their departure. Somewhat later the British brought bully beef and hard biscuits, both of which a type of food which was, quite obviously, totally unfit for men who had been on hunger strike but that, of course, did not disturb the British in the least. The Doctor, whose duty it would have been to see to it that some lighter food was offered, kept away from us completely. But, maybe, it was just as well that the men were offered this unsuitable food; of course, they all got seasick, and some of them most severely so, but, still the food intake prevented the torturous empty retching. When the seasickness struck, and as our lads lay stretched out on the barren planks of the lower deck - without mattresses or covers - some of them got so frightfully ill that, at times, I was convinced some of them were actually dying or had already passed away. I urgently sent for the Doctor and, after a very long time, he finally appeared and he was anything but sober! When I pointed out the worst cases, and asked for his help, he very gruffly snapped back at me: "Well, if they had not gone on hunger strike, all this would not have happened." Which was the sum total of compassion a man of the medical profession was willing to extend. One day later we arrived in Milford Haven, England, where we were put aboard a train. Then, fourteen hours later, without having been given food or aid of any kind, we finally arrived in Winchester. On leaving the train we were ordered "to march" to the prison! A most ludicrous order since there was NO marching but just a stumbling along the road. All I remember is my feeling of total, utter exhaustion, my struggling along blindly, my trying to follow the others, and then, on approaching the Prison gates, the cruelly mocking voice of the Doctor, "Well now, that was a pretty good journey"!" [22] Weak and exhausted as I was but I fairly exploded and, turning on the doctor, I snarled at him, “If I ever get out of here alive, I promise you I will kill you. Surely, I never thought it possible that a Doctor could be so callous and totally inhuman in the face of sickness and misery". Later, I heard that an order to deal justice on this doctor was given, once the facts about that journey and his conduct became known. However, Terry McSwiney, still on hunger strike in his prison cell, overruled the order by stating "You cannot ever shoot a doctor." In Winchester Prison, another hunger strike was suggested which I and a number of my comrades opposed vigorously. Somehow, word leaked out and soon we got orders that the British authorities would force-feed any prisoner attempting to go on hunger strike. Maurice Crowe, who had a lot of experience in hunger strikes, warned all NOT to invite the terrible torture of force feeding. Almost simultaneously Mr. McDonnell, a solicitor, arrived from London. He informed Maurice Crowe that he represented GHQ and that he had instructions from Michael Collins that there were to be NO MORE hunger strikes, and that he fully agreed


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