Lands of Exile
PROUD SPONSOR OF THIS ISSUE:
Military Heritage Tours: Your guided tour to Ireland's Battlefields and Military Heritage.
Want to read a good book? You can find one at the world's biggest bookstore: Powells Books
Sean Hogan was one of the "Big Four" IRA leaders from Tipperary, who were wanted in connection with the Soloheadbeg ambush of January 1919. On May 12th, he was arrested and taken to Thurles to await transportation by train to Cork, which was the usual destination for all men arrested under the "Defence of the Realm Act" in Munster.
The three other members of the "Big Four" — Sean Treacy, Dan Breen and Seamus Robinson — knew that once Hogan reached Cork it would be impossible to rescue him. So a daring plan was hastily conceived to intercept the train on the following day, as it called at Knocklong Station in County Limerick.
Realizing they had insufficient numbers to mount the hold-up, the three leaders appealed for assistance to the East Limerick Brigade and were joined by five men, Eamonn O'Brien, John Joe O'Brien, Edmund Foley, Jim Scanlon and Sean Lynch, from the local 6th (Galtee) Battalion based at Galbally. Another Volunteer, "Goorty" MacCarthy from Thurles, was to travel on the train to identify Hogan's carriage.
A juror responded to Police claims by boldly stating, "You are simply trying to paint your own story in your own way." The jury not only failed to bring a verdict of murder but blamed the Government for exposing the RIC to danger and condemned "the arrest of respectable persons and the exasperating of the people."
As months passed, British search operations began to ease and several of the Galbally Volunteers believed it was safe to return to their own homes. However, on the morning of September 23, police raided several locations and arrested many suspects, who were taken to William Street Barracks, Limerick, for a lineup. Among those who were picked out by Crown witnesses were Ned Foley, who had participated in the raid, and Patrick Maher, who had not.
Maher worked as a clerk at the railway station in Knocklong, where he graded poultry and eggs. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers, having joined the Cush Company of the Galtee Battalion in 1913, but it was his intimate knowledge of train movements and railway timetables probably implicated him in the rescue of Hogan. Despite his claim that he was at a crossroads three miles from Knocklong when he heard the shooting, and despite Foley's specious claim that he was in his garden on the day of the shooting, both men were remanded in custody.
On the eve of the trial a vital witness, Constable Reilly, who had been involved in the railway carriage struggle at Knocklong, was kidnapped, forcing the date of the trial to be rearranged yet again. It was at this time, however, that trial by jury was superseded by trial by Court Martial and so Foley and Maher were sent to Dublin to await a hearing.
Court Martial began in Dublin's City Hall on March 15, 1921, and lasted for five days. Council for the defense, R. Best, argued that the identity of Maher as a participant in the attack had not been firmly established. Witnesses had given differing descriptions of the man supposed to be Maher and it was also claimed that this man had been injured. Yet Maher had turned up at work the morning after the rescue without any trace of an injury. Such appeals had little effect as both Maher and Foley were found guilty and sentenced to death.
The following Tuesday, June 7th, crowds once more began to gather outside the gates of Mountjoy Prison, where they faced strong detachments of soldiers with fixed bayonets and roaming armoured-cars. Relatives of the condemned men, including Mr. and Mrs. William Foley and Mrs. Maher, took their places in the crowd, which sang hymns and recited prayers in the brilliant sunshine.
Shortly before 6 a.m., Canon Waters and Father MacMahon joined Maher, Foley and their Auxiliary guards in the condemned cell. Waters celebrated Mass and then imparted Holy Viaticum and the Papal Benediction, before MacMahon celebrated Mass again.
A few minutes before 7 o'clock, the executioner, Ellis, and his assistant entered the cell and pinioned the prisoners' hands behind their backs. Canon Waters walked to the execution chamber beside Maher, while Father MacMahon accompanied Foley. As the friends stood side by side on the trap, one of the Auxiliaries gave Ned Foley a scapular from Lourdes that he had worn during the Great War.
At 8.15 a.m., a typewritten notice announcing that the sentence of death had been carried out, was posted on the main gates. It was later revealed that Foley and Maher had made a joint, final statement just hours before their deaths: "Fight on, struggle on, for the honour, glory and freedom of dear old Ireland. Our hearts go out to all our dear old friends. Our souls go to God at seven o'clock in the morning and our bodies, when Ireland is free, shall go to Galbally. Our blood shall not be shed in vain for Ireland and we have a strong presentiment, going to our God, that Ireland will soon be free."
At a moving ceremony attended by Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, nine of the Volunteers — Kevin Barry, Patrick Doyle, Frank Flood, Thomas Bryan, Patrick Moran, Bernard Ryan, Thomas Whelan, Thomas Traynor and Edmund Foley — were reintered with full state honours at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Six days later, in accordance with family wishes and in remembrance of his final statement, the body of Patrick Maher was returned to Galbally. After a Requiem Mass at St. Patrick's Church, Glenbrohane, where Maher had been baptized, he was laid to rest at Ballylanders Cemetery, beneath the majesty of the Galtee Mountains.
The Forgotten Ten ... finally forgotten no more.
This page was produced by Joe Gannon, with assistance from Gerry Regan.
Copyright © 2002, GAR Media.