ON THIS DATE (15TH JUNE) SIX YEARS AGO : REPUBLICAN FIGHTER WITH 73 YEARS SERVICE COMMEMORATED.
On the 13th June 1991, Tony Ruane (pictured) died in Dublin’s Mater Hospital — he was 84 years of age. He was born in Bohola, Co Mayo, in 1907 and, in 1918, at only eleven years of age, he worked for Sinn Féin in the historic General Election of that year. For Tony, that campaign was to be his first experience of republican activity in a remarkable career to which he devoted the next 73 years of his life.
That republican life was commemorated in Dublin on the 15th June, 2016.
Before he was to reach his 14th birthday, Tony was militarily active in Mayo – he took part in the burning of the RIC barracks in Bohola, the capture of the RIC barracks at Ballyvarry and the taking of all the arms and ammunition there by the East Mayo Brigade of the then IRA.
Before he was 15 years of age, he volunteered for active service in England and was sent to the St. Helen’s area, near Liverpool — whilst he was there, the Treaty of Surrender was signed, but was rejected out of hand by Tony, and he continued the fight. His republicanism brought him to the attention of the British forces and, in 1926, at the age of 19, Tony fled to the United States, where he immediately joined Clan na nGael.
He threw himself in at the deep end in the United States, and worked in Irish republican circles alongside Pete Kearney of the West Cork Flying Column, Mick McLoughlin of the Third Western Division Staff, North Roscommon, Mayo-man Frank Colgan, John Snee, Michael Flannery and Michael Crowley — a formidable and dedicated team.
In the United States, Tony joined the National Guard to continue his military training and rose to the rank of sergeant. In 1936, aged 29, he returned to Dublin and joined the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. Five years later, in 1941, at the age of 34, he was sentenced to two years by the Special Military Courts in Collins Barracks and served that term in Arbour Hill Prison. On his release in 1943 he was taken to the Curragh Camp and interned there until 1945.
On his release, at the age of 38, in 1945, Tony concentrated on political work and helped to start-up the Liam Mellows Cumann of Sinn Féin, in Dublin Central, working with Jack Guiney and Dinny Casey and, by 1947, the cumann was well established and extremely active in the area.
In 1966, at 59 years of age, Tony was elected as the National Treasurer of Sinn Féin and, in 1970, following his retirement from the South of Ireland Asphalt Company, he worked full-time for Sinn Féin, firstly in Kevin Street and later in Parnell Square. In 1980, he retired from his position as National Treasurer, at the age of 73, but he did not retire from his Sinn Féin work, and, for the following eleven years of his life, he was a regular, constant and appreciated sight at Republican Sinn Féin functions.
He rejected compromise with the British and Free Staters in 1922, at which time he was on active service in England; he rejected compromise in 1926 when the Fianna Fáil group left the Republican Movement; he rejected the compromisers again in 1946 and fought back by helping to establish the Liam Mellows Cumann; he rejected the turncoats in 1969 who beckoned with him to leave the Movement with them and replied that not only was he staying with Sinn Féin but his intention was to work full-time for the Movement ; he rejected the well-dressed and politically confused renegades who sought his assistance in turning the Republican Movement into a political party in 1986 and, when those misfits left the Movement in November that year, Tony Ruane, for the fifth time in his life, stayed with the Movement.
The Republican Movement will continue to remember Tony Ruane, East Mayo Brigade IRA Veteran, Honorary Life Vice-President of Republican Sinn Féin, a soldier, a father figure and a moral guide and example to all who remain true to a 32-County federal democratic socialist republic and true republicans will remain committed to obtaining Tony Ruane’s goal — a British political and military withdrawal from Ireland.
Tony’s name is joined to the illustrious list of Ireland’s immortals from Tone down to this very day, his unselfish service with the IRA, his great courage, his splendid character, and like all the other great men and women who gave their service down through the years, he can only be an inspiration to the young men and women of today.
‘FALSE DOCTRINE AND TRUE…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, April 1955.
How much of the ‘measure of freedom’ we have today was achieved by peaceful negotiation and how much by the constantly deprecated use of force? Do the present political leaders believe that time stands still? Can they not realise that a new, intelligent, virile and courageous generation has now attained its majority?
Do they realise that this generation of young Irishmen is revolted at the platitudinous insincerities of our politicians? Do they believe that this courageous, virile section of our young manhood is content to stand by and watch the head of the 26-county ‘government’ extend a tentative ‘negotiating’ hand, like a child attempting a friendly overture to an uncertain-tempered mongrel.
The republican prisoners are typical of that new generation who can no more stomach insincerity than it can the complete departure from the ideals of Pearse and the men (sic) of 1916. Those men (sic) died for their ideals. The prisoners were prepared to do the same.
And they are not alone. They, and not the politicians, are the realists. With their realism goes the courage that is lacking in the politicians’ approach to the problem of British occupation.
(END of ‘False Doctrine And True’ ; NEXT – ‘Whether She Wills It Or Not, England Needs Ulster’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (15TH JUNE) 102 YEARS AGO : RIC TORMENTOR EXECUTED : 7 SHOTS, 7 SIGNATORIES.
During the 1916 Rising, a British Army Captain, a man named Percival Lea-Wilson (pictured), was on temporary duty in Dublin and was stationed at the Rotunda Gardens, where he was in charge of about 250 republican prisoners. He told them, and his own men, that the Rising “..was a monstrous betrayal of the British Empire…”
He had plenty of experience in ‘dealing’ with Irish republicans, having joined the RIC in Cork, in 1912, when he was 25 years of age.
There might not have been enough ‘action’ for him in the RIC so, after two years, he resigned from that grouping and joined the ‘Royal Irish Regiment’ of the British Army with the rank of Captain. As an RIR member, he done some ‘work’ for Westminster in Ireland before volunteering for service abroad – he was sent to France, as part of the ‘Western Front’ force, got wounded, returned to Ireland and used his contacts within the RIC to get his old job back. And they were eager to rehire him.
He was well liked by his colleagues in the RIC and the British Army, and was known to be a religious man ; he was a regular Mass goer and worked as a Churchwarden in the Charleville area of Cork. One of his military buddies had this to say about him –
“Perceval Lea-Wilson was a man whom it was good to know : good to know for his unfailing kindliness, his openhanded generosity, his large-hearted tolerance, his cheery and unflinching courage – not only the common courage in which a man goes forth to meet an open danger, but that high courage in which a man quietly does his common duty, undismayed and undeterred by the lurking death that besets his every step…”
Anyway – when this “large-hearted and generous” man was in the British Army in Dublin in 1916 he was, as stated, in command of the troops who were guarding about 250 prisoners, whom he considered to have taken part in “a monstrous betrayal of the British Empire”, and he let those prisoners know what he thought of them. He forced the captured men to lie on the grass, nobody was allowed to stand up. One of those prisoners later recalled the two days he spent in Captain Percival Lea-Wilson’s presence in 1916 –
“I remember that evening that those of us who wanted to relieve ourselves had to do it lying on the grass alongside our comrades. There was nowhere to go and we had to use the place where we lay. We were kept there all night and a British officer (Captain Percival Lea-Wilson) amused himself by taking out some of the leaders. He took out poor old Tom Clarke and, with the nurses looking out of the windows of the hospital, he stripped him to the buff and made all sorts of disparaging remarks about him…”
British Army Captain Frank Henderson was on duty in the Rotunda Gardens for those two days and, in his report to Westminster, he wrote – “The conduct of many of the British officers during the night can only be described as savage. In particular, Captain Lea-Wilson was brutal…”
Captain Henderson went on to say that Lea-Wilson “…was particularly savage to the rebel prisoners. He dished out beatings to some of the captured rebels before turning his attention to the rebel leaders, Sean MacDiarmada and Tom Clarke. He beat polio sufferer MacDiarmada with his own cane before picking on 58-year-old Clarke who he had dragged out, stripped naked and beaten…”
The “large-hearted and generous” Percival Lea-Wilson left Dublin after the Rising and settled in County Wexford where, as stated, he switched one British uniform for another – from British Army tunics to RIC ‘police officer’ uniform, and rose to the rank of ‘District Inspector’.
At about 9.45am on Tuesday, 15th June 1920 – 102 years ago on this date – DI Lea-Wilson was walking home from having had a chat with his pals in Gorey RIC Barracks when he stopped at the railway station to buy a newspaper, and he met one of his RIC colleagues, a man named Alex O’Donnell. The two of them parted company at the railway bridge on the Ballycanew Road and Lea-Wilson continued on his journey home. He was about 250 yards from his house when he passed a group of men who were working on a car which had apparently broken down.
The six men gathered around the car were Liam Tobin and Frank Thornton from Dublin, and local men Joe McMahon, Michael McGrath, Michael Sinnot and Jack Whelan. All were IRA Volunteers.
RIC ‘District Inspector’ Percival Lea-Wilson was glancing through his newspaper as he strolled past the men when his air of relaxed nonchalance was broken as he observed the men approach him with revolvers in hand ; two shots were fired at him, each of which found their target but, although wounded, he managed to run towards his house. Five more bullets found their mark and he fell to the gutter, dead. Liam Tobin and Frank Thornton walked up to where he lay and briefly examined him and, satisfied that he was dead, one of them picked up his newspaper and both men walked back to where their comrades were waiting for them, got into the car and drove off.
The coroner’s report stated that the man had been shot seven times. Whether by coincidence or design, it was later noted that the two rebel leaders that Lea-Wilson had publicly humiliated in 1916, Seán MacDiarmada and Tom Clarke, had signed the 1916 Proclamation, a document that had been signed by seven men.
Ulster loyalism displayed its most belligerent face this year as violence at Belfast’s Holy Cross School made international headlines.
But away from the spotlight, working-class Protestant communities are themselves divided, dispirited and slipping into crisis.
By Niall Stanage.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, Annual 2002.
Andy Cooper puts things differently –
“The British, Irish and American governments are scheming against Protestantism,” he says. “The betrayal of Protestantism has always taken the form of portraying Protestantism as the aggressor. Catholics are not the oppressed people any more. When does the oppressed turn into the oppressor?”
Freedom, civil rights. Loyalty, God and Ulster. Noble words may have been used to justify the North’s bloody conflict but, more often than not, the battle has come down to territory. Ours and theirs. The peace walls dividing Protestant and Catholic near-neighbours are stark proof of that struggle’s ferocity in North Belfast. Of the 17 structures in the entire city, 14 are in northern districts. Mostly, it is Protestants who are on the defensive.
Main arteries like the Antrim Road have been transformed from almost exclusively Protestant domains to predominantly Catholic areas over the course of three decades. Innumerable winding side streets and cramped housing estates hve been similarly ‘greened’. The war of attrition between the communities continues and, in many places, both sides engage in habitual, low-level harassment – pensioners are jostled by teenagers, women are subjected to crude taunts, rival gangs of schoolboys scuffle with each other.
None of this makes front-page news, but it can have a cumulative demoralising effect on those who must endure it daily… (MORE LATER.)
A POEM ABOUT A VISIT IN JUNE TO A GRAVEYARD :
It was on a Monday morning in the merry month of June
I strayed into an old churchyard to view a silent tomb
I overheard an old man say as the tears rolled from his eyes
“It is underneath that cold grey sod where young DJ Allman lies.”
Oh rise up DJ Allman, rise up and tell me plain
Who went that day along with you to ambush Headford train?
Who stood out on that platform bold and fired that signal gun?
Who fought and died at Headford with you, my darling son?
The man who fired that signal gun, he now to heaven is gone
Many’s the weary hour and mile we shouldered him along,
Pierced and cold his body lay in a state of massacre
Because he was a rebel bold and he died for liberty.
The day of DJ’s funeral, it was a splendid sight
To see four and twenty clergymen and they all dressed up in white
DJ’s cap and rifle we laid them by his side
We wrapped the green flag round him while his comrades passed him by.
And now to conclude and end my song for I have no more to say,
May God have mercy on your souls who sleep beneath the clay,
May God have mercy on your souls who died for Ireland’s pride,
Who fought and died at Headford where young DJ Allman died.
(This is a lament for Commandant Daniel J. Allman [pictured] of the Kerry No 2 Flying Column Brigade who was killed in action in an ambush at Headford Station between Killarney and Rathmore in March 1921 in the War of Independence.)
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, March, 1955.
We have been asked by Brian Ó h-Uiginn to inform our readers that he is not a member of the Committee of An Cumann Cabhrach. This is necessary because a number of collectors in the country have sent on their collections to him, apparently in the belief that he was Treasurer or at least on the Committee.
Brian wrote us a letter shortly before Christmas expressing his support for the proposed National Collection to aid the dependents of the prisoners, expressed the hope that it would be generously supported and enclosed a personal subscription of £5. Other than that he has no connection with the Fund.
All subscriptions or correspondence in connection with An Cumann Cabhrach should be addressed to An Runaidhe, Tomas O Dubhghaill, Seán Treacy House, 94 Seán Treacy Street, Ath Cliath.
(END of ‘Correction’ : NEXT – ‘Connradh Na Gaedhilge’, from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (15TH JUNE) IN…
An RIC member, Pierce Doogue (42) (‘Service Number 60412’), from County Laois, who was stationed at Ballycroy RIC Barracks in County Mayo, was ‘off duty’ on the 15th June, 1920, and decided to travel to the market in Belmullet for a day out. He was not a married man except, perhaps, to the job, which he had spent 18 years in, having joined that grouping on the 1st October, 1901.
While he was browsing among the market stalls a riot broke out and Mr Doogue went to help his RIC colleagues who were ‘on duty’. He got hit on the head with a rock and died as a result. End of story, and of Mr Doogue.
Our pic shows RIC members from the RIC Barracks in Skerries, County Dublin, putting up barbed wire on their building in an attempt to protect themselves from attack. That pic was published in ‘The Daily Mirror’ newspaper (!) on the 15th June, 1920.
Their efforts kept the building safe (whatever about the inmates!) until it was vacated by the RIC in February 1922, and a different anti-republican outfit, the Free State ‘Civic Guards’, took it over.
However, in the early hours of the 11th February, 1923, some cars pulled up outside the barracks and about thirty IRA men, some of whom were armed, walked into the building and ordered the seven State ‘cops’ to get out, which they did.
An explosive device was planted in the hallway, under the stairs, and the men walked out again. The device exploded and the barracks was wrecked. The seven State agents found a silver lining in that the near-by ‘Grand Hotel’ became their temporary base, until a new pig-pen could be sourced for them.
Members of the East Clare Brigade of the IRA were ambushed by British soldiers at Woodcock Hill, Meelick, County Clare, on the 15th June, 1921, while they were attempting to raid the Limerick to Ennis train.
Captain Christopher McCarthy of the IRA was wounded during the ambush and his comrade Captain Michael Gleeson returned, under fire from the enemy, to rescue his comrade. Both men were subsequently captured by British soldiers and killed. This event has since been known as ‘The Meelick Ambush’.
An IRA Volunteer on board the train had failed to get a signal to his comrades at the ambush site that armed British military operatives, from the ‘Royal Scots Regiment’, were on board the train, seemingly in anticipation of an attack. A small stone barricade had been constructed across the railway line but the ‘RSR’ thugs forced the driver to ram the barricade and the train continued to Cartloe station, where passengers were removed. The train driver was then forced to return to the ambush site where the IRA men were then attacked.
IRA Captain Gleeson died in the opening burst of machine gun fire and his comrade, Captain McCarthy, was captured by the British when he attempted to rescue the then wounded Captain Gleeson. When Christopher McCarthy’s body was examined afterwards, it was discovered that his throat had been cut and he had been shot several times at point-blank range.
‘Two members of the IRA’s East Clare Brigade, Christopher McCarthy and Michael Gleeson, were killed at Woodcock Hill in Meelick…it was when a daring IRA plan to raid the Limerick to Ennis train went badly wrong that two volunteers were shot and killed during the War of Independence.
On June 15, 1921, eight IRA volunteers under the command of John McCormack went to Woodcock Hill early in the morning to raid the Limerick to Ennis train. McCormack had planned the operation because he suspected there was a British spy active in the area and was hoping to capture the mailbags on board the train. McCormack hoped if they examined the letters in the mailbags, they might find proof that would reveal the spy’s identity…’
On the 24th May, 1921, British General ‘Sir’ Nevil Macready (pictured) informed Westminster that in his opinion the IRA could not be militarily defeated ; he sent his political boss in London a memorandum in which he stated that a full British military victory in Ireland, against the guerilla troops of the IRA, “was almost an impossibility..”
The British were apparently of the opinion that if ‘Sir’ Nevile couldn’t do it under the then existing ‘rule of law’, then it couldn’t be done. So they moved the goalposts, and General Macready was issued with new orders from the British PM, Lloyd George which, when read between the lines, translated as ‘fight and terrorise the population, not just the rebels and their supporters’.
Then, on the 15th June, 1921, Macready presented himself to the British Cabinet’s ‘Irish Situation Committee’ with a draft proclamation of martial law. It was draconian, and he stressed that the British Government would have to be prepared for many shootings, perhaps a hundred a week. Macready also made no concealment of his own belief (shared by John Anderson, British Under Secretary) that coercion would not work.
On the 22nd June 1921, British ‘King’ George V, in coded language, offered the Irish rebels the opportunity to talk and, on the 9th July 1921, Eamon de Valera led an Irish republican delegation to meet the British. The dispute hasn’t ended yet, as six of our counties remain under British political and military occupation, and the Free State is riddled with pro-Westminster political elements.
83-year-old British General ‘Sir’ Nevil Macready died on the 9th June, 1946, at his home in Knightsbridge, in London.
James ‘Spud’ Murphy stated –
“About the first week in May, Tom Lane, Jim Lane and myself came into Clonakilty to search for any Tans that might be moving around the town.
We searched a number of public-houses and got some scouts to search others. We were eventually informed that there were three Tans in Kingston’s public-house in McCurtain Hill, and two in a public-house next door. Tom Lane was left to cover the public-house next door while Jim and I moved to Kingston’s where I threw a bomb into the shop (pub). The bomb blew out all the glass in the front of the shop, killed one of the Tans and seriously wounded another.
I was struck in the buttock by a splinter of the bomb and seriously wounded. Constable (James) Cullen was removed to Cork where he died on 9 May.”
For that and other such operations against the British military, James ‘Spud’ Murphy, Tom Lane and Jim Lane were most sought after by the enemy ; on the 15th June, 1921, the Essex Regiment of the British Army descended on the Ardfield area in the west of Clonakilty Bay, in County Cork, to do a sweep of the area for those men, two of whom – ‘Spud’ and Jim Lane – were there.
Most of the IRA Volunteers that had been sheltering in that area escaped the dragnet, including ‘Spud’ and Jim.
‘Jim Larkin, the trade union leader, was today found guilty of seditious utterances and sentenced to seven months imprisonment. Mr. Larkin was found not guilty of the additional charges of incitement to riot and incitement to loot.
The case was heard in Green Street Courthouse in Dublin and began shortly after 11am when the Attorney General, John Moriarty, set out the case for the prosecution. The Attorney General told the court that Mr. Larkin was not being prosecuted because he was a strike leader, but because he had broken the law.
He continued by saying that Mr. Larkin was indicted because, in this instance, he had behaved as a “wicked and dangerous criminal” and that every fair-minded man would agree that it was “most lamentable as well as unfair when hundreds of men were at present in prison for committing crimes they were urged to commit by the language and example of Mr. Larkin, that Mr. Larkin should be at liberty and enjoying the blessings and comfort of liberty…” (from here.)
On the 15th June, 1979, a memorial statue to “the greatest Irishman since Parnell” (- George Bernard Shaw) was unveiled in O’Connell Street in Dublin.
The son of Irish parents, Jim Larkin was born in Liverpool on the 28th January, 1874 and, when he was just five years old he was sent to live with his grandparents in Newry, in Ireland (about half of that city [the west] lies in County Armagh and the other half [the east] is in County Down!)
At 11 years of age he returned to England and worked as a dock labourer and, at 19, he became a member of ‘The Independent Labour Party’ and, in his spare time, worked to improve the living standards of other poor people.
He was a true socialist and worked hard to establish the ‘Irish Transport and General Workers Union’(ITGWU – now ‘SIPTU’), to spread his “divine mission of discontent”. Unfortunately, the trade union leadership in this State today is the cause of ‘discontent’ among its working-class members due to that leadership constantly cosying-up to management and politicians.
On the 15th June, 1984, the RUC surrounded a flat in Lenadoon Avenue, in Belfast ; a man on their ‘Wanted’ list, Paul McCann (20) (pictured), a Volunteer with the ‘Irish National Liberation Army’ (INLA), was inside the house.
The British claimed that there was “an exchange of gunfire” and Paul was shot dead, as was a 22-year-old RUC member, Michael Todd, and two other RUC members were wounded.
Described in an INLA statement to Belfast news agencies as an “INLA staff officer in the Belfast Brigade, an outstanding worker in the republican socialist movement and one of our finest volunteers” , Paul (‘Bonanza’) McCann was killed in questionable circumstances during a midnight raid by the RUC and British troops in a flat in Lenadoon, west Belfast.
Three men (one of them Gino Gallagher) and a woman who were with Paul McCann were ‘arrested’ at the scene. Initial reports from the RUC said Paul McCann was slain when the RUC opened fire after he shot at them, but later the RUC said no shots were fired by themselves or by the British Army.
Thanks for the visit, and for reading.
Sharon and the team.