FRANK BUSTEED (1898-1974)
Vice-Commandant, 6th Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade
(Commandant -Flying Column) , War of Independence .
Commandant Sixth Battalion, Civil War.
B.A. Hons. History.
Frank Busteed has been described as somewhat of a legend in his native
Blarney. He is chiefly known for his involvement in the Irish War of
Independence and Civil War. I will outline this era and also what happened to
him afterwards , much of which is not well known to the general public. I
will also mention the Revisionist debates of recent decades on the
The huge changes which occurred in Ireland from the Land Wars of the
1880s through the Cultural Revolution from about 1900 onwards, the
extraordinary amount of connected organizations involved-literary, sporting
, linguistic, political and labor – movement related shaped the mindset of the
revolutionary generation of which Frank Busteed was one. The rediscovery
of a Gaelic identity was central to this as was a growing desire for social
and political equality for the majority , albeit religious persuasion , except
in Ulster , by then was less important despite an unfortunate history .
Particularly in the south there were a number of protestant republicans , the
most well known among them and also both communities generally in the
south mostly lived together in harmony.The principles of French
republicanism infused that of Irish republicanism , non sectarianism a part
of it and kept alive from Wolfe Tone to that time too. Social conditions for
the majority were bad , in particular the urban poor. Radical social as well
as political change was sought ,and independence. The period 1900- 1919
thus radicalized the country , particularly after the 1916 executions,
Conscription crisis and electoral victories of Sinn Fein .
Frank Busteed was born on 23rd September 1898, in County Cork. His father Samuel Busteed
was baptized Church of Ireland protestant but later became Catholic, he was from a staunchly
Unionist background in South Cork; his mother Norah Condon Maher was Catholic and from a
strong Nationalist family background, originally from Fermoy. Samuel and Norah married in
1891, initially the marriage caused a stir in both families, more so in the Busteed family as
Samuel’s mother, Margaret, a strong Unionist, and the autocratic matriarch of the
family was horrified that her son would marry an Nationalist.
However, this situation improved and changed in the following years and Frank grew up
having regular contact with both sides of his family, and developing close relationships with
many of them, including his grandmother.
Frank as the fifth and last surviving child of his parents was his mother’s favourite.His next
eldest brother Daniel was named after his maternal grandfather Daniel Condon of Blarney.
(Norah had buried her last son Timothy) .Her two eldest boys, John (Jack), and William (Bill)
were brought up by their grandmother, Margaret, at her farm at Killmuraheen, Iniskenny,
Doughcloyne outside Cork city, after their’ father, Samuel, died unexpectedly in 1901, at age
35.and just before his last son was born . So, a double tragedy for Norah. Though these older
sons grew up in quite a different, Unionist, tradition from Frank, they were nonetheless close.
And as well as visiting his grandmother’s farm on summer holidays , they also regularly
visited their mother at her house in Blarney, Co. Cork. Frank and his brother Daniel lived in
Blarney with their mother
BUSTEED FAMILY HISTORY
(1) His paternal side were originally planters of yeoman Protestant stock from Tewkesbury,
Gloucestershire, in England, and near the Welsh border. The first of them, John Busteed, who
came to the Mallow area of Co. Cork., was born in 1587 and died in 1661 in Mount Long
Castle, Oysterhaven, near Kinsale. Known as Óld John’ although at age 24 came to Cork in
the year 1611.
The family had purchased Mountlong Castle from a Cromwellian officer who had been given
it as a reward for his services.John’s second son who later joined Cromwell’s army for a time
,as an officer , was Frank Busteed’s ancestor. Another of Old John’s sons, Richard, held land at
Dundanion, Blackrock. (The land and castle of Mount Long had been confiscated from the
Long family, who were Royalists. The descendants of John Busteed lived there until 1799,
though some accounts say 1836). Others spread out and settled in the Crosshaven, Carrigaline,
Kinsale and the Bandon Valley areas. They were solid Protestant farmers, and in the 18th
century, some of them moved into Cork city, becoming merchants or lawyers to name some
occupations. A number became Freemen of Cork. They produced two Mayors of Cork,
William in 1761 and Michael (his son) in 1799,and both Sheriffs of Cork in 1747, and 1779
respectively(and Michael’s son William in 1803- I discovered a tombstone -flat against the
south buttress wall of St.Finbarrs Cathedral of a Thomas Busteed 1823 possibly of this Busteed
family too). A Jephson Busteed (1678-1734) an M.P in various towns around the county
throughout the 18th century and an M.P. in the Irish Parliament .In the 1830’s some
became city councilors in Cork. Many remained on the land. I located a beautiful stone
mausoleum tomb of one branch from Kinsale, in Killnully Graveyard located between
Carrigaline and Ballygarvan. It was erected by Eliza Busteed for her young twenty-six years
old husband Thomas , a woolen draper who died in 1790, reflecting early deaths were not
uncommon then. Another tomb stone in Kilnully/Killingley was placed outside the graveyard
wall just below the ornate tomb of Thomas inside the wall(it as that of a Thomas Busteed
also, of Ballinrea nearby, who died on 3/1/1756. The Ballinrea Busteeds were possibly related
to Frank Busteed’s branch too)
There were by the mid 18th century about six branches of the Busteed clan in Ireland
The earliest I can directly trace, through family records, of Frank’s ancestors is his great
grandfather William Harrison Busteed of Slieveroe, Riverstick, Co Cork, born in 1790, a
protestant farmer , descendant from a branch of the original Busteed s (Óld John ‘Busteed )
Frank’s grandmother Margaret(n Bateman)who married William’s eldest son John Busteed,
owned a farm in Doughcloyne area Co Cork, Kilmuraheen, Iniskenny just outside the (now
)western suburbs of the city.. above Togher . Her son Samuel, Frank’s father, was born there in
1865(and named after his mother’s brother Sam Bateman who also farmed nearby in the
Iniskenny area). In the mid 1880’s, some years after Frank’s grandfather, Margaret’s husband
John’s death, Margaret cause a caused a major rift in the wider Busteed family by converting
to Catholicism and learning Irish, while yet remaining a strong Unionist.(Her deceased
husband John Busteed , who died in 1873, did not inherit his family farm at Cullen, Slieveroe,
Riverstick but married into the Bateman farm) .
One of her five children who refused to convert, William, the eldest , remaining
Protestant was given £300 by his mother, a considerable sum at the time, and sent off to
Australia, the remaining four converted to Catholicism. This event must have caused quite
a stir locally then. There were three other siblings -Barbara, Eliza and Thomas (who later
became a well known horse trainer in Skibbereen , where he married). Their parish was
Ballinhassig at that time.
(2) I contacted a descendant of one of the connected branches, whose family migrated to
Belfast, and who had a similar account of this conversion event. (It was still spoken of 100
years later in the wider Busteed family) .
Frank Busteed grew up in Blarney, going to school in the local National school, and, as the
youngest child living with her, had a very close relationship with his mother Norah, who was a
He was also close to his mother’s brother, Pat Condon, who lived in Cork city. He later said he
regretted not having the opportunity to learn Irish which was not then on the general
curriculum, as he must have heard stories and songs from his uncle and mother’s family,
generally relating to the Gaelic culture.
A photograph of him, aged 8, in 1906, shows him with school friends on the top of Blarney
Castle during a school outing.
On his visits to his grandmother’s farm during summer holidays, he became close to his two
older brothers, one of his aunts, Barbara, who would later become a godmother to one of his
own daughters, and with his grandmother Margaret, as he reminded her of herself in looks and
temperament. She later said she regretted not having taken him rather than his older brothers,
after his father died!.
Despite this seemingly idyllic childhood on the one hand, on the other hand he grew up
relatively frugally, as after his father’s early death in 1901 his mother had to take work in the
local woolen mills in Blarney there being no widows pension then, which later affected her
health. Her brother, Pat Condon, helped the young family, as had his grandmother Margaret
Busteed by bringing up Jack, and Bill. Later her situation improved when Jack and Bill grew to
adulthood and helped. (Frank did not ever forget this earlier support of his uncle and many
years later he and his own children often visited Pat when he was old and infirm).
In 1910 he joined the Fianna Eireann, formed in 1909 by Bulmer Hobson and Countess
Constance Markiewicz, which functioned both as Boy Scouts of Ireland, and unofficial
training ground for the later Irish Volunteers( Frank later recalled hearing Markievicz address
a crowd in Cork city in 1913).
Although he was too young to be involved in the 1916 Rebellion, he joined the Irish
Volunteers in 1917, the same year his grandmother Margaret died. The first person he met in
Volunteer Hall was Tomas Mc Curtain, who he says ‘took him under his wing’. In the
meantime, his two older brothers, Jack and Bill, had joined the British Army, the Royal
Engineer Core in 1911, and fought in the First World War. Jack won a Bravery medal and
both were mentioned in dispatches, and both survived. They saw service afterwards in Ireland
during the War of Independence, and where both make their appearance again during Frank’s
political/military career during that war.(Jack’s medals disappeared for 100 years but were
repatriated to Cork in 2015 by Mr. Michael Wilson , the Wilson family were at that time
friends with the Busteeds and Jack must have left them after him at their home in london in
Much has been written about this period of Frank’s life. In 1917, he was involved in a
somewhat amusing episode, when he came to the rescue of a visiting Irish-American Catholic
priest, who while visiting Blarney Castle attempted to hoist an Irish green, white and orange
tricolor on the top of the castle. Local R.I.C. were alerted, when Sir George Colthurst, looking
out his bedroom window from nearby Blarney Castle House thought there had been another
uprising! The police tried to restrain the priest, but Frank, who was in the vicinity, arrived
with a gun, fired a shot and the R.I.C. ran off , allowing him and the priest to continue. Both
got away but Frank had been recognised and was under observation from then on.
From then on Frank Busteed began in earnest as a volunteer, initially in weapons raids,
subverting British military transport by disrupting roads- tree felling etc. Training and
recruiting were things he also showed aptitude for (and like his own initial training, which had
also had a History component , it involved ordinance/map reading, morse code,intercepting
mails, use and maintenance of weapons, drilling regularly , and eventually direct
WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
He became Captain of Blarney Volunteer Company in 1918(replacing Capt. Felix O
Dohertty, whose family were heavily involved too, his sister Bella an effective Cumann na
mBan organizer) . Also 1918 had witnessed riots in defiance of conscription in Ireland
(known as the Conscription Crisis). That same year Sinn Fein won a landslide victory in the
General Election , and though they refused to recognize the British Parliament and take their
seats in Westminster , the majority of the people of Ireland had made it clear they wanted
independence . (In that election Constance Markievicz became the first woman elected to
Westminster). Frank Busteed was the first volunteer in Blarney to own a Lee Enfield rifle in
1918(which he actually lifted from his brother Jack , while home on his last leave during
WW1!). In 1919 Dail Eireann was declared. In 1920 Blarney Company was incorporated into
the Sixth Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade under the command of Sean O’Hegarty.(the origin of
the 6th Battalion had started as early as 1914 with the Murrays of the Courtbrack company,
and Goldens as early members). Frank saw two terms of imprisonment , 5 months ,
back-to-back in Cork Gaol in 1919( carrying a weapon , and collecting without a permit) and
swore he would never be captured again, in which he was successful. He had met an Irish
speaker there and had tried to learn the language, not on the school curriculum when he
schooled(in fact actively suppressed from the 1870s to then , but that would change). He was
involved in many actions with the I.R.A. from 1919 and as a consequence there were many
raids on his mother’s house in Blarney. Although he was not directly involved, though nearby
at the time -there was an attack on Berrings Barracks in 1919 in which an RIC was injured
and weapons taken. He was on the run a lot from this time , and mentions in his testimony to
Ernie O’Malley that in the early days there were few safe houses, until about 1920.
In Jan of that year the Black & Tans, and Auxiliaries -an irregular police force attached to the
hated RIC arrived in Ireland . Cork in particular, had re organized with zeal post 1916 , aware
they had not fought though ready (a countermanding order by Eoin Mac Neill), and would be
aflame by mid 1920 , with civilians being harrassed and terrorized by these new irrelgular
‘Tans & Auxies’. Nevertheless a very effective intelligence network was developed, run by
two Donoughmore sisters-Nora and Sheila Wallace from their little shop in St. Augustine St.
Cork city, where they had opened in 1917. Terence Mac Sweeney and others like deValera ,
Markievicz, Mac Curtain, Florrie O Donoghue (Intelligence Officer IRA Cork) and many
more met there. It was also the HQ of Cork No 1 Brigade , since Sheare St. Hall was closed
down that same year. Coded messages came and went , distributed throughout the city and
county by a relay of operatives from all walks of life . Intelligence from sympathizers in
Victoria Barracks (Collins) added to this and kept Cork IRA and local battalions one step
ahead of the British. The sisters ran a highly sophisticated and successful network(one was
made a Comdt of the IRA ) . The war escalated in mid 1920 in Cork and street warfare
between the IRA and in particular ‘’Áuxies’was common with casualties on both sides.
BLARNEY RIC STATION ATTACK..
On June 1st 1920 , a fine summer’s evening , the RIC Barracks in Blarney was attacked and
destroyed the next day along with the court house, organized by Cork No 1 Brigade Florrie O
Donoghue , Frank and the 6th Battalion and emptied of RIC from then. (The explosives used
were placed in the fire gate of the adjoining hotel, the place first being cleared of occupants .
But while the explosion caused serious damage it did not initially achieve its goal as it
exploded upwards rather than inwards, the retaining wall between the buildings being too
strong. However the RIC abandoned it nonetheless and next day the IRA came back and
completely destroyed the building , and the court house).
Earlier in 1920 also Donoughmore Barracks were emptied of RIC by the 6th Battalion . , the
first in the area.
The Sinn Fein/Dail Eireann Republican Courts , of which Frank was a judge from 1919
to 1922, continued to function , ratepayers advised to not pay to the British authorities.
They also tried civil cases, petty crime etc. It was an act to subvert British
As 1920 progressed it became even bloodier in the Cork area , Tomas Mac Curtain, Lord
Mayor was murdered in front of his family, the RIC Chief was executed in the Cork & County
Club., he had made speeches saying ‘Shoot first, ask questions later’. In August Terence Mac
Sweeney was arrested on a charge of sedition and went on hunger strike . All that summer too
in Cork city especially, truckloads of Áuxies would drive through certain suburbs at
night-Bandon Road especially, shooting at citizens’ windows.The people took to sleeping in
back gardens for their own safety. As Gen. Sean O Hegarty reacted by upping the anti-a group
of loyalists put ads in local papers threatening executions of known republicans. An attempt
was even made to capture Gen. Strickland to bargain him for the release of MacSweeney., but
he evaded it. In October Terence Mac Sweeney died after 74 days on hunger strike . It drew
international attention to what was happening in Ireland and particularly Cork., appearing in
The New York Times for a week, and in a well known French journal(Le Petit Journal) with
graphic depictions , among many others. In December martial law was declared in Munster.,
The Dillons Cross Ambush of ’Auxies ‘ soon after this sparked a terrible outrage- on Dec 20th
Cork city center was set alight and destroyed by rampaging Tans & Auxies and RIC(the
British Army under Gen. Sir Peter Strickland stayed in barracks). This event shocked everyone
and again made international news.
Tom Barry had also had a famous victory over the Áuxies’ at Kilmichael in November. In
Dec 1920 too Frank Busteed’s house was raided (one of many) by 120 RIC and Áuxies’
.This incident however showed how ‘blood is thicker than water’ when his brother Jack
(British Army), warned Frank of imminent arrest, who then got away. Jack used the pretext
of the visit being to see his mother, Norah.
A personal tragedy also hit the family then-his brother Daniel, ill from Spanish Flu died
suddenly at age 25 , being taken care of at Kilmuraheen by his Busteed aunts Eliza and
Barbara. It had been hoped the country air would aid his recovery.
His brother Bill, who had been stationed in Ballincollig since 1918(after returning from
Belgium , where he had served during WW1 ) sometimes gave Frank weapons and ammunition
from barracks , up until the Truce in 1921 when he left the British Army. (Frank mentions this
in his testimony) Another beneficiary of this was Ballincollig Battalion officer Leo Murphy
who knew the Busteeds .
But actually it was not that rare during this time , or at least weapons and ammunition were
often bought and sold from regular British troops to the IRA., and occasionally given free.
He mentions (in his testimony)safe houses and the courage and support of local people
which was crucial to the IRA, as without it the volunteers could not have continued. Those
people took great risks and were the lifeline . He mentions some(and some descendants
have since made themselves known to the writer) Reens , Rings, Murphys,
Harolds, O’Sullivans, Riordans, Clarks and others over the course of the war. . Frank also
ran a ‘Tapping Station’ at Blarney (tapping into telephone and telegraph to intercept
important military intelligence).Since 1904 and the establishment of transatlantic cables
from the USA to the west coast of Ireland , the country had become a majorly important
transit point for telegraph communications. By 1920 a telephone line network was growing
too. Although not directly involved in the Intelligence Unit of the I.R A. He later showed
an aptitude for the same, and unofficially gathered a lot of important local intelligence and
information on the British Army, as well as on the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries .
Captured IRA soldiers were interned in Spike Island but often further away as in
Ballinkinlar in Co.Antrim. It was here that well known Cork trade unionist , GAA
organizer and active republican Tadgh Barry was interned and shot dead by a trigger happy
sniper who claimed he was trying to escape, when in fact he was going about his business
organizing usual routines for other prisoners.
DRIPSEY AMBUSH AND AFTERMATH
Frank Busteed saw action in a number of other ambushes as well, one being the Dripsey
Ambush on 28th January 1921, at Godfreys Cross between Dripsey and Coachford. Based
on information given to Frank by the Coachford Intelligence officer( on an Auxiliary convoy
which traveled from Macroom to Ballincollig every Friday morning) the site was chosen by
Jackie O’Leary who was Commandant of the Sixth Battalion and Frank who was made
Vice-Commandant of the Sixth in mid-1920, and Commandant of the Sixth Flying Column
in January 1921. At a Cork No 1 Brigade meeting Florrie O Donoghue (I/O) agreed this
would be a suitable place for the ambush. Sean O ‘Hegarty gave it his approval.A Northern
Republican, Donnacha Mac Neilus was also involved in this ambush with the 6th battalion
(he had been in jail in Cork in 1918 and was famously rescued by the Cork No 1 Brigade.
He spent the War of Independence period in the Cork area. In 1928 he wrote a
comprehensive report on Dripsey Ambush and in a letter to Florrie O’Donoghue around that
time asks after Frank Busteed ).
The column was well deployed and in position from 6am that morning , a cold wet January
day but by midday there was still no sign of the enemy. (this was atypical of Auxiliaries who
often changed plans as would be seen throughout the county during the war ) . And, although a
message came to the Column about 1.30pm which indicated that the British were aware of
their ambush plans, it had come by messenger from a Fr. Shinnick who was unsympathetic to
the I.R.A. and assumed to be doubtful.(Perhaps had Shinnick himself come in person the
message might have carried more weight ). A vote was taken by the majority of the men to
proceed with the ambush. Is it possible had they known, at the time, that the information had
originally come to Fr. Shinnick from a local loyalist, Maria Georgina Lindsay, that the ambush
would have been called off? Or indeed if she had not been told of it-that she might well have
been arrested and held but not harmed as she would not have committed any crime bar passing
along in her car ?
What should have been a successful ambush of the Auxiliaries turned out to be a debacle, to use
Frank’s own words, resulting in the capture of 10 men, by the regular British Army Manchester
Regiment , five of them being executed amidst a huge public outcry, one dying of his wounds
and one given penal servitude. The ambush had been betrayed by Maria Lindsay to the military
,she a well known local Loyalist, was consequently arrested together with her driver James
Clarke, and held in lieu of the prisoners being released. General Peter Strickland however
would not negotiate despite being a friend of hers and , despite pleas from prominent Cork
citizens , from Bishop Coholan , a letter from Lindsay herself saying her life and Clarke’s were
held in lieu of those of the volunteers , and one from Frank Busteed agreeing she and her driver
would be released were his men also released. During their captivity Mrs Lindsay and James
Clarke were well looked after and held in reasonable comfort. Fresh food was provided, a fire
lit daily and books were regularly delivered to her from libraries. Another 6th Battalion
member-Dan Healy (‘Foxy Dan’) often brought supplementary food supplies,including fresh
baked bread daily . In the later part of their captivity they had to be moved to a remote cottage
in the 6th area after an intensive British search started for them , including aeroplanes and the
terrorizing of the local population in addition, and severe property damage to some.
After a military court martial the volunteers were executed.
She and her driver were executed on March 11
th 1921 by firing squad by order of Frank
Busteed (not by Frank himself as misreported by many journalists. It was done properly and by
military code rule ) within days of the Volunteers executions. (Florrie O’Donoghue said after
that she had behaved as a spy ) .
The executions of the volunteers was contrary to military law and practice-as the British O/C
in Ireland had already stated the IRA were an ARMY and this a WAR thus those men should
have been given political prisoner status.
In the British ‘ record of the rebellion’ the IRA were described as a disciplined, highly
effective, well trained force and successful …but for want of more weaponry. (At the 100th
anniversary of the ambush on Oct 3rd 2021, Mr Gabriel Doherty of UCC History School
stated the above -and called what happened there a century ago ‘ ….A British War Crime,
that Maria Lindsay by doing what she did suffered the consequences regardless of whatever
her motives were she behaved as a spy, and that the IRA officers (Jackie O Leary, and
Frank Busteed) acted correctly .It was a brutal act by the British , and a tragedy .
This set off a chain reaction. On the night of the 12th March 1921,a day after Lindsay and
Clarke’s deaths , Frank’s house was raided by Auxiliaries, RIC and British Army personnel
and his now ill mother interrogated by four officers looking for him . Nora Busteed was
either thrown or fell down down her stairs in the mayhem , left for dead and her house
ransacked(and some verbal reports say her clothes and personal belongings tossed out onto
the street ). Next morning, she was discovered almost unconscious by a local girl , Mary
Boland who cleaned for her. She called for Frank to be alerted , although his brother Jack
who was nearby arrived just before him and also sent for Frank.
(3) Before she passed away Mrs. Busteed whispered a description of her attackers (and saying one
of her interrogators had just one arm). This tragic event must have affected Frank, but despite
being a wanted man, managed to attend his mother’s funeral in disguise, which was not easy as
he was over 6 feet tall, at the Busteed family plot in Ballinaboy. (Norah Busteed’s death cert
states ‘Heart failure’-indeed very likely after such an ordeal and there were not a few similar
cases at that time and in such circumstances). Many said later her death was to avenge that of
Mrs. Lindsay’s. Frank later said he was not happy about the Lindsay affair, despite the risk she
must well have known she was taking, and he had done everything he could to bargain for her
release and that of her chauffeur, and for that of his men. But the British authorities would not
budge on it. All General Peter Strickland could say, when he refused to negotiate, and was by
then certain of hers and Clarke’s fate – ‘A gallant old lady’, as he turned his back on her.
(Although Lindsay’s and Clarke’s deaths were nor reported publicly until July 1921, the British
military were aware of it not long after they were executed).
And, for Frank Busteed there was the personal tragedy of the loss of his mother.
Nevertheless, it was a war, and war brings forth unusual strength in many, and Frank
suppressed his grief and continued.
He was called to Dublin some time after this to meet Michael Collins to brief him on
the details and explain what had happened. (In his O ‘Malley statement he refers to
it, they met at Vaughans in Dublin, and he noted the cordial reception he received
*There is no documentation to verify this fatal attack on Mrs. Busteed on the
British side, from ‘The British in Ireland ‘files, (District Inspector R.I.C.monthly
reports, including the Auxiliaries, which were microfilmed from the original ‘The
Dublin Castle Files’ held in Nat. Archives, Kew , London and a copy held in
U.C.C.Cork since 1998). I suspect that some files were possibly destroyed , and
especially in the case of the “Áuxies” they were not always kept or were possibly
destroyed. They often had a reputation for cruelty, and for torture which would not
be something to boast of, or note).
But, Frank Busteed as well as detailing it in the book Execution’(and in which he
named two of them- a Capt. Viney ,and a Capt. Dove, continuing that they emerged
from the house laughing as told to him by witnesses ) also put it on record
elsewhere. Interestingly he mentioned it over 20 years earlier in his testimony to
Ernie O Malley, and added that his brother Jack had been first on the scene called
by locals-he then sent for Frank) .It was also known locally in Blarney village and
passed down , some older people there now heard it from parents.(it is accepted
even by many Revisionist historians in this instance although opinion varies on
details, the upshot was she died the next morning and ‘heart failure’ easily could be
the result of such a terrible interrogation , and very easily to collapse and fall if not
pushed down her stairs).
MAJOR COMPTON – SMITH
In April 1921 he discovered a British Intelligence operation in Blarney, arresting Major
Geoffrey Lee Compton–Smith at Blarney station , Jackie O’ Leary imprisoning him in the 6th
area , and for a time at the Moynihan house there. He was held in lieu of IRA prisoners to be
executed -again Strickland would not budge. Frank , Jackie O Leary and many of his men, got
on very well with Compton-Smith during this short imprisonment period, playing cards
together amongst other things. Compton-Smith apparently recognised the I.R.A. as a
legitimate army fighting a war. (4) Frank later recalled this episode to Ernie O’Malley saying
Compton Smith looked on him as a sort of protector .This was construed by one writer as
possibly Stockholm Syndrome but i think a professional soldier such as he would have been
prepared for the inevitable), and (5)Compton Smith confirms this in a last letter to his wife,
(Frank’s Webley revolver was thought to have been taken from Compton Smith -it may be so,
but it is not certain . In one of his records he states he took it in 1920 (not 1921) from a British
major , there were other instances where this might have occurred, and though the revolver has
been examined -the jury is out as yet as to its provenance ).
Attempts were also made again during this period first to kill Gen. Strickland , Frank was
involved in one(on the Dublin to Cork train at Rathduff), but in all attempts he evaded
Frank also mentions’(in his testimony) meeting Florrie and Josephine O’ Donoghue in
Patrick St., on 24th April 1921 ,on their wedding day. (Josephine n McCoy , a widow
previously married to a Marchmont Brown, was a secretary/stenographer and a manager of
25 others at British command at Victoria Barracks(Collins) .She provided the Cork IRA
with vital intelligence helping them to often keep one step ahead of the British . For her
own safety she was moved to relatives of O’Donoghues in Kerry in June , and her two sons
by her previous marriage were also moved to a safe house in South Kerry.
Frank had not been involved in the Coolavokig Ambush in late February , a highly successful
one for Cork No 1 Brigade Flying Column, with officers Sean O Hegarty, Dan ‘Sandow’
O’Donovan , and Dan Corkery , where Áuxie’commander Major Seafield Grant was killed
along with other of his men . The 6th Battalion were ready as back up to Cork No.1. if
required. This success put an end to Áuxies’ raids on supporters’ houses in the area between
Macroom and Dripsey effectively. ( A participant in that ambush with the volunteers , whose
Lewis gun jammed, was the infamous ‘’Çruxy’’ Connors. It was discovered later he had
betrayed the unarmed volunteers at Ballycannon, leading to their brutal killings . (In 1922 he
was pursued to New York by Pa Murray, and Martin Donovan of Cork No.1 and though shot
five times, he survived and fled to Canada , where he married and had a son. He died in 1954 ).
Just after Coolavokig, a special three-day meeting was called at Ballyvourney of brigade and
battalion officers . Liam Lynch, DeValera, and Ernie O Malley attended, and were escorted
there by 6th battalion member Dan Healy.
In May the Wallace sisters were finally caught up with by the British , and their shop closed
down (however they re-opened in a stall in the English Market soon after).
A truce was called in July 1921
There was general relief in the country at the cessation of hostilities.
DeValera, Countess Markievicz, Harry Boland, Muriel, and Mary MacSweeney and others
traveled to the USA to fundraise ($5 million was promised by the end of their tour).
Frank attended the Dublin meetings around the “Treaty” negotiations in late 1921 , he
disagreed with the terms of the Treaty , particularly like many the Óath , Dominion Status
, Land Annuities and the ‘Treaty Ports’
After the vote on the ’Treaty ‘was carried 64 to 57 , Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins
accepting Dominion status (Collins said -’For Now’) , and amidst much rancor in Dail
Eireann the Anti Treaty delegates left the house.
In the 6th Battalion area Frank mentions (in his testimony) ,that intensive re training took
place (assuming the possibility of future hostilities)
In March 1922 the Cobh Battalion with Cork No 1 Brigade successfully disarmed a British
War ship at sea, The Upnor, and got a huge haul of arms, ammunition and explosives for the
IRA. It was distributed to local and city units and then stored in the 6th area in Donoughmore
for further distribution.
Killing of the Officers(at Kilgobnet, near Macroom).
During the Truce, Frank broke the truce terms to avenge his mother’s death. He allegedly
arrested three undercover British Intelligence officers, and their driver near Macroom . He
believed the officers to have been responsible for the fatal attack on his mother. They, dressed
in plain clothes, had left Ballincollig Barracks heading for Macroom on 26th April 1922, they
were executed on the 29th. Frank’s brother, Bill, had specifically rejoined the British Army in
Ballincollig to gain intelligence on their mother’s killers, which he shared with Frank. (No one
suspected the connection, as the name Busteed was then far more common than now. ). Two
members in statements, of Macroom (7th) Battalion I.R.A. , Charlie Brown being one ,also
claimed responsibility and stated the officers had been arrested in the hotel in Macroom .It has
never been definitively proven who specifically was actually responsible (years later P Twohig
, who was then writing the book Green Tears for Hecuba, said that Charlie Brown asked him to
not mention the whole affair in his book). Information has also shown that while Frank’s
brother Bill may not have had the names as given to him correct, except for one -Capt. Dove.
Frank from the information given to him by Mary Boland was convinced of at least two’s
involvement -one the same Capt. Dove , who was one of the four officers listed.(A Capt. Viney
, who Frank also claimed was involved in the attack on his mother and who she allegedly
described as having one arm , was not listed as one of four officers missing. There was an
Intelligence Officer with the Manchesters at Ballincollig named Capt. Vining and if however it
could be established that he had just one arm it would at least indicate that he may have been
involved in the interrogation of Mrs. Busteed earlier, on March 12th 1921) . Nevertheless,
Capt. Dove’s name had been given to Frank by his brother Bill, as being involved in the
interrogation of their mother. The four officers’ capture also exposed the fact that British
Intelligence was still operating and thus also breaking the Truce terms (as had been the IRA in
earlier actions , albeit during the truce period hostilities had quietened considerably).No one on
either side wanted to dwell too much on it thus. Frank Busteed was definitely in the area at the
time (he was also seen outside Macroom on 27th by a witness ). And also the 6th and other
battalions had come there to aid the Macroom Battalion (listed in the Sixth Battalion
record)when a very large British force(under Montgomery) approached the town looking for
the officers. While it could have been a part mistaken identity on Frank’s part (but based on
Bill’s information) he was convinced he had the attackers of his mother. He had one name
correct and it is plausible that when the officers and driver were taken outside the town to
Kilgobnet to be shot , that together with the Macroom men Frank was also involved , a slightly
different story than in the book Execution but not that much. Sandow O Donovan, Cork No.1
Brig. claims too that he was involved( he was reputed to lead an IRA ‘squad’). It was a murky
episode and it appears both sides did not want too much scrutiny. (And, afterwards relatives of
some of the executed officers complained that every obstacle was put in their way by the
British authorities to ascertain what happened).
In a serious incident which simultaneously occurred in the Bandon Valley area not too far
away -the killing of eleven protestant Loyalists in the Bandon/Dunmanway areas,
contemporary Revisionist historians have attempted to cast a sectarian reason for same. (6)
Frank has been mentioned as possibly being involved, but it is difficult to construe a person
such as he, of mixed background and a declared Atheist by now, as being sectarian. In a
conversation with Maria Georgina Lindsay during her captivity, he made a particular reference
to this and the irrelevance of religious persuasion and background to him, but more
importantly no evidence ever connecting him to the killings has been found. He was also a
man not slow to acknowledge events he was involved in.
This sectarian theme leveled at the IRA generally has since been disproven by
Loyalism rather than Protestantism was the real issue.
Indeed, generally in the war many who informed were Catholic and they too had to be
dealt with as they were a major threat to the republicans
There was certainly protestant decline in Ireland but in the period 1911 to 1926 and for a
myriad of reasons , the proportion during the war was a relatively small amount compared to
the overall period.
Two great friends of Frank’s in the 6th were Joe Murphy, and Dan Horgan from Blarney
.(Both men would be imprisoned in Mountjoy during the Civil War that followed but would
reappear in his life later . Another well known IRA soldier mentioned by Frank in testimony
from the 6th battalion area was Con Healy (known as ‘the one eyed gunner’!). He mentioned
active volunteers in the general battalion area such as Murphys,Grenagh too and a safe house
or pub of a Janey Riordan) . The support of local people was crucial to the IRA., feeding as
well as hiding volunteers .
On 28th -30th June 1922 the Four Courts in Dublin (being held by Anti Treaty troops
under Rory O Connor, and Ernie O Malley were bombed by Pro-Treaty //Free State Nat.
Army troops, and destroyed . The Civil War began.
Frank Busteed was made Commandant of the Sixth Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade on 29th June
1922 and saw continuous action during the Civil War (and even after it and continued to act
against the Pro-Treaty side, after May 1923). Jackie O’Leary transferred to Ballincollig
Barracks, and with a column deployed to Limerick. (Sixth Battalion HQ was at Curragh House,
Donoughmore). The fighting around Cork city was vicious if relatively short during the civil
war and the Free State troops under Emmett Dalton barged their way into the city from the sea,
arriving at Passage where Frank and city units too were defending., fighting their way through
Rochestown and Douglas trying to prevent the city being taken. (Sean O Hegarty, and Florrie O
‘Donoghue had resigned, and remained neutral). Gen Michael Leahy, based at Union Quay, was
in charge and no easy task as everything was thrown at Cork. With British supplied arms and
heavy artillery the city was taken, it was abandoned in early August .George Gunn, a city
volunteer involved, later recorded his memories of the fight, mentioning Frank Busteed in that
combat a number of times . Frank also recorded it in his testimony. Michael Collins arrived to
divest the Cork IRA of 100, 000 pounds in their account in the Bank of Ireland, South Mall on
21st August. He was shot dead the next day at Beal na Blath, West Cork. It was a tragedy, as
was the war and often literally brother against brother.
The war dragged on till May 1923. In the 6th Battalion area trains were held up, there were
many skirmishes with Free State troops convoys – Rylane, Donoughmore, Turpins Rock ,
Grenagh being some. In August 1922 a volunteer was killed near Ahagavrin , in November
two Free State officers were shot dead. In January 1923 a F.S. military stores were destroyed
at Ahacallane . F.S. troops attacked Blarney, there was one fatality..
Eventually arms were dumped on May 30th 1923 . An huge evacuation of
Anti Treaty people would start across Ireland, tens of thousands.
This had also been an era of continued burning of ‘big houses’ across the country , often a
random tit for tat action since 1921, and in ways indiscriminate , or not linked to a family’s
history at all. (albeit three quarters of the Anglo Irish landowners had departed and sold up
between 1903-1906 Land Acts).
Frank had been on the run a lot again during this time. Two young sisters hid him in their
home , at a particularly dangerous time(they later appear in the lives of two of his
granddaughters decades later in the USA).
THE COBH SHOOTINGS
The Çobh Shootings’ occurred in March of 1924 in the famous ‘Moon Çar’,which caused an
international sensation and Frank allegedly along with four others were involved, a price of
10,000 pounds on their heads ,and wanted posters placed everywhere!( Peter O Shea, Dan
‘’Sandow’’ O Donovan, Jim and Miah Grey).
A British naval ship with British soldiers and some civilians docking at Cobh (having come
from Haulbowline) was fired upon from a yellow Silver Ghost Rolls Royce parked on a hill
above. Seventeen were injured and one soldier (Priv. Aspinal) killed. Although the soldiers
were not armed , it is possible the attackers were unaware of this and took no chances. It was
clearly a demonstration against the ‘Treaty Ports’ agreement in The Treaty . The car sped off
and was not seen again until its surprising rediscovery and complete refurbishment in recent
years !Those alleged to be involved were now wanted in Ireland, and UK and USA
intelligence were alerted (nothing was ever proven , it was even postulated that Free State
military Anti Treaty sympathizers were involved) .
Eventually, in 1924, the I.R.A. got Frank out to America via an unusual route —from a tug
boat in Cork docks he quietly slipped out the harbor one evening and on to Belgium , and
then France and Canada and eventually into the USA., traveling as Frank Condon.
(in the summer of 2019 , along with Busteed cousins and O Donoghues and an uncle from
the UK , John Vigar, we drove to Enniskeane to view this beautiful car and took turns sitting in
it-transported back to 1924 momentarily! It now resides in the Nat. Museum, Dublin).
And so began a new life for Frank.
He arrived in Canada and after living rough for weeks, walked over the border into the U.S.A.
met by a Cork No 1 Brigade car at a pre arranged location -to eventually arrive to his Aunt
Mary Agnes Condon, sister of his mother Nora and originally from Blarney, in Lowell, Mass.
near Boston. He would later travel on to New York where Republican friends helped him get
settled. He befriended an elderly Italian man in New York who was a Master Ice Cutter, a
highly skilled trade in the blistering summers of New York city. Before refrigeration, 10-inch
square blocks of ice were used in larders to keep perishable goods from spoiling. To prevent
ice wastage these blocks had to be cut to very exact measurements. Frank learned the trade
quickly from the old Italian and before long, set up his own ice supply business- The Inisfail
Ice Cutting Co., with another Irish partner who had also arrived in New York after the Civil
War. He was an old friend from the 6thBattalion, Dan Horgan of Blarney., who arrived in 1925,
and also arrived then was Joe Murphy, and Dan Sando O Donovan. (Peter O Shea came to
America -but was never heard of again) . Many Cork emigres had arrived in New York in
1923, Anti Treatite’’s ( a Kitty Mullane from Cloghroe, whose sister Julie was married to Jack
Busteed , Frank’s brother), Connie Neenan (who later was involved in setting up The Irish
Sweepstakes),a Rita Mintern O Beirne (who had run guns for the IRA through her business in
Cornmarket St., Cork )and boyfriend later husband James O Beirne ) and from all over
Ireland. It was a profitable competitive business , it thrived so much that in fact they expanded
from Manhattan into Queens, where they crossed swords with the Italian Mafia. One of
Frank’s workers, after threats from the Mafia, refused to go into the borough of Queen’s as he
had been told he would be shot, but Frank himself threatened to shoot him if he didn’t! In the
end Frank accompanied his worker and, for whatever reason, no more threats ensued. (it was
rumored that Frank had later dealt with the threat himself).
His new family
In 1925, he also met his future wife Anne Marren, an English lady from Lancashire, whose
father was from Co. Sligo. She was newly arrived in New York, having been sponsored over
by an aunt to run a chain of cafes she owned.
The story goes she was with her beau at a St Patrick’s Night Ball in 1925, dressed in
green-with a green visor, which was the fashion at the time. Frank noticed her immediately
and later asked her to dance. They intrigued one another, started to go out together, and
married a year later. (The night they met, he is reputed to have gotten the singer with the
band playing My Wild Irish Rose to change the word Irish to English, his romantic side!) Joe
Murphy recounted later ( in letters from the 1930s after he returned to Ireland )the great times
they had in New York then, of the parties at Busteeds, on 54 98th St, and the great cooking of
May Horgan(Dan’s wife). Dan and May had three daughters later. The Busteeds remained
close friends all their lives with Joe, and Frank wrote to Dan up to his death in 1939. Joe was
reputed to have won the State Lottery in New York at this time and after a period of high
living and fast cars, later came back to Ireland and became a monk in Mount Melleray, better
known from then on as Brother Lachteen. (He often visited Busteeds in Ireland later, my
grandmother Ann was a great cook too, particularly desserts ! ).
Frank and Anne settled in Manhattan, had three children, a boy Frank Jnr(later Fr. Frank
Busteed of San Antonio , Texas) and two girls Ann Jnr and Noreen called after her
grandmother (the last born in the USA was the writer’s mother, her godmother was the said
Rita Mintern O Beirne). By 1932, with De Valera and Fianna Fáil now in power, Frank wanted
to return to Ireland. They had stayed in New York for almost 10 years, always maintaining
close connection with the Irish community there. Ann had a brother also living in New York,
John Marren, with a retail business, an Emporium in Manhattan (it still operates and the
Marren name still exists there ).
A Condon cousin Catherine Ennion came to New York from Lowell for a year to help look
after the children , as Ann too was in business (many decades later she would pass on her
memories to her great nephew and he would appear in our lives with family stories we had
In 1931 the Cork No 1 Brigade Reserves held a huge ball at The Yorkville Casino, East 96th
St. New York (in a copy of the original photo I have of the event – it shows a very classy ,
dressy event , Frank Busteed is 6th back from the front row ).
Back to Ireland
In 1933 the Busteed family left New York, and after first spending an extended stay of almost
a year near Liverpool with Ann’s family, where their fourth child, a daughter(Maureen) was
born, they eventually returned to Cork in 1934. On arrival and settled, Frank worked at first in
an insurance office, and quickly became involved in local politics too, especially in the development
of the Fianna Fail Cumainn throughout Cork city and canvassing in local and national
elections. He also had attended the Dripsey Ambush 15th Anniversary memorial in 1936 (and
on Easter Sunday 1938 for the unveiling of the obelisk carved by Seamus Murphy). In
September 1936 he and his wife Anne were invited guests of Alderman Sean French, Lord
Mayor of Cork, for the reopening of Cork City Hall, burnt down in 1920 by Auxiliaries and
Black & Tans, during the infamous burning of Cork City. Eamon de Valera was the guest of
honor. In that same year he was part of the guard of honor at Martin Donovan’s funeral in
Cork.(The Cork Examiner had a full page article and photograph of the event on that day)
Three more daughters followed in the family Patricia Barbara, Kathleen, and Nuala, who
passed away as an infant circa 1940. Frank and Ann now had a family of 6 living children,
1 boy and 5 girls.
In 1938 Frank along with the two Grey brothers and Dan Sandow O’Donovan
attended the handing back of the ‘Treaty ‘ports. It must have been a great day for
them! In 1939 Frank Busteed gave the oration at Dripsey Ambush memorial.
IRISH NATIONAL ARMY.
(7) In 1941 during ‘The Emergency’, Frank was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the Irish
Army, where he remained until 1946. In 1943 he was recommended by his Commanding
Officer (Comdt. Leamy)for the rank of Captain . One of his duties then was coastal surveillance
-he covered Cork and Waterford coast guard stations ,during WW2. (A Mr. Tommy Mooney ,a
son of one coast guard Frank became friendly with- Mr. Tom Mooney of Ardmore Station, and
former IRA member of West Waterford Deise Brigade during the War of Independence and
Civil War, has written two books on the period there covering the War of Independence(Cry of
the Curlew) and Civil War . Tommy passed on to me some amusing stories involving Frank at
One is retold in detail in the full biography of Frank Busteed , recently completed, to be
During this period, he also re-connected with Busteed connections in Bandon, tracing
family history, and related matters.
Old battalion friends such as Jackie O ‘Leary he also visited, and the Murphy family in
Inniscarra, near Canon’s Cross often on his army motorbike, or sometimes with his
family. Mae Murphy was an old acquaintance(and a niece of Julie Mullane, Cloghroe ,
who had married Jack Busteed ,who died in 1944) . Frank and his wife and family also
visited his brother Bill and wife May who lived in Carrigaline, Bill died in 1952 ).
In 1947/1948 Frank became a partner, with an ex-army officer colleague Colonel Halpin, in an
Insurance Brokerage in Cork named ‘Irish Counties Insurance Co.’ Also, at this time he set up
two small family businesses, a bakery and shop which were located at 64 Gerald Griffin Street,
Blackpool, . The Insurance Co., performed extremely well, the business was finally wound up
circa 1963. He entered Local Government in his last position as Labor Exchange Manager in
Passage West from 1953 -1963 and retired from this . His bakery and small grocery shop were
managed by two of his daughters. He still remained active in local politics, and involved with
his former comrades.
He acted as occasional bodyguard to President de Valera, when he visited Cork, as in the
1948 Election campaign, a photograph of that event shows him accompanying de
His only son, Frank Junior, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1951, in St. Johns, Waterford (and
would spend the rest of his life as a priest based in Texas, USA ).He said his first mass in
Blackpool church, and then traveled with his mother to Liverpool where he said mass ,with his
mothers parents, cousins and family in attendance. Later en route from Cork to the USA he
first stopped at Boston , the place of his birth, and then to Lowell, Mass. nearby to his
(Condon)cousins , where his arrival was reported in local papers and he himself wrote an
article for one too. Four of Frank and Ann’s five daughters emigrated to England in the 1950s ,
with one of the four later going on to South Africa. Two returned to Ireland later and married,
leaving one in England and one in South Africa and three in Ireland. In 1964, after he retired,
he and Ann journeyed by liner to Cape Town, South Africa to spend a long visit with their
daughter Maureen and husband and family, who lived there. Anne later commented on her
shock at how apartheid worked and affected people there.
During the late 1960’s Frank would often socialize with an old friend Tom Barry , they
would often walk through the city no doubt conversing on the war days (he also liked to
walk to Blarney and back often in the company of his daughter Noreen, my mother). He was
also a well-read man, philosophy and sociology being his favorite reading. He strongly
encouraged reading in his grandchildren , this writer being one and whom he encouraged to
read from an early age. He kept contact with many of his former comrades, attending, for
example, the 50th anniversary commemoration of Dripsey Ambush in 1971, amongst others. .
He also stayed in touch with his Condon relations, two of them from Boston spending a long
visit with him and Anne in 1967(one Margaret Ennion , daughter of his aunt ‘Minnie’ Mary
Agnes,niece to his mother Norah , had visited Condon Blarney cousins in the previous
An interesting journey took place in 1967 when Frank arrived by car to Blarney Garda Station,
formerly R.I.C. Barracks. He presented the Gardai on office duty with a beautiful old antique
wall clock, which had been saved from the explosion of 1
June 1920 when the destruction of
Blarney R.I.C. Barracks by the Cork No. 1 Brigade of the I.R.A.and Sixth battalion had
occurred. The barracks clock had been saved by the Volunteers and kept safely for forty-seven
years. It was beautifully refurbished and despite a serious fire in the barracks in recent years, it
again survived and is currently proudly on display in the new Garda Station building.
Frank was one of the main subjects of the 1974 book ’Execution’ by Sean O’Callaghan and
also featured in the book ‘Lady Hostage’, and Execute Compton Smith , by Tim Sheehan. In
1997 the events of the Dripsey Ambush were made into a radio drama by RTE 1 Radio titled
‘Daylight and a Candle’s End’. He has featured in numerous other books on the period, a
number of historical journals , and in articles and letters on the revisionist/counter revisionist
debate in newspapers, and in History Ireland journal. In 2001 an article on him appeared in the
Cork Independent slot on Local History-‘Our City Our Town’ series by Kieran McCarthy
Several of his grandchildren emigrated from Ireland and England to the United States in the
1980s. Two of them, (the writer’s sisters)Deirdre and Anne O’Donoghue, daughters of Noreen,
his last child born in America, who now live in Washington D.C. had a surprising encounter
with Frank’s past.
In the late 1980s both sisters became friendly with a young man of Italian/Irish extraction, and
in the ‘heel of the hunt’ it came to light that the young man’s grand-mother and
grand-aunt(Hannah Harold and her sister from Aghabullogue), who had emigrated to the
United States in the 1920‘s, were the two sisters who had hidden Frank in 1923 while on the
run during the Civil War! Truth can sometimes be stranger than fiction.
His personal effects pertaining to the War of Independence and some from his period of
service as an officer in the Irish Army have been deposited in the Cork City Museum,
Fitzgerald’s Park, where they were recently on exhibition as new acquisitions, and are on
display in the current exhibition with other Civil War and War of Independence items.
These items include his revolver and bullets, service medals, an illuminated scroll, an original
invitation to the re-opening of Cork City Hall on September 8
th 1936, his Irish Army uniform
buttons, as well as photographs and other effects.
(his brother Jack Busteed’s medals are also on display , rediscovered in 2015, 100
years after issue ).
Frank Busteed died on 9th November 1974, unexpectedly, aged 76 years, at South
Infirmary Hospital, Cork. (He lived to see the book ‘Execution” , in which he featured,
published on 30th May 1974). His wife Ann Busteed , died on 6th March 1975, aged 72
Frank Busteed represents an interesting character, one whose background being mixed
religiously and politically, does not perhaps fit the typical criterion of an Irish
Republican(albeit there were others similar to him, and some few perhaps even more
untypical who were yet strong Republicans ). Paradoxically, he was in many ways also
typical of that revolutionary generation -impatient for change -social and political. He was
proud of his background and of his mixed Irish identity and on good terms with both sides of
his wider family. He was determined, even ruthless at times during the revolutionary period
but clearly focused on what had to be done. He had an adventurous life, and took with him
experiences of different ways, places and views of life from his travels, no doubt gaining
from these. He could be stubborn at times, occasionally difficult yet also had a charm about
him ! He was a respected father, husband, and grandfather. He had a wide circle of friends,
was sociable and liked a few drinks (a favorite ‘watering hole’was Dignams in the city, long
since gone) . He was an articulate and knowledgeable man, and remained interested in
politics all of his life.
I knew him as a child when he would visit our home for Sunday dinners, and by age nine or
ten he began to recommend reading material for me .(At thirteen Tolstoy was put forward but
my mother put a stop to that, rightly thinking me too young but at sixteen I took it on!) . By
age fourteen however I got to know him better as I saw more of him. To me he was a sharp,
determined and driven man, somewhat awe inspiring at my age then yet also had a wry sense
of humor , and would often gently challenge you with a slightly mischievous smile on his
face! But you paid attention as he seemed interested in you too. From when I was sixteen I
often visited him on Saturdays, cycling from Ballintemple out to his house in Turners Cross .
On one such visit he showed me his Lee Enfield rifle and how to use it , telling me it would
be mine when he was gone. I was impressed with how beautifully kept it was -it looked
brand new. Just over a year later he was dead , but I never saw that rifle again. I searched
where he told me it would be but could not find it. (I have a photo of him with it though ,
with Dan Horgan and Joe Murphy).
His Boston cousins’ descendants of Mary Agnes Condon made contact with me in 2012 ,
until then I had known little about that chapter in Frank’s life before New York, bar meeting
Margaret Ennion in 1966 when she visited Cork., although I wasn’t sure then who she was
exactly. Like many of his comrades Frank did not speak of those times to family(bar a little
to my mother ). They (Joanne Talty granddaughter of Mary Agnes‘Minnie ‘ Ennion n
Condon of Blarney) and her son Michael , a lawyer in Boston, have since given me their
collection of memorabilia on Frank, and Ann. His cousin Catherine Ennion, Michael’s great
aunt, had kept them all the years. The Taltys visited Blarney in 2014, and I met them again in
2015 when I visited them in the USA (just after a lecture I gave for the Blarney Historical
Society) .During that trip the cousins drove me to the original train station North Billerica ,
still there, from which Frank left Lowell for New York in late 1924. In 2018 Michael had a
new arrival-a daughter whom he named Nora , in honor of Norah (Condon)Busteed , Frank’s
It is interesting to view Frank Busteed in the wider context of the Irish Revolution., as indeed
he was in the middle of it. He broke through the assumed ethnic, cultural and religious
boundaries of typical Republicans , yet as I referred to already, was also atypical of his
comrades, and that generation wanting social and political change in Ireland.
He was for a long time ‘’caught in the crossfire’ of the fractious Revisionist debate on the
nature of the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. Revisionist and Counter
Revisionist historians fought it out for years, Frank Busteed seemed to pose a problem to
historians and his mixed heritage which caused him no trouble at all during the war, ironically
caused him much trouble in contemporary times . Appearing in books, newspaper articles,
historical journals – he was accused by some Irish academic historians , and elements in Irish
journalism of many things ( along with others such as Tom Barry). This started just after the
revolutionary generation was dying off. Sectarianism, and cruelty -were the charges leveled at
him, and generally at the IRA of the 1920s – from the 1980s until recent years . New (academic
!)research has proven the sectarian accusations false. In regard to cruelty , context is crucial and
facts i think were not always properly contextualized by these historians , nor most importantly
an admittance that it was a time of war! Times of war and times of peace are different. ( A more
balanced approach has started and an admittance by academic historians that it was a WAR and
the IRA an army fighting an enemy . The British admitted that back then even if many of our
own modern scribes, journalists and academic historians did not – for a very long time !).It is
hard to believe now that such a dialogue occurred . Objective research and digging for facts is
one thing but I feel a certain ideology or ‘creed’ may also pertain here with many historians.
The troubles of the north in recent decades impacted on this debate. Not all Irish academic
historians got caught up in this ,but it seemed that the toxic sectarianism of the north of Ireland
troubles of the 1970’s and 1980’s seemed to have been all of a sudden grafted onto the earlier
revolution in the south of the early 1920s by many in academia , and as much by
Irish journalism too. Many letters to various newspapers I and others wrote to try and balance
this unbalanced narrative and history writing of our revolution (many among the Counter
Revisionists to be fair tried too) were published but many were not – in particular none at all of
mine and many from others by The Irish Times in reply to numerous scurrilous articles on
Frank Busteed . In a democracy surely ‘Right of Reply, to family members at least is a given. .
Some of this was also possibly indirectly influenced by contemporary Irish politics too .Much
of this academic row is now thankfully abating (if still lingering, and in some press). But once
the ‘new creed’ was shown to be a very narrow one , no attempt was made to redress this in the
case of Frank Busteed. Rather he was i think put aside ( his testimony was called ’ not reliable ’
by two historians, largely over -one incident he claimed to be involved and in which others also
claimed it -the killing of the officers in Macroom in April 1922 .This incident as mentioned
earlier was a very mysterious affair both sides then wanted to bury ) .One (or even two)
unproven event(s) in such an active career should not merit that. But in truth I suspect there
was more to it than that. When he did not fit into the overall then Revisionist narrative on
events , attempted marginalization (by some not all)was a way to avoid admitting they were
wrong about him . Frank Busteed was no longer useful as a bete noir’ to them. (Something
similar was attempted on Tom Barry in a somewhat different but equally reprehensible way in
regard to- their narrative on the Kilmichael Ambush). Unfair treatment for people like them so
committed to independence and who gave so much and were involved in so much of the action
to achieve that independence . (Yet strangely from some in that same quarter those detractors
will privately acknowledge to you how active , and important Frank Busteed was in his area at
the time, and how respected he is now!) . So thus , to me , it seems at times that character more
than events were being interrogated. Reprehensible. However, having said all that this fight was
among historians largely( if informing much of journalism too). Some writers described it as
-the Irish Revolution refought on the pages of books. Academic historians however write the
history which will be taught to future generations. So it is correct and indeed important to
question this and hope more enlightened academics will continue , as they are at last beginning
to now – to refocus through a broader lens. The general public were not interested in this spat ,
they understood war can be terrible and not a normal time , and were far more interested in the
great achievements this generation of men and women won for their country, and ultimately for
them! As evidenced by the huge turnouts of all ages at centenary celebrations, and lectures. It is
important to revise though ,crucial in fact but to do so as objectively as possible and to try to be
as value free as one can. It can be difficult but is imperative . Things are never so black or
Frank Busteed was in that period a dedicated soldier and indeed a true soldier unafraid and able
to give and carry out orders in the very difficult circumstances of that time , and a freedom
fighter like his comrades. Those men and women we owe a lot to , a huge debt of gratitude .
Now , one hundred years later – at last the awkward, overlooked , forgotten or difficult histories
too are at least beginning to be rediscovered, and re-examined and hopefully in a more nuanced
and open way . That of women, the socialist influence, the radicals…and it was in truth as
much a class war for equality as it was a war for independence.
The need and importance of more detailed research into this period, particularly family
histories, to demonstrate, amongst other things, how complex the actual situation was then is
crucial , and that continued research is necessary to properly understand it.
*A full biography of Frank Busteed has just been completed., publication will follow
in due course (email@example.com).
(1) Records of Orla Busteed (and unpublished records of Prof. John Busteed, U.C.C.
Professor of Economics and Dean, Faculty of Commerce at UCC from 1924 – 1964.
(2)Memories of Dr. Mervyn Busteed, Belfast; retired Doctor of Geography, University of
Manchester. (3) ‘Execution’ by Sean O’ Callaghan
(4) Ernie O’Malley Papers, UCD Archives Library.
(5) Micheál Kenefick paper on G. L. Compton – Smith.
(6) Pamphlet-The Dunmanway Killings, Brendan Clifford for Aubane Historical
Society (7) Bureau of Military History(Frank Busteed P17b 112, and DI File 1924/25)
Lady Hostage, Execute Compton Smith by Tim Sheehan
The Dripsey Ambush by Mary O Mahony.
Green Tears for Hecuba by P Twohig (1994)
Protestant Decline in Co Cork 1911-1926 by Bilenberg and
The Popular Mind in 18th Cent. Ireland by Vincent
Morley , Cork Univ. Press(2017)
Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times by Shandon
Sean O Hegarty, by Kevin Girvan, Aubane His.Soc.(2007)
Glory o Glory O (6th Battalion History) by PJ
The Battle for Cork by J Borgonovo.
B.A. History Dissertation (2005) Brian O Donoghue.
Death on the Pier (2017)by John Jefferies
Dripsey Ambushers took advantage of British oversight( 100th Anniversary article -The Irish Examiner ) by
Dripsey Ambush 100th Anniversary Oration-Mr .Gabriel Doherty UCC (3/10/2021)
Thanks to –
Sr. Ann Horgan New York (original letters between Dan Horgan, Joe Murphy
and Frank Busteed)
MIchael, and Joanne Talty (Boston ) for Busteed memorabilia.
Dan Breen , Curator, Cork Public Museum.
Blarney Historical Society ,South Parish Historical Society, Tracton Historical Society
Cork County Council (Heritage section)
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