File of 1916 veteran whose death changed Irish literature is released

Widow of John Furlong remarried Brendan Behan’s father in 1922

A pension application for a man whose death changed the course of Irish literature is contained in the Military Pensions Archive files released today.

The mother of the Behans was turned down for a pension despite having been married to an Easter Rising veteran.

Kathleen Behan, the mother of Brendan, Dominic and Brian, claimed a pension for her first husband John Furlong who died in 1918 from influenza.

It is not clear from the military pensions file if he died from the Spanish flu which broke out at that time.


She remarried the house painter and Republican Stephen Behan in 1922. Her new husband was the man who would be the father of the famous literary dynasty.

In her pension application, she stated that John Furlong had died from “influenza or pneumonia contracted from chest rendered delicate from using flour bags for fortifications in Jacobs Biscuit Factory.”

Her pension application included a letter from a doctor, whose signature is illegible, and who stated that he had attended to Furlong in 1917 who had bronchitis “said to be contracted during rebellion of 1916”.

She listed her brother Peadar Kearney, who wrote the national anthem, as a reference.

She was deemed ineligible for the pension as she had remarried before the Army Pensions Act 1923 came into being.

Under the terms of the act, the dependents of Easter Rising veterans could claim an allowance, but Mrs Behan was deemed not be a dependent of her late husband as she had remarried in 1922.

The files also show that her son Roger Casement (Rory) Furlong, who was the Behan's half-brother, successfully claimed for a funeral grant of £300 for Kathleen Behan when she died in 1984.

Rory Furlong also successfully claimed a 1916 medal of service awarded posthumously to his father.

Search the military archive files at :

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times