The Forgotten Ten
The Tan War years 1919-1921 were turbulent, violent times. Martial Law extended over most of the country, there were regular general strikes against British military policy, the majority of the people supported the establishment of an independent and sovereign parliament, and the IRA was waging a campaign of guerrilla war against British occupation.
Between November 1920 and June 1921 the British executed 26 men by firing squad or by hanging. In the same period, it is estimated that more than 130 republicans were killed, untried, while in custody. This policy of state executions was matched by a policy of unofficial and official state reprisals, carried out by the many military arms of the British Empire in Ireland.
Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson pointed out that "these reprisals [unofficial] were being carried out without anybody being responsible... I said that it was the business of government to govern. If these men ought to be murdered, then the government ought to murder them". Wilson was, at this time, effectively the government of Ireland, the chief of the Imperial General Staff.
Among those executed by the British at this time were those now known as the Forgotten Ten, all hanged in Mountjoy Jail.
The British refused to release the bodies to their families and the ten have remained buried in the grounds of Mountjoy. Thankfully, this weekend they are being reburied in fitting graves with the due honours they deserve.
Unfortunately, the newly founded Free State carried out a more vicious campaign against imprisoned republicans, executing over 77 men between November 1922 and April 1923. A number of republicans were subsequently executed by 26-County state and by the British.
All the remains of those executed by the Free State were returned to their families for burial after the Civil War. Thomas Kent, the republican leader in Cork during the 1916 Rising who was shot by British firing squad on 9 May 1916, remains buried within prison grounds.
Executed 1 Nov 1920
Kevin Barry was born in Dublin in 1902. His family ran a prosperous dairy business in Dublin and an 80-acre farm in Carlow. At school he excelled at hurling and rugby and also got honours in his Senior Grade, winning a scholarship to the National University in 1919, where he studied medicine.
Kevin joined Fianna Éireann in 1915 and joined 'C' Coy (company) First Battalion, Dublin Brigade just before his 16th birthday. Kevin was also a member of the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) and was its youngest member.
Kevin became heavily involved in IRA operations, including raids for weapons.
Despite having an important medical exam at 2pm on Monday 20 September 1920, Kevin volunteered to take part, along with 23 other Volunteers, in an operation to relieve a British Army patrol of their weapons. When one of the guards opened fire, a gun battle ensued and the Volunteers returned fire, killing one soldier, two others were wounded (one died later). Kevin's gun jammed and he went under the army lorry to clear it, but when he had done so the firefight was over and the other Volunteers had been forced to withdraw. A civilian, thinking that he would be run over as the lorry pulled off, alerted the soldiers, who arrested him. He was taken to North Dublin Union, tortured and interrogated.
The War Office ordered that Barry be tried by secret Court Martial. At the opening of the trial, Kevin announced: "As a soldier of the Irish Republic, I refuse to recognise the court". He was charged with killing a soldier and there were 16 witnesses against him. He was found guilty and at 8pm was told in his cell the verdict - death by hanging.
A huge public outcry followed and the IRA made many attempts to break him out of Mountjoy. Just before 8 am on 1 November 1920, Kevin Barry was led to the gallows. Canon Waters, who accompanied him, said: "He went between Father McMahon and myself to the scaffold with the most perfect bravery."
No inquest was held. Kevin Barry was the first person executed during the War of Independence.
Executed 14 March 1921
Thomas Whelan, originally from Connemara, was 22 when he was hanged. He left home at 18 to work at Broadstone train depot in Dublin and while there joined A Company, 3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade.
He was hanged with Patrick Moran for his alleged part in the Bloody Sunday morning operations on 21 November 1920. In a single morning, the IRA executed 14 British Intelligence officers - all members of the infamous Cairo Gang. In retaliation, the Black and Tans later that day opened fire on spectators at a GAA match in Croke Park, killing 12 spectators and wounding over 100.
Thomas was charged that along with James McNamara and Michael J Tobin, he had killed Captain T Bagally at Baggot Street. The high-profile nationalist and later final Governor General of the Free State, Tim Healy, refused to defend them.
There was alibi evidence that Thomas was attending mass in Ring at the time but that information was not relayed to the court. His counsel told the court: "The boy was a weekly communicant and not the class of man that murderers are made of." Thomas was sentenced to death, although James Boyce was acquitted.
application to the Lord Lieutenant for a reprieve was turned down on 2 March while another Volunteer, Edward Potter, was granted a reprieve.
Thomas told a nun who visited him: "I have just told my mother that just as a priest starts a new life at ordination, so on Monday I will start a new life that will last forever."
In a message to his friends he said: "Give the boys my love. Tell them to follow on and never surrender. Tell them to pray for me, especially 'Dev's Own', and I will pray for them. Tell them I am proud to die for Ireland."
Executed 14 March 1921
Patrick Moran was born in March 1888 in Roscommon. As well as joining the Irish Volunteers, Patrick was an active member of the National Union of Licensed Vintners and Allied Trades Association and was at one stage its president.
On Easter Monday, Patrick was a member of the garrison that occupied Jacob's Factory. After the Rising, Patrick was sent to Knutsford, and Wormwood Scrubbs prisons in England and then on to Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales.
After his release, he took over as Captain of D Company of the 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade. Patrick was arrested along with many others in a round up after Bloody Sunday.
Despite having an alibi that he was at mass in Blackrock at the time, which was attested to by a Sergeant Connolly of the Dublin Metropolitian Police, Patrick was sentenced to be hanged for his alleged part in the assassination of a British officer.
So sure was Patrick Moran of his innocence being established on appeal that he chose to forgo his place in the Kilmainham jailbreak of February 1921. Patrick was hanged with five others.
The No. 1 branch of the country's biggest union, the ITGWU, called a half-day general strike on the morning of the executions and over 40,000 people gathered outside Mountjoy to pray for the men and to hope against hope for a last minute reprieve. A memorial park was opened in his memory in Dún Laoghaire in 1965.
Executed 14 March 1921
Frank Flood, from Dublin, was First Lieutenant ASU Dublin Brigade. He was leader of the abortive 'Drumcondra Ambush' when a proposed attack on a DMP tender was thwarted due to an informer. He was captured while attempting to escape the scene.
Frank was found guilty of high treason and was hanged aged 19. He was the only student, other than Kevin Barry, to be executed and his execution gave rise to demonstrations and protests.
Frank was a student engineer in UCD and was also a member of the 50-strong Dublin ASU, set up in December to implement the GHQ directive to increase the IRA offensive. The best Volunteers from the battalions were selected and combined to create a more effective operational structure.
Frank was among the Volunteers who took part in the raid on the King's Inn armoury in Dublin and was also involved in the many attempts to help Kevin Barry escape. Prior to his execution, Frank wrote to his brother Alfie: "there must be no weeping for me. I am going where I might never have reached if I had lived my ordinary life". When his father said that efforts for a reprieve were being made, Frank said: "we ask not for a reprieve, but for justice".
Executed 14 March 1921
Patrick Doyle was a carpenter, married with four children, from Dublin. He was one of the six men hanged following the attempted ambush at Drumcondra. His brother Seán was fatally wounded at the Custom House six weeks later.
Patrick was an experienced Volunteer and was involved in the spectacular arms raid on Collinstown Aerodrome in 1919. Along with Frank Flood, he was on standby to take part in escape plans for Kevin Barry. The first plan to rescue Kevin involved the seizure of an armoured car during the Court Martial in Marlborough Barracks. Volunteer Willie O'Connell was killed in the operation, which was carried out under the command of Dick McKee.
The second attempt was planned for the Saturday before the execution. The attempt was aborted when a priest got the visit ahead of Kathy Barry who was to inform Kevin of the attempt. By the time his sister was admitted it was too late and the operation was called off.
The next day many of the same Volunteers were on standby to cover Dick McKee and Oscar Traynor in their audacious plan to visit Barry dressed as priests. This was aborted due to time constraints. A further plan involved breaching the prison wall with a landmine on the eve of the execution while Frank Flood's H Coy opened fire at the front gates. The landmine was prepared by Jack Plunkett but just before they left, news arrived that Kevin's guard had received orders to shoot him if any disturbance took place and that the British military in the area had been intensified.
Executed 14 March 1921
Bernard Ryan, an apprentice tailor from Dublin, also participated in the abortive 'Drumcondra Ambush'. He was one of the IRA men who had claimed the bodies of McKee and Cluny from a Dublin Hospital after the two Volunteers had been assassinated by the Black and Tans in reprisal for the killing of 14 British Intelligence officers on Bloody Sunday.
Formerly a member of Dublin Brigade's First Battalion, Bernard was a member of the ASU.
To his mother he wrote the following: "Dear Mother, I received the first news this evening and you will have to bear it as bravely as possible. The job comes off on Monday, but before that I hope to be able to see you and in the meantime keep your heart. Remember me to all my friends and Sarah, Katie, Paddy and Agnes. Your fond son, Bertie."
Executed 14 March 1921
Thomas Bryan was an electrician and lived in Dublin. He married just four months before his arrest. A member of the ASU, he too was arrested after the abortive 'Drumcondra Ambush'.
Thomas had previously been imprisoned for republican activities and had been transferred from Mountjoy to Dundalk following Thomas Ashe's death in 1917. The POWs went on hunger strike and were later released in November 1917.
Executed 25 April 1921
Thomas Traynor was 39 years old and a father of ten. He moved to Dublin from Carlow in 1916 and had a small shoemaker's shop.
He was stationed in Boland's Mill during Easter week and was later interned in Wakefield jail, where he shared a cell with Seán Mac Eoin, and then Frongoch.
He returned to Dublin and was active in the Dublin Brigade until his capture after the Battle of Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street) on 14 March 1921 in which two British soldiers died and five were wounded. One Volunteer and a member of Na Fianna Éireann also died in the gun battle.
Following his arrest, Thomas was badly beaten by the notorious 'Igoe Gang'. He was tried by Court Martial and sentenced to death. He was hanged at Mountjoy Jail on 25 April 1921. Jack Donnely, captured with him, was also sentenced to death but the truce in June 1921 saved him.
Executed 7 June 1921
Edmond Foley, aged 24, was from Limerick. He took part in the audacious Knocklong rescue of Sean Hogan after he had been captured in Thurles. Sean Hogan had taken part in the ambush at Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary.
Hogan's comrades in East Limerick and Tipperary organised a plan to spring him from his armed guard while being taken by train to Cork on 13 May 1919. In the struggle, Sean Treacy was seriously wounded, two other Volunteers were injured and two RIC men killed. While Sean Hogan escaped, four men were arrested in countywide swoops, including Edmond Foley, Patrick Maher and Michael Murphy.
The trial was eventually fixed for Dublin 18 months after their arrest. Michael Murphy was acquitted on the grounds of unreliable evidence, but Edmond and Patrick were found guilty and sentenced to death.
Ten of his relatives were arrested from the Four Courts Hotel the evening before the execution. Edmond was hanged with Patrick Maher.
Executed 7 June 1921
Patrick Maher, aged 32, was from Limerick. He too was hanged for his alleged involvement in the rescue of Sean Hogan, despite not being involved.
In a final message, Patrick and Edmond said: "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 7 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 and we gladly give our lives that a smile may brighten the face of 'Dear Dark Rosaleen'. Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!"
His mother and sister joined Edmond's family and thousands of others outside Mountjoy Jail at the appointed hour.
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