The Tuam Martyrs, April 11, 1923

No matter what the future may hold for the Irish nation, the seven years — 1916 to 1923 — must ever remain a period of absorbing interest. Not for over two hundred years has there been such a period of intense and sustained effort to regain the national sovereignty and independence.”

DeValera

This weekend is a symbolically important one in Ireland, not least as it’s the commemorative weekend of the 1916 rising, but today (April 11th) also marks the 86th anniversary of the execution of the ‘Tuam Martyrs’ during the closing months of the Irish Civil War.

The Civil War began in June 1922 (although in April of the same year a group of 200 anti-Treaty Republicans had occupied the Four Courts in Dublin in defiance of the Provisional government). As with all civil wars, the conflict generated great bitterness and division, and has had long lasting political and social implications which have affected the Country right up to the present day.

In February 1923 Anti-Treatyite, Frank Cunnane, along with the other members of his unit were captured at Cluid, Headford, after a brief gunfight. One of Franks compatriots was killed while attempting to escape. The remaining men, including Frank, were marched to Galway.

On April 11, 1923, Frank, Michael Monaghan (also from Headford), Martin Moylan (from Annaghdown, Co. Galway) and John Maguire (from Cross, Co. Mayo) were executed in Tuam. Two further executions took place in Tuam on the same day – James (or John) Newell (from Galway) and James O’Malley (from Oughterard, Co. Galway).

One month later, on 24 May, 1923, Frank Aiken published the order of cease-fire and ordered the dumping of arms. De Valera also issued a statement to the Anti-Treaty army which said 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.”

We’ve recounted the events which led to the executions of the men in a little more detail in an earlier blog post here. That earlier post was instigated by the discovery of a letter sent by Frank Cunnane to his mother on the eve of his execution which had been taped to the back of a shelving unit in a friend’s house in Headford. As a result of that post, we received correspondence from several relatives of Frank’s as well as other interested parties.

One of our readers, Alison Larkin, came across our blog while researching some mass cards she found among her Grandmothers things. She very kindly forwarded us copies of the series of Cards which relate to the Tuam Martyrs and others and which we have posted below to mark the anniversary of the executions. She theorizes that her grandmother may have been involved personally with one or was affiliated somehow with all of these men during the War of Independence – a relationship which landed her in jail without a trial after the Treaty, when the country was divided.  She was about 18 years old when she was imprisoned.

Her grandmother was still a prisoner at Kilmainham when some of these men were executed.  Alison thinks that she may have received some of the cards in a parcel as word that the executions had happened.  Either that, or she attended mass for them when she got out.  From what Alison can tell it was probably something that was grieved on in private and not at a public mass.

These individual items, small mementos of a deeply traumatic time in Ireland, put our current economic woes in perspective. The fact that Alison’s Grandmother treasured and kept the cards hints at the deep admiration she had for these men and the sacrifice they made. The deep rifts in our communities and families that remained after the Civil War and the pain the war inflicted imbue these objects with a deeper significance.

Alison’s Grandmother’s story is one which could be told in almost any household in Ireland. As far as I can ascertain, for instance, my own Grandfather was imprisoned in Kilmainham along with his future brother-in-law at the same time as Alison’s Grandmother. He allegedly met my Grandmother when delivering news of her brothers health after he was released. Who knows, perhaps he even knew Alison’s Grandmother.

These simple family stories exist at the cusp of living memory, a period in our shared history, the telling of which was glossed over or avoided by our forebears, principally because of the pain and, perhaps, the guilt.

Alison and her sister are making a trip to Ireland in June to revisit Kilmainham jail and to carry out research at the National Archives, as well as visiting their Grandmothers homestead.  We wish them luck and hope that their research is fruitful.

The images below are scans of photocopies, so we’ve appended some of the text below the images. Some of the cards are directly relevant to the Tuam Martyrs – if anyone can clarify the identities and backstories of the remaining cards, I’m sure Alison would be very grateful.

Frank Cunnane

Frank Cunnane: In Loving Memory of Commandant Frank Cunnane, Irish Republican Army, Who gave his life for Ireland on the 11th April, 1923, Aged 22 Years. Deeply Loved and Deeply Mourned.

The Tuam Martyrs

The Tuam Martyrs, Pray for the Souls of Frank Cunnane, John Newell, James O'Malley, John Maguire, Michael Monaghan, Martin Moylan, who gave their lives for their country, at Military Barracks, Tuam, April 11th, 1923.

Martin Burke

Martin Burke. In Proud and Loving Memory of Martin Burke (Captain I.R.A.) Who gave his life for his Country at Custume Barracks, Athlone, on January 20th, 1923, Aged 25 Years.

Patrick Garvey

Patrick Garvey, Kilroe Cottage, Headford, who died on May 4th, 1918

Tom Collins

Tom Collins. In Loving Memory of Thomas Collins, Kilkeel, Headford, Co. Galway, Who was shot the 18th Jan., 1921, R.I.P.

47 Responses to “The Tuam Martyrs, April 11, 1923”

  1. Alison Larkin says:

    Thank you, Declan. What a beautiful article – thank you for this. My grandmother’s name was Maggie Langan. She grew up in Headford and I’m sure she would be very touched by this memorial.

    I believe that she was proud of what she did for Ireland during the War of Independance, but never spoke of these dark times from the Irish Civil War. It is hard to understand how it all came to this horrible tragedy in Tuam.

    I’d like to only add to your story that I have not yet discovered the real reason that my grandmother was jailed in Kilmainham. I only have my theories based on what was found with her things, and my own research of the time in history. Maggie Langan was accused by the Free State Army as being a “dangerous person” – but was never tried for any particular crime.

    Sincerely,

    Alison Larkin
    Watertown, MA

  2. declan says:

    Thanks for your very kind comment Alison.

  3. I do appreciate the author’s insightful approach towards the history of Ireland, the consequences of the Irish Civil War and the efforts taken to regain Independence…;)

  4. declan says:

    Thanks Tanya.

  5. michael Johnson says:

    Declan,

    I have copies of letters written by Martin Burke and Stephen Joyce, the night before they were executed at Athlone. Martin wrote to his cousin, Kathleen Greaney, of Ballinapark Headford and Stephen wrote to his sister Julia. I haven’t figured out yet, where the Joyce family is from. The originals belong to my cousin in New York City. Another cousin also has another letter from Martin and I believe, one from Thomas Collins. Those letters are in Galway. I have not seen those yet. Please send me your e-mail and I’ll send you copies of Martin’s and Stephen’s.

  6. steve says:

    hi,

    my grandad was a an active member in Athlone prior to the civil war, he took part in dangerous operations in Athlone area which involved the supply and smuggling of messages as a bread delivery boy to republican prisoners in Custume Barracks … on the other side of the family of the same generation is the Cmdt od the 4th West Bde IRA. He organised countless flying column raids on crown forces and his bayonet is on display in the National Museum.

    Tough times by all. I cant help but think that these aboce names were very fresh in their minds up unitl the days they died.

  7. Lindsey says:

    I am currently doing my masters thesis on the topic of the Tuam Workhouse where the six martyrs were executed. If anyone as any information at all that they feel would be useful to me in anyway, I would be delighted to hear from them.

    Many Thanks,
    Lindsey

  8. Alison Larkin says:

    We recently found an old newspaper clipping from the 1950’s about the unveiling of a monument for these Martyrs in a cemetery of Donaghpatrick near Headford.

    My sister and I plan to search for it when we visit the area next month.

    – Alison

  9. declan says:

    Hi Alison & Lindsey

    Apologies for the delay in replying but been very busy – out doing fieldwork and internet unenabled…

    Will put you both in touch.

    I’ll put up a piece later this week with the new letters. And with Alisons permission I’ll post up the newspaper articles.

  10. Leo Ryan says:

    My late mother was from Headford.One night she gave her new autograph book to one of a group of men who were sheltering in her home.As he could not think of a suitable verse he brought the book with him.That was the las she saw of the book until it arrived back by post without any explaination some three years later. Much to her surprise the book had been in Costume Barracks Athlone and Mountjoy prison Dublin where it was signed by Eamonn de Valera, Austin Stack, Liam Deasy, Dan Breen,Sean McBride and a visitor Richard Mulcahy.
    In Athlone it was signed by An Athlone man who escaped, A Sligo man who quoted from the latin poet Horace and another Sligo man who was a budding artist and had his water colours with him as he painted some nice pictures in the book which is now in the museum in Millstreet Co. Cork. Incidedtially my mother was a cousin of the late Jerry Hoade, grandfather,of your co. counciller,who was a courier with the republican forces.

  11. John says:

    My Great Uncle was John Newell, one of the men executed in Tuam. I am researching my Grandfather’s family as he did not speak about his brother Sean (John) at all. Any assistance that anyone could provide on the movements and last days of Sean Newell would be greatly appreciated.

    Ms. Larkin, I would like to know if you have discovered any reference to my uncle as your Grandmother knew many of the same individuals that Sean referenced.

    Thank you,

    John Newell
    California

  12. Alison Larkin says:

    John:

    Feel free to email me directly at alarkin33@yahoo.com

    Best regards,

    Alison Larkin

  13. ger hoade says:

    a letter writen by frank cunnane to his mother on the night before his execusion was in my fathers possession in the 1970s. i think it was passed on to his family

  14. declan says:

    Hi Ger – I assume thats the same letter which we published some time ago on the blog – see this link: http://mooregroup.wordpress.com/2007/09/16/civil-war-in-connaught/

    It may be that the letter came via your father and ended up taped to the back of the dresser in our friend Johnny’s house! Do you know was your copy the original and have you any idea when it was passed on to the family?

  15. Jack says:

    My great-uncle was Mickey Monaghan. My cousins have a copy of the letter that he wrote to his mother the night before they were executed. If I can find a copy I will let you know. My grandmother was already in Chicago at the time, but Mike’s Brother John live until 1999.

  16. Leo Ryan says:

    As I saw a refernce to an Athlone man who was detained in Costume Barracks during the civil war I will give you one of the entries in my late mother’s autograph book.
    Confide ye all in providence
    For providence is kind
    And bear ye all life’s changes
    With a calm and tranquil mind. Liam P. Martin. 3, St. Mary’s Terrace . Athlone
    escaped4th. May 1923. T.O. G. (Tomas O Gradaig Listowel)What was a Listowel man doing in the West of Ireland?
    I havw=e been in touch with the military Archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks Rathmines Dublin 6and they hold a small collection of general material on civil war prisonersbut a person would want to make an appointment to see this material.

  17. poorbutspirted says:

    Ger, One of the men sheltering in my mothers home the night she lost her autograph book was a first cousin of my grandmother named Jerry Hoade who was a courier with the republican forces.In later life he had two sons named Frankie & Paddy, both now gone to their eternal reward. Frankie was given his fathers home where his family still live. His daughter is a member of Galway Co. Co. To day my wife said I could have next Thursday off so I have decided to go up to HEADFORD FOR THE DAY.Do you know if there is any relationship.

  18. ger hoade says:

    The late (Jerry) Gerry Hoade was my uncle

  19. Bridget Becker says:

    I was stunned to see your article on the Tuam executions. James O’Malley was my great uncle.
    My aunts have been to Ireland and visited Tuam. It’s nice to know they are not forgotten in Ireland.
    Thank You,
    Bridget

  20. Ger Hoade says:

    Ger I have been racking my brains wondering who you are when suddenly it struck me.You must be a son of Jarlath Hoade.I am editing some old photographs at the present time.One of them is of the Hoade re-union after 41 years at Cahernaheenagh and the other one is a photo of my grandparents wedding taken in 1903.The three Curran sisters are in it,Catherine,the eldest married Martin Hackett who died shortlyafter leaving her and her daughter extremely well off.She then married Henry ffrench Lynch of Rockwell House KilconleyShe had 4 further children. The second sister was Jerry Hoade’s mother.The third sister Julie never got married.I have been in touch with the military archives and I found that a Thomas O’Grady of Bishop St. Tuam had a lot of entries in My late mother’s autograph book.Please feel free to contact me leoryan1@eircom.net and we might exchange family info.

  21. Alison Larkin says:

    Executed — Six County Galway Men Suffered Death Penalty — Natives of Headford — Confined in Galway Jail until Tuesday
    Connacht Tribune, Tuesday April 14, 1923.

    Introduction
    Our Tuam correspondent telegraphs: six men were executed in Tuam Military Barracks on Wednesday morning at eight o clock. They were taken out in two batches of three each. Their bodies were subsequently interred in the barrack grounds.

    The condemned men were taken from Galway jail yesterday, where they had been detained for some months after having being captured with arms in their possession. They were nearly all from the Headford district.

    Our Tuam correspondent writes: On Wednesday morning at about eight o’clock, six men were executed in Tuam military barracks.

    They were taken from Galway gaol on the evening before, after having been tried and found guilty of having arms in their possession when arrested by national troops about two months ago in the Headford area. Five of the men were natives of the Headford district, the condemned men, it is stated, went to their doom firmly and with brave hearts. They had been attended during the night by two of the towns priests. And in the morning heard Mass, in which two of them served. The priests were with them to the last.

    The news of execution cast a gloom over the people, who could hardly realise what awful events had taken place in their midst that morning. About eight o clock a.m. two voleys were heard and it is stated the condemned men were taken out in parties of three each, and blindfolded, and their hands joined as in prayer. They had prayed fercently during the night before, and in the morning and were fully consoled, prepared to meet their creator.

    The six bodies enclosed in six coffins, were interred, in the grounds within the barracks, and it is stated that the ground was consecrated.

    No, official information of the executions would be supplied to the press:

    The following official report giving the names of the executed men was issued on Wednesday night from G.H.Q.:

    James O’Malley, Oughterard, was charged before a military tribunal of having a rifle and ammunition in his possession without proper authority, at Knocklahard: County Galway, on 21st February, 1923.

    Francis Cunnane, Kilcoona, Headford, was charged before military tribunal with having in possession a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority. Michael Monaghan, Clooneen, Headford, was charged before a military tribunal of having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority.

    John Newell, Wineforth, Headford, was charged before a military tribunal with having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority.

    John McGuire: Cross, Cong was charged before a military tribunal with having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority. Martin Moylan: Farmerstown, Annaghdown, was charged before a military tribunal with having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on February 21st, 1923, without proper authority.

    All six prisoners were found guilty. The findings were confirmed in each case, and the prisoners were sentenced to death. The executions were duly carried out at Tuam.

  22. Mary Cate O'Malley says:

    Hi! Bridget! I always heard the story with James being referred to instead as “Seamus O’Malley”. I would love to check the other “facts” I heard about his being buried in Tuam.

    Is it true he was a founding member of the IRA? Or was it another organization?

    Is it true that no tombstone can be higher than his?

    These are family “legends”, but I imagine that the story grew over the years of retelling. (I am Bridget’s sister. I took my mother’s maiden name.)

    Also, are “James” and “Seamus” interchangeable?

  23. ger hoade says:

    I saw a picture of that wedding on some site could you help me find it please

  24. […] Please note that our blog has moved to our new website: This post and all subsequent comments can be viewed at: http://www.mooregroup.ie/2009/04/the-tuam-martyrs-april-11-1923/ […]

  25. John O'Malley says:

    October 10, 2010 2:20 am

    Seamus O’Malley (o maille) was my geat uncle too…I visited the memorial last week…and Oughterard, his home town…my father James, his namesake also vistied there

  26. Tadhg Dooley says:

    To Ger: I also have what I always thought was an original copy of Frank Cunnane’s letter to his mother. I just posted a rather lengthy comment on this on the original page devoted to the letter. Obviously, as I am looking at the letter right now it can’t be the same one that was discovered in John Monaghan’s cabinet. My thought is that some of Cunnane’s comrades may have copied the letter by hand for their own posterity. (My grandfather, Peter Dooley, was also from Kilcoona and served with Cunnane in the Second Battalian of the First Galway Brigade.) Perhaps this explains the provenance of the letter your father had, or of course his letter may be the one that ended up in the cabinet.

  27. Hamilton Barret says:

    Is there anyone here who can relate the basic details of a death by shooting which took place in Kilkeel, Headford; perhaps during the Civil War? The victim was in some way connected with the old Kyne cottage that had once been standing across from the Collins cottage, but he had then run past the John and Mary Kyne cottage – and down that boreen about a hundred yards, where he was killed. My mother once wrote a poem about him, the only one I ever saw her write, as she was the daughter of John and Mary. Mom wasn’t quite sure of all the details, or how old she was at the time

  28. Thomas Keating says:

    Hi Folks I have just come across this blog by accident.I am very intrested in this subject as The Gerry Hoade you refer to was married to my Grandfathers Sister.

  29. JPMonahan says:

    In response to Jack’s comment above…

    Hi Jack,

    Mickey was my great uncle as well- we are the Kilkenny Monahans and my grandfather hailed from Headford- Uncle John came on his holidays to our house.

    I saw the letter many years ago before my dad died- but its missing – I would love a coy too.

    regards
    JP Monahan

  30. Jack fleming says:

    JP
    I know that a copy of the letter is posted on Brid simon’s facebbok

  31. MF Joyce says:

    Message for Tadhg Dooley.

    If you are descended from Peter J.Dooley and Julia Curran, please contact me as we are related.

    joyce146joyce@hotmail.com

  32. Kilcoona history says:

    Hi. I’m from the area and I’m very interested to know where did Frank Cunnane live in Kilcoona? Where was his mothers house? I went to school in both Kilcoona and PCH and I never heard this story. Where did he teach? I’d love to know more about him.

  33. EoinB says:

    Hi kilcoona history,
    I think (not sure) but frank lived in the old teachers house next to the old national school in Kilcoona.
    I don’t know if this is where he was brought up, or whether he moved there as a teacher.

  34. orlando says:

    just to let u know james newell was from headford

  35. Eric Brunton says:

    John Maguire was brother to Cmdt Gen Tom Maguire who married Christina Feeney, sister of Padraig, who died at Tourmakeady. Christina and Padraig were siblings to my great-grandfather and my Papa Pat was apparently named after Padraig.

  36. Eric Brunton says:

    John Maguire was brother to Cmdt Gen Tom Maguire who married Christina Feeney, sister of Padraig, who died at Tourmakeady. Christina and Padraig were siblings to my great-grandfather and my Papa Pat was apparently named after Padraig.
    I’m interested to learn of any new information, as I live in the States.
    Also, my maternal side of the family are McTigues from the Breaffy area…
    Eric

  37. Clare Phillipson says:

    @hamilton barret I think we must be related,as the kynes you mention are relatives of mine

  38. Mary Joyce Kilroy says:

    this is so very interesting. My uncle was Michael Monaghan. He was my grandmother’s brother and she always spoke of him. The letter he wrote his mother before he died was framed and in the parlor of the thatched cottage in Clooneen, Headford, until the time my other Uncle, John Monaghan died. What these men and women did for their country is so unbelievable.

  39. Hi,
    My name is Anne Heffernan, Derrygarron, Portlaoise, Co. Laois.
    My mam Josie Finlay was a sister of Tom Hughes Bogginfin, Athlone.
    Tom and his four comrades was executed in Custume Barracks Athlone 20th January 1923.
    Martin Burke. Caherlistrane, Stephen Joyce Derrymore, Caherlistanr, Michael Walsh,
    Derrymore Caherlistran, and Hubert Collins, Kicleen Headford.
    It says in a book called Seventy- Seven of Mine Said Ireland that Tom was captured in Currahan on 20 Dec.1922. Do any of you know where Currahan is please.
    We the extended Hughes Family are having a Gathering in The Sheraton Hotel Athlone on
    Sat 11th April. to remember Tom and his friends. If any of the above familys are interested
    we would love to meet you.
    Anne.

  40. […] must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic.” . . . The Tuam Martyrs, April 11, 1923 – Moore Group Thereafter, DeV and the RCC pacted together to get control of the new FS to create their 'Gael […]

  41. Michael Colivet says:

    My Grandmother . Una Garvey of Kilroe Cottage Headford , Co Galway was a member of Cumann na mBan . She married my Grandfather . Michael Colivet who was a TD in the Ist Dail for Limerick . Michael Colivet was an Commandentvof the IRA in Limerick in 1916 He shared a cell in Lincoln jail with Eamon De Valera . They remained close friends for life . Michael Colivet was Anti Treaty and Minister for Finance In de Valeras provisional government . He refused to join Fianna Fáil because he could never reconcile himself with the treaty . Their daughter Una Colivet was George Colleys private secretary . Their son Brian was CEO of fbd Insurance from when it’s commenced in the 1970’s up to his retirement in 1995 . Both Brian and Una are living in Co Kildare . I notice that that the Tuam Martyrs were executed for being anti treaty and Patrick Garvey was executed in the war of independence . Its probably just a coincidence burb Maybe my Grandfathers anti testy views was influenced by his wife i

  42. Ger says:

    Michael , Unas relations here. Dad said to let you know that her house is still very much lived in and Dad has some great memories to share with ye of Patrick ( who died of natural causes) and of Una from his relations

  43. Stephen Davis says:

    Michael and Ger,
    My grandmother was Una Kidger who was Patrick Garvey’s granddaughter from his daughter Nora.

    My Grandma told a story of her family moving back to Headford at some point in her childhood but it didn’t work out for them and they moved back to England. I’m guessing Nora bringing back an Englishman might not have proved very popular.

    I’d be happy to share with you some stories of Una Philomena Kidger.

    mrstephendavis@gmail.com

  44. Stephen Davis says:

    ps Una Philomena was named after her Aunt Una.

  45. Beth Healey says:

    Would like to find out more about Martin Moylan. I think he may have been my grandmother’s brother. Her name was Ellen Moylan from Galway. Her parents were John and Honora from Farmerstown, maybe.
    Thanks
    Beth

  46. Ger says:

    Thank you , that would be great, will get in contact .

  47. Tom says:

    John(Sean) Newell was my great uncle. I have the letter he wrote to his mother the night before he was executed. I also have his brother Toms letter. I am trying to get in touch with John Newell in California so I can share this. I know he posted here many years ago.
    Please contact me
    Tomsaladman@yahoo.com

Leave a Reply