“In the years of 1920 and 1921 when the War of Independence, as it has come to be known, was at its peak period, I was a schoolboy of 14 or 15 years of age attending the Patrician Brothers’ school in Fethard. My father was at the time actively associated with the Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteer Movement. He was President of the East Tipperary Sinn Fein Executive, and he represented the Fethard electoral area on the Tipperary (South Riding) County Council in the interests of the Sinn Fein party.
Early in 1920 I became attached to “B” (Fethard) Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Tipperary Brigade, as a boy scout. This came about through my association, and that of eight or ten other boys, with an officer of the Volunteer Company named Jeremiah Whelan.
Soon Whelan commenced to take us a little further into his confidence, and he began to entrust us with dispatches to take to various places and people. Other minor little jobs, but which we looked upon at the time as being very important, were allotted to us and other Volunteer Officers came to use our services. Possibly on account of my family’s association with the Movement, I was the boy generally picked on to go with the dispatches, and to do scouting work.
The question of forming a ‘Sluagh’ or Company of Fianna Eireann in Fethard may have been contemplated by Jerry Whelan or some of the other Volunteer Officers. However during 1920, the late Countess Markievicz visited Fethard. I cannot say what the object of her visit was but she remained for a few days as the guest of my father and mother. On hearing of my activities and of the other boys who were associated with me she suggested that to put the Boy Scout movement on a proper footing in Fethard we should organise a Fianna Eireann Sluagh, and affiliate with the National Organisation. Acting on her suggestion a meeting of twelve or fifteen boys was arranged and the Sluagh was formed. I was elected as Captain of the Sluagh and I subsequently received a letter from the Countess confirming my appointment and acknowledging our affiliation.
One day early in 1921 Jerry Whelan sent for me and told me that himself, James Keating and another Volunteer named Thomas Healy had gone to the railway station in Fethard the previous night to seize the outgoing mails, but that they could not find the mail bag as the postman had hid it somewhere on the station. They proposed to try again that night, and Whelan told me to go to the railway station early and when the postman arrived with the mail bag to watch him and see where he hid with. I did as instructed and when the postman arrived he went to the ladies’ toilet and hid the mail bag then. I passed on the information to Whelan and his two pals who were waiting in an outhouse close to the station. They then donned masks, held up what few people were about the station platform, myself included, and went to the ladies’ toilet where they got the mails. I can still see the postman’s face as he exclaimed, “How in hell did they find out where I had put it!” – Captain William O’Flynn, Fethard Fianna Eireann.
*Photograph of Fethard Train Station (year unknown). Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.
Text courtesy of the Bureau of Military History.