Your stories of relatives who fought in the Rising

Huge response from readers about family members histories

The Military Archives have released the pensions records of those who fought in the Easter Rising in 1916. Archivist Cecile Gordon explains what is being released in the collection which can be viewed online at militaryarchives.ie

Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 17:30

Earlier this week, we posted a message on The Irish Times Facebook page asking for you to tell us the stories of relatives who you think may have been involved in either the Easter Rising or the War of Independence.

We were inundated with responses. Some of the files relating to those who fought in the War of Independence have yet to be released, but there were plenty whose family stories are backed up by the archive.

Dave Hendrick, Dublin: My grandfather James Hendrick of 7 Hardwicke Street, Dublin fought in the Easter Rising. At the time there was a file with quite an amount of information contained in it. What does the file state?

The military service pensions collection states: James Hendrick was awarded a military service pension for action during Easter Week. He evaded capture after the Rising. His file contains a claim that he was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood prior to 1916 and references that his house continued to be used as a safe house by the IRA during the War of Independence and Civil War.

Colm Rudden, Edinburgh: My Mam was from Dublin. Her father, my grandfather, was Bartholomew Burke. He was in the Irish Volunteers from December 1913, fought in the GPO with Pearse’s own 4 Battalion E Coy, was interned in Frongoch, and from what I can gather joined the national army in 1922. He died in December 1955.

The military service pensions collection states: Bartholomew Burke received a pension for service with the Irish Volunteers between April 1916 and March 1917 and with the IRA and national army from April 1920 to September 1923. The files confirm that he fought in the GPO under Pádraig Pearse and that he was interned afterwards. It also states that he took part in the War of Independence including “raids for arms, armed patrols, burning of RIC barrack(s) as well as the making of arms dumps and training/instruction”. It also confirms that he served in the national army against the anti-treaty forces

Geraldine McCormick Dublin: My grandfather Captain Richard McCormick fought in the Rising. He was in the GPO with James Connolly and then took position on the College of Surgeons roof to try and hold St Stephen’s Green but alas they were captured and sent to English prisons. We are all very proud of him and take great pleasure reading about him in such books as Under the Starry Plough etc. Gone but never forgotten. RIP to Granda and all the other heroes of the Easter Rising.

The military service pensions collection states: Captain Richard McCormick received a military service pension for his part in the Irish Citizen Army between April 1, 1916 and March 31st, 1918, between April 1920 and March 31st 1921 and between July 1921 and March 1923. There is no mention in his file of him having been involved in fighting in the GPO. His own file states that he saw action in St Stephen’s Green, the railway station at Harcourt Street and Davy’s Pub overlooking Portobello Bridge which rebels occupied in an attempt to stop British forces entering the city centre. He was interned after the Rising. In September 1917 he was in charge of an ICA raid for arms in Portobello barracks. He also took the anti-treaty side in the Civil War and took part in an unsuccessful operation to isolate Dublin by destroying bridges in and out of the city. He also claims to have passed munitions to anti-treaty units based in Co Tipperary.

Niall Oman, Dublin: My great-grandfather William Oman fought in the Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War. He was in the Irish Citizen Army and IRA. He was known as ‘The Bugler’ having sounded ‘The Last Post’ at O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral in 1915 and sounded the ‘Fall In’ at Liberty Hall Easter Monday 1916 signalling the start of the Rebellion. He gave a witness statement and his name is inscribed on a plaque with others at Dublin City Hall. His brother George and uncle Robert Oman were also quite active in the same period.

The military service pensions collection states: William Oman received a military service pension in respect of his service with the Irish Citizen Army during Easter Week 1916 and his later service with the IRA through the War of Independence and Civil War from 1920 to the end of 1922. He was released from Richmond Barracks in May 1916 on account of his youth - he has been bugler for his unit. He participated in the removal of arms from American Expeditionary Force supply boats in 1918, was involved in an armed confrontation with the Dublin Metropolitan Police on Dawson Street in June 1919, the operation to attack the Custom House on May 25 1921 and in fight against national army forces in Dublin at the outbreak of the Civil War in June and July 1922. He was arrested and subsequently imprisoned until December of that year.

Michele Temple: My great grandfather Robert Oman, known as Bob, was in the Irish Republican Army during the Rising and the War of Independence. He served with G company, First Battalion, Dublin Brigade and was know as “the Escape Artist”. He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914 and served with G company in the North King Street area during the Rising. He was promoted to company captain in 1919. He had many exciting escapes while being chased by the Black and Tans before being caught.

The military service pensions collection states: Robert Oman received a pension for his services during Easter Week, his subsequent internment until July of that year and his service with the Irish Volunteers and IRA for part or all of the various periods between April 1st, 1918 and September 30th, 1923 including the War of Independence, truce period and Civil War. During 1919 among other activities Robert Oman assisted in the escape from Mountjoy Prison of Irish Volunteer prisoners as well as the raid on the Irish Independent newspaper offices. During 1920 he took part in a number of IRA raids for arms and material including that on the Kings Inns. In 1921 he took part in ambushes of British forces at North King Street and Bolton Street as well as the attack on the Customs House in May. Robert Oman also served as an IRA Company Commanding Officer during this period. During the Truce Period (12 July 1921 - 30 June 1922) he undertook IRA police work. Following the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 Robert Oman took part in fighting against national army forces in Dublin and was arrested in September 1922 and interned until December 1923.

Deirdre Finn, Dublin: My grandfather fought in Bolands Mills in 1916 and also in the War of Independence. His name was Joseph Jackson and is on the roll of honour. I’m researching a lot of family history at the moment and am very interested in any new developments.

The military service pensions collection states: Joseph Jackson served between April 1916 and March 1917 and with the IRA and national forces for part or all of the periods between April 1920 and March 1923. Following his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising, Joseph Jackson was interned until August of that year. He claims to have been on special duty moving arms between Liverpool and Dublin from 1917 though this is disputed. In February 1922 Joseph Jackson joined the Criminal Investigation Department at Oriel House. He served time until the start of the fighting in Dublin at the outbreak of the Civil War on June 28th, 1922 from which time he moved between the intelligence and transport section of the national army serving in Dublin and Cork until December 1922 when he joined the staff of the Governor General as a civilian driver. He rejoined intelligence in April 1923 and left the defence forces in October 1923 while serving as rank of lieutenant.

Michael Mason: My great-grandfather Francis (Frank) Mason was involved with the 1916 Rising, as were his brothers Thomas and George. There another Mason involved who may have been a brother - he is listed as DHK Mason. Frank and George were in the Four Courts, Thomas was in the GPO and DHK was at Marrowbone Lane. There was a uniform, a revolver and set of medals in our house at various stages but they were not kept, unfortunately. I do not know for how long my great-grandfather remained in the IRA but I know that he was in the Irish Army when it was formed. My grandfather also joined the army so, I guess he must have kept some involvement. I don’t know about any involvement in the War of Independence.

The military service pensions collection states: Frank Mason received a military pension for his services during Easter Week, his subsequent internment until December the same year and his service with the IRA for parts of the various periods between April 1919 and March 1923. He saw service during Easter Week in the Four Courts, Brunswick Street and Church Street Bridge under the command of Edward Daly. During the War of Independence, Frank Mason served as lieutenant of signallers 1st battalion Dublin Brigade IRA. He also took part in fighting against national army forces at the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 at Fowler Hall, Rutland Square and the Hamman Hotel, O’Connell Street. There are files for a Patrick Mason but none for Thomas, George or DHK Mason.

Oisín Dunbar Limerick: My great-grandfather Martin Dunbar was involved from 1912 onward with the Wexford volunteers. His wife was also involved in the independence movement. On a related note, I have further interest in the pension files as I am currently researching an MA thesis on the Irish Republican Police (IRP). The IRP were only formed during the Anglo-Irish War so I am interested in the later pension files.

The military service pensions collection states: Martin Dunbar received a military service pension for his service with the Irish Volunteers between April 1916 and March 1917 and with the IRA for part or all of the periods between April 1920 and March 1923. He claims that prior to the Easter Rising, he took part in raids for arms and munitions manufacturing. Following his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising, Martin Dunbar was arrested and interned until June of that year. During the War of Independence Dunbar served as an IRA battalion adjutant, took part in raids for arms and mail, the burning of vacated RIC barracks and mobilised for a number of aborted IRA operations/attacks on British targets. On 18 March 1921 Martin Dunbar was arrested and interned until December of that year. At the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922 Martin Dunbar joined with anti-Treaty IRA forces operating against the National Forces and took part in the destruction of a barracks and railway bridge in Gorey, Co Wexford. Due to ill health his service/activity ceased from the end of July 1922. He was arrested and detained by Government forces briefly in October of that year.

Bob Gourney: My maternal grandfather Edward Keegan was with “C” Company 4th Battalion and was awarded a 1916 Medal for participation in the Easter Rising in 1916 and a service medal with bar for active service during the War of Independence. He was also connected with the Abbey Theatre.

The military service pensions collection states: Edward Keegan received a military service pension for his services during Easter Week. He claimed to have been mobilised to Emerald Square (where the 4th Battalion mustered under Eamonn Ceannt) and moved to the South Dublin Union workhouse where he was wounded (shot through the lung). He remained in hospital, as a prisoner there from Easter Monday 1916 to August 25th, 1916. He also lodged a claim for a wound pension, which was successful and payable from April 1922. He married Emily Keegan on 3 June 1908. The file refers to five (5) children. The 1916 Medal and the Service (1917-1921) Medal were awarded posthumously to his widow Emily in respect of his active service with C Coy, 4 Battalion, Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers.

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