The 4th Battalion “Old Na Fianna Éireann” has amalgamated with the Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation. At a meeting this week it was discussed and the Colours and members of the “4th Battalion Old Na Fianna Éireann” have been now officially absorbed in to and have become a part of the Irish Volunteers.
It is an honour for all our members, and a great act by the 4th Batt. of confidence in the ideals, in the aims and endeavours of the Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation. It is a with great pride that we accepted and welcomed the 4th Batt “Old Fianna Eireann”. It was an historic day for all concerned. We will do our very utmost to continue the proud traditions.
A brief history of Na Fianna Éireann
The name Fianna Éireann also written Fianna na hÉireann and Na Fianna Éireann (Irish: “Soldiery of Ireland” or “Warriors’ of Ireland“), named after the mythological Fianna, has been used by various Irish Republican youth movements throughout the 20th century.
Fianna Éireann, organised as a youth hurling league for boys and girls, existed in West Belfast around 1903 by Bulmer Hobson. This was the brainchild of Bulmer Hobson, a committed IRB member. Hobson relocated to Dublin and the organisation collapsed in Belfast. In Dublin, Hobson became acquainted with Constance Markievicz, Helena Moloney and others, who were all members of the newly founded Sinn Féin. They were members of the Drumcondra branch. Hobson told Markievicz of his Belfast experiment and the seed was sown with her. With Helena Moloney and Sean McGarry, Markievicz and Hobson soon recreated a new Fianna Éireann.
As Na Fianna Éireann had been organised four years earlier than the Irish Volunteers, and that many of its members were now young adults, fully trained in many aspects of warfare, it was no wonder that many young members transferred over to the Volunteers in 1913. The original committee which set up the new volunteer movement had three Fianna members on it.
Fianna Éireann 4th Batt. Book
As with all scouting organisations, an instructional handbook was a necessity. The job of producing this book fell to Seamus O’Riain. With articles from Patrick Pearse and Roger Casemnet, and advertisements from suppliers of uniforms and equipment, the first Fianna handbook appeared in 1913. It came at a time when the Irish Volunteers was founded and the book was widely used by this group also. Countess Markievicz bought a large rambling house at Ranelagh, Surrey House. It became the unofficial headquarters of Na Fianna for some time. The older boys would gather and train here, and a mini firing range was set up in the basement. The boys also had a radio set in operation and this led to a raid from the DMP. A proper HQ was later set up in D’Olier Street.
Na Fianna played a major part in the Howth and Kilcoole gun-running episodes. Fianna members brought their treck-cart to Howth Pier to meet the Asgard. The treck-cart was full of homemade batons, and these were distributed to the Volunteers on the pier. The cart was then used to carry the surplus rifles back to the city. At Clontarf the DMP and British Military were awaiting the return of the volunteers and a confrontation ensued. Fianna officers made a quick decision and detoured with their gun-laden cart up the Howth Road, arriving eventually at Kilmore Road, Artane, where the arms were safely stored for future recovery.
Fianna was represented at all the garrisons that were involved in the fighting of Easter Week 1916. Even though they were now more heavily involved with the Irish Volunteers, Con Colbert and Sean Heuston were still regarded as Fianna members. Colbert was under the command of Eamon Ceannt at Watkins Brewery, while Heuston was given the task of commanding the Mendicity Institution. Colbert and Heuston both were executed for their part in the Rising. In Galway, Liam Mellow was in command of activities, but he escaped capture and got safely to to the United States. Countess Markievicz, second in command to Michael Mallin at the College of Surgeons, was sentenced to death, but eventually reprieved due to her gender. After the provisional government abandoned the GPO, and set up HQ at Moore Street, James Connolly gave command of the GPO to Seán McLoughlin, a Fianna officer. His orders were to oversee the safe retreat of the rest of the occupants.
Several of the Fianna were killed in action at this time. Seán Healy was shot dead at Phibsboro whilst delivering despatches, Seán Howard and Seán Ryan died in similar fashion. Volunteers under the command of Fianna officer Paddy Houlihan captured and burned down the Linenhall Barracks. Eamon Martin, a future Chief of Staff was seriously wounded at the Broadstone Railway Station. Possibly the first shots of the Rising were fired by Fianna officers who attacked and captured the Magazine Fort in thePhoenix park. Gerald Playfair, an unarmed teenager and the son of the fort commander, was shot andkilled by Garry Holohan as he [Playfair] ran to raise the alarm at Islandbridge Barracks.
At least fifteenn Fianna officers from the Dublin Brigade were rounded up after the Rising and interned at Frongoch, North Wales.
One year after the Rising, a large demonstration was held outside the burnt-out shell of Liberty Hall. A large contingent of DMP, under an Inspector Mills, arrived and the Riot Act was read to the crowd. The police waded into the crowd with batons and Inspector Mills was struck a mortal blow to the head with a hurley stick. His assailant was Ernie Murray, a young Fianna officer, who was O/C of a Sluagh on Parnell Square. Murray made off from the scene along Abbey Street, pursued by a DMP man. He was cornered at Marlborough Street, but he drew a revolver and the policeman backed off. Murray was secreted away to the United States, where he remained until the Truce of 1921.
Post 1916 reorganisation
A provisional governing committee was set up in Dublin in May 1916, including Eamon Martin, Seamus Pounch, Theo Fitzgerald, Liam Staines and Joe Reynolds. All had evaded the round-up after the Rising. This committee functioned until January 1917, when it handed over command to the newly released senior officers.
Na Fianna was first to re-organise after the Rising of 1916. In February 1917 a section of Na Fianna marched in full uniform to mass at Blanchardtown, County Dublin for Michael Mallin, who had been executed following the Easter Rising.
“As the police did not interfere, we got courage and got bolder and bolder. On one route march, the police at James Street stopped us and an Inspector of the DMP grabbed me. However, as the Fianna scouts became so threatening, I was released.”
(Witness Statement of Garry Holohan)
Na Fianna continued to defy the British ban on marching and parading, and drilled openly with hurleys in open defiance. This inevitably led to clashes with the DMP and the RIC in outlying areas. The most notable clash occurred in July 1917, when the whole Dublin Battalion went on a route march through the South City and County. Efforts were made by the DMP to stop the march and break it up at Terenure and Rathmines DMP stations, but the paraders broke through the cordons at both points. The march continued to the GPO, where the parade was dismissed.
Seán Saunders recalled being arrested with at Milltown with Roddy Connolly (son of James Connolly) Hugo MacNeill, Theo Fitzgerald, Seán McLoughlin and Garry Holohan. (Witness Statement of Seán Saunders)
An intensive recruiting campaign had been set in motion throughou the city and county after the earlier reorganisation of January 1917, and it proved to be a tremendous success. Recruits came in large numbers and new companies were formed. In June, the Dublin Battalion had become so large and unwieldy, that it was decided to set up a Brigade structure of two battalions. The county was simply split in two, with the Liffey as the divide. South of the Liffey became the 1st Battalion and north of the Liffey became the 2nd Battalion. The Dublin Brigade Staff in June 1917 comprised Garry Holohan (Commandant), P.J. Stephenson (Adjutant) and Joe Reynolds (QM).
It came to the attention of GHQ Staff c1918, that in many areas around the country that Na Fianna was being controlled by the local units of the Irish Volunteers. A meeting of Fianna GHQ representatives and Volunteer representatives was held in Dublin to discuss the problem. What emerged from this meeting was known as the Army Agreement. From that point on, the Volunteers would not seek to control Fianna in their areas. Those who reached the age of seventeen had transferred to the Volunteers ranks; this would now cease and any transfer would be voluntary. The volunteer O/C was to liaise with the Fianna O/C on all local matters, and due consideration was to be extended to Fianna. During the “Tan War” Fianna members featured prominently in every brigade area. Some lost their lives or were imprisoned. In the picture taken of the West Mayo Brigade Active Service Unit in 1921, ten of the thirty in the photograph had been members of the Westport Fianna Sluagh, as had Tom Derrig, who rose to the rank of Adjutant General during the Civil War. (Westport Fianna Sluagh, Westport Historical Society Journal, 2007 publication.)
During the Truce, Na Fianna devoted a great amount of time to training. At least three full-time training camps were set up to train potential officers. Each prospective officer had to attend the camp for one weeks training. One of these camps was held at Kilmore Road, Artane and another at Kilmashogue Mountain. Na Fianna held discussions all over the country where they debated the terms of theAnglo Irish Treaty. At an Ard Fheis, Fianna rejected the Treaty and called for all to still work for a Republic. In support of this, the Dublin Brigade’s Fianna Éireann marched to The Smithfield where they were reviewed by senior Republican leaders. (Poblacht na h-Éireann, 16 January 1922)
Fianna Éireann played a major part in the civil war fighting, especially in Dublin. When the Four Courts Garrison was attacked in July 1922, a second front was created to relieve the Four Courts. The Dublin Brigade, Fianna Éireann provided many leaders in this period. All along the eastern side of O’Connell Street buildings were taken over and barricaded. Parnell Square and Parnell Street were similarly barricaded. Fianna, under their new Brigadier, Seán Harling, took over 35 North Great Georges Street as a barracks.
In August 1922 , Na Fianna Éireann sustained a heavy blow when two of their senior officers in Dublin, Seán Cole and Alf Colley, were shot dead by Free State Army Intelligence members at The Thatch, Whitehall.
Brigadier Alf Colley, killed during Irish Civil War at Whitehall, August 1922
2nd Battalion O.C. Sean Cole, killed during Irish Civil War at Whitehall, August 1922
Bodies of Cole and Colley at the Mater Hospital mortuary, 28 August 1922
The bullet-riddled corpses of three teenaged Na Fianna scouts Edwin Hughes (17), Joseph (16) and Brendan Holohan (16) were found at The Quarries, Naas Road, Clondalkin, on 28 November 1922. They were all from Drumcondra area and had been putting up republican posters in the Clonliffe Road district. They were arrested by Charlie Dalton (younger brother of Emmet Dalton) and Nicholas Tobin, two high-ranking Free State officers. The scouts were brought for interrogation to Wellington Barracks, where Free State Army Intelligence had their HQ. That was the last time that they were seen alive.
When the Free State started to execute Republican prisoners, the first to be shot were four young men who had left Na Fianna to join the Republican Army. They were followed by another group of three, who had similarly graduated from the ranks of the Dublin Brigade, Fianna Éireann. (“War News” No. 37, 3 December 1922)
Liam Mellows, executed on 8 December 1922
The executions of Rory O’Connor,, JoeMcKelvey, Liam Mellows, and Dick Barrett became a symbol for Na Fianna. They became known as “The Four Martyrs”. Until 1964, an annual concert was held by Na Fianna to commemorate their executions. A very prominent ex Fianna officer, Aodh MacNeill (son of Eoin MacNeill), officiated at the executions. Eamon Martin related that he was a cellmate of Mellows in Mountjoy Prison. It is now estimated that some 22,000 people were interned during the Civil War period 1922-24. Fianna Éireann was decimated with the loss of most of its officers and the organisation went underground until well after the general release of prisoners in 1924.
Below is a list of all the Fianna killed 1913 to 1924, we also do not forget all the Fianna who died in later actions. God bless them all.
ROLL OF HONOUR Na Fianna Eireann
FUAIR SAID BAS AR SON SAOIRSE
FIAN WILLIAM DAVERN LIMERICK 2ND JULY 1913
FIAN PATSY O CONNOR DUBLIN 17TH JULY 1913
FIAN BRENDAN DONELLAN GALWAY 24TH APRIL 1916
FIAN SEAN HEALY DUBLIN 24TH APRIL 1916
FIAN WILLIAM FRANK BOURKE DUBLIN 25TH APRIL 1916
FIAN JAMES FOX DUBLIN 25TH APRIL 1916
FIAN JAMES KELLY DUBLIN 25TH APRIL 1916
FIAN GERARD KEOGH DUBLIN 27TH APRIL 1916
FIAN SEAN HOWARD DUBLIN 27TH APRIL 1916
FIAN FREDRICK RYAN DUBLIN 27TH APRIL 1916
FIAN CON COLBERT LIMERICK 8TH MAY 1916
FIAN SEAN HUSTON DUBLIN 8TH MAY 1916
FIAN SEAMUS COURTNEY CORK 18TH JULY 1918
FIAN JOSEPH REID CORK 20TH JULY 1918
FIAN JOHN MURPHY BELFAST 9TH JUNE 1920
FIAN FRANCIS MURPHY CLARE 13TH AUGUST 1920
FIAN SEAMUS QUIRKE CORK 9TH SEPTEMBER 1920
FIAN SEAN DOYLE DUBLIN 19TH SEPTEMBER 1920
FIAN CHRITOPHER LUCEY CORK 10TH NOVEMBER 1920
FIAN PATRICK HANLEY CORK 17TH NOVEMBER 1920
FIAN PATRICK TUBRIDY LIMERICK 21ST AUGUST 1921
FIAN WILLIAM SMYTH BELFAST 2ND JULY 1921
FIAN PERCY HANNIFIN TRALEE 26TH JANUARY 1922
FIAN THOMAS SLATTERY LIMERICK 2ND APRIL 1922
FIAN JOSEPH BURNS BELFAST 18TH APRIL 1922
FIAN HENRY O CONNOR ENNISCORTHY 26TH APRIL 1922
FIAN WILLIAM TOAL BELFAST – MAY 1922
FIAN SEAMUS WHELAN KILDARE 25TH JUNE 1922
FIAN WILLIAM CLARKE DUBLIN 28TH JUNE 1922
FIAN SEAN CUSACK DUBLIN 30TH JUNE 1922
FIAN THOMAS WALL DUBLIN 1ST JULY 1922
FIAN WILLIAM DOYLE NEW ROSS 28TH JUNE 1922
FIAN MICHEAL MOYNIHAN LIMERICK 12TH JULY 1922
FIAN SEAN COLE DUBLIN 16TH AUGUST 1922
FIAN ALFRED COLLEY DUBLIN 16TH AUGUST 1922
FIAN BERTIE MURPHY CASTLEISLAND 19TH SEPTEMBER 1922
FIAN RICHARD NOONAN CORK 11TH OCTOBER 1922
FIAN LIAM MELLOWS WEXFORD 8TH DECEMBER 1922
FIAN JOE MCKELVERY BELFAST 8TH DECEMBER 1922
FIAN MATHEW MORAN WEXFORD 9TH AUGUST 1924
FIAN JAMES PYNE CORK 10TH NOVEMBER 1924
By Brian Wickham
A BRIEF HISTORY OF NA FIANNA ÉIREANN IN CORK
Some time in 1910 or thereabouts, Tomas MacCurtain invited Countess Markievicz to Cork to organize a Sluagh of the Fianna in the city. The meeting took place in the city hall. Tomas MacCurtain, Seán Ó Cuill, Bob Langford, and Tadhg Barry, were among those who attended the initial meeting. After Madame had outlined the aims and objects of the organization, it was decided to organize a Sluagh in the city and later to set up Sluaite in the county.
Progress was slow at the start, but in 1912 a large number of Baden Powell Scouts left the British organization and joined the Fianna, and from then onwards the Fianna in Cork began to grow steadily. Estimated strength in the city from 1913 to 1914 – 30 to 40; 1914 – 40 to 50; 1915 – 60 to 80; 1916 – 80 to 100.
The Sluaite consisted of nine Fiannaidhe, eight boys and a Sluagh leader. The boys wore a plain green shirt and officers a double breasted tunic. After 1916, all wore the double breasted tunic. The I/C of the Fianna in Cork had the title of Scoutmaster up to the Munster Convention in 1915, which was held at Limerick. At the Convention it was decided to replace the title of Scoutmaster with the military rank of captain. Séamus Courtney of Cork was appointed O/C of Munster and he appointed Seán Healy O/C of Cork City and County.
The following were the officers commanding the county: Walter Furlong, a few months at the start; Christy Monahan, 1912 to 1913; Liam O’Callaghan, 1913 to 1914; Seamus Courtney, 1914 to 1915; Seán Healy, 1915 to 1918.
From 1914 to 1916, Seán Healy and Séamus Courtney organized a great many areas in the county, including Blarney , Clogheen, Cobh , Riverstown, Douglas , Blackrock and Youghal. In other areas the Fianna were pioneers in building up the volunteers.
Tadhg O’Sullivan succeeded Seán Healy as O/C of Cork , when Seán joined the Volunteers. He was succeeded by Frank McMahon. Tadhg was killed by Crown forces in Douglas St , Cork in May 1921. Seamus Courtney was arrested in 1917 and lodged in Cork jail where he went on hunger strike. This undermined his health and on his release his health broke down completely and he died. He was buried at Passage with full military honors. In 1921, the Fianna were re-organized into Battalions and Brigades along the same lines as the Volunteers. The O/C of the Cork First Brigade was Frank McMahon, who became Chief of Staff of the Fianna in 1922.
The Fianna mobilized for the Easter Rising, but were demobilized due to Eoin McNeill’s countermanding order. The Fianna had its own active service unit in each Battalion area. The work of the Active Service Units consisted mostly of raids on Belfast Boycott goods, food supplies for the British Army and RIC, the burning of British newspapers, post office mails and small cars, and raids for bicycles.
In 1920, Patrick Hanley was murdered by RIC in a series of murders in the Grattan Street area of Cork on the night of November 27 in reprisal for the shooting of an RIC sergeant. Hanley’s remains were laid out in his Fianna uniform, in the mortuary of the Mercy Hospital . The body was later removed to the church of SS Peter & Paul. He was buried in St Finbarr’s Cemetery, the Tricolor-draped coffin being shouldered all the way to the cemetery by the dead boy’s comrades. A volley was fired over the grave and the Last Post was sounded by the Fianna buglers. A short oration was delivered by a Fianna officer, who exhorted the boys to be inspired by the work of Patrick Hanley and to carry carefully the burning torch of freedom.
After the truce, when the Volunteers took over the barracks from the British, many members of the Fianna garrisoned them. During the Civil War, many members of the Cork City Fianna were on active service in areas such as Limerick Waterford, Kilmallock, Dungarvan and Passage.
After the evacuation of Cork City by the Republicans, Fianna was completely disorganized for several months. Some groups remained active in the Second Battalion area, under Frank Nolan. At a later stage, a unit was formed in the Blackpool area, and this unit became the Fianna Active Service Unit in Cork.
Above article by Brian Wickham.
Courtesy of Brian Wickham,
Fianna Eireann CORK, Seamus Quirke, Eugene Vaughan & possibly Sean Healy, Courtesy Brian Wickham,
Munster Fianna Eireann in Cork 1922
The photograph was taken on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1922 on the occasion of a meeting of the Fianna in Cork to determine their view on the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The group was drawn from Fianna members in the Munster area. The Fianna took an Anti-Treaty position and went on to fight on the Republican side in the Civil War.
Identified members in the photo
Second row, first on left, seated – Thomas Dargan, 16, Limerick
Third row, seventh from right – Kevin Bradshaw, Limerick
Third row, eighth from right – Joe Crowe, Limerick
Top row, ninth from left – James Wickham, 22, Cork .
Courtesy Brian Wickham, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~bwickham/fianna.htm#1
Close up of the Fianna in Cork picture
Na Fianna Eireann Cork 1922
Courtesey Brian Wickham
Courtesey Brian Wickham
Sources: Wikepedia, Brian Wickham, James Langton.