Civil War in Connaught

Now with added theme song (27th November 2011) – For more about this song see this post.

Every so often, a friend, friend of a friend, client, passer-by or, in one case, our regular courier, will drop in and present us with a remarkable find and ask us what they should do with it. It always causes great excitement – despite what people think archaeologists don’t find ‘gold’ all the time (and we don’t all work in Egypt or the Middle East, or have a whip and lead incredibly interesting lives being chased by evil geniuses bent on world domination – although we have met some people who think they are Indiana Jones, and emulate that fictional character in dress and style).

In fact, some of us have never found anything of value.

We’ve had people come in to us with everything from prehistoric axe heads, coins and brooches to early belt buckles. A colleague was even presented with a nineteenth century Zulu spear, bizarrely found in a drainage ditch in the foothills of a remote mountain in the North West! How it got there we’ll never know, but it had been there for some time. The stories of these artefacts and their discoveries are sometimes as interesting as the artefacts themselves. There’s a great display in the National Museum on this topic, well worth viewing. Our advice is always the same – in most cases these objects must be given to the museum.

Recently a friend, a returned Yank, John Monaghan, while renovating the cottage he was moving into, found an old letter taped to the back of a kitchen cabinet and upon reading it was shocked and moved by his discovery. Johnny has a huge interest in the local history of his area and began researching the letter and its writer. His findings and the scan of the letter are presented below.

The letter was written by Francis (Frank) Cunnane of Headford to his Mother on the eve of his execution along with 5 others in 1923. As an artefact of a tragic time in Irish history, it’s an important document and we felt it deserved to be reproduced here. After the scan of the letter, you can read a transcript version of it. We’ve also presented a timeline from the War of Independence through the Civil War to put the letter in context, with a more detailed account of the events leading to Frank’s execution. John has since tracked down and returned the letter to Frank’s descendents. The timeline is derived from Seamus Fox’s very useful website and the more detailed account was derived from Nollaig Ó Gadhra‘s book, Civil War in Connaught, 1922-1923 in which the letter is also reproduced. We’re not sure where Nollaig found the letter, but obviously it must have been returned to hiding afterwards.

In the Reception Ward

Galway Gaol, 1923

My Dearest Mother,

You are aware perhaps by now that I am one of the destined by God, to swell the roll of that martyred band who died for Ireland. As I go to my Maker I die as I as I lived believing that I have done the best for my Country and I trust that my sacrifice will suffice atone for anything that has remained undone by me; that I have conscientiously done everything for the better interests of my country, according to my rights.

I do not doubt, therefore it is with composure I accept my sentence, bearing no malice or hatred against any living soul. To all my friends too numerous to mention, give them my best and sincerest for their many kindnesses during and after my intercourses with them. I am more than grateful and I trust that God will in some way repay them as I intended doing, but now that I am leaving them for a ‘Happier Exchange’, I am debarred from fulfilling my desires in this ‘World of Sorrows’.

Well Mother dear, I know my death will shock you and all home, but my dying wish is that no grief or sorrow be unnecessarily displayed by any of you for the end must come some time and it is now as welcome as at any other future time, when perhaps I should be half as well prepared to meet ‘Him’ who sent me and know that he will accept my sacrifice for any forgotten faults which I may have committed during my lifetime. The death is a glorious one of which I am unworthy.

There may be some who may look upon our line of action as being a hopeless and foolish one but the voices of Pearse and Plunkett and those who died for the same cause in 1916 inspired me to follow in their footsteps and I feel confident the vindication of this “Sacred Cause” will come in some generation or another. Cheer up, Mother dear, I shall meet you in Heaven in the near future, though I hope your life upon this earth will be long and happy so much so that you will be recompensed in some small measure for all trouble in earlier life.

Give to all my neighbours and companions of my childhood my dying wishes (and to my loyal comrades a fond farewell) and let no act of vengeance mar the Cause for which I die. Let that sanctified flag be borne aloft unstained with the son of Cain, so that the world can see that we are not waging a war of Bolshevism of which the IRA is accused. I am sending you a few souvenirs including a pair of beads I got from Cissie during the B and T regime. In them find consolation and do not worry.

Now I must finish finally and eternally on this side of the grave so I send you, Father, Bertie, Tessie, Cissie, Gerard, Willie, John, Tommie, Martin, Charles, Joe and Vincent my blessing and good wishes. May God bless you all and may we all meet in Heaven, is the sincere wish of your dutiful son.


Frank Cunnane, along with five other men, was executed on April 11, 1923. Although the letter appears to have been written in Galway, the execution was carried out in Tuam. John tells us that he has heard that Frank was not one of the six men initially selected for execution and that he voluntarily replaced a married man with children.

The full story of the War of Independence is well recounted in many books. Here, we have simply listed a few critical events in the area around Headford as well as some events elsewhere, to provide a flavour of the period.


In May, 1920 Seamus Murphy led an IRA attack on the RIC barracks at Loughgeorge, Co. Galway. In July a car with four RIC men was ambushed at Aughle, near Tuam. Two RIC men were killed (Con James Burke and Con Patrick Carey). An RIC reprisal involved burning the Town Hall in Tuam and further destruction to property in the town. In October of the same year, John O’Hanlon from Lackagh, Co. Galway was shot dead by Black and Tans in the presence of his family. In November Kevin Barry was hanged in Mountjoy Jail. In Galway, in one of the great outrages of the period, a young mother, Ellen Quinn, was shot through the stomach by the RIC as she sat cradling her child by the roadside in Kiltartan, Co. Galway. A military inquiry found that the firing was “a precautionary measure”.

A Galway priest, Fr Michael Griffin, was arrested by the RIC on Sea Road, Galway – his body was found on 20 November buried in a boggy field near Barna. In March 1921, the flying column of the West Galway (Connemara) Brigade led by Peter (Petie) Joe McDonnell ambushed a four-man RIC patrol in Clifden, Co. Galway resulting in the death of two RIC men (Con Charles O’M Reynolds and Con Thomas Sweeney). The RIC set fire to a number of buildings in Clifden in retaliation.

The West Cork IRA, led by Tom Barry, carried out a large-scale ambush at Crossbarry, Co Cork, also in March 1921. They were nearly surrounded but managed to escape.This engagement was one of the largest encounters of the War of Independence. One of the British Army casualties was notorious Capt Hotblack.

Louis Darcy, O/C Headford Battalion, IRA was arrested at Oranmore. His body was later found in Galway and, it is alleged that he was dragged behind a military vehicle from Oranmore to Galway. A five-man RIC cycle patrol from Maam, Co. Galway was attacked near Oughterard resulting in the death of one RIC man (Con William Pearson).in April 1921, a 14-man RIC cycle patrol was ambushed at Kilmilkin, 5 miles from Maam by the 24-man strong flying column of the West Galway Brigade under Peter Joe McDonnell resulting in the death of one RIC man (Con John Boylan) and the wounding of another. The body of a chemist, Thomas McEver, was found at Dunmore with a label saying “Convicted Spy – Executed by IRA”. It is alleged that he was killed by Crown Forces.

In May of the same year, the flying column of the South Mayo Brigade, led by Brigade O/C Tom Maguire, ambushed an RIC supply patrol in Tourmakeady – four RIC men (Con Christopher O’Regan, Con Herbert Oates, Con William Power, Con John Regan) were killed. In a subsequent wide-scale search by the British Army, Tom Maguire was wounded and his Brigade adjutant, Michael O’Brien (from Neale) was killed. In addition, an IRA scout (Padraic Feeney) was captured and later killed.

In June an RIC patrol was ambushed near Milltown, Co. Galway resulting in the death of two policemen (Sgt James Murren and Con Edgar Day). Sgt Murren was to have retired on pension a week before but due to some delay, his papers had not come through.

The Tourmakeady Ambush

Maguire (who was also brigade O/C) broke his men into three sections placed around the village. The first section was commanded by Maguire; the second under Michael O’Brien and the third under Paddy May. He had about 60 men (with about 25 of them Column men) armed with 6 to 8 rifles and a number of shotguns. The supply patrol consisted of a car and a Crossley tender. The four men in the car were killed but the men in the Crossley dismounted and took up position in an hotel. Maguire ordered his men to withdraw up the Party Mountains but they were followed by a large force converging on them from different directions and they had to take up a defense position until nightfall. When darkness came they got away to safety bringing their wounded commander. Michael Kilroy had got word that the South Mayo men were surrounded and brought his West Mayo column towards Tourmakeady but, by the time they arrived, the South Mayo Column had already escaped the encircling troops.

Dec-06, 1921 Treaty signed at 2.10am

Jan-07, 1921The Dáil approves the Treaty by 64 votes to 57


Between January and June 1921, the British Government supplied the Provisional Government with 11,900 rifles, 79 Lewis machine guns, 4,200 revolvers and 3,504 grenades. The Pro-Treaty forces amounted to (approx) 8,000 men while a Provisional Government source estimated that the anti-Treaty IRA had 12,900 men and 6,780 rifles but it is difficult to know how many of their men were active. Whether Frank Cunnane was involved in any of the actions listed below is unknown.

In July 1922, the Pro-Treaty forces take Galway. In August, Michael Collins, Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, is shot dead at an ambush at Béal na mBláth, Co Cork. In October, Tom Maguire, a divisional O/C of the Anti-Treaty army in Mayo is captured as is Tom Powell and the Ballinrobe column. A raid in late October by Anti-Treaty forces from Connemara and Mayo was carried out on Clifden and after a long fight they took it.

In November, the first executions under the Public Safety Bill took place. In Kilmainham Jail, four Anti-Treaty Volunteers were executed for possession of revolvers. They were Peter Cassidy (7 Usher St., Dublin); James Fisher (Eckland St., Dublin); John Gaffney (3 Usher St., Dublin) and Richard Twohig (1 O’Connor Buildings, Dublin). Tom Johnson protests in the Dáil but Mulcahy says that he knows that people will be shocked and saddened by the executions but stern measures had to be taken or ‘assassins and wreckers’ would destroy the country. Also in November, Erskine Childers was executed in Beggars Bush barracks by Pro-Treaty forces.

In the west, Michael Kilroy – Commandant of the Western Command of the Anti-Treaty IRA – was wounded and captured during a massive sweep of west and south Mayo. The Pro-Treaty officer in charge said that five of his troops and 11 Anti-Treaty men were killed during this operation. In December, the British king signed the proclamation announcing the adoption of the constitution and the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) officially came into being. At a meeting of the Dáil, Cosgrave was elected President of the Executive Council. Shortly after this date, the remaining British troops left Dublin with the last ones leaving on Dec 17. Northern Ireland voted itself out of the Free State by the stipulation that permitted this in the Treaty

Rory O’Connor (Monkstown, Co. Dublin); Liam Mellows (Wexford and Galway); Joe McKelvey (Stewardstown, Co. Tyrone) and Richard (Dick) Barrett (Ballineen, Co. Cork) were executed in December by Pro-Treaty forces in Mountjoy after the cabinet had explicitly ordered the executions as a reprisal for shootings the previous day. These executions were extra-judicial in that they were not carried out under the Public Safety Act (all four had been in custody since the attack on the Four Courts).The news appeared in the evening paper along with an announcement that there was an assassination conspiracy. The executions were condemned by Labour and others in the Dáil. However, in a division that followed the debate on the executions, the government won by 39 votes to 14.

In January 1923 11 Anti-Treaty prisoners including some Galwaymen were executed (two in Limerick, four in Tralee and five in Athlone).The men executed in Athlone were Martin Bourke (Caherlistrane, Co. Galway); Thomas Hughes (Athlone); Stephen Joyce (Derrymore, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway); Herbert Collins and Michael Walsh (from Derrymore, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway).

February 1923, marks the capture of Frank Cunnane. The following derives from Ó’Gadhra’s description of the events of the day. A stormy morning, Frank and his unit were sheltering in a small group of houses in Cluid. At 6am, 30 troops from Galway observed the men. They circled the building and issued a challenge. They were completely taken by surprise. After a brief gunfight, the men surrendered. As the cordon enveloped the men, one attempted to run. Despite a warning shot, he continued and was subsequently shot and mortally wounded. The remaining men, including Frank, were marched to Galway. The equipment captured included 15 Lee Enfield rifles. 3 Mauser rifles, a large land mine, a number of bombs, revolvers, new trench coats and leggings and Sam Brown belts.

In the beginning of March, 1923, at Ballyseedy, Co Kerry eight Anti-Treaty prisoners were blown up in one of the great atrocities of the Civil War. Nine prisoners had been taken from Ballymullen barracks in Tralee (including an ex-RIC man called Paddy Buckley) to Ballyseedy Cross in order to, according to Pro-Treaty people, clear a mine. However, according to Anti-Treaty people, the prisoners were tied to the mine and the mine was detonated. One prisoner (Stephen Fuller) escaped. In March, another attempt to get prisoners to clear a mine at Castlemaine was foiled when some of the prisoners escaped. At Countess Bridge, Killarney, four Anti-Treaty prisoners were blown up and killed but, as at Ballyseedy, one prisoner (Tadgh Coffey) escaped.

A Pro-Treaty army report from Claremorris, Co. Mayo dated March 31, 1923 states “despite their very considerable numbers, and ample equipment in Mayo, the Irregulars have not been inclined to indulge in military action. Extensive destruction of roads, raiding, looting, and the burning of the houses of supporters of the Government is the form their warfare continues to take.”

The following day, writing to the O/C of the fourth Western Division of the Anti-Treaty army, Christy Macken (O/C of second Western Division) says that Major-Gen Dan Hogan (O/C Pro-Treaty, Claremorris Command) had been rounding up his No. 2 Brigade for the past fortnight. He says that the tactics that Hogan has been using (of setting up small posts and scouring the surrounding districts) have been much more effective in capturing his men than Lawlor’s earlier use of forced marches.

On April 11, 4 Anti-Treatyites – Francis Cunnane (from Headford, Co. Galway); Michael Monaghan (from Clonmehan, Headford, Co. Galway); Martin Moylan or Nolan (from Farmistown, Annadown, Co. Galway); and John Maguire (the younger brother of Tom from Cross, Co. Mayo) were executed in Tuam. Two further executions took place in Tuam on the same day- the men executed were James (or John) Newell (from Galway) and James O’Malley (from Oughterard, Co. Galway).

On 24 May, 1923, Aiken published the order of cease-fire and ordered the dumping of arms. The Civil War is over less than a month after Franks execution. De Valera also issues a statement to the Anti-Treaty army which says that ‘Further sacrifice on your part would be now in vain and continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic’

On 30 May, Anti-Treatyites, Michael Murphy and Joseph O’Rourke (from Ardrahan, Co. Galway) were executed in Tuam. O’Farrell says that these were the final executions of the Civil War. However, they are not listed by Macardle in her 77 executions. O’Farrell does say that they were arrested for armed robbery in Athenry on 24 May and also says that accounts differ as to detail, date and affiliation (if any).O’Farrell also gives the date of 13 May for the execution of O’Rourke.

72 Responses to “Civil War in Connaught”

  1. Chris G says:

    Fascinating stuff,
    At the ecology centre I use to work at we use to get similar finds unfortunately mainly injured birds, abandoned chicks and on one memoral occasion a decomposing bat. The main issue with the artefacts that got brought was that locals seemed to think half an inch of pipe stem was worth several hundred quid and were let down when we showed them our draw full of them.

  2. Bairb says:

    Re: April 11, 4 Anti-Treatyites excecuted in Tuam – John Maguire was not from Galway, Cross Co. Mayo, he was Tom Maguire’s youngest brother.

  3. mooregroup says:

    Dear Bairb

    Thanks for the comment – as soon as I get a chance I’ll amend the information above.

  4. mooregroup says:

    Dear Bairb – have updated the entry



  5. Tom Garvey says:

    The RIC ambush in Milltown could not have happened in 1923. There were no RIC men after the 6th December 1921, when the treaty was signed. Otherwise all the other facts are correct.

  6. mooregroup says:

    Thanks Tom – that should read June 1921. Not sure how it ended up in 1923!

  7. Deirdre Cunnane says:

    Frank Cunnane was my grandfather’s uncle. While I knew that Francis was executed and wrote letters to his mother, father and priest before his execution, the copy of the letter is still in my grandfather’s house in Donegal. As I am studying the Irish Civil War as part of my Leaving Cert history exam, I hoped that details of his execution and hopefully a copy of the letter would be somewhere on the Internet to give me a better idea of what he went through for Irish independence. This website had much more information than I thought would be available about Frank, and for this I am very grateful. Thank you for keeping his memory alive.

    Deirdre Cunnane

  8. mooregroup says:

    You’re welcome Deirdre. We all found his letter moving and it really seemed to bring a tragic period in Irish history to life. Best wishes for your exams.

  9. […] early twentieth century letter concerning the Irish Civil War, care of the Moore Group. Turn to Page […]

  10. Brian McHugh says:

    My father and three of his brothers were in the Free State army during the civil war (all from Donegal). I have several photographs of them but one is particularly haunting. I shows my uncle (in full Free State uniform) standing beside a house, to is left is what looks like a severed foot encased in a boot; the photo is very clear but torn in half for some reason. I often wonder where this photo was taken, could it have been at Ballyseedy? I have a JPEG version of this photo available.

  11. mooregroup says:

    Hi Brian – Sounds like an amazing photo – the fact that it’s torn in half only adds to the intrigue! Did your uncle serve in Kerry? If you like we’d be happy to post it here and see if anyone has any idea where it might have been taken – do you have any other information about the circumstances etc..?

  12. Brian McHugh says:

    Thanks for the prompt reply. Where and to whom can I email the photo to (as an attachment)?

  13. Thomas Monahan says:

    Wonder if someone could help me with some information Please. My father was in the Irish free state army. I have a photo of him in uniform.
    and when I went to reframe it I found a note on the back saying that “Michael Monahan Born in Cappataggle on the 23 may 1903 Joined the Pat army sept 1922 discharged from same march 1924 Photo taken in clarmorris nov 1923” I under stand he joined in Dublin was sent to Finnit Co kerry and then marched all the way to Castle McGarrett Co.Mayo where he was in quastermaster Any information would be welcomed my email
    Tom Monahan Sr.

  14. A nice site, however I would take issue on the subject of Tourmakeady in May 1921.
    There is much confusion about the actual events and much myth has evolved. I hae written a book on the subject ‘The Battle of Tourmakeady’ and it will be available end of June 08.
    Please contact me if you would like a copy.
    €20.91 plis p+p

  15. mooregroup says:

    @Donal – Thanks for your comment Donal. Looking forward to your book and your analysis of the events at Tourmakeady. I should point out that our sequence of events and much of the descriptions are derived from Seamus Fox’s website (linked to in the post above) which is a fantastic resource for anyone researching the period online.

    @Tom – I’ve put your request into our most recent post on the blog and will be setting up a special section here in the near future. If anyone is interested in establishing a forum I think that might be the way to go… Hopefully someone will get in touch with you. If so, do tell us – we’d be delighted to know if we were of assistance.

  16. Thomas Monahan Sr. says:

    Many thanks Michael for your reply, Hopefully someone will see my posted message and get back to me with some information. I love this site it’s got so much information. Once you start reading one cannot stop.
    Thanks again,

  17. Padraig Leahy says:

    Great web site I am a grand nephew of Michael Monahan of Headford one of the five executed on 11 April 1923 .I assume the house that is refered to where the returned yank is living was the home of Michael Monahan. I lived in the house for one year while attending college in Galway in 1986 with my gand uncle John Monahan I recall all the old furniture in house but never realised that the letter existed.

    It is quite a coincedence that the current occuiper of the house is also named John Monaghan .

  18. mooregroup says:

    Hello Padraig and thanks for visiting. John the Yank got quite a surprise when he began investigating the source of the letter – all the more so given that he shared the name. I assume its the same house – just around the corner from Campbells…

  19. Aidan Cunnane says:

    Frank was my grandfather’s brother – I wasn’t aware that I had any relatives in Donegal any more as my grandfather, who was a teacher, moved to Falcarragh from Headford, married and raised a family and moved to Dublin in the 1950’s.

    While cycling in the Loughrea area twelve years ago, I met a local man along the road who, when hearing my name, was able to tell me all about Frank’s execution. It seems that local memory about the events is still strong there.

    Thank you for posting the information.

  20. Thanks for the comment Aidan – I’m not sure who John was in touch with in Donegal. It’s nice to hear from so many relatives of Frank and we’re glad to have helped in bringing the story to a new audience.

  21. Alison Larkin says:

    I fell upon this story doing research of some prayer cards that were with my grandmother’s things. You have hit them all in this – thank you!

    My grandmother was from Headford and was a political prisoner at Kilmainham during the Civil War.

    If you are interested, I can send you an image of these prayer cards.

    Take care,

  22. declan says:

    Will email you Alison – would love to have a look at the mass cards!


  23. eddie says:

    My Grandfather once broke down and described a friend being executed in Athlone. A “tinker” was on the firing squad and refused to fire on the man and laid down his rifle. I cannot remember then names involved. Anyone know who this could have been. My grandfather was a member of the IRA in Athlone during the war of independence.

  24. PURCELL says:


  25. Lindsey says:

    Hi all,
    This is very interesting stuff and the first time I have encountered this website. I am doing my Masters thesis on the Tuam Workhouse and will be focusing on the civil war period when the building was occupied by the Free State Army. The executions that took place will also feature heavily. I would be greatly indepted to anyone who could email me information about the executed men or if i could get copies of their mass cards as it would be of immense interest. My email is


  26. Peter Blanchard says:

    I am trying to find information on executions that took place in the Tralee Prison on January 20, 1923. My mother’s cousin, Seamus O’Dal(e)y was said to have been tried by a secret court and executed on that date. I have a memorial card attesting to it. In the picture, he appears to be in uniform. Where might this information be found. All accounts that I have reasd, seem to skip over this incident.

    THank you

  27. Alison Larkin says:

    In response to Peter Blanchard:

    I am not certain this is the information you seek as the name is a bit different, but you might read the book by Nollaig O’ Gadhra called “Civil War in Connacht 1922-1923”.

    On page 63 it reads, “…[A] new phase began with four executions in Tralee – James Daly,…” Further, on page 66 it quotes a man’s diary dated January 27, 1923 as follows: “Eleven men were executed on Saturday last = five in Athlone – four in Tralee and two in Limerick… They were found guilty of being in possession of arms and were implicated in attacks on the railway and other offences.”

    Very interesting – I suggest you go buy the book. It has helped my research dramatically.



  28. John says:

    My Great Uncle, Sean (John) Newell was one of the men executed in Tuam. I am researching his life and the last moments that led to his execution. Any information that anyone can provide on him or the movements of the North Galway Brigade would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    John Newell

  29. Aidan Cunnane says:

    Hi John,

    The 1911 census has been made available on-line. You might find more about your great-uncle and his family through it:

    Hope this helps,


  30. John says:

    Aidan, thank you very much for the link. It’s nice to see my Great Grandfather’s Census Form and see that my Grandfather was only 2 years old at the time of the 1911 census. I am slowly putting together all the pieces of how my Great Uncle came to be a member of the North Galway Brigade. Based upon family descriptions, he seems like a very unlikely candidate to be an IRA rebel. I know he was the Quartermaster but I am not exactly sure what that meant for the IRA in the 1920’s — any assistance you could provide would be appreciated.


  31. Aidan Cunnane says:

    I’m afraid that my knowledge of events of that time is very limited – all I can suggest is that you read as much as possible around the subject and hopefully you’ll be able to get in contact with people who have more insight into those times. Sorry I can’t be of more help.


  32. Paul says:

    Did anyone ever mention the ‘Merlin Park Ambush’ August 1920

    RIC injured and killed full account in Connacht Tribune

  33. mark says:

    You have to look at the full picture the freestater’s had prisons the I R A had none so what did they do with there prisoners (killed them)not such a pretty picture they where all as bad as each other

  34. Jack Fleming says:

    Michael Monahan was my great-uncle. he wrote a similar letter which members of the family have made typed copies of. Mr. Monahan lives in the home in Cooneen that the Monahans lived in for over a 100 years. In my travels there I observed the photos of the Tuam Marytrs but never looked behind to see the other letter.

  35. tess aghee says:

    is there anything known of the IRISH FREESATE OUTFITTERS in Galway Ireland during these times. Supposedly this shop outfitted the IRA and when the English came to execute the owner, whose last name was Nolan, they instead killed another man.

  36. declan says:

    We received this request from Karen Bennett:

    hello, i’m researching my family history, i am looking for any information you have on peter cassidy, who was killed on 17 nov. 1922 in kilmainham, i have a copy of his leter to his mother the night before he died if thats of any interest to you,
    thank you for your time

    If anyone can help her I’m sure she’d greatly appreciate that – post a comment here or get in touch with us and we can pass on your details to Karen…

  37. John says:


    Martin O’Dwyer’s book “Seventy-Seven of Mine Said Ireland” (see pages 21-22) has the last letter and states that Peter Cassidy was 21 years old at the time of his “execution by shooting.” Like nearly all the executed men, he was charged with “possession without proper authority of a revolver.” Mr. Cassidy was one of four men exexcuted, the first of the “official” executions.

    The book also said that Mr. Cassidy was captured and shot with his life-long friend, John Gaffney. They were school chums and worked together in Dublin Corporation’s Electric Lighting Department. As they were against the treaty, they were captured on October 27, 1922 and tried by military court, 8 days later.

    It is interesting to note that both men took to the cause despite t fact that they apparently had very good jobs as I believe Dublin was undergoing major retrofitting of it’s electric utility system. In other words, a move from gas lamps to Edison’s electric current.


  38. declan says:

    Thanks John – I’ll forward your comment to Karen


  39. Francis (Frank) Cunnane IV says:

    As you probably can tell by my name (Francis (Frank) Cunnane IV), this is a very intriguing article and discussion. I don’t think there’s a direct relationship, but it’s definitely worth exploring.

    My Great Grandfather, Frank was born in Castle Rea, Roscommon County. He did fight for Irish independence and from my understanding is quite a famous hero in the Old Country. He left Ireland in disgust when everyone in his unit but him, voted for the partition of Ireland to end the war.

    I would love to be able to connect the dots between my Great Grandfather, Frank and this Frank.

  40. Frank Cunnane of Castlerea

    I am an Amrican author who documented the War for Independence/Civil War in my book, They Put the Flag a-Flyin’ the Roscommon Volunteers 1916-1923. The book not only chronicles the story of the war, but also includes a 250 page listing and short biography of over 2000 Volunteers in Co. Roscommon. I thought I recognized Frank Cunnane’s name.

    Frank and his brother William were both members of the Ballintubber Company, 2nd Battalion South Roscommon. In my book I state the IRA operations that Frank was involved in before emigrating to Philadelphia. His brother, William, is pictured in my book at a memorial service in 1971 for Pat Glynn (who was killed during the war).I got the photo from Pat Vaughan, a ninety-four-year-old veteran of the war who had emigrated to Boston where I flew to interview him in 1995.

    I do not think that the Cummane killed in April in Tuam was a direct relative, although with that name he very well could have been a cousin or ? The men who were executed in Tuam in April were not necessarily members of the North Galway Brigade. Sean Maguire was the brother of General Tom Maguire of Cong, Co, Mayo. (Tom Maguire was the O/C of the 2nd Western Division IRA. He lived to be over a hundred year old, while his younger brother, Sean, obviously died at a very young age.) It was not at all unusual for men of like politcal views to join together and fight with others in another county. The Frank Cunnane who was executed was from Kilcoona, Headford, Co. Galway. Michael Monaghan and John Newell were also form the Headford area.

  41. Kathleen Thorne says:

    Sorry about the duplication. If you are interested in the book or just knowing more about the Cunnane connections, go to

    You can reach me via an e-mail on the website

  42. declan says:

    Thanks Kathleen – Will have a look – I’ve deleted the duplicate comment. Regards, Declan

  43. Brian J. Cunnane says:

    I accidently came upon this story and was intrigued. Both of my father’s grandparents were Cunnanes. My great grandmother (Catherine Cunnane born 1851) was (I think) from west County Roscommon near county Mayo County, while my great grandfather (Patrick b 1849) was from Ballyhaunis County Mayo. Are these names and birthdates and birthdates familiar to any other Cunnanes?

    My parents emigrated to the Boston Massachusetts USA area in 1948 and I was the first American born son. I have lots of first cousins that continue to live in both the Ballyhaunis area as well as in County Galway.

    Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  44. Francis (Frank) Cunnane IV says:


    That’s fantastic stuff! I will definitely take advantage of your book offer. We have a Cunnane family reunion in July that I would love to share additional information with family members.


    Frank Cunnane

  45. Gregory O'Malley says:

    I am the great nephew of James O’Malley, who was executed in Tuam on 4/11/23. This may be apophrycal, but family legend says that my grandfather, Peter O’Malley, an older brother of James, who came to the US sometime during or just prior to the First World War, was tasked with taking vengeance on someone traveling in the US who had been involved in the execution of James. Supposedly, he balked when my grandmother, Mary Kate (nee Lardner), begged him not to go through with it. My grandfather was subsequently struck and killed by a New York City streetcar under mysterious circumstances.

    I am moved by Frank Cunnane’s letter to his mother, particularly the passage where he implores others to not sully his ultimate sacrifice with more violence. “let no act of vengeance mar the Cause for which I die.” Sadly, a plea too often ignored in subsequent decades.

  46. declan says:

    Fascinating story Gregory. We have a bit of an exciting announcement shortly regarding Frank’s letter so keep visiting.

  47. Tadhg Dooley says:

    I am at this moment staring at what I always thought was an original copy of the letter written by Frank Cunnane to his mother on April 10, 1923, the day before his execution. The letter is two pages, written on the front and back of each page. It’s yellowed and creased, with the first page regrettably torn in half, but otherwise whole. I rediscovered it recently after being aware of it when I was a child. In my house, it was always kept folded in a thin pamphlet called “Eleven Galway Martyrs,” which I believe was released in April 1985 along with the unveiling of the memorial wall at the site of the Tuam Workhouse.

    My grandfather, Peter Dooley, was an officer in the Second Battalion of the First Galway Brigade of the IRA. In the pamphlet, he is shown in a photograph along with Frank Cunnane, among a few dozen others. The photo was taken at the Killeen Castle, Claregalway, in 1921. I first became aware of the photo as a child after my own father died. Someone who’d heard we had the letter came to the house asking that I transcribe it, insisting that a Dooley must do the transcription. At that time, I wondered if my grandfather had been entrusted to deliver the letter to Frank’s mother and I felt some degree of guilt that it was still in my family’s possession. Both Frank Cunnane and Peter Dooley were from Kilcoona, near Headford. Somehow, I’d forgotten about the letter in the intervening years, but I’ve just found it, and I still feel the same guilt (and a compounded guilt at allowing the letter to be torn).

    Seeing the scan above, however, I now wonder if perhaps the letter I have isn’t just a handwritten copy of the original letter that my grandfather drafted for himself. It is certainly distinct from the letter you’ve scanned. The letter I have has “Tuam Barracks 10/4/’23″ written at the top right-hand corner, and is in black, not blue ink. It’s on the front and back of two pages, not four. And, though I can’t quite make out the handwriting in the scanned letter, it appears to be different than the letter I have. (And, for the first time, I notice that the penmanship on “my” letter resembles my father’s.) Perhaps I’m just saying this to console alleviate the guilt I feel, but it is gratifying to know learn that Frank’s descendants have been given the original. (I googled his name hoping to track them down and do the same, at long last.)

    I wonder if anyone else has what appears to be an original copy of this letter and can confirm that Frank’s fellow officers copied his letter for posterity. Of course, if there is reason to believe I have the original (or an original, if Frank himself drafted more than one copy), I would very much like to deliver it to his descendants.

    Naturally, all of this has me interested in my own family history for the first time in a regrettably long while. If anyone knows of other resources relating to the Second Battalion of the First Galway Brigade, I’d love to hear about them. (Family lore has it that my grandfather, Peter Dooley, fled the country after blowing up the wall of a prison to release the POWs within, but I’ve always had my doubts about that, even as I’ve repeated the story.)

    I look forward to looking around your site.


    Tadhg Dooley

  48. John says:

    Mr. Dooley, since learning of my Great Uncle’s execution in 2008 (it was never discussed in our family before that) I have been researching this issue and the North Galway Brigade. The sources that have been most helpful are referenced above:

    1. Nollaig O’ Gadhra called “Civil War in Connacht 1922-1923;
    2. Ms. Thorne’s “They Put the Flag a-Flyin’ the Roscommon Volunteers 1916-1923″; and
    3. Martin O’Dwyer’s book “Seventy-Seven of Mine Said Ireland” (Although not specific to North Galway Brigade.)

    I also noticed that my namesake’s (John Newell) last letter was in different handwritings and style to some other letters that he wrote. It was explained to me that family members did not want to part with the originals so they rewrote the entire letter.

    It would be helpful, if the families of these men could share their information on this site. I am happy to assist in anyway possible but my knowledge is fairly limited (and fragmented) since getting information about my great uncle within my own family has been an incredibly difficult chore.

    I still only have one photograph of my great uncle so if anyone has another one or knows any information about him, it would be great to have it.

    All my best and Merry Christmas,


    Feel free to email me: “”

  49. aaron broderick says:

    i’m doing my history research topic on the burning of tuam by the black and tans , have found some newspaper articles on the web about it but would love to get more information on it. whether it’s on the internet or books or letters from that time. all or any help would be great. aaron

  50. Vincent Keane says:

    Facinating stuff. My interest is in the activities of the West Mayo Brigade. No IRA man from this brigade was ever executed. Many were caught under arms and sentenced to be executed, but a severe warning went out to the politicians and archbishop that any executions would be met with the execution of a prominent Free Stater. It worked!

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