By Brian O’ Donoghue. (B.A. Honours Degree History , B.A. Degree Sociology from. U.C.C.)
Frank Busteed’s two older brothers , Jack (John), and Bill (William) were both in the British Army in World War 1 ; in the Royal Engineers(since 1911).
At that time they had left their paternal grandmother Margaret’s farm at Kilmuraheen near Cork , where they had been brought up after their father Samuel’s early death at age 35 in 1900.
Their ‘ home address was given as that of their mother Norah’s in Blarney, Co. Cork.
Their grandmother Margaret died at Kilmuraheen in 1917 , her daughters Barbara(Harrington), and Eliza lived there until Barbara’s death in 1929. Elisa died in 1936.
Their younger brother Daniel died at Kilmuraheen , at the early age of 25 in late 1920.
Jack received a medal for bravery in 1915)for saving the lives of three comrades under fire in a battle in Belgium). His medal for this as well as his general service medal disappeared -for 100 years! In 2015 they were discovered in England and repatriated to Cork by a Mr. Michael Wilson. His family had once been friends with the Busteeds . How they came to be there is still a mystery .
Jack married Julia Mullane of Cloghroe in 1922. He died in 1944.
It is thought his Lee Enfield riffle used in WW1 , was that which Frank later used in the War of Independence and Civil War.
(The writer was shown and held this riffle , in 1973)
Norah Busteed’s death-
Jack Busteed was first on the scene , on March 14th 1921 , the morning after their mother Norah had been interrogated by four Auxilliary officers , looking for Frank and information on the disappearance of Maria Lindsay and James Clarke in the aftermath of the Dripsey Ambush (as per Frank Busteed’s testimony to Ernie O ‘Malley -O ‘ Malley Notebooks ,early 1950’s). Norah died that same morning after a fall (or push ) down the stairs of her house in Blarney the night before -in the mayhem of the ransacking of her house during the interrogation ,
This occurred within days of the execution of Lindsay and Clarke -when the British had refused to stop the execution of the Volunteers taken captive after the Dripsey ambush., in lieu of their lives .(the British has combed the entire area in their search and wreaked havoc on the local population in the doing of it )….shortly after Jack was called and found his mother dying , Frank having heard the news also, at great risk then made his way to Blarney .-He describes the events -firstly in his O ’Malley testimony, and later in the book ‘Execution’ by Sean O Callaghan(1974) which gave a slightly different account.
While no documentary evidence has yet emerged from British sources , Auxilliary actions in particular were often not documented , or were (as was often the case0 too ‘sensitive’ to be released. They were also well known for their cruel methods , and sometimes sadistic interrogations.
Frank registered her death -in Cork city(again a risky action in view of the hunt for him just then) . Her cause of death was put as from ‘heart condition’ 6 months, she very likely did suffer a fatal heart attack fro the trauma of the attack on her house and self.
The Busteed house and Mrs Busteed had been raided many times , one raid in December 1920-not long before the above tragic event, was carried out by a very large force of the R.I.C.looking for Frank (and possibly some Auxilliaries in that group) but Frank was warned and escaped just before they arrived.
Norah was buried in the old Busteed plot at Ballinaboy , Ballinhassig , Co. Cork next to her husband Samuel , on March 17th , 1921.
It was rumoured that Frank attended the funeral in disguise.(this again was at great risk as the graveyard was apparently surrounded by the British during the ceremony ).
Her death notice in the Cork Examiner .mentions her grieving sons -Frank, Jack and Bill.
Norah had a brother ,Pat Condon originally of Blarney , who lived in Cork city and had been on friendly terms with her and her husband Samuel years before , and later Frank’s own family would visit him often in old age.
Another Condon connection was Norah’s sister Mary Agnes (‘Minnie’) , a school teacher, who though she had emigrated to Boston in the early 1900’s maintained contact with Norah. (It was to her and her family that Frank would go to, when he had to flee Ireland in 1924)
Bill , who was mentioned in dispatches during W.W 1. , re enlisted after the war ended , and was based at Ballincollig Barracks -in the Ordinance Dept., and also as Sergeant of Armoury..
(He had , by Frank’s later account , received a letter of recommendation for this position by the Vicar of Ballinhassig , who had acted as one of his referees)
Between 1918 and 1921 he supplied Frank with arms and ammunition from the barracks ,. Some soldiers did occasionally sell weapons from barracks to the IRA but Bill was taking a not insignificant risk in doing so, considering his position.
He also, reputedly, gave Frank information on the identity of their mother’s attackers , and later(via Leo Murphy of the Ballincollig IRA )on their whereabouts on 26th April 1922-during the TRUCE., to aid Frank in apprehending them.
(This event will be covered in more detail , later in this essay)
Bill married May Barrett , they lived in Carrigaline, Co. Cork, (and where the Busteeds had many paternal cousins) . Years later Frank, his wife and family would often visit them. Bill died in 1952
Frank Busteed had a very active career in the War of Independence . Initially from his induction and training in the Volunteers his early mentor was Tomas Mac McCurtain(later Lord Mayor of Cork, and murdered at his home in Cork, in 1920 by the British). From 1918 Frank began to recruit and train others , training was a particular talent . He began to get involved in disrupting enemy transport, and skirmishes that year as Capt of Blarney company, , and more actively in 1919 but was imprisoned for 5 months. Not long after his release I UN spring 1920 he was made Vice Comdt . Alongside Jacky O Leary as Comdt. of the now 6th Battalion , Cork No. 1 Brig. IRA , (commanded by Sean O Hegarty) . He was involved thereafter in many ambushes and actions against the British, and in wire tapping, disrupting the enemy, land mining roads , reprisal and counter attacks following enemy attacks. He was made Comdt of the 6th battalion-Flying Column (for special missions/actions) in Dec 1921 . After the the betrayal of the Dripsey Ambush(Jan 21st 1921) and thus the tragic outcomes(although it could have been much worse had Frank and most of his men not managed to escape ), O Hegarty ordered the carrying out of reprisals in the city and the war took on an even more explosive turmoil, citizens were were regularly harassed by British , and night time random shootings at houses in the city and suburbs were common…IRA intelligence was just one step ahead of the British, RIC, Tans and Auxies , thanks to Intelligence Officer Florrie o Donoghue’s key intelligence people in the city (the Wallace sisters and their shop-center of intelligence in the city), and actually in Victoria Barracks -top secretary for Gen.. Strickland -Josephine Mormont Brown (now Collins Barracks) …nevertheless danger was everywhere for volunteers and their supporters, Cork women were conspicuously very involved……and as the British became even more aggressive -the city was in ferment, particularly after the death s of both Mc Curtain and of Lord Mayor Mayor Terence mac Sweeney from hunger strike , which wa reported widely internationally…and indeed the burning of the center of Cork city in Dec 1920. . So this was the state of affairs In Cork city … IN April 1921 Frank arrested a BRITISH intelligence officer -Major Geoffrey Lee Compton Smith , at Blarney train station…he was to held in lieu of the release of a key Dublin volunteer….alas this did not transpire and he was executed………………….after the War of Independence , Frank took the anti Treaty side , and was heavily involved in the fighting during the Civil War (1922-23) as now Commandant of the 6th Battalion (June 1922), particularly in the defense of Cork from the Free State army , at Passage, Douglas and the city . Yet , despite a spectacular arms haul from a ship in thE Harbour carried out by SeaN O Hegarty and his men on board another ship- in March 1922 …thus securing a huge arsenal for the IRA…..ironically after the Treaty negotiations both O Hegarty and O Donoghue did not become involved in the Civil War which followed… ….(Frank’s accounts of this Civil War period are vividly outlined in detail in his O Malley testimony).A huge number of the anti Treaty side , men and women, particularly from Cork city ,and county left Ireland in 1923 for their own safety -many went to New York.
Frank remained on in Ireland on the run for another year.
After the ‘Cobh Shootings’ incident of 23rd March 1924, (in the famous ‘Moon Car’ )— an action which was a demonstration against the retaining of three ‘treaty’ ports by the British in Ireland,and which caused a national sensation , with some international repercussions .Frank had to leave Ireland for U.S.A. Where he remained for the next decade. There, after first connecting with his mother’s sister , his aunt ‘Minnie ‘ (Condon) Ennion and her family, he moved to New York where many of his friend had already settled . There , along with old 6th battalion friend , Dan Horgan of Blarney they set up a business -The Inisfail Ice Cutting Co. which was successful. Frank married Ann Marren (an emigre from LANcs. England) in 1926 and they started a family.(Ann also had two brothers in business in New York). Many of the anti treaty IRA young men and women returned to Ireland from New York in 1932 , when De Valera came to power and they felt safer returning. , albeit opportunity did not transpire for many for a long time in a now bitter divided society , albeit many tried to move on.
(The writers mother was one of their three children born in USA,).
In 1934 they left New York , first spending an extended stay near Liverpool with Ann’s family .,where a fourth child , a daughter was born… eventually returning to Cork, where three more daughters were born. . Initially on their return Frank worked in the insurance business. he was also involved in th development of the Fianna Fáil party in Cork city. In 1938 he was present on Spike Island when the British returned the ‘treaty’; ports to Ireland (it must have been a great experience for him, 14 years after his and his compatriots vehement demonstration about this! ).
In 1941 , his talents as a soldier were recognized , he was commissioned into the Irish National Army as a Lieutenant during These Emergency’ (World War 2) and until 1946. He was recommended for rank of Capt. in 1943 . In 1948 he started a family business-A bakery, and small grocery business-run by two of his daughters. Some time later he became a partner in an Insurance Brokerage -Irish Counties Insurance Co., with an ex army officer colleague. He remained involved too in politics , campaigning for De Valera in 1948.
In 1953 he took up a position as manager of the Labour Exchange in Passage West , Co.Cork, and from which he retired in 1963.
He was a well read man, with a particular interest in philosophy , and in history.
Frank Busteed and the Dripsey Ambush were the subject of the 1974 book-Execution.(by Sean O Callaghan)
He has since appeared in many other books ,history magazines, reviews of the Irish Revolution, and in the columes of newspapers, sometimes contentiously).
Some of the books include-
Glory O , Glory O (the history of the 6th Battalion, First Cork Brigade, by P.J.Feeney)
Lady Hostage (the story of Maria Lindsay, by Tim Sheehan)
Execute Compton Smith (the story of Major Geoffrey Lee Compton Smith by Tim Sheehan)
The I.R.A. & its Enemies (by Peter Hart)
Death on the Pier (the ‘Cobh Shooting ‘ incident and the famous ‘Moon Car’, by John Jefferies).
A full biography of Frank Busteed is underway.
A PowerPoint lecture on his life was created in 2015.