Na Fianna Eireann Scouts and Defectors in ‘Royal Battle’ at Malahide, Co. Dublin 1913


“During the summers of 1912 and 1913 we camped at Malahide, opposite the Martello Tower. This was a great spot at that time, as the crowds from Dublin had not yet started to frequent either Portmarnock or Malahide.

In the year 1913 a number of the members of Sluagh Emmet broke away from the Fianna. I think they did not take the organisation seriously and were just in it for a good time. They were about ten in number and were getting to the age of about 17 or 18, when it was considered in those days childish to be a Scout. However, they took a tent or two with them that they, rightly or wrongly, considered they were entitled to, as they were in this Sluagh from the start.

The Sluagh was in charge of Frank Reynolds and I was a Section Commander. Amongst the lads who broke away were Willie and Fran O’Brien, Fred Holmes, who afterwards went to the Great War as a dispatch rider and became a great motor cycle racer, and Brendan Gillan, who is now on the Library staff in Pearse Street. You can understand that this was a procedure that could not be tolerated by an organisation that believed in physical force, so we bided our time until we heard they were enjoying a camp opposite the Martello Tower at Malahide.

We then organised a nice party, which consisted of some I.R.B. members; Peadar McNally, who worked with Sean McDermott in the “Irish Freedom” office in Findlater place, Jimmy Dundon, who was a member of the Michael Dwyer Club, Paddy Byrne, a tailor and also a member of the Dwyer Club, later a Captain in the National Army at Islandbridge, Eamon Martin, Pádraig Ó Riain, my brother Pat, Paddy and Harry Ward and myself.

We took the last train to Portmarnock at about eleven o’clock. We took our time along the coast road and arrived about two o’clock in the morning, when they were nicely settled down. There was a royal battle. We pulled down the tents and tore them up. We cut the tyres off their bicycles so that they could not call the police. Eamon Martin and Jimmy Dundon were our best boxers and they took on the heaviest of the party. We then retired victoriously across country to Balgriffin and arrived in Dublin tired but happy on Sunday morning. We were expecting to hear from the police but nothing happened.

The following week I was passing over Butt Bridge on my way to Eamon when I met three or four of the other crowd. They came over to me immediately, and Gillan, who was stronger than I was, challenged me to fight. We started to box straight away, and, while I gave as much as I got, I arrived at Eamon’s with a fine black eye.

At that time Brendan Gillan was working in the Kevin Street Library and we knew the gang would be there to meet him coming out at ten o’clock. We organised a party and waited for them in Kevin Street. When they came out Eamon Martin challenged Brendan Gillan as he was the biggest and gave him a fine beating, and that was the last trouble I got from them. I made friends again with Willie O’Brien when we were locked up in Knutsford after 1916, and Brendan Gillan and I have been friends for years. We never referred to this affair.” – Garry Holohan, Fianna Eireann Officer 1910-1923

Photograph courtesy of Valentine Photographic Collection at the NLI

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