Members of Carlow Town Fianna Éireann proudly pose alongside their symbol, the Fianna Sunburst Flag with their Sluagh mascot lying underneath at a local Christian Brothers School in 1915.
Included in this photograph are Christian Brother McKenna seated alongside the noted Republican priest Fr. Thomas Burbage and to the right Brother Foran. According to Michael Purcell of Carlow Scouting, “they are about to leave the school grounds in College Street and march to the sound of bagpipes and drums to the Cathedral to have the flag blessed.”
Records for the Fianna in Carlow both pre-1916 and post-1916 are scant and the military pensions records confirm that “no records of Carlow Fianna were submitted to the referee for the purposes of the 1934 [Pension] act”, and “nobody got a pension under either the 1924 or the 1934 Act in respect of pre-truce Carlow Fianna membership” .
Despite this, five applications were received under the 1924 Act as follows:
- Peter O’Farrell , O/C of the 1st Battalion, Carlow Fianna was credited with non-pensionable Fianna service for the critical [Pre-Truce] period.
- Frank Hutton, Lieutenant and captain of 1st battalion Carlow Fianna, was also credited with non-pensionable Fianna service for the critical [Pre-Truce] period.
- John Walsh, membership of ‘A’ Company Carlow Fianna. His superior officer, Peter O’Farrell, commented in his pension statement that he was “not a very useful member”. Regardless of this, he was still credited with non-pensionable Fianna service for the critical [Pre-Truce] period.
- Denis Hogan also claimed membership of A’ Company Carlow Fianna, and received references from Peter O’Farrell. He was credited with non-pensionable Fianna service for the critical [Pre-Truce] period.
- James Rice claimed membership of the Carlow Fianna. The records indicate that the verification form was sent to the wrong officer, who claims he did not know Mr. Rice. He was consequently not credited with either pensionable or non-pensionable Fianna service. He did appeal but it is not known if he was successful.
*The records also point to a Peter Branagan who claimed he was a member of the Carlow Fianna and later applied under the 1934 Act. He was unsuccessful.
It is also noted that some of the above applicants did receive a service medal and because of this, the board of assessors did “implicitly accept the existence of the Carlow Fianna” in the pre-Truce (Tan War) period. They, however, indicated that “it was possible, and indeed likely that in Carlow the Fianna had become moribund or brushed aside at the critical period, [with] the Fianna officers continuing to work for the IRA”.
A note in the pension records also remarked that “Carlow was not very warlike”.
While the above alludes to limited Fianna activity in Carlow during the Tan War, there is no hard evidence of pre-1916 Fianna activity, in either the witness statements or the military pensions. Despite this the above 1915 photograph attests to the fact that they did exist albeit on a small scale. Although I would hazard a guess that the photograph may be dated from 1914 (rather than 1915) prior to the Volunteers split; in Carlow’s case most sided with Redmond.
The image with (1915 date) appeared in local historical journal ‘Carlow Now and Then’ in 1998