Irish Military History
O Grady, Collins and Pelican story
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SUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21
STATEMENT BY WITNESS.
DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1,390
70 Shandon Park,
Captain Ballylongford Company Irish
Volunteers, Co. Kerry;
Ballylongford Company Irish
Co. Volunteers, Kerry, 1913-1921.
Conditions, if any. Stipulated by Witness.
File No S.2688
STATEMENT OF BRIAN O'GRADY,
70 Shandon Park, Phibsboro Dublin.
I was born in Ballylongford in the year 1895, and
attended the local national school until I was thirteen
years of age. While attending school, I won several
prizes for Irish history, on which I afterwards lectured
to I.R.A. The prizes were put up by The O'Rahilly and
Councillor Paul Jones, a lawyer of New York and a native
of Ballylongford. After leaving the national school, I
attended St. Michael's College, Listowel, for eighteen
An I.R.B. Circle was established in Ballylongford
in the year 1913 by Michael Griffin, a schoolteacher
living in Listowel. I was not a member. In the month
of May 1914, a company of Volunteers was formed in the
village. A man named Rodger Mulvihill became Captain,
and I became Lieutenant. Our strength was sixty men.
An ex British soldier named Tim Enright was drill
instructor. A committee was appointed for the purpose
of procuring arms, but up to Redmond's speech, offering
the Volunteers to England in her "fight for small
nationalities", we did not succeed in obtaining any
arms. Our only arms were wooden rifles with which we
drilled at the time. Following Redmond's offer, two
men of the company joined the British army. Our drill
instructor, who was on the army reserve, was called up
at the same time. After this, we became disorganised
for a short while.
On 17th March 1915, Eoin MacNeill visited
Killarney for the purpose of reorganising the Volunteers
in Co. Kerry. The meeting was attended by Volunteers
from all over the county, including two from
Ballylongford. Subsequent to this meeting, I was
appointed acting company captain, Eddie Carmody,
1st Lieutenant, and Tom Carmody, 2nd Lieutenant of
Ballylongford company. After my appointment, I
corresponded with The O'Rahilly in Dublin on the purchase
of arms and other military matters. We did not succeed
in purchasing any arms at the time. When The O'Rahilly's
office was raided by the military and police during
Easter Week 1916, my name was found among his papers. I
was arrested and taken to the local R.I.C. barracks and
questioned, but was not detained.
I was released after arrest because of the fact
that the order applied to a number of elderly men whose
names were sent to The O'Rahilly as being prospective
members for a Sinn Féin club. The names were forwarded
by a man who went to the local school with The O'Rahilly,
without acquainting the men concerned.
The local Sergeant - James Brennan- who died a
few years ago refused to arrest them. My wooden gun,
bayonet and haversack were taken by a friendly constable
who advised me to burn any correspondence from The
O'Rahilly which I might have in the house, as the
military might come any day to search it.
After the surrender in Dublin, Volunteer activity
ceased in Ballylongford until about April 1917, when a
Sum Féin club was formed. Rodger Mulvihill became
President and John Creedon became Secretary. I was not
at home at the time.
In October 1917, a Volunteer organiser from Dublin
visited Ballylongford. A
Meeting of the Sinn Féin club
was held in the local hall. At the meeting, the
organiser - I forget his name - addressed the members
and appealed to the young men present to reorganise and
join the I.R.A. With about fifteen others, I joined
after the meeting. Each of us signed a declaration to
be loyal to the Republic proclaimed in 1916. Among
those who joined were Tom Carmody, Michael and Matt
Brasill, Paddy Cox, Thomas Creed, Dan Finucane, Richard
Murphy, Ger Hunt, Michael and John Moroney, Patrick
McNamara and John Heaphy. I again became acting company
captain1 Eddie Carmody, 1st lieutenant, and Tom Carmody,
2nd lieutenant. Our arms consisted of two .32 revolvers
and one shotgun.
Liam Scully, a Gaelic teacher, became local
organiser of the Volunteers around this time. In the
month of November, Liam was responsible for a
mobilisation of the battalion, which had only just been
formed, in Ballybunion. About three hundred Volunteers
were present and were reviewed by Austin Stack. A few
days later, Liam Scully visited Ballylongford, when we
consulted him on the purchase of arms.
In January of 1918, five members of Ballylongford
company, namely, I, myself, officer in charge,
Lieutenant Eddie Carmody (killed at Ballylongford on
23rd November, 1920), Paddy Ahern (now living in Kildare,
having retired from the Garcia), Tom Ryan and Jack
Dennehy (who never took part in any operation with the
I.R.A. afterwards), with members of Ballydonoghue company,
namely, Paddy Corridan, Jack and Murt Galvin (brothers of
Michael Gavin, killed in the Kilmorna ambush) and Jack
Sheahan, a member of Moyvane company (shot dead by
Auxiliaries near his home), raided farmhouses in the area
and collected a number of shotguns. The guns, which
numbered twenty-five, were used for drilling and in route
marching and field exercises. The Moroney brothers, who
had taken no part in the raid for the guns, were arrested
and charged with having done so. Although the jury
which tried them did not return a unanimous verdict of
guilty, they were detained for eighteen months
imprisonment. They were informed that they would be
released if they pleaded guilty and signed a form to the
effect that they would have nothing to do with the I.R.A.
in future. They pleaded guilty, signed the form and
were immediately set free. When the facts were reported
to headquarters, the Moroney's were dismissed with
ignominy from the I.R.A.. I was the officer in charge of
During the conscription scare, our strength
increased to ninety. Drilling was intensified, and
further shotguns were collected. When it was an over,
most of the new men left which reduced our strength to
fifty. From then to the end of 1919, our main activities
were weekly drilling and route marching. In this year -
1919 - the R.I.C. became very active and raided my house and
other houses of Volunteer officers from time to time to
effect our arrest for Volunteer activity. I left home in
October of this year and went on the run.
In October 1919, as far as I can remember, a
Constable Clarke was shot at and wounded by two local
I.R.A. men, named Tom Ryan and Michael McNamara, for
interfering with a priest while saying his office. On
the following Friday night, a man, dressed in black and
brown uniform, entered my house at Ballylongford, with a
revolver in his hand. My aunt, an elderly person, was
the only one in the house at the time. The man had had
some drink taken, and he asked her, "Is Brian, the
Shinner, in?" My aunt informed him that I was not, and
added that she did not see me for the past three weeks.
He searched a couple of roomsand then left, using some
I was not sleeping at home during that period, but
I used to call on Friday nights for a change of clothes.
If I had been at home at that time, I would have been in
the kitchen when the gun-man came in, and I would not
have any chance of escaping with my life.
I arrived about half an hour after the incident,
and was informed by my aunt of what had occurred. She
seemed to be badly frightened. As I had heard one or
two shots when cycling towards my home, I came to the
conclusion that some Volunteers were in trouble. I went
immediately and got a single barrel shotgun and some
cartridges which I had hidden nearby in case of emergency.
There was a dead silence as I proceeded down the street,
with the hammer raised on the gun. I could not see any
person until I went to Kean's corner. At the north side
of the corner was a labourer, named Michael Buckley, who
had some drink taken and who had been held up by the
strange gunman. I interrogated Buckley, and he informed
me that the soldier, or whatever he was, had called on
some young men to halt and they refused and started to
run for cover. He thought some Volunteer was wounded
as a result of the shots fired by the gunman. I asked
him where had the gunman gone, and he replied that he had
gone to the barrack about a quarter of an hour previously.
A short time afterwards, I contacted some of the
Volunteers and learned that Volunteer John Heaphy was
seriously wounded, as he had received a bullet in the
lung. I was present when Dr. Conor Martin (who died a
couple of years ago in Fairview, Dublin, where he had a
large practice) ordered his immediate removal to
hospital in Limerick. The surgeons there were afraid to
operate on him and, as far as I am aware, he still has
the bullet in his body. Volunteer Heaphy rendered good
service, as he was out at least three nights a week from
January to July 1921, keeping roads open and assisting in
other Volunteer activities.
No one knew what the gunman was until they saw the
Tans at a later period - early in May. That he was the
first Black and Tan to come to the south of Ireland cannot
be doubted. Some local person must have shown him my
house and given information to those that sent him in
respect of the time and day I used visit my home.
The big raid for guns in January 1918, also those
raids for arms when conscription threatened, and the
shooting of Con5table Clarke were regarded by the British
authorities as being my work. I was informed afterwards
by a constable who was stationed in the barrack at the time
and resigned the force in June 1920.
On the occasion of the attack on Ballybunion R.I.C.
barracks on 13th March 1920 by members of Listowel,
Ballyduff and Ballybunion companies under battalion
officers James Sugrue and Paddy Landers, the members of
Ballylongford company trenched all roads in the company
area. In the month of April, we learned that a Colonel
Scott-Hickey, who lived in our area, had a shotgun which
had not been collected. With other members of the
company, I seized a motor car from Boland's garage and
went to Scott-Hickey's house and demanded the shotgun.
He informed me that the R.I.C. had taken the gun and
handed us, instead) a .22 rifle) some cartridges, a
machine for filling cartridges and a .32 revolver.
Colonel Hickey was very friendly towards us. As a
result of the raid, Boland's garage, which contained a
number of cars, was burned by the R.I.C. As a reprisal,
at a later date the courthouse was burned by the I.R.A.
Around the latter end of June or early in July, a
reorganisation of the battalion took place. The
battalion consisted of eighteen companies. These were
divided, and a second battalion was formed which was
known as the Lixnaw or 3rd battalion. Ballylongford
company remained in the original battalion which was the
Listowel or 6th battalion. The companies with
Ballylongford which remained in the 6th battalion were
Newtownsandes, Tarbert, Listowel, Finuge, Bedford, Beale,
Knockanure, Asdee, Duagh and Behins.
On the last Sunday night in October, having heard
that an R.I.C. man and a Black and Tan were interfering
with the congregation leaving church after devotions) I
collected some members of the company and arrested the
two of them. They were not armed, and neither were we,
as three weeks previously we had got an order from
brigade headquarters directing us to have all arms placed
in a dump in the country and not to attempt to carry out
any operation until we got orders from them. (We would
be waiting yet) Of all the blasted, inefficient,
cowardly so-and-so's - please excuse the language - but
the fact remains that, had we been left to use our own
discretion, Lieutenant Carmody would not have been killed
on 23rd November, 1920. All our plans had been upset.
We took one of them to Newtownsandes and handed him over
to the local company; the other was taken to Ned
Sullivan's of Ahanagran. In the meantime, the military
arrived in the village and issued a forty-eight hours
notice for their return. They threatened to burn down
the village if the two men were not returned by then.
Carmody and I went to Newtownsandes for the man we had
taken there, but the local company captain would not
release him without a note from the Brigade 0/C, Paddy
Cahill. After a few days when the order for their
release was received from Cahill, the two men were
released. The Black and Tan, named Muir - a Scotchman -
committed suicide forty-eight hours after his release.
On the night previous to 22 November 1920, Eddie
Carmody, who had been on the run, visited Ballylongford
and informed the local I.R.A. that he had received
information that a large force of R.I.C. and Black and
Tans under District Inspector O'Sullivan of Listowel were
to carry out a raid on the village next day. Next
morning, several lorries of R.I.C. and Tans arrived and
began a house-to-house search, adjourning from time to
time to visit publichouses which they looted, eventually
becoming almost mad from drink. In the streets they
assaulted everyone they met and fired several thousand
rounds of ammunition. By order of the brigade staff,
our arms at the time had been dumped some distance
outside the village.
Carmody had been at a crossroads with some of the
local I.R.A. when he heard footsteps approaching, which
he took to be members of the local company. He went
towards the sound of the footsteps and discovered they
were those of a group of Black and Tans. He turned and
ran. They opened fire, wounding him, after which he was
arrested, placed against a wall and shot dead. It was
a night of severe frost, with a full moon. I had to
swim the tidal water as I was fired on by a party of
Tans from behind the co-op. creamery. I had warned
Lieutenant Carmody and all the members of the company,
as good information had been received, to keep out of
the village as the British forces were to start
shooting and burning around the third week of November.
I had just crossed the river nearby and actually heard
Carmody being shot. Having shot him, they returned to
the village and burned down Collins's creamery and
timber yard, a public house and hardware premises, some
private houses, including my own, and broke windows in
several other houses. During all this, the people,
especially the women, were terrified. They went through
a terrible ordeal.
At the latter end of November, I went to West
Limerick and joined up with Seán Finn, the Brigade 0/C,
Michael Colbert, James Roche and five or six others who
had previously taken part in an attack on Kilmallock
R.I.C. barracks and other engagements. There was
nothing doing in West Limerick at the time, so, after
five weeks, I returned to North Kerry. Shortly after,
a flying column for the area was formed. Paddy Ahern,
Tom Carmody and myself were accepted from the Ballylongford
company at the start. We numbered twenty-seven men.
Tom Kennelly became 0/C. At first, we were billeted in
the Newtownsandes area.
In about the middle of January, we left
Newtownsandes and proceeded in a body to Duagh. We
were not long there when the company captain of Duagh -
James Costello - got word that the enemy knew of our
whereabouts and that they were to round-up the area
next morning. We left immediately for a place called
Derk, and later arrived in Rathea where we stayed for
the night. Next morning, a strong force of military,
R.I.C. and Black and Tans arrived in Duagh and raided
every house in the village.
That evening, we left Rathea and proceeded by way
of Glenalema to Stack's mountain in a continuous
downpour of rain and lashing wind. We had just settled
in on the second night when Con Brosnan and Dan O'Grady,
who were on guard outside, saw lights moving on the
mountain and reported the matter to me, as Tom Kennelly
was away for the night and I was in charge. I suggested
to Jack Lynch to go out and see if there was any danger.
He went out and was back inside two minutes. He came
running in and shouted at me, "Holy they are on
top of us!" Some of the boys were asleep on the floor,
and I shook them and told them to keep cool as there was
an attempt being made to surround us. I had already
sent a Volunteer to the other houses to caution the
Volunteers staying in them to come as quickly as possible.
I said to Jack Lynch that we would go east and, as he
knew the locality, he should go in front.
We retreated east for some distance, and took cover
in an old fort where we remained all the next day. It
was one of the worst nights I ever remember. A biting
north-westerly gale, with heavy rain and sleet, went
through our clothing into the skin. The bad night saved
us, as they retreated. When dawn was breaking in the
morning, I was looking towards the main road through a
pair of German field-glasses; and I saw six big lorries
moving off towards Listowel. They thought we had gone
east, as next morning about 10 a.m. we saw the
Auxiliaries on the mountain east of us, with the aid of
a naval telescope. We were in the old fort, and they
came within a mile of us. At dusk, we left the fort
and proceeded towards Lixnaw where we crossed the rivers
Gale and Feale and eventually reached the Ballyoneen
area where we rested for a day and two nights
Early in the month of February, while located at
a place called Guhard, our scouts informed us that the
military were filling in trenches on the main road
between Ballylongford and Listowel, near Gale bridge.
In the absence of Tom Kennelly, I was in charge and I
decided that it was a good opportunity for an attack.
When we arrived there, we found that the military had
left, after rounding up a number of civilians to fill
Returning to Guhard, we were told by Con Brosnan
that the Tans were raiding houses in the Liselton area.
I was still in. charge, as Tom Kennelly was at Liselton.
He sent word to come at once. I gave the column the
order to double march. The Tans, it appears, heard of
our approach and rushed for a train standing on the line.
We got there as the train was leaving. We opened fire
on the train as it left. One Tan only returned our fire
and wounded one of our men, Paddy Dalton, later killed at
While located in the Tullamore area about a
fortnight after the attack on the train, the c/c decided
to attack simultaneously Tan patrols in Ballylongford
and Ballybunion. The column was divided for the purpose.
One half went to Ballybunion in charge of Tom Kennelly.
I was in charge of the half that went to Ballylongford.
The column numbered thirty men at this time. The
attacks were carried out on 23rd February with the aid of
the local companies. When my party arrived in the
village, I first placed two or three men in a position
covering the barracks. I placed the remainder on the
right hand side of the street as we faced the barracks.
Five of the men had rifles; the others had shotguns.
We were not long in position when the Tans appeared. We
opened fire. One of them was killed; the other was
wounded and died later. We left the area immediately
and retreated to Newtownsandes. Among the column members
who took part in the attack were Denis Quille, Con
Brosnan, Jack Ahern and Dan O'Grady.
In the early hours of the following morning,
several lorry loads of Black and Tans and R.I.C. arrived
in the village and burned down the local hall, the private
house of Tom Carmody, his mother's private house and that
of Eugene O'Sullivan, Mrs. McCabe's, Mrs. Barrett's,
Martin Collins', as well as Martin Collins' publichouse,
Michael Morris' butcher shop and Mrs. Enright's sweetshop.
Two houses on the Well road were also burned.
All shops were looted; barrels of stout and whiskey were
machine-gunned. Shops looted included the drapery
house5 of Messrs. Lynch, Banbury and Finucane.
In between the incidents referred to, with other
members of the column, I paid several visits to Tarbert
for the purpose of attacking a Tan patrol in the area,
but except for one occasion, the attacks never
materialised. On this occasion, when the attacking
party reached about a mile from the village, they were
halted while Jack Ahern and another roan went into the
village to ascertain the position there. When the two
men got there, they discovered that two or three Tans
were located in a publichouse. Ahern sent his
companion back to the members of the column to come in
for the attack. Ahern's companion had only just left
him when the Tans left the pub. As they did so, Ahern,
from a corner opposite the pub, opened fire single
handed and wounded at least one of them. As the Tans
ran for the barracks, Ahern returned to the column men
waiting outside the village.
In April of this year, following the death of
Robert McElligott, the then Battalion 0/C, by shooting
at Derrymore by the military, new battalion officers were
appointed. Paddy Joe McElllgott replaced his brother,
Robert, as Battalion 0/C. Bill O'Sullivan became
Vice 0/C, and I became Battalion Adjutant.
About the end of April, the column was disbanded
for a week. When it reassembled, a decision was taken
to divide it into two, or one column for each of the 3rd
and 6th battalion areas. Tom Shanahan became 0/C of
the 3rd or Lixnaw battalion column. Paddy Joe McElligott
remained 0/C of the 6th on Listowel battalion. Dents
Quille then became 0/C of the 6th battalion column on my
suggestion, as he was a young married man with a few
children. I was the senior officer, and I became
Adjutant and operations officer as well as being
At the end of May, Denis Quille, Column 0/C,
decided to carry out an attack on an R.I.C. and
Tan patrol in Ballylongford. I was
operations officer and made all preparations for
the attack. Assisted by members of Bedford, Asdee and Ballylongford
companies, we took up positions in Bridge Street and
awaited the patrol (which usually numbered 15 men) to make
their usual patrol from the barracks to what was known as the
Doctor's Cross. The attacking party numbered 20 men; ten of
these had rifles, the others had shotguns. We waited for a
couple of hours but the patrol never turned out that night.
Before we left, however, we sniped at the barracks for about
half an hour, to which the garrison within replied. We were
puzzled for a long time as to the reason for the patrol not
coming out that night. I later learned from Fr. Harty, O.C.,
that, previous to the proposed attack, he had spoken to Sergean
Gilogly, R.I.C. of the barracks. It appears that Sergeant
Gilogly, who always carried a couple of revolvers, had boasted
to Fr. Harty that the I.R.A. would never get him. Fr. Harty
told him that if the I.R.A. wanted to get him they would be
prepared to lose 20 men to do so. This bit of advice from
Fr. Harty had such an effect on the sergeant that he became
afraid to venture out of the barracks even with the patrol
to protect him.
The column, while located in Leitrim, Newtownsandes, in
the month of June received a dispatch from G.H.Q., Dublin,
through Brigade H.Q. to dismantle the telephone in Ballylongford
and to warn local shopkeepers not to stock British
goods. I sent word to Ballylongford to have the company
mobilised and brought Jack Ahern, Dan O'Grady, Paddy Ahern,
Tom Carmody, Mick McNamara, Patrick Cox and Jim Sugrue of the
column with me and met the local company which numbered 35,
about half a mile outside the village. The local men were
armed with 15 shotguns. The column men had rifles. We had
just arrived when I received a dispatch stating that 120
military with bikes had been put ashore off a destroyer
between Tarbert and Ballylongford. We decided to carry out
our job and raided the Post Office where Matt Scanlon
dismantled the telephone Having warned the shopkeepers not
to stock British goods, we again sniped at the barracks
before we left. Next day, the local Tans questioned the
shopkeepers for a description of the men who called on them
the night before.
As far as I can remember, it was about the middle of May
1921, when we received a dispatch from H.Q. in Dublin
containing an order to have an ex-R.I.C. man named Kane
arrested and executed immediately. Denis Quille made arrangements
at once to have him arrested. It was known that Kane
went for a walk along the banks of the River Feale practically
every evening. He lived in a house in the Square at Listowel
quite adjacent to a house occupied by the Auxiliaries.
Those ordered to arrest Kane and bring him to where the column
was located had been waiting for him for three or four
evenings, but he had failed to make an appearance. On making
inquiries they ascertained that he was sick. We reported
the matter, but despite the fact that we had done so, another
dispatch came asking why the Order hadn't been given practical
A period of about two weeks elapsed and again the Order
came. Just as the dispatch arrived, I was preparing to
proceed to Ballylongford with seven men from the column to
dismantle the telephone there and to warn the shopkeepers not
to stock British goods. We had received information a few
days previously that Kane was convalescent and would be
resuming his walks by the Feale any evening. As a matter of
fact, we were expecting his arrest the evening before and
were awaiting his arrival with his escort at the place where
we were located. I said to Denis Quille: "The matter is very
serious; if Kane is not here in the morning and I come safely
from tonight's operation, I will take a man from the column
and try and get him".
When we returned in the morning after carrying out the
operation successfully, I was informed by Quille that Kane
had been arrested and escorted to a house near Gale Bridge
on the road leading from Moyvane - then known as Newtownsandes
to Knockanure where he was under guard. I suggested to Denis
Quille that we should send a priest - Father O'Shea - to the
house where the prisoner was detained to hear his confession
and to get him to make his will. Quille agreed and got up
immediately to have these very necessary things done.
I informed Quille that I'd go to the house in the evening
about 8 p.m. with Jack Ahern, Con Brosnan, and Danny O'Grady
of the column. We had to have a good sleep because of the
fact that we had travelled long distances the two previous
nights, most of which was across country.
On our way to the house on that evening, we met the priest
and, after a talk with us, he called me aside. He asked me
for what reason was the prisoner being sentenced to death.
I replied: "I don't know, Father, the Order has come from
G.H.Q. and that is all we know of the matter". He then asked
me if the man's life could be spared. I informed him that we
had no option but to obey the order and, I added, "we would
rather be surrounded by the enemy fighting for our lives
than to have to give effect to the Order, but we had implicit
confidence in our intelligence officers, that there was no
mistake being made and that this was our consolation". He then
said: "Very good, Brian, God bless ye" and he departed.
When we arrived at the house, Denis Quille came to me
immediately and he asked me to go to the prisoner and get the
will and read it. He would have done so himself, but he was
well known to the prisoner and, under the circumstances, it
was right that a stranger should read it. I went to the
room where the prisoner was detained; he was quite normal.
I asked him if he had his will made and told him that if he
had it completed I must read it. He then handed me his will
which I read carefully. It contained nothing that would cause
us any anxiety. He then said to me: "Are you sure it will
be delivered to my family?" I replied: "Yes, I give you my
word of honour that it wall be delivered". He then said:
"I want to make one request, take me as near as ye possibly
can to the town of Listowel". I told him we would do everythin
possible to comply with his request.
At 12 midnight we started off with the prisoner, going
through the village of Knockanure on our way to the main road
between Kilmorna and Listowel. We had sent a scout ahead -
Volunteer Dan Enright (afterwards executed in Drumboe Castle
during the civil war). When we had gone sortie distance beyond
Knockanure, Con Erosnan informed us that there was a short cut
across the fields that would take us on to the main road, near
a cottage. It was a glorious night early in June - like one
stolen from the tropics. The larks were singing all night
and the northern sky was aglow with light from the Aurora
Borealis. Half an hour before dawn it got dark. The prisoner
was in normal mood and he r elated some stories to the two men
nearest him. We travelled two deep through the paths in
order to avoid causing damage to the meadows through which
we were passing. It was growing dark and we knew the dawn
was near. Just a few minutes later, Con Brosnan halted us
and he pointed to the cottage on the side of the main road to
Listowel. Every member of the firing party became alert in a
second. We were going on a road which military cycling patrols
travelled very often. As we always wore rubber soles and
heels on our boots, we got on the road without making the
least noise. We examined the road carefully for fresh
cycle tracks, but there were none, which proved that no
patrol had passed out from or into Listowel during the
It was getting bright as we proceeded in the
direction of Listowel with an advance guard in front, also
a guard at the rear. We had gone a reasonable distance
and, as it was clear daylight, I whispered to Denis Quille
that it was time to halt. He agreed and I halted the
party and explained to the prisoner that we would not
proceed further. I asked him if he would like to say a
prayer and he said "yes". I gave him my Rosary beads and
we knelt on the grass margin near the ditch with the
prisoner and said a decade of the Rosary with him. We
then stood up and the prisoner remained on his knees
praying. After a few minutes, I touched him on the
shoulder and he got up. I asked him if he would like to
be blindfolded and he said "Yes, it would be better". I
then asked the prisoner if he had anything to say before he
was executed, and he said, "All I have to say is this. Ye
are the finest young men I have ever met, and the only thing
I am sorry for is that I am not dying for Ireland!"
There are some incidents that happened during the
pre Truce war which are stamped indelibly on my mind, and
one of them is what occurred on that morning. The sun had
not risen and nothing disturbed the peace. The sound of the
gunfire reverberated from the hills and valleys of
Knockanure. With a draw that had been practised for fifteen
minutes twice per day, all revolvers left the holsters
simultaneously with a speed that should be seen to be
believed. The prisoner swayed back against the ditch and
slid gently to the ground. In a second, Denis Quille had
the usual label fastened to his coat.
Firing party, secure arms; right turn; quick march.
We contacted our scout soon after and left the main road
and travelled through fields until we were safe. No one
had spoken so far. Isaid to Quille: "Denis, a brave man
has died". "I thoroughly agree with you" he said. Then
we relaxed. Those of us who smoked blessed the man who
During the Truce
I was in charge of a training camp
at Sallowglin and afterwards joined the National Army with
the rank of captain.
Signed: Brian O'Grady
Date: 15th March
15th March 1956.
(John J. Daly)
James Collins, father of former minister and MEP, Gerard Collins, was a commanding officer in Abbeyfeale during this period. In 1955 he submitted a 40 page document to the collection, giving a first hand account of the many actions and engagements that took place in the locality and surrounding areas during “The Troubles.”
The original documents can be viewed at http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie
NO. W.S. 1109
BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21.
STATEMENT BY WITNESS.
DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 1,109
O/C. Listowel Battalion
Fianna Eireann, 1918.
I.R.A. activities, Listowel, Co. Kerry,
Conditions, if any, Stipulated by Witness.
File No. S.2410
STATEMENT OF THOMAS PELICAN
Bedford, Listowel, Co. Kerry
I was born at Convent St., Listowel, Co. Kerry, on the
22nd August 1900. I was sent to the local national school
until I was l31/2 years of age. When I left school I served
four years' apprenticeship to the tailoring business and
continued to work at the business ever since.
I joined the Fianna here in Listowel when they were
reorganised here early in 1917. The Fianna had been in
existence for some time previous to Easter Week 1916. After
Easter Week they were disorganised. The officer in charge
at the time I joined was Michael Robert McElligott who was
known as Bob. A man named Edward Leahy was an organiser of
the Fianna at the same time.
The Volunteers had been in existence for some time before
this. After joining the Fianna I took part in drilling and
parading through the town and carried messages for the
officers of the Volunteers. The officers of the Volunteers
at the time were James Sugrue, Paddy Landers and Michael
In 1918, about the time of the conscription scare, I was
accepted in the Listowel Company of Volunteers. It was
Cathal Brugha, who was reorganising the Volunteers then in
Co. Kerry, who administered the oath to me. Our membership
was approximately 500 men. During this period drilling and
parading was intensified. Our drill instructor was John L.
O'Sullivan, an ex-Boer War veteran. Up to the end of 1918
and all through 1919 we continued to drill and have field
manoeuvres. At the end of 1919 I took part in collecting
shotguns in the area.
In March of 1920, James Sugrue, Battalion 0/C., with
the assistance of Thomas O'Donohue, Battalion Vice 0/C., of
Reenard, Cahirciveen, who was a Gaelic teacher in Listowel,
carried out an attack on Ballybunion R.I.C. Barracks with
the help of the Listowel Company. On that occasion I acted
as scout for the attacking party and members of other
companies who were engaged in block
roads in the neighbour-hood.
neighbour-hTohoed. attack which had lasted a couple of hours was a
failure. Although I was not in the actual attack I
remember the arms used in the attack were mostly shotguns.
Later in the year, at the time of the boycott of
Belfast goods, I took part in raiding Listowel railway
station for blacklisted goods such as bacon, tobacco, snuff,
clothing and potatoes which we seized and burned at the
On the night of November Eve, 31st October 1920, the
battalion staff, with the assistance of selected men from
each company in the battalion area, planned an attack on
Ballybunion R.I.C. Barracks. The attacking party, which
numbered about 40 men armed with a few rifles and shotguns,
was in charge of the Battalion 0/C., James Sugrue. Some
time before the attack was due to take place, I took out
Listowel some .303 ammunition, cartridges
and a number of Mills bombs which I handed over to James
Sugrue. This proposed attack never came off. It appears
that the garrison in the barracks had been informed of the
presence of the I.R.A. in the neighbourhood and opened fire
on the attacking party as they were about to occupy positions
surrounding the barracks after which the I.R.A. withdrew.
Previous to the shooting of District Inspector
O'Sullivan in Listowel on 20th January 1921, by members of
the Newtownsandes Company, I, with Thomas O'Sullivan and
Michael O'Flaherty of Listowel
Company, was instructed by
the battalion adjutant Denis Quille to report on the
movements of the District Inspector. We gave a detailed
description of O'Sullivan's movements to Quille after which
O'Sullivan was shot dead by Con Brosnan, Jack Ahern, Jack
Sheehan and Dan Grady as he crossed the street from the
Shortly after the shooting of O'Sullivan a Flying Column
for North Kerry, or Kerry No. 1 Brigade as it was known,
was formed. A meeting for the purpose, to which I was
summoned to attend, was held in an unoccupied house at
Garryard, Listowel. The column comprised about 20 men at
first and was drawn from each company in the Listowel and
Lixnaw Battalion areas. Denis Quille was appointed 0/C. of
the column. At the same time I was accepted on the column
and appointed their dispatch rider. Shortly after the first
raid on the railway station for blacklisted goods, the R.I.C.
raided my house; they had been informed that I had taken part
in the burning of boycotted goods. The result was that I
had to go 'on the run' and was 'on the run' when I joined
Around this time I received a dispatch from Michael
O'Leary, Brigade 0/C. Fianna, in Tralee, to reorganise the
Fianna throughout the Listowel Battalion area. I went to
work at once and succeeded in forming companies or sections
of the Fianna in each company area of the battalion. The
total strength of the Fianna in the battalion after its
formation was approximately 450. I was appointed by O'Leary
Battalion 0/C. Fianna. The company officers were as follow:
Company Company Officer Address
Listowel Patrick Flaherty Charles St. Listowel.
Duagh James McDonagh Duagh
Ballylongford Michael Callaghan Ballylongford
Finuge James Whelan Finuge
Newtownsandes Patrick Walsh Derry, Listowel
In the company areas of Asdee, Beale, Bedford, Behins,
Tarbert and Knockanure there was only a small number of Fianna
available and not enough members to form a company. In these
areas they worked under the company officers of the I.R.A.
Following the formation of the Fianna in these areas,
I continued as Battalion 0/C. Martin Howard, Charles Street,
Listowel, became Vice 0/C., Patrick Corridan, William Street,
Listowel, became quartermaster, and William McCabe, Bally-bunion,
Shortly after the formation of the column, while they
were located at Dirk, Duagh, I discovered that the enemy here
in Listowel were preparing for a large scale round-up of the
I.R.A. in that area. A Major McKinnon, an officer of the
Tans, was to take charge of the round-up. I received my
information from a man named John Michael Murphy, who was a
Boots in the Listowel Arms Hotel. He had overheard some Tan
officers say that they (Tans) were going to Dirk to destroy
the column. I at once contacted Bob McElligott, Battalion
0/C., I.R.A. He ordered me to go to Dirk immediately and
inform the column.
I then discovered that all roads out of Listowel were
cordoned off by the military and Tans and that they were not
allowing anybody except schoolboys to leave the town during
the period. I borrowed a pair of shorts and a school cap
from a local boy, which I put on instead of my trousers and
cap, and managed to get through the cordon as a college boy
from the local college of St. Michael's. I went to Duagh,
which is six miles from Listowel, where I contacted James
Costello, company captain of Duagh, who in turn informed the
column which, upon receipt of the information, immediately
moved out of Duagh to the neighbourhood of Stack's Mountain.
The following morning when the enemy reached Duagh
the column had gone. The dead body of an I.R.A. man named
Bob Browne, who had been on his way to join the column, was
later that day found in a nearby bog. He had been shot by
a party of Auxiliaries who had raided Duagh that morning.
In this month, February 1921, I was sent by Denis Quille,
0/C. of the Column, to tell Jack Enright, company captain of
Ballylongford, to prepare for a visit of the column to the
area for the purpose of an attack on a Tan patrol in the
village. Having delivered the message I reported to Quille.
The column then proceeded to Ballylongford and assembled a
short distance outside the village. Quille sent me once again
into the village to ascertain the position. When I got there
I was informed by members of the local company that 7 or 8
Tans were in a certain publichouse. I returned to the column
and reported the matter to the 0/C. after which they entered
the village and took up positions at Well St.
Some short time afterwards, two of the Tans left the
publichouse and approached the ambush position. The column
opened fire killing both Tans, after which their arms were
seized. While the column were in position I, with three
members of Ballylongford Company, took up position between the
barracks and the attacking party so as to prevent members of
the garrison leaving the barracks. The garrison, however,
made no attempt to leave the barracks. I was armed with a
Winchester rifle on the occasion, the three Ballylongford men
were armed with shótguns.
Within a month of this attack I, with members of the
local company, sniped at the barracks on two occasions. Some
time later the column visited Ballylongford again and raided
several shops in the village for Belfast goods which were
boycotted at the time. The column seized a quantity of
cigarettes, tobacco, snuff and clothing which was taken out
and burned in the Street. At the same time we raided the
Post Office and destroyed telephone equipment.
About ten days later I went to Ballylongford on my own
to interview a man whom I suspected to be delivering official
letters from Ballylongford R.I.C. barracks to Listowel R.I.C.
barracks. I met the man, whose name was Maurice Enright-Egan,
in the village. I held him up at the point of a revolver and
searched him and found on him four official letters addressed
to Listowel R.I.C. Barracks. I warned him that he would be
shot if he persisted in helping the enemy. I later handed
the four letters to the 0/C. of the column.
After warning this man I was under the impression that I
had this line of enemy communication destroyed, but the next
week I received a message from John Kiely, a member of the
Listowel Fianna, who was a telegraph messenger in Listowel
Post Office, that he had seen Enright-Egan passing two letters
to a sergeant of the Tans in Listowel.
As the monthly reports of the enemy in outlying districts
usually came into Listowel on the last or first day of each
month I waited outside Ballylongford on the last day of the
month and again held up Enright-Egan as he was leaving the
village. This time he had no enemy communications on him,
so I let him go about his business. On the following day,
however, I held him up again and took from him the official
monthly report from Ballylongford R.I.C. Barracks together
with a letter from a Sergeant Gilhooley addressed to Head
Constable Smyth in Listowel. I again warned him, saying that
he would be shot if he continued working for the enemy. I
should have said that Enright-Egan worked as a carrier
delivering goods daily between Ballylongford and Listowel.
I handed the monthly report and Sergeant Gilhooley's letter
to the 0/C. of the column.
A short time later I received a report that a Mrs. Wallace
of Ballylongford was friendly with the enemy garrison in
Ballylongford Barracks. This woman's husband, who was an
I.R.A. man, was at the time serving a sentence of six months
in jail for I.R.A. activities. I ordered Patrick Flaherty,
company captain, Fianna, Listowel, and James Sullivan, company
captain, Fianna, Ballylongford, to have her kept under
observation and to report her movements to me. As a result
of the information received from the two Fianna men, I, in
company with William Sheehan and Charlie Hanlon of the
Listowel Company, I.R.A., held her up between Listowel and
Ballylongford and took from her two letters signed by Head
Constable Smyth, Listowel. One of these letters was an order
to the Sergeant, R.I.C., Ballylongford, to arrest Jack Enright.
of Ballymackessy, who was 0/C. of the local company, and take
him to a remote place and shoot him as soon as possible. The
other letter was an apology to a lady named O'Carroll for
having taken her bicycle some days previously. This letter
was a surprise to me as Miss O'Carroll was very friendly with
the I.R.A. in the area. I went immediately to Enright and
showed him the order for his arrest and execution. He left
home at once and went on the run. I then gave both letters
to the 0/C. of the column. He had Miss O'Carroll placed under
arrest in the house of one of her relations. I should add
that Miss O'Carroll was a frequent visitor to the R.I.C.
barracks in Listowel where she became very friendly with a
couple of the Tans. She was kept under arrest until the Truce.
After taking the letters from Mrs. Wallace, she told me
that the Tans had promised her that they would have her
husband released if she delivered these letters for them and
that she had carried similar letters only once before.
In April I was sent by the column to Tarbert to arrange
for an attack on enemy forces there. I contacted two local
Volunteers named McCarthy and O'Donnell and told them that
the column were about to attack a Tan patrol in the village
and arranged with them to have the local company act as
scouts for the following night.
On the following night a number of the men of the column
went to Tarbert where they split into two sections. Quille
was in charge of the section to which I was attached. We were
armed for the most part with rifles; some of the men had shot
guns. Having taken up positions at a corner of one of the
side streets of the village, we awaited the patrol. After
about half an hour a patrol of about ten Tans approached our
positions. We had been warned of their approach by one of
our scouts. When the patrol was within about 40 to 50 yards
of our positions, Quille ordered 'open fire'. We fired about
two or three rounds each. The Tans turned and ran for the
barracks dragging a couple of wounded men with them. Having
reached the barracks, they opened fire, at he same time
fire was opened from a place known as the Island where a
company of Royal Marines were stationed. The odds against us
was too great, so we decided to withdraw.
In the meantime, I worked hard to perfect the Fianna
organisation and, by the end of April or early in May, it
was working in close co-operation with the I.R.A. in each
company area carrying dispatches and reporting on enemy
activity generally in the battalion area.
I next received orders from the Column 0/C. to break the
enemy communication line between Ballybunion and Listowel.
We had already raided the mails carried on the train between
Ballybunion and Listowel several times, but could never find
any communications between the Ballybunion and Listowel R.I.C.
and had come to the conclusion that the enemy was not using
the ordinary post.
I decided to hold up the train at the end of the month
and, instead of raiding the mails, to search at least two
people whom we suspected of assisting the enemy in this
respect. I called on four I.R.A. men Dan Brown, Edward
Quirke, Pat Enright and Maurice Kelleher to assist me. We
held up the train about one mile from Listowel railway station.
When the train came to a halt, the guard immediately threw
out the mail bags; he was accustomed to our intentions by this
time. As he threw out the mail bags, he informed us that five
lorry loads of enemy forces were within 600 yards of us on
a nearby road which ran almost parallel to the railway line.
We were also aware of this, but we also knew that a bridge
on the road near a point where we had held up the train had
been blown up by the local company a short time previously
and that the enemy lorries could not possibly negotiate a gap
in the road after the bridge had been blown.
I ordered Enright to take the guard, whose name was
Patrick Boyle, off the train and search him. With the
assistance of Brown, Quirke and Kellegher; Boyle was searched.
They found on him six enemy dispatches addressed to the
District Inspector, R.I.C. in Listowel. Having warned Boyle
of the consequences of helping the enemy, we allowed him back
into the guard's van after which he took the train into Listowel
I took the six letters to the 0/C. of the column, who
opened them. One of the letters was a report on the strength,
arms and ammunition in the R.I.C. Barracks in Ballybunion.
Another letter contained the names of some I.R.A. men and
civilians in the area of Ballybunion and Listowel whom the
local R.I.C. sergeant suggested should be arrested. We
immediately informed these I.R.A. men and civilians of the
In an attack on enemy forces at Toureengarri OFnear
Castleisland, by Sean Moylan of the North Cork Flying Column,
an enemy intelligence officer named Major General Holmes was
among the enemy killed on the occasion. When Holmes was
searched and correspondence found on him examined, a letter
bearing the name of Keane of Listowel was found which,
apparently, proved that Keane was a spy working for the enemy
in Listowel. I understand that the letter was sent to G.H.Q.
Dublin, and that a courtmartial was held at which Keane was
sentenced to death. The Battalion 0/C., Patrick Joseph
MacElligott, it appears, received the order from G.H.Q. to
have Keane arrested and executed. He ordered me to go to
Listowel area and have Keane kept under observation and to
ascertain his movements. Keane was an ex-Detective Sergeant
of the R.I.C. and was employed as a fishery patrol officer on
the River Feale.
With other members of the I.R.A. I spent some four or five
days on the banks of the river near Listowel waiting for Keane
to put in an appearance. Eventually Keane appeared and was
arrested by four members of the Listowel Company Michael
Flaherty, Charles Hanlon, Tom Sullivan and Maurice Kellegher.
I witnessed the arrest from the opposite bank of the river
and I left immediately to contact members of the Finuge Company
to have him taken over from the men of the Listowel Company.
He was taken from Listowel through Finuge, Bedford and Derry
Companies and held prisoner at Patrick Broderick's house at
Gurtamagouna near Knockanure where he was detained until the
Early the following night I was ordered by Denis Quille
to go to Newtownsandes and bring a priest from there to hear
Keane's confession. Having brought the priest to the house,
Keane made his confession after which he made his Will. He
was executed at Shanacool, near Kilmorna, at midnight that
same night. I was present at the execution which was carried
out by six members of the column under the 0/C. Denis Quille.
The company captain of Knockanure, in whose area the execution
took place, was present as well as the members of the column.
The execution took place on 14th June 1921. After the
execution, Denis Quille handed me Keane's Will and some pound
notes found on him when arrested and ordered me to post them
to his daughter in Listowel I posted the will and notes in
During June and July, I was one of a section who carried
out sniping attacks on Ballylongford barracks on three
occasions. In this period I took part in raiding Listowel
railway station where we destroyed telephone apparatus.
Although the Fianna in the area were well organised
and working and co-operating with the I.R.A. throughout
the battalion area for some months we held no regular
meetings until after the Truce.
After the Truce I attended training camps at Bedford,
Listowel and Churchill, Tralee.
Signed: Thomas Pelican
Date: 7th March 1955
Witness: John J. Daly
(John J. Daly)