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Irish Military History

O Grady, Collins and Pelican story

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The original documents can be viewed at http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie








Brian O'Grady,

70 Shandon Park,




Captain Ballylongford Company Irish

Volunteers, Co. Kerry;

Battalion Adjutant.


Ballylongford Company Irish

Co. Volunteers, Kerry, 1913-1921.

Conditions, if any. Stipulated by Witness.


File No S.2688

Form BSM2


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

the raids.

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

nasty expressions.

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

the trenches.

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

Battalion Adjutant.

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

discovered tobacco.

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

(Brian O'Grady

Date: 15th March


15th March 1956.


John J.


(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






Thomas Pelican,



Co. Kerry.


O/C. Listowel Battalion

Fianna Eireann, 1918.


I.R.A. activities, Listowel, Co. Kerry,


Conditions, if any, Stipulated by Witness.


File No. S.2410





NO. W.S.



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

railway station.

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

to Ballybunion


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

the column.

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,

Bally-bunionb,ecame adjutant.

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

enemy's intentions.

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

following night.

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

(Thomas Pelican)

Date: 7th March 1955

Witness: John J. Daly

(John J. Daly)



NO. W.S.