Tadhg Barry 'Rebel and Revolutionary' Exhibition

From the collections of Cork City and County Archives Service.


(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

•25 February 1880: born to a working-class family on Blarney Street. •Mid-1880s to late 1890s: Attends Blarney Street National School and the North Monastery. •1899-1903: works as an attendant at Eglinton Asylum. • 1901: That year’s census lists him as ‘Timothy Barry’, resident at 54 Blarney Street. •1907-09: Active in the local GAA as a trainer, referee, organiser of weekend games and delegate at both county and national level; elected to Cork County Board. • 1910: Becomes a full-time journalist as the GAA correspondent with the Cork Accent , renamed the Cork Free Press later that year. • 1910: Joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood. • 1910: Helps to establish the O’Growney branch of the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge). • 1911: That year’s census lists him as ‘Tadgh Ó Barraighe’, resident at 54 Blarney Street. •October 1911: Helps to establish a Cork branch (‘sluagh’) of Na Fianna Éireann, the republican boy scouts’ organisation. •December 1913: Helps to establish the Cork City Corps of the Irish Volunteers. •August 1914: Sides with the faction in the Irish Volunteers that opposes recruitment into the British army to fight in the First World War. • 1916: His book Hurling and How to Play It , hurling’s first ever codified rulebook, is published.

Postcard image of Tadhg Barry (Cork Public Museum)

•April 1916: Mobilises during the 1916 Rising and marches to Macroom with fellow Volunteers; escapes arrest by going on the run. •Early December 1916: Sacked from the Cork Free Press , which folded later that month. •17 December 1916: Arrested for a ‘seditious’ speech given at the annual Manchester Martyrs commemoration at City Hall on 23 November. •January 1917: Sentenced by court martial to two years’ imprisonment to be served at Cork Gaol. •August 1917: Released after a short but successful hunger strike. •October 1917: Arrested for drilling Irish Volunteers in Lisgoold; released shortly afterwards without trial. • 1917: His book of poetry, Songs of A Gaolbird , is published. •May 1918: Lifted as part of the ‘German Plot’ arrest swoop and sent to Usk prison in Wales, the sole Cork republican to be arrested.

Postcard image of Tadhg Barry (Cork Public Museum)

•March 1919: Released from Usk and appointed fulltime organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). •15 January 1920: Elected alderman to Cork Corporation for the North-West No.1 Ward (Sunday’s Well/Blarney Street area) for the Sinn Féin/ITGWU. •Early 1920: Becomes adjutant of C Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade, IRA. •31 January 1921: Arrested during a meeting of Cork Corporation. •25 February 1921: Arrives in Ballykinler internment camp in Co. Down. •15 November 1921: Shot dead by a British sentry at the camp. •19 November 1921: His remains are transferred to Cork by train and arrive that evening. •20 November 1921: Buried in the Republican Plot in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery.

Postcard image of Tadhg Barry (Cork Public Museum)



Barry’s Cork

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

By the turn of the twentieth century, Cork was Munster’s premier commercial centre and Ireland’s third largest city. The 1911 census recorded a population of 76,673 in the city, with another twenty thousand or so living in the suburbs. The overwhelming majority, 88 per cent, were Catholic, with a small Protestant (mainly Church of Ireland) bloc and a tiny number of Jews and Unitarians. Corkonians had a varied experience depending on where in the city they were born. A 1915 study found that 35 per cent of the population lived ‘in a chronic state of want’, inhabiting tenements and owning only a single set of clothes. Twenty per cent resided in a home considered unfit or barely fit for human habitation while another 14 per cent lived a ‘hand-to-mouth’ existence. Poverty led to public health catastrophes. Infant mortality numbered 132 per one thousand births, while tuberculosis killed 283 people a year. The situation in Cork contrasted starkly with that of industrialised Belfast, where only 0.03 per cent of the population resided in a one-room tenement.

Coopers at work at the Beamish & Crawford brewery c. 1900 (Donal Ó Drisceoil & Diarmuid Ó Drisceoil, Beamish & Crawford: The History of an Irish Brewery, Cork, pp. 160-161)

Linen manufacture, brewing and distilling were Cork’s chief industries. It had little heavy industry, although some shipbuilding did take place at Haulbowline. The city had deindustrialised significantly during the nineteenth century; even its world-famous butter trade was facing extinction by 1900. Deindustrialisation had left a large pool of unskilled labour in its wake. Work was highly segregated along gender lines, with construction, railway and dock work providing much male employment, while women were typically employed in domestic service, tailoring and the manufacture of textiles and upholstery. Built on the second largest natural harbour in the world, the port of Cork was the city’s economic lifeblood. A 1908 British government report described Cork as a ‘town which depends chiefly upon its natural situation for its means of sustenance.’

Fr. Matthew Statue, Patrick’s Street, Cork c. 1900 (oldphotosofcork.wordpress.com)

Although Cork had a history of political radicalism, having been a Fenian stronghold in the 1860s, the demand for Home Rule dominated local politics in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. But constitutional nationalism was not a united front, and Cork was at the heart of a split that rocked the Home Rule Party in early 1909. When Cork city MP William O’Brien and his supporters left the Irish Parliamentary Party and formed the All-for-Ireland League (AFIL), Cork became a battleground for the soul of nationalist Ireland. The county became an AFIL stronghold, with nine of the county’s ten parliamentary constituencies electing O’Brienite MPs in the December 1910 Westminster election. But strong republican sympathies lay dormant in the city throughout this period. Unrepentant ex-Fenians were often elected to Cork Corporation, and they marched alongside committed Home Rulers during the annual Manchester Martyrs commemoration, the biggest annual republican event before the Easter Rising.

Patrick’s Street, Cork, 1906 (courtesy of Tom Power)

Sunday’s Well, Cork, early twentieth century (National Library of Ireland)

Sunday’s Well, Cork, early twentieth century (National Library of Ireland)

Sunday’s Well, Cork, early twentieth century (National Library of Ireland)


Early 1880-1903


(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

Not much is known about Tadhg’s early life, except that he worked as an attendant at Eglinton Lunatic Asylum (later Our Lady’s Hospital) on the Lee Road from 1899 to 1903. Life as an asylum attendant c. 1900 was gruelling. Conditions were notorious, with most staff being required to live in the asylum or on the asylum grounds. Commenting on the Clonmel Asylum, an inspector reported of a ‘crying want of suitable accommodation for the staff … beds are so close that there is hardly room to get between them.’ Pay was ‘abysmally low’ and the working day long: fourteen- hour shifts (starting at 6am and ending at 8pm) and a seven-day working week were common. With a view to ameliorating such appalling conditions, Tadhg joined the (British-based) Asylum Workers’ Union, contributing articles to its journal even after he left the job. At Eglinton, he organised concerts to raise funds for the city’s nascent Gaelic League and established a Gaelic football team among the staff. After studying part-time and gaining some (probably clerical) qualifications, Tadhg resigned from the asylum in July 1903. He emigrated to Britain, first to Hull and then to London. Timothy (Tadhg) Joseph Barry was born at 54 Blarney Street into a working-class family on 25 February 1880. He had an older sister, Mary, and two younger brothers, Daniel and Patrick. Their father, Daniel Snr., worked as a cooper. Although the trade was declining in Cork, coopers were highly skilled workers who were better paid than most. This allowed Tadhg to complete both primary and secondary education – at Blarney Street National School and the North Monastery respectively – at a time when most working-class children’s formal education ended with primary school. At the North Mon, Br. Clifford, a fervent nationalist, was a huge influence on the young Tadhg. In class, Br. Clifford led prayers ‘for the welfare of Ireland, for the advancement of the Irish language and that we may die for Ireland.’

Registration record of Tadhg Barry’s birth (irishgenealogy.ie)

Blarney Street National School, 1965 (courtesy of Ronnie Herlihy)

The North Monastery holds a pageant to mark its centenary, 1911 (oldphotosofcork.wordpress.com)

St. Vincent’s Catholic Church, Sunday’s Well, early twentieth century (National Library of Ireland)

Sunday’s Well, Cork, early twentieth century (Eglinton Lunatic Asylum is visible in the background) (National Library of Ireland)

Barry family census return, 1911. Note that Tadhg is now the ‘head of the family’ and has completed the census in Irish! (National Archives of Ireland)

Barry family census return, 1901 (National Archives of Ireland)


Nationalist Activism 1903-1913

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

Although he was active in the GAA in Hull and in the Gaelic League in London, Tadhg did not enjoy his time in England. Deeply homesick, he returned to Cork in 1907 and quickly found employment as a clerk for the newly established Pensions Board, the old age pension having just been introduced. Tadhg plunged himself into the city’s burgeoning cultural nationalist scene and quickly became a popular member of the small group of dedicated activists spearheading a Gaelic revival. He joined the Celtic Literary Society, which was more revolutionary than literary!

Founded in 1902, the society campaigned for an independent Irish republic, protested King Edward’s visit to Cork and agitated for local streets to be renamed after Irish republicans. It established the Cork Industrial Development Association in 1903, whose goal was to improve local manufacturing and promote international investment in Cork. Future republican stalwarts Terence McSwiney, Tomás MacCurtain, Liam de Róiste, Diarmaid Fawsitt, Seán O’Hegarty and P.S. O’Hegarty served with Tadhg in the leadership of both organisations. By his mid-twenties, Tadhg had become an enthusiastic Gaeilgeoir. Indeed, his first ever court appearance was not for seditious speech or arms carrying, but for refusing to take out a dog licence because he could not have it in Irish! Tadhg was a committed member of the Gaelic League, which had set up its first Cork branch in 1899 with only twenty members. Within five years, however, it had six active branches, two halls (‘An Grianán’ and ‘An Dún’) on Queen Street (now Fr.

The derelict site of ‘An Grianán’ today, once a home to a small but vibrant cultural nationalist scene of which Tadhg was an integral member. (Courtesy of Ciaran McCarthy)

Matthew Street) and an Irish teaching college in Ballingeary (Coláiste na Mumhan). In 1910, an acrimonious dispute arose within the local Gaelic League between constitutional nationalists and republicans, the former accusing the latter of separatist politics. Tadhg and the other republicans broke away and formed the O’Growney branch, which met at 3 Marlboro Street. It was named after Eugene O’Growney, a priest, scholar and key figure in the Gaelic revival of the late nineteenth century. When in Usk prison in early 1919, Tadhg reminisced fondly about the excursions to Ballingeary. He wrote home to Liam de Róiste that he hoped to be released in time for that year’s trip to the village to improve his Irish because he was trying to master the language but found the grammar difficult!

Coláiste na Mumhan in the early twentieth century. Established by the Gaelic League in Ballingeary in 1904, the college remains in use today. (National Library of Ireland)

The ‘Déanta i nÉirinn’, or ‘Made in Ireland’, trademark established by the Cork Industrial Development Association to encourage the public to buy Irish products. In 1927, the Free State government made the logo the official trademark for goods produced in the Irish Free State. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil)


Political Activism 1907-14 Tadhg’s devotion to the revival of Irish culture was almost as great as his passion for Irish independence; to him, they were the same struggle. While in England, he had continued to support the separatist cause in any way he could; he became a shareholder in Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin Printing & Publishing Company. Upon his return to Cork in 1907, Tadhg joined the newly formed Cork National Council branch of Sinn Féin, which had been formed the previous year by three nationalist organisations – Inghinidhe na hÉireann, the Cork Celtic Literary Society and the Cork Young Ireland Society. Tadgh Ó Barraighe, as he now called himself, served an unhappy term as Sinn Féin’s first ever branch secretary in Cork. His friend and fellow Sinn Féiner Liam de Róiste recalled decades later that Tadhg was ‘often despondent’ because of the public’s indifference to the party. By 1911, the Cork National Council branch had fizzled out. William O’Brien and Arthur Griffith began to explore an alliance/amalgamation, which caused serious dissension within Sinn Féin. Tadhg supported an alliance with the AFIL despite Sinn Féin officially rejecting it. He campaigned for the AFIL in the two general elections of 1910 and joined the party the following year. He was elected to the Cork Board of Guardians (who administered the Poor Law and managed the Workhouse) as an O’Brienite in the 1911 local elections but lost his seat in 1914. He left the AFIL later that year, horrified by its support for Irish recruitment into the British army after the outbreak of the First World War.

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

Certificate of Tadhg Barry’s purchased shares in Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin Printing & Publishing Company, 1907. Note that his name is written as ‘Timothy Barry’ in it. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil)

William O’Brien, leader of the All-for-Ireland League. Established in 1909, Tadhg Barry joined the party two years later. A journalist, agrarian agitator, newspaper publisher, author and member of parliament for Cork city, O’Brien was one of the outstanding Irish political figures of his generation. Previously called Great Britain Street, the street where the Cork City and County Archives is located was renamed in his honour in 1905. O’Brien died in 1928. (theirishstory.com)

The front cover of the minute book of the Cork National Council branch of Sinn Féin, 1907-1911, of which Tadhg Barry was the secretary. (Whyte’s Actioneers)

Tadhg did not restrict his activities to political parties. He was part of a new generation of young men who were rejuvenating the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) – a secret, oath-bound fraternal organisation dedicated to ending British rule – across Ireland. By the turn of the centenary, the Cork IRB had become moribund, consisting mainly of veterans from the 1867 Fenian Rising. But in 1907, young republicans reformed the Brotherhood in the city. They recruited only those who were as dedicated as themselves, carefully plucking members from the GAA, Gaelic League, Sinn Féin, AFIL and Cork IDA. Tadhg joined the IRB in 1910, one of only fifteen or so members in Cork. That year, activists in the O’Growney branch of the Gaelic League founded a ‘sluagh’ (branch) of Na Fianna Éireann, the republican boy

scouts’ organisation. Tadhg was one of Na Fianna’s main organisers and trainers in Cork and was chairman of the sluagh in 1914. Like the IRB, the Cork Fianna were centred in An Dún. Na Fianna’s activities included distributing seditious literature, opposing British army recruitment, camping, marching and learning map-reading and first aid. O’Growney branch members formed the nucleus of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (American Alliance), an IRB/Clan na Gael front organisation which provided a republican alternative to the solidly constitutional nationalist Ancient Order of Hibernians. Tadhg served as secretary of the AOH (American Alliance).


Irish Volunteer 1913-21

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

Officers of the Cork Brigade of the Irish Volunteers with Seán MacDiarmada (centre) at the Volunteers’ Hall, Sheares Street on 28 November 1915, the day of that year’s Manchester Martyrs’ commemoration. Tadhg Barry is second row, fourth from the right. (Cork Public Museum)

A group of officers of the Cork Brigade, Irish Volunteers, at the Freeman’s Journal offices in Dublin, 1915. Front row (left to right): Tadhg Barry, Tomás MacCurtain, Pat Higgins; back row (left to right): David Cotter, Seán Murphy, Donal Barrett, Terence MacSwiney, Paddy Trahey. (Cork Public Museum)

Following the passage of the Third Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons in 1912, Ulster unionists formed the Ulster Volunteer Force, an armed militia opposed to the implementation of Home Rule. In response, leading nationalists gathered in Dublin in November 1913 and founded the Irish Volunteers to ensure the enactment of Home Rule by force if necessary. Tadhg was a founding member of the Cork Corps of the Irish Volunteers, launched the following month in City Hall. By mid-1914, the Irish Volunteers claimed a national membership of 180,000 to 200,000 men, with John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, as their leader. However, events in Europe would overtake the Volunteers.

On 4 August, Britain declared war on Germany after its invasion of Belgium, the beginning of its involvement in the First World War. Redmond urged Irishmen to join the British army to ensure that the British government would keep its promise on Home Rule. Over 150,000 Volunteers enlisted, leading to a split in the organisation. The majority formed the National Volunteers, who sailed to the Western Front, while a 10,000-man rump remained in Ireland under the original title of the Irish Volunteers. Tadhg backed the separatist, IRB-influenced minority. By the end of 1915, there were forty-six companies of the Irish Volunteers across Co. Cork, comprising 1,500 men. Of those, 150 were attached to the Cork City Battalion, whose headquarters was located at Volunteers’ Hall on Sheares Street. As an officer with D Company, Tadhg served on the executive committee of the Cork Brigade. He was also quartermaster of the first Volunteer training camp in Cork and played in the Volunteer Pipe Band. He was centrally involved in organising, drilling, training and procuring arms for a planned national rebellion. He helped to bring James Connolly to Cork in January 1916 to speak at an unofficial meeting of thirty or so Volunteers about urban guerrilla tactics. In the IRB’s plans for the Easter Rising, the Cork Brigade were to join with units from Kerry and Limerick along the Cork/Kerry border and receive their quota of weapons from the Aud, a German ship delivering arms. But the weapons, due to be unloaded at Fenit Pier on Easter Sunday, never arrived because the Aud was captured, and its cargo scuttled. As flag bearer, Tadhg led D Coy. as they marched from Crookstown to Macroom. However, amid confusing and contradictory orders from Dublin, the Cork Brigade was stood down; consequently, Cork did not participate in the Rising. The leaders of the Cork Volunteers occupied the hall on Sheares Street, while British soldiers occupied strategically important positions across the city, warning that any action by the Volunteers would lead to the shelling of the hall and other targets. Tadhg was a major figure in the negotiations between the Volunteers and the authorities, organised by Lord Mayor T.C. Butterfield and the Catholic bishop of Cork, Daniel Cohalan. Tadhg wanted to hold out and fight and was against MacCurtain and McSwiney’s surrender of the weapons to the lord mayor, from whom the British authorities later seized them.

Group of Irish Volunteers who attended the officers’ training course under J.J. O’Connell at the Volunteers’ Hall, Sheares Street, 22 January to 5 February 1916. Tadhg Barry is second row, second from right, with J.J. O’Connell to his left. (Cork Public Museum)

Looking back, Tadhg considered the surrender of arms in 1916 his greatest regret in life. Despite this setback, however, he remained a committed Volunteer. ‘Being a man of no physical courage, he was always contrived The Cork Volunteers’ Pipe Band, 1916. Tadhg Barry is front row, third from left, with ‘Darkie’ the Volunteers’ mascot otterhound, whom Tadhg christened their ‘canine comrade’, at his feet. (Cork Public Museum)

to keep out of the way when actual violence was attempted, although he was ever ready to plan and instigate it’, British intelligence claimed. How wrong they were! After his appointment as adjutant of C Coy., 1st Batt. of the 1st Cork Brigade in early 1920, Tadhg gathered intelligence and transported arms for the IRA under the cover of trade union work. He remained a proud member of the IRA until his death in November 1921.

A handbill for the meeting that established the Cork Corps of the Irish Volunteers on 14 December 1913, which Tadhg Barry attended. The Irish Volunteers was formed to defend the implementation of Home Rule in Ireland following the creation of the Ulster Volunteers. It provided the nucleus for the future Irish Republican Army. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil)

Medal given to Tadhg Barry at the second annual Irish Volunteer convention, held in 1915 in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil)



(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

As the eldest son of a tradesman, Tadhg could have easily followed his father into cooperage. But he knew from an early age that his talents lay elsewhere. In 1910, he became a full-time journalist as the GAA correspondent with William O’Brien’s daily newspaper, the Cork Free Press , an AFIL- supporting competitor to the solidly Redmondite Cork Examiner . Every Saturday under the penname ‘An Ciotóg’, meaning the ‘left-hander’ or the ‘clumsy one’, Tadhg reported on every aspect of local GAA, from the results of matches to developments in the Cork County Board. Combining his love of the GAA with his talent for writing, the column seemed perfect for the clumsy left-hander – but Tadhg had broader horizons. In early 1915, under the pseudonym ‘City Man’, he launched a weekly column in the Skibbereen Eagle called ‘’Neath Shandon Steeple’ which covered Cork politics, trade unionism, GAA and culture. The column ended in December 1916 when Tadhg was first arrested.

The Cork Free Press , William O’Brien’s All- for-Ireland League supporting alternative to the Cork Examiner , reporting on the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. Tadhg Barry worked as a fulltime GAA reporter for the paper at the time this article was published but was subsequently sacked for his intervention in the West Cork by- election later that year. The Cork Free Press folded shortly afterwards. (UCC Archives)

From March to September of that year, Tadhg also wrote for New Ireland, the influential and widely read nationalist weekly, contributing the ‘Cork Notes’ column under the name ‘Corcaig’. Furthermore, he penned a series of articles on Irish and international politics and labour for Irish Opinion , the weekly of the ITGWU. He fervently believed that Irish workers needed to break the link with Britain and establish independent Irish unions as a prerequisite to seizing state power. His final article in the series was a detailed analysis of the labour theory of value in which he attacked archaic notions of ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ workers to determine pay rates. Even stints in prison did not stop Tadhg from passionately expressing his views to Irish Opinion on socialism, revolution and the need for a more just and equal society in the post-war era. Just when it seemed that Tadhg’s journalistic career was taking off, his public intervention in the controversial West Cork by-election of November 1916 brought it to a sudden (albeit

temporary) close. The by-election was caused by the death of the AFIL MP James Gilhooly, and the party chose Frank Healy of Cobh as its candidate. Tadhg wanted Healy to stand for Sinn Féin. He wrote an open letter to Healy, pointing out that he had the opportunity to become Ireland’s first abstentionist MP. His disavowal of Healy and the introduction of an unofficial AFIL candidate sealed the fate of William O’Brien’s party: they narrowly lost the seat to the Redmondites. Tadgh was dismissed from the AFIL- supporting Cork Free Press for his intervention. The by-election marked the beginning of the end for the AFIL, and the Cork Free Press folded in December 1916. By early 1918, Tadgh was finding it tough to make ends meet. His fortunes took a brief upturn when Sinn Féin purchased the ailing Southern Star in late 1917 and turned its editorial policy into one of staunch republicanism. With only one correspondent in mind, the paper informed its readers that ‘we have arranged for city news from one who knows Cork and Cork people well.’ Tadhg revived his ‘’Neath Shandon Steeple’ column and introduced it to Southern Star in January 1918 (with ‘Shandon’ becoming ‘Shandon’s’ in the title) but did not revive ‘City Man’ or use any other by-line. The British suppressed the paper for

An article from Tadhg Barry, written under the pseudonym ‘Corcaig’, about working-class education and learning opportunities published in New Ireland , a popular nationalist paper. (Irish Newspaper Archives)

In this article in Irish Opinion , the weekly of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, Tadhg Barry praises militant republicanism and condemns Home Rule and the ‘obnoxious’ constitutional nationalism of William O’Brien and John Redmond as unionist. (Irish Newspaper Archive)

most of the period between August 1918 and March 1920 because of its pro-Sinn Féin stance. Because of this, and Tadhg’s rearrest in 1918, ‘’Neath Shandon’s Steeple’ appeared only sporadically until late 1920. It now had a dark tone, reflecting the violent atmosphere of the War of Independence.


and the GAA Tadhg Barry

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

Imbued with a love of Gaelic games from childhood, Tadhg Barry went on to become one of the leading GAA activists of his era. His time as a GAA organiser began at Eglinton, where he was a member of the local St. Vincent’s club. Although he was not a very good player (according to a teammate!), Tadhg was a superb organiser and was central to the revitalisation of the GAA in Cork in the early twentieth century. He was a major figure in the creation of the Éire Óg GAA club in 1903 (a product of the Cork Celtic Literary Society) and the Sunday’s Well Hurling Club (later part of St. Vincent’s). On the pitch, he became a respected referee; off it, he made history when he began to train the first camogie team in Cork and only the second in Ireland, Fáinne an Lae, established in 1905 in the Blarney Street area.

Founding Éire Óg was a strategic move by a group of radical nationalists – led by J.J. Walsh, Tadhg and Michael Mehigan – who had big plans to professionalise and modernise the GAA’s administration. Their opportunity came in 1909 when, via Éire Óg, they took control of the Cork County Board. They introduced turnstiles, hired professional

accountants, reorganised clubs and standardised refereeing. The result was greater public confidence, higher attendances at matches, more players and a proliferation of new competitions, including those for schools and colleges, which Tadhg championed more than anyone. Holding numerous positions within the Cork County Board, he was regularly

elected delegate to national annual conferences. In 1909, he was elected chairman of the newly established Sunday Hurling League, in addition to his role as honorary secretary of the Saturday Hurling League. Tadgh did not want to chair the new league and proposed someone else, but such was his popularity that his fellow activists would countenance only him. The reformers were remarkably successful and earned for the Cork County Board a reputation as one of the most capable and efficient bodies in Irish sport. By 1914, they had helped to make the GAA the dominant sporting organisation in Cork city, with twelve hurling clubs, eleven football clubs and three camogie clubs, compared to just seven soccer clubs, four cricket clubs and three rugby clubs.

Tadhg promoted the GAA in every way he could. Between 1910 and 1916, ‘An Ciotóg’s’ weekly ‘GAA Notes’ were a crucial aid in popularising the association in Cork. Given that the Cork Examiner was, according to Tadhg, preoccupied with ‘foreign games’ like soccer, rugby, cricket and hockey, his work was ground-breaking. As an enthusiastic supporter of ‘The Ban’

One of Tadhg Barry’s ‘An Ciotóg’ columns about all things GAA in Cork, published weekly in the Cork Free Press between 1910 and 1916. This article, dated 7 February 1914, featured one of his poems. (UCC Archives)

(which infamously prohibited GAA players from playing or watching these ‘foreign games’), he was delighted when the North Mon, then a famous rugby school, made hurling its primary sport. Indeed, it was to the lads of his alma mater that Tadhg dedicated Hurling and How to Play It , published in 1916. It was first hurling’s codified manual and would be the only one of its kind for decades to come. The rulebook became the go- to reference for anyone interested or involved in the sport and was arguably his greatest gift to the GAA.


Days of a Gaolbird 1916-1919

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

After the 1916 Rising, the British government cracked down heavily on Sinn Féin. Although Tadhg escaped arrest, draconian Defence of the Realm Act regulations restricted him to Cork city and its environs. As one of the few Cork republicans not imprisoned, he continued to organise and agitate for Sinn Féin, leading protests and disrupting AFIL and Irish Parliamentary Party meetings. His luck would soon run out, however.

On 26 November 1916, 1,500 people packed into the City Hall for the annual Manchester Martyrs commemoration, at which Tadhg was the keynote speaker. He told the buoyant crowd that Irishmen ‘could not serve two masters’ and that the Manchester Martyrs had died for an independent Irish Republic, which Sinn Féin stood for. This was technically not true as Sinn Féin still officially subscribed to the dual monarchy proposal (Irish independence but a shared monarchy with Britain) and was not yet a full-fledged republican party. Nevertheless, his remarks were considered seditious because they were ‘likely to cause disaffection to the king.’ Tadhg would have had it no other way! During the speech, members of the audience swarmed around a man whom they had correctly identified as an undercover policeman and took his notebook. Tadhg physically protected the man from being attacked and even retrieved his notebook for him. It was a costly act of goodwill.

The exterior of Cork County Gaol circa the late nineteenth century. Tadhg Barry was a prisoner here between January and July 1917. The prison, which was exclusively for men, held several prominent IRA volunteers during the War of Independence and Civil War. Its main walls and gate entrance have been incorporated into the perimeter of UCC. (Cork Public Museum)

The front page of Songs of a Gaol-bird , a collection of poems that Tadhg Barry wrote during his incarceration in Cork County Gaol, which was published in late 1917. (National Library of Ireland)

On 17 December, the police arrested Tadhg on his way back from 7am Mass and brought him to Victoria (now Collins) Barracks. They later raided his house and seized ‘seditious’ documents. On 9 January 1917, he was tried by court martial. Pleading not guilty, Tadhg argued that his intervention had saved the policeman from further harm and that the man could not have accurately transcribed what Tadhg had said because, as an Ulsterman, he could not possibly have deciphered Tadhg’s thick Cork accent! The court did not buy it, however, and found Tadhg guilty, with the policeman’s notebook the key evidence against him. He was sentenced to two years in Cork County Gaol without hard labour. ‘He is an erratic character in many ways but is essentially honest and religious’, Liam de Róiste said of Tadhg. The story of his first arrest certainly justifies that description! Released after a brief hunger strike for political status, Tadhg served eight months of his sentence. Along with the rest of the republican leadership in Cork, Tadhg was again detained on 24 October 1917. Dressed in military uniform, he was arrested for drilling 150 men after addressing a crowd of 600 at a ‘Sinn Féin meeting’ in Lisgoold. Tadhg lived up to his reputation as a ‘leading Sinn Féin extremist’, as Dublin Castle called him, by recruiting for the Irish Volunteers and using ‘seditious’ language that incited ‘violence and illegalities.’ Ten days after his arrest, he was released without charge. Six months later, he was arrested on what to many seemed a ridiculous charge. In April 1918, the British government announced the extension of military conscription to Ireland. The move provoked an enormous backlash from all strands

A short General Prisons Board report on Tadhg Barry’s and Pat Higgins’s hunger strike in Cork Gaol in July 1917. Located in Dublin Castle, the centre of British rule in Ireland, the General Prisons Board oversaw the administration of the Irish penal system. Its records are held in the National Archives of Ireland. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil)

of nationalist Ireland, forcing the government to drop the plan. Sinn Féin had emerged from the fiasco as the political victors. To weaken the anti-conscription movement and halt the party’s advance, the British arrested

seventy-three leading Sinn Féiners across Ireland for allegedly conspiring with the German government – the ‘German plot’, as it is now known. Tadhg was the only city republican who was lifted. ‘There is no one in Cork, least of all those who know him, who believes Tadhg is concerned in a ‘‘German Plot’’ … The very writing of it makes me laugh at the absurdity’, Liam de Róiste wrote in his diary. Tadhg was sent to Usk prison in Wales. Conditions there were appalling, creating a breeding ground for the deadly Spanish flu pandemic sweeping the world. Several prisoners came down with the ‘pestilence’, as Tadhg called it, including his friend Richard Coleman, a Dublin Volunteer, who died shortly after. Tadhg, who was lucky never to contract the flu, was subsequently transferred to Gloucester prison where conditions were better. He was released in March 1919 and was given a rapturous reception by thousands upon his return to Cork.

A cell in Usk Prison, Wales, 1918-1919. Irish republican prisoners had converted the alter in this cell into a chapel. Tadhg was a prisoner in Usk, and subsequently in Gloucester, during this period. (National Museum of Ireland)


Labour and the Republic: Tadhg Barry and Politics 1914-1919

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

After his departure from the AFIL in 1914, Tadhg re-joined Sinn Féin and delighted by its rapid growth in popularity after the 1916 Rising. He was a delegate to the historic Sinn Féin ardfheis in Dublin’s Mansion House in October 1917, when it became an explicitly republican party. Tadhg believed that both a political and a military struggle against British rule were complementary. He seconded a motion that ‘every Irishman should be armed and trained in the use of arms. All members of Sinn Féin should be able to use arms.’ When Constance Markievicz moved that Sinn Féin sponsor the creation of Irish trade unions to replace British unions in Ireland, Tadhg put forward an amendment that a committee of trade unionists be established to bring the idea to fruition.

Unlike most of his fellow republicans, Tadhg was a lifelong socialist. He had helped to organise, and had chaired, Jim Larkin’s final public address before his departure for the United States in Cork City Hall in October 1914. And in May 1915, he had helped to bring James Connolly to Cork to speak at a meeting of Connolly’s Independent Labour Party of Ireland. Tadhg was horrified by the British Labour Party’s support for the First World War and its participation in the war cabinet, which

A military order under the highly

draconian Defence of

the Realm Act 1914 – which was passed to crack down on opposition to the First World War – prohibiting Tadhg Barry from leaving the ‘urban and rural districts of Cork’, 1916. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil)

convinced him that a socialist Ireland was impossible under British rule. But there was another component to his socialism: Christianity. Like many Irish people of his generation, Tadhg was a devout Catholic; but unlike most of his generation, he considered the Christian Gospel a call to establish a socialist society. ‘Father McSweeney … has spoken more socialism … than … my poor friend Connolly’, Tadhg once wrote when speaking about a popular Dominican priest. ‘And he rightly takes his stand by the greatest socialist of all, the crucified reformer of Nazareth, whose dictum was and is, ‘Go and sell all your goods and give them to the poor.’’ The Bolshevik Revolution had a profound influence on Tadhg, as it had on millions of workers and leftists all over the world. The Bolsheviks were widely popular in Ireland for taking Russia out of the First World War and supporting self-determination for small countries (like Ireland) under the yoke of empire; many viewed the October Revolution as a blow to imperialism. Tadhg saw it in those terms too, but he also considered it

A 1921 intelligence file on ‘Timothy (Tadhg) Barry’ from the War Office (a now defunct British government department) detailing his politics activities. Note the description of him as a ‘notorious and irreconcilable revolutionary’ and ‘extreme socialist and Bolshevist’! (The UK National Archives)

a social revolution where the working class had seized state power, the first of many to come. He was involved in the ‘Hands Off Russia’ movement organised by the pro- Bolshevik Socialist Party of Ireland (predecessors to the Communist Party of Ireland), which campaigned against Allied intervention on the side of the counterrevolutionaries in the Russian Civil War. Like many other Irish socialists, Tadhg looked to Russia as an example and adopted the radical language of Bolshevism, championing concepts such as a ‘workers’ republic’ and a ‘co-operative commonwealth’ as alternatives to capitalism. However, he remained a Christian socialist to his core, regarding Jesus Christ as a greater political and ideological inspiration than Karl Marx. But the British authorities were not convinced of his sincerity. They spuriously claimed that he had ‘been a Sinn Féiner, extreme socialist and Bolshevist’ … as occasion offered.’ The same intelligence file also called him an ‘utter disloyalist … a mischievous socialist … a notorious and irreconcilable revolutionary who has taken an active part … in every rebel and revolutionary movement in Ireland.’ No doubt Tadhg would have proudly agreed!

A 1916 letter from Tadhg Barry to Irish Opinion in which he outlines his Christian socialist views. A devout Catholic, Christianity remained the driving force behind Tadhg’s left-wing politics throughout his life. (Irish Newspaper Archives)


Trade Unionist Tadhg Barry

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

Tadhg’s days at Eglinton Asylum had instilled in him an ardent belief in the importance of trade unionism for the working class. He was a strong advocate of separate Irish trade unions and the organisation of all workers, especially labourers. The foundation of the ITGWU in January 1909 seemed to provide the model for the future. However, the union’s Cork branch was strangled at birth, the victim of a prolonged lockout later that year which led to its collapse.

It was re-established in 1913 and, within a few eventful years, had grown into a major national force. Tadhg was one of the chief architects of this growth, which was replicated nationally. At the height of the 1913-14 Dublin lockout, the ITGWU had 30,000 members across Ireland. By 1916, however, membership was just 5,000, the result of its ignominious defeat at the hands of William Martin Murphy and the Dublin employers. But the First World War inadvertently revived the union’s fortunes from 1917. To keep the production of armaments going, the British government outlawed strikes and lockouts and introduced compulsory arbitration of industrial disputes. The new structures practically guaranteed

A souvenir photograph of the delegates attending the Irish Trade Union Congress 1920 annual conference at Cork City Hall. Tadhg Barry is sitting in the front row, fifth from the left. (SIPTU)

workers a wage increase should they demand one, encouraging them to join a union. Mass inflation, the result of food shortages caused by the sinking of mercantile ships in the Irish Sea, provided another incentive to get a union card. The results were spectacular: ITGWU membership had jumped to a remarkable 130,000 by 1920. One of the main reasons for the ITGWU’s expansion was its success in organising farm labourers, the first time any union in Ireland had done so effectively. Tadhg was at the heart of this revolution. Following his release from Gloucester prison in March 1919, the ITGWU appointed him full-time organiser of agricultural labourers. It was indeed a full-time job! Between mid-1918 and late 1919

alone, over 50,000 farm labourers joined the Transport Union; in 1919-20, they became the biggest bloc of the biggest union in the country. Their recruitment most vividly illustrates syndicalism’s influence over the ITGWU during this period. Syndicalism is a brand of revolutionary socialism that advocates the organisation of all workers into a single union, the One Big Union, with which the working class can overthrow capitalism. Tadhg threw himself into securing wage increases and better conditions for the farm labourers, one of the most exploited and neglected groups in the country. Across Co. Cork, he led several stoppages that yielded major concessions for them. Farmers looked on with horror as their labourers waved red flags, sang socialist songs and hoisted banners containing revolutionary slogans denouncing capitalism. In early 1920, Tadhg was elected secretary of the Cork No.1 (James Connolly Memorial) branch. That August, Cork hosted the annual conference of the Irish Trades Union Congress, where Tadhg was an ITGWU delegate (as he had been the year prior). The Black and Tans took the opportunity to ransack the ITGWU’s offices on Camden Quay. Three months later, they set the offices alight in a move that presaged the Burning of Cork. Despite the dangerous circumstances, Tadhg continued to conduct his union work with commitment, bravery and efficiency. His last branch AGM took place on 23 January 1921 in Father Matthew Hall. In his annual report, he told members that their union had ‘brought on it the ire of those who wish to have us mere hewers of wood and drawers of water forever under the heels of a capitalistic foreign government.’ ‘When all the workers are in One Big Union’, he declared, ‘we shall be nearer the workers’ republic.’ He was re-elected branch secretary for 1921, but fate was about to prevent him from continuing in the role.

A contemporary banner by the SIPTU Cork No. 4 branch commemorating Tadhg Barry. The image in the centre is of ‘Bloody Sunday’ 1913, when the police attacked a public meeting of workers on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) in Dublin during the early stages of the 1913 lockout. (SIPTU)

A select group of local and national trade unionists, all delegates to the 1920 ITUC annual conference in Cork, visiting Connolly Hall, the ITGWU’s Cork offices on Camden Quay, after the Black and Tans raided and ransacked them. The photograph was originally published in the Cork Examiner (now the Irish Examiner ) on 2 August 1920. Tadhg Barry is standing, second from right. (Irish Newspaper Archives)

The Cork branch of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union at its 1921 AGM, held on 23 January at Fr. Matthew Hall, just eight days before Tadhg’s final arrest. Tadhg Barry is seated fifth from the left. (Courtesy of Donal Ó Drisceoil).



(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

From his mid-20s at least, Tadhg wrote poetry to express his thoughts and feelings. When he lived in Hull, Tadhg’s longing to be back in Cork is clear from the nineteen-verse emigrant paean he penned to his native city: ‘From Blackpool to sweet St. Barry’s, o’er each spot my memory tarries/ The Park, the Marsh, South Gate and Patrick’s Hill …’ As he became engrossed in Irish nationalism, political themes, especially martyrdom for Ireland, are more discernible in his work; religious topics are also common. He displays the full array of his poetic expression most vividly in Songs and other (C)Rhymes of a Gaol-Bird , a collection of twenty-six poems, verses and ballads written during his first incarceration and published in late 1917. The book contains touching personal stories of loss and longing for people and place: his young charges, the hurling fields of Cork, St. Vincent’s church and Ballingeary all feature. There are of course political works in it, like ‘Easter Week, 1917’, ‘Flag on the GPO Ruin’, ‘Faith and Fatherland’, ‘Martyrs of Ireland’ and ‘Prayer for Ireland’. One of most poignant poems is ‘In Memoriam – J.R.’, a tribute to a young English friend of his who had been conscripted and killed in Flanders during the First World War. Tadhg’s outrage at the horrors of war, and his socialist analysis of the system that perpetuates it, are on full display:

‘What good is this human slaughter?/ The millions so who’re slain/ Full many a wife and daughter/ Will watch for them in vain/ For the god of wealth is lucre/ And the way to wealth is a sin/ It stays not e’en at murder/ Nor war’s carnage and din … The poor are gaining nothing/ Although ‘tis they that fight/ The rich will give no footing/ Where poor demand their right/ And when the grand folks quarrel/ The workers – fools – take sides/ But never share the laurel/ That with the rich abides.’

‘To A Fellow Prisoner’ by Tadhg Barry. (National Library of Ireland)

At Ballykinlar, Tadhg may have been too busy educating his fellow inmates to write another book of rhymes, but he did compose at least one poem there: ‘Sand! Sand! Sand!/ For breakfast, dinner and tea/ And it’s thick in the once food butter/ That my best girl sent to me/ Oh well for the kids in the shore/ By soft summer wind to be fanned/ But it’s hell when each minute you swore at Ballykinlar and its sand/ And the whirling sands go on/ And their grit my lungs instil/ But it’s oh for a bite that won’t taste of sand/ And a sup that the dust won’t fill/ Sand! Sand! Sand!/ Bad luck to ‘aught’ else you can see/ But the sandless taste of meat or of bread/ Will never come back to me.’

‘An Exile’s Wish’ by Tadhg Barry (Courtesy of Barry O’Shea)

Following his murder, the Voice of Labour , the ITGWU’s new weekly newspaper, published Tadhg’s final piece of writing, a verse entitled ‘The Future War.’ It gives a clear indication of what he believed the most pressing struggle in an independent Ireland would be: ‘… /Oh, think that it’s preached from the pulpit how/ ‘Twas God ordained the plan/ That man should live by the sweat of his brow/ Well! You are a working man/

‘Funeral in Usk Gaol’ by Tadhg Barry – a tribute to Dublin Volunteer Richard Coleman, who died of the Spanish flu on 17 December 1918. (Cork Public Museum)

But we’ll sweat no more to please the boss/ But strive his reign to end/ And take the gains where we took the loss/ So the boss got his dividend … And we’ll teach the boss that the Bible says/ Go share with the poor your all/ And of true religion we’ll let some rays/ On his selfish souls to fall/ And the hungry feed, and the naked clothe/ And the sick to ease from pain/ And the heavy of heart to aid with their load/ And all human rights maintain.’

The final line, ‘And all human rights maintain’, perfectly encapsulates Tadhg Barry, a man who unselfishly gave his time and life for the cause he wholeheartedly believed in: an independent, socialist, Irish republic.


City Councillor Alderman Barry

(1880-1921) Tadhg Barry

The first meeting of the republican-led Cork Corporation, 30 January 1920, which elected Tomás MacCurtain Lord Mayor. (10) Tadhg Barry; (1) Tomás MacCurtain; (2) Denis Lucey; (3) Michael O’Callaghan; (4) John Fitzpatrick; (5) Stephen O’Riordan; (6) Seán French; (7) John Good; (8) Alfred O’Rahilly; (9) Terence MacSwiney; (11) William Stockley; (12) M.J. O’Riordan; (13) Liam de Róiste; (14) Richard H. Beamish; (15) William Fleming; (16) Michael Egan; (17) William Desmond; (18) William Ellis; (19) Patrick Higgins; (20) Gerald Byrne; (21) Thomas Forde; (22) Timothy O’Neill; (23) Robert Day; (24) Daniel Williams; (25) John Arnott; (26) Maurice Walsh; (27) J.T. Mulligan. (Cork Public Museum).

Outside the north-east, political opinion in Ireland was heavily supportive of Sinn Féin by early 1920, no more so than in the trade union movement. The municipal elections of 15 January 1920 provided an opportunity to showcase this transformation. In Cork, as elsewhere, the ITGWU ran on a joint ticket with Sinn Féin and against the Labour Party. The coalition won a majority on the Corporation, heralding a new era in Cork politics. Tadhg topped the poll in the North-West No.1 Ward (Sunday’s Well/Blarney Street area), making him Alderman Tadhg Barry.

On 30 January, he took his seat at City Hall for the historic election of Tomás MacCurtain as Lord Mayor and to formally pledge Cork Corporation’s allegiances to the Dáil and the revolutionary government of the Irish Republic. He made a passionate speech condemning the presence of an ‘alien government’ in Ireland and the Corporation passed his motion to not nominate a High Sheriff of Cork. A fortnight later, the Corporation adopted his motion condemning the authorities for their treatment of his fellow councillor Alderman Fred Murray, who was on the run on a dubious charge of wounding a policeman. Tadhg served on several Corporation committees, including Public Works, Public Health, Technical Instruction, Allotments, Tolls and Markets, and Working-Class Dwellings. He was also appointed to the management committees of the Port Sanitary Authority, the North Charitable Infirmary and (his old employer) the Cork District Lunatic Asylum, where he adopted a more empathetic and compassionate approach to mental health and illness than was common at the time. As a doctor there put it, ‘his first thoughts were always for the patients, and next for the staff.’

The burned-out shell of the old City Hall after the Burning of Cork. ( Irish Examiner Archive)

Tadhg had a similar concern for the workers of Cork. At a Corporation meeting in March 1920, he seconded the motion that established a Cost- of-Living Commission – made up of Corporation, labour and employer representatives – to ascertain the true cost of living in Cork and to determine a suitable living wage. Its report, which became a benchmark for the unions, advocated a weekly wage of 70 shillings, approximately €120 in today’s money. At Tadhg’s instigation, the Corporation resolved to only employ recognised trade union labour. He also spearheaded wage increases for Corporation employees, including clerks. Despite constant harassment from the authorities, the republican-led Corporation conducted its business with remarkable competence. For example, an outbreak of typhoid fever in September 1920 had been successfully contained by that December. This was due to the implementation of several public health measures by the Public Health Committee of which Tadhg was a member. Tadhg’s brief but eventful time on the Corporation coincided with the intensification of the War of Independence. Some of his closest comrades

‘Mug shot’ of those arrested on 31 January 1921, including Tadhg Barry. (Imperial War Museum, London).

would become its victims, like successive Lord Mayors Tomás MacCurtain and Terence McSwiney. Tadhg was one of the last to see MacCurtain alive. Having heard that the Lord Mayor would be killed as a reprisal if another policeman was shot, he advised MacCurtain to lay low. A constable was indeed assassinated by the IRA that night, 20 March 1920. Hours later, the RIC stormed MacCurtain’s house in Blackpool and murdered him in front of his family. On 30 March, Tadhg seconded McSwiney’s election as Lord Mayor. After a raid on City Hall in August, McSwiney was arrested for possessing ‘seditious’ literature. He immediately began a hunger strike and died on 25 October 1920. Cork lost two of its most popular politicians that year, and Tadhg Barry lost two of his dearest friends.

The charred remains of Patrick’s Street following the Burning of Cork by K Company of the Auxiliary Division (better known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies) on the night of 11 December 1920. ( Irish Times Archive)


Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15


Powered by