Commemoration held at Yellow Lane, Whitehall, 31st August, 1924
“Boys of the Dublin Brigade [Fianna Eireann], this is the first time I have had the opportunity of seeing you and speaking to you since I came back [from internment], and perhaps no better time than this could have been chosen. It is a very sorrowful time, yet it is for us joyous.
We are commemorating to day the deaths of two boys. Most of us knew them. The Fianna knew them very well, and I think it would be well for everybody’s benefit that I should go back a little over the circumstances that led to these two boys’ deaths. In August, 1922, these two boys who had not been captured by the Free State army, were trying as best they could and with great success to keep the Dublin Brigade of the Fianna together. I am glad to see that there are many here to-day who served under them then.
Having with difficulty secured premises in which to carry on classes, these two young officers were, on Saturday evening two years ago, arrested on the North Strand when going to them, and their dead bodies soon rested here. We learned of their deaths through the morning paper; nobody knew anything more. Those two boys were the bravest and best you could get. They might, like others, have said, “There is money on, the other side, go there and get it,” but they put principle first. It is principle that is now going to save this country, and we expect the boys here to give us a hand in the work.
To the boys here I just mention those things so that they may be certain of the facts. We are too much inclined to forget such details, saying “They died for Ireland,” and leaving it at that.
When we joined the Fianna some years ago we were told we would have to fight for Ireland, and perhaps to die for it. I hope those here gathered around will take a lesson from these two boys who stuck to their guns and carried on with us in the Hammam Hotel [in July 1922].
The message that the Chief has given us was that we must carry on, and let us carry on and be in earnest about it until we secure freedom. Let us get the boys and girls working together. Many have died, many are still willing to die. Till we reach the goal of complete independence there will be no peace in Ireland. Get the boys now to study the literature of their country, their country’s history, to make themselves proficient in everything that boys should know.
That is all I have to say to you. Go back to your sluaighte, and get as many as you can to join, boys whom you know and whom you think will persevere to the end. I don’t wish to hold you here very much longer. When going by here again, come along this lane and look at the gateway and pray that the spirit of the boys who died will help you in the fight.”
Former Fianna Eireann Chief of Staff, and President of the 1916-1921 Club, Eamon Martin at the annual 1916-1921 Club dinner in Clerys restaurant in Dublin, April 26th 1951.
Also included in the photograph is Eileen Martin (Eamon’s daughter), Senator Margaret Pearse and M. W. O’Reilly.
Newspaper caption reads:
“Freedom Fight Reunion.
At the 1916-21 Annual Commemoration Dinner in Clerys Restaurant, Dublin last night. (Left to right) Miss Eileen Martin, Mr. Eamon Martin (President), Senator Margaret Pearse, and Mr. M. W. O’Reilly (Chairman).” – Irish Press, 27 April 1951.
An interesting Fianna related book. ‘Scouting in Ireland’ by J. Anthony Gaughan. This one was published about 15 years ago. It has a detailed chapter on the Fianna. It’s still available on a few 2nd hand book sites.
“At the National Association of Old Fianna Veterans dinner in the Gresham Hotel, Dublin, the Chief Chef, Michael McManus, presents the badge and colours to former Chief of Staff, Mr. Eamon Martin and Mr. Frank Sherwin, T.D., National President Old Fianna.” – Irish Press, December 3rd 1962
Tom Mac Evilly (1899-1976), Fianna Eireann, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
“One of those involved in setting up the first Slua or company of Na Fianna Eireann in Mayo, ‘Sluagh Castlebar‘, on Sunday September 13th 1914 was Tom Mac Evilly (1899-1976) from Thomas St., Castlebar at a meeting in the Rooney Hall. He was 15 years of age. At this first meeting Redmond Coleman from Tucker St., Castlebar was elected Secretary and Thomas Mac Evilly Treasurer and affiliation was requested from Fianna Eireann HQ in Dublin. At the next meeting a week later Redmond Coleman was elected Leader.” – Dr. Myles Mac Evilly
Almost every year on the anniversary of Michael Collins funeral, 28th August 1922, the above photograph does the rounds on various online platforms and social media claiming to be of Na Fianna Éireann at Michael Collins funeral.
The photograph is even captioned as such on the National Library of Ireland’s Flickr page however it is not a photograph of Na Fianna Éireann at Collins funeral, as they simply were not there.
While it is indeed a photograph taken on the day of Collins funeral (looks like they were moving into position at Beresford Place before it officially began), it’s not of the Fianna organisation, as they were not officially represented at Michael Collins’ funeral (nor did they want to).
Na Fianna Eireann supported the Anti-Treaty side during this period and, like Cumann na mBan, would not have either wanted to attend or risked attending Collins funeral.
The photograph possibly includes some former younger members of Na Fianna Eireann, perhaps children of those who took the Pro-Treaty side. They are not wearing the standard Fianna uniform but rather the ceremonial Fianna uniform (kilt, brooch etc) sometimes worn by younger members in parades and other such events. The Fianna was open to boys aged from eight years upwards. The above boys could be around that age, but not much older.
It could also be a photograph of younger members of the various pipe bands included in the funeral procession.
There was some confusion about the matter at the time, as the ‘Order of Procession’ printed in various national newspapers, on the morning of the funeral, gave Na Fianna a position (25a) behind the Pro-treaty Cumann Na Saoirse (25), the breakaway woman’s organisation.
As a bit of background, at the Fianna Ard Fheis on 16 April 2022, the organisation “declared their allegiance to the Republic in unqualified terms”. While a number of attending delegates took the Pro-Treaty side, for instance some officers of the Belfast Fianna, there was no split in the Fianna (unlike other groups). Those in the minority who disagreed, simply left the organisation, with a number of those eventually joining the Free State Army.
Na Fianna Adjutant Barney Mellows was so incensed with the inclusion of Na Fianna in the official procession order that he wrote to at least one national newspaper, The Irish Times, later that day; it was published the following day.
It read as follows:
B. Mellows, Adjutant-General, G.H.Q., Fianna Eireann
“I observe from the details of the official arrangements in connection with the funeral of General Michael Collins that a place is reserved therein (25a) for Fianna Eireann. As no authority has been given for this connection of the Fianna with a military display organised by the “Provisional Government,” would you kindly delete this reference in the list published in your paper.The Fianna regret the death of General Collins, but it is regret that a brilliant and brave Irishman should have perished in such an unworthy cause as the subversion of the Republic which he helped to establish in 1916.”
It is unclear why Na Fianna were included in the order of procession; it was obviously supplied to the newspapers by the organisers of the funeral. Given that propaganda was so important to both sides at that time, during the height of the Civil War, perhaps it was an attempt by the Pro-Treaty faction to deceive the public into thinking the Fianna were on their side. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the Fianna fought with distinction alongside their fellow republicans in the Anti-Treaty IRA.
Update 31/08/2021: The image appeared in Liz Gillis’ excellent 2013 publication ‘Revolution in Dublin – A Photographic History 1913-23′ and is captioned as follows ‘The Army Mascots carry floral tributes‘
The following is an account of the various Dáil Eireann Departments and their respective Ministers, staff and secret locations by Sean Saunders, Adjutant, Dublin Brigade Fianna Eireann.
Sean was also Courier with the Department of Local Government, Dáil Eireann from 1919 -1921.
Sean details the crucial role that senior Fianna Officers had in the various departments acting as trustworthy couriers, assisting in secretive operations and ensuring the continuous smooth running of the revolutionary underground Government of Ireland. Sean stated that the majority of couriers were Commissioned Officers, Dublin Brigade, Fianna, and Members of the Fianna Circle, I.R.B.
“After the results of the General Election of 1918 became known, I was instructed by Liam Langley, who was then O/C, 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade, Fianna, to report to the Local Government Department of An Dáil at 18 Clare Street. W. T. Cosgrave was the Minister.
The staff at that time consisted of Seamus Kavanagh, Frank Kelly, Enie O’Hegarty, Typist, sister of Diarmuid O’Hegarty.
Tom McArdle became Secretary of the Local Government Department of the Dail in 1919 and was Secretary of the present Department of Local Government on his retirement a few years ago.
Kevin O’Higgins became Assistant Minister of Local Government either late in 1919 or early in 1920.
Mick de Lacey became Head of the Inspection Branch, and offices for that Branch were opened in Exchequer Street.
The staff included: Nicholas Dwyer with Martin O’Neill and Paddy O’Mara, couriers.
At this time various local bodies throughout the country discontinued corresponding with the British Local Government Department and switched over their communications (including minutes of meetings etc.) to the Local Government Department, An Dáil. Arising out of this, a Registry Office was opened over Prosperity Chambers (next to Messrs. Brennan & Walsh’s), for the storing of minutes. Ned Merriman was in charge there, assisted by Maurice Killeen (both now attached to the Department of Local Government in the Custom House).
The procedure was that at the end of each day all the correspondence was parcelled up and handed by me for safe-keeping over-night to a Miss Donnelly (sister of Simon Donnelly) who had a small business premises in Clare Street. The correspondence was recollected each morning.
Other depots used for a similar purpose belonged to Miss McCarthy, who occupied the ground floor of 18 Clare Street, (as a Newsagent and Tobacconist) now at 1 Lower Leeson Street, and to the Miss Butler, Antique Dealers, Ormond Quay.
Arising out of I.R.A. activity and to subsequent British military action in the immediate vicinity, the Local Government Department was transferred to the General Council of County Council offices in Parnell Square. Arising out of the fact that the I.R.A. were carrying out raids on offices of local authorities throughout the country for seizure of records relating to collection of Rates etc., the Auxiliaries raided the General Council of County Council offices in Parnell Square, and the Department of Local Government was then moved to premises in Wicklow Street (opposite the Wicklow Hotel). (All Government Departments at the time were being run under the guise of business concerns, and Local Government functioned in Wicklow Street as Messrs. & Green, Income Tax Advisers).
About six months before the Truce, General Collins established a general clearing house for all Dáil correspondence at a small business premises in Church Street run by Frank Harling, brother of Sean Harling, Courier to President de Valera (later a Clerical Officer in Revenue).
After the Truce the Local Government Department moved to 76 Harcourt Street, where it remained up to the establishment of the Provisional Government. I continued with the Local Government Department up to the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922.
PRESIDENT DE VALERA
Had no Departmental Offices proper and carried out his Dail business from a private house in Blackrock. He was living there under the name of ex-Captain Hayden, retired British Army Officer. His staff consisted of Kathleen O’Connell, secretary and typist, and Sean Harling, courier.
DIARMUID O’HEGARTY SECRETARY OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
The staff consisted of Eamon Price, Mick Lynch, Miss Mollie Ryan, Typist, Seán Harling (now a Clerical Officer in Revenue) and Liam Saunders (my younger brother) as couriers. When Harling left to take up duty with the President, Alec Burke replaced him as courier. The offices were situated on the top floor of 83 Middle Abbey Street (now occupied by the Foley Typewriting Company).
Michael Collins was Minister for Finance; Director of Intelligence and Head Centre of the I.R.B.
His Dáil Courier was Bob Conlon, now in the U.S.A. (Joe Reilly, subsequently Colonel Joe Reilly of the National Army and since dead, was Collins’ Courier as Director of Intelligence), and later Aide-de-Camp to Presidents Collins and Cosgrave. The Department of Finance staff included Liam Langley, George McGrath and Miss Lawless, Typist and Secretary. The Department of Finance offices were situated over Hogg & Robertson’s, Market Gardeners, Mary Street, Dublin.
The Minister was Austin Stack with offices in Earl Street. His courier was Joe Jordan, arrested about 1920 and succeeded by M. Murphy.
The Minister was Arthur Griffith.
The Minister was Art O’Connor. Seán Caffrey was courier but he was subsequently transferred to the A.S.U., I.R.A., and succeeded by P. Byrne (now Registrar, Department of An Taoiseach).
TRADE AND COMMERCE:
Ernest Blythe was Minister. Jimmie O’Connor, now Secretary of the Military Service Pensions Board, was courier. The offices were in Fownes Street
Desmond Fitzgerald was Minister. The staff consisted of Frank Gallagher, Bob Brennan, Mrs. Kelly (then Annie Fitzsimons) and Erskine Childers subsequently Director of Propaganda. *Seamus Hynes was the courier.
The Minister was Madame Markievicz. The courier was Mick Markey and the offices were in North Frederick Street.
The Minister was Cathal Brugha. The Courier was Leo Craig, now attached to the Registry, Department of Defence. Brugha was Director of Lalors, Church Candle Manufacturers, Ormond Quay, Dublin, and Dáil Correspondence in connection with his Department was delivered to, and collected from, there.
FINE ARTS: Minister – Count Plunkett; courier Seamus Redmond,
Liam Mellows was Director of Purchases, G.H.Q. Staff, I.R.A., with Paddy O’Hanrahan (now in Department of Health) as courier.”
*Text from Sean Saunders Bureau of Military History Witness Statement W.S. 817 and transcribed by Eamon Murphy
*Details of Seamus Hynes role from The Four Glorious Years by David Hogan (Frank Gallagher)
The following account by a former Fianna officer in Kerry is an extract of an article that appeared in ‘Kerry’s Fighting Story 1916-21′, originally published by The Kerryman in 1947.
*Extract of article transcribed by Eamon Murphy
NO MERE ACCOUNT of routine scout work is the story of the Tralee Fianna Éireann. It is an integral part of the history of the entire resistance movement in the town, during the Anglo-Irish War. Boys of the Fianna, all of them in their ‘teens, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the men of the Republican Army in many big engagements. They fought bravely, some died leaving to the survivors the rich legacy of their inspiring example of courage and self-sacrifice.
The re-organisation of the Fianna took place simultaneously with the re birth of the Republican Army, in 1917. In Tralee a sluagh was formed in each Volunteer area, and the members worked in the closest co-operation with the IRA. The work of organisation was completed by the end of the year 1917, and among the brigade staffs formed at a Fianna Convention in the Mansion House, Dublin, in 1918, was one for Kerry.
During the year 1917 the Fianna was mostly occupied by the work of re-organisation. Training proceeded intensively, and the boys were engaged in intelligence operations. In addition to which they also carried out most of the stencilling, distribution and publication of literature dealing with Dáil Éireann bonds. During these early days they were also taken up with scouting and outpost work, and participated in the capture of arms and ammunition from British military at Tralee railway station, in October 1918.
When the terror of the Black and Tans was loosed in all its fury, in 1920, the Tralee Fianna showed that the years of intensive training were not wasted. The brigade O/C, Miko Leary, together with his adjutant, Thomas O’Connor, and quartermaster, Billy Myles, fought in the ambushes at Castlemaine and Lispole.
The same three Fianna officers, with Patrick O’Connor, participated in the attack on a Black and Tan contingent at Glenbeigh, on 26 May 1920, when nine rifles and a machine were captured from the enemy.
Miko Leary was also a member of the party which attacked Fenit barracks in June 1920. The assault on this barracks began at midnight, and, in the course of the attack Volunteers had to climb the walls of the building and get onto the roof which they intended to smash. All the while the besieged Royal Irish Constabulary fired at them from windows and loopholes. Whilst the attack was in progress a British gunboat anchored in Fenit Bay fired one shell which was believed to have exploded harmlessly on Ballyheigue strand. Nevertheless, reinforcements from the gunboat compelled the attackers to retire; but dawn showed that the barracks was completely gutted, and of no further use to the enemy.
Not alone was the [Fianna] organisation an invaluable adjunct to the IRA but, in addition, that it was also a first-class fighting unit in its own right. During the period of the Truce a special section of the Tralee Fianna was attached to the republican Police doing protective duty, guarding banks, investigating robberies and attending republican courts as witnesses. The Fianna assisted in repelling the onslaught of the Black and Tans who broke the Truce in Tralee, in January 1922, and ran amuck in the town. Following this incident units of the Fianna were constantly on day and night duty.
The following members of the Kerry Fianna were presented with watches by Éamon de Valera, then the president of the Irish Republic, for distinctive services given during the Anglo-Irish War:
Mick O’Leary; Thomas O’Connor, Billy Myles (killed in action during the Civil War, at Annagh, Tralee); Paddy Daly, then battalion O/C; William Butler, company O/C Ballyroe; Patrick O’Connor, ‘D’ company, Tralee battalion.
The president also presented a silver cup to the Tralee battalion for being the outstanding Fianna in Ireland.
The following is an account of the structure of Na Fianna Eireann, Tralee Battalion, Kerry No. 1 Brigade in the years 1917-1923. It also includes details of Fianna activities during that period.
In 1917 the re-organisation of Fianna Eireann began in Kerry simultaneously with the I.R.A.
A Sluagh (*unit) of Fianna Eireann was organised in each Volunteer area, and worked in co-operation with the I. R. A. By the end of 1917 sluaghs became large in strength and companies were formed under Fianna officers. This necessitated the formation of a Brigade Staff, and delegates represented the Brigade at the Fianna Convention which was held at the Mansion House, Dublin, in June 1918.
The following officers formed the Brigade Staff:
Brigade O.C. – Michael O’Leary.
Brigade Adjutant. – Thomas O’Connor
Brigade Quartermaster – William Myles
Brigade Intelligence Officer (I.O.) – T. P. Kennedy
*Note. T. P. Kennedy also held the rank of I.O. in the I.R.A. and in order to facilitate the speedy collection and transmission of intelligence all Fianna had to report to him directly or to the Brigade O.C., I.R.A.
The Officers of the Tralee Battalion in 1918 were as follows:
O.C. – Michael O’Leary
Vice Battn. O.C. – Patrick Daly (O.C. 1919-1923)
Adjutant – Patrick Percy Hanafin
Quartermaster – John Horgan
Intelligence Officer – Patrick O’Connor
The Officers of A. Company were as follows:
O.C. – William Griffin
1st. Lieut. – Thomas Kerins
2nd. Lieut. – Christopher Grady
Adjutant – Daniel O’Sullivan
Quartermaster – Maurice Kerins
A. Company strength: 109
The Officers of B. Company were as follows:
O.C. – Thomas Hussey
1st, Lieut. – Denis Healy
2nd. Lieut. – Gerald Ryle
Adjutant – James O’Sullivan
Quartermaster – Michael Moriarty
B. Company strength: 120
The Officers of D. Company were as follows:
O.C. – Patrick Ryan
1st. Lieut. – James Barrett
2nd. Lieut. – Daniel Horgan
Adjutant – Christopher Teahan.
Quartermaster – Jack Carmody
D. Company strength: 125
The work of the Fianna from 1917 consisted mainly of organisation work, training, intelligence work in connection with the collection of arms, the stencilling, distribution and pasting-up of literature in connection with the Dail Eireann Bonds.
The Fianna were also engaged in scouting and outpost work regarding the arrest of Volunteers, and the taking of shot guns, ammunition and military equipment in 1918. In 1919 the duties of the Fianna were the same as that in 1917 and 1918 except that intelligence work was intensified.
Early in 1920 the Sinn Fein (Republican) Police were formed and the Fianna actively assisted them in the discharge of their duties. The duties consisting of:
The detection, capture and removal of criminals to ‘unknown destinations’.
The Fianna were actively engaged in the following operations from 1920:
Attack on Sergeant Sullivan, K. C. at Oakpark – January 1920
Attack on Camp Barracks – 19th February 1920
Burning of Custom House, Tralee – 3rd April 1920
Scout Duty and Protection Work re Threat on Fr. Ferris – May 1920
Military Water Wagon removed from Dingle Railway and Destroyed – 7th May 1920
Attack on Fenit Barracks – 1st June 1920
Destruction of Rifle Range – 6th June 1920
Removal of Petrol from Dingle Railway – 11th June 1920
Attack on Military in North Kerry Railway (Taking 11 Rifles) – 20th July 1920
Burning of Furniture of Capt. Wynne, R. M. – July 1920
Destruction of Military Stores and Taking of Military Boots – September 1920
Hold-up and Capture of Police Car at Edward St., Tralee – September 1920
Destruction of Belfast Goods – September 1920.
Attack on British Forces culminating in the Capture and Shooting of two R. I. C. men – 31st October 1920 (November Eve)
Following November Eve outbreak the Fianna were actively engaged in Dispatch carrying day and night.
Raid on G. S. Railway Cabin – December 1920
Lispole Ambush – 19th March 1921
Tubrid Ambush – March 1921
Bombing Police Car, Tralee – March 1921
Special Scout Duty re Attempted Ambushes at Ballyroe & Spa – March 1921
Special Scout Duty re Attack on Dingle Shea’ (Aux. R.I.C) – April 1921
Special Scout Duty re Shooting of Major McKennon – 15th April 1921
Special Scout Duty re Shooting of Sergeant Benson – 14th May 1921
Glenbeigh Ambush – 26th May 1921
Castlemaine Ambush – 1st June 1921
Special Scout Duty in connection with activities of Sergeant Clarke and the Masked Police Raiders – 1st June 1921
ACTIVITIES DURING TRUCE PERIOD
A Special Section of Fianna were attached to Republican Police.
Fianna were utilized for: –
Protection Work on Banks.
Attending Republican Courts as witnesses.
The Fianna attended H.Q. Officers Training Camp at Shankill [Loughlinstown], Co. Dublin, for one fortnight. Subsequently Fianna Brigade Training Camp was held in Derrymore Island for one fortnight. Fianna were also distributed amongst the different I.R.A. Training Camps then operating in the Brigade Area.
The Fianna participated in repelling the Black & Tan onslaught in Tralee in January. 1922. Following this outbreak Fianna were engaged in protection work day and night in the town, being allotted two positions; Tuomey’s, The Mall, and The Railway Hotel, Nelson Street, in case of a further outbreak. Besides being allotted to hold these positions they [the Fianna] were also distributed for communication purposes etc. amongst the I.R.A. Units holding the other vital positions.
The Fianna were actively engaged in Intelligence Work in connection with the Local Free State activities from February 1922 to August 2nd 1922. Telephone communications were being interrupted and the I.R.A. brigade O/C decided on allotting the work of protection of communications to the Fianna within the Tralee Battalion Area. To facilitate the Fianna for this purpose, a section were dispatched to Ballincollig, Co. Cork, for bicycles.
Representatives attended [the Fianna] Ard Feis [in Dublin] of that year with a mandate to vote against Treaty. Delegates also attended the Cork [Fianna] Convention with a like mandate.
Several members of [the Tralee] Fianna were engaged in military actions at Limerick City, Bruree, Kilmallock & Buttivant.
Fianna were sent with a dispatch to the Div. O/C Buttivant, prior to landing of Free State Troops in Kerry. Free State Troops landed at Fenit on Aug. 2nd. 1922. Fianna were mobilised at the Rink, Tralee, and ordered to form a cordon around the town with a view to prevent hostile citizens or active participants from getting in touch with the Free State Forces. Communications were held, with the aid of the Fianna, between Ballymullen Barracks (I.R.A. H.Q.) and the Police Barracks, and Fenit until the successful retreat of the Republican Forces from the town had been accomplished.
Sniping of Free State Troops and outposts was carried on continually for over a week by Fianna after the landing.
The Fianna were actively engaged in the following operations [from August 1922 onwards]:
The Basin Outpost Attack
Pembroke Street Outpost Attack
Smashing of Lockhouse and Lockgates
Sinking of Ship to ensure blocking of canal
Sniping of Free State Troops
Blowing up of Curraheen Bridge
Blowing up of Kearney’s Bridge
Attacking of Free State Troops at Blennerville
Disarming of Free State Troops at Blennerville
Bombing of Military Car
Curraheen Bridge Ambush
Landing of Free State Troops on Dingle Peninsula – 17th September 1922
Basin Outpost Attack – 16th November 1922
Burning of Gas House
Burning of State Solicitors House
During the Civil War Fianna were interned in Harepark, Tintown, The Curragh, Gormanstown, Newbridge, Mountjoy, Limerick and Tralee, participating in all hungerstrikes which took place.
The above account was written by Na Fianna Eireann, Kerry No. 1 Brigade O/C Michael O’Leary in conjunction with other senior officers. It was submitted to the Military Service Pensions Board in 1935. https://www.militaryarchives.ie/en/home/