The Unpublished Notes of Vol. Tim Riordan
In the 1950’s the Bureau of Military History collected the memories of hundreds of people connected with the events of 1913 – 1924. Those statements can be accessed on the Bureau’s website. More recollections were collected around the same time by Ernie O Malley, former IRA Brigadier and organiser who spent most of the War of Independence with the Third Tipperary Brigade IRA. Many of the latter have been published over recent years on a County basis under the title “The Men will talk to me”. The Tipperary ones still await publication.
Most of the statements were recorded by political leaders, chief organisers, higher civil servants, and Volunteer officers. However, the overwhelming majority of Volunteers of all ranks, especially Anti-treaty ones, were unrecorded. Their recollections, motives, actions and philosophies died unrecorded with them. So these unpublished notes left by Vol. Tim Riordan, B Coy., Third Batt. Third Tipperary Brigade are of some interest and importance. They are the unvarnished story told by a man, with only a primary education, of his involvement in the freedom struggle, his training as a guerrilla fighter, and his nationalist outlook following the cessation of hostilities. They are the authentic writings of an ordinary rural Volunteer, a real foot soldier who formed the backbone of the IRA in one of the most active areas of the war.
The following are the faithfully transcribed notes of Vol. Tim Riordan, Gurteendevane, formerly of Leenane East. He was a brother of Vol. Seán Riordan who died defending the Republic at Coalbrook, Ballingarry, on 13 December 1922. I corrected spelling and inserted punctuation. I also added everything in brackets in order to make sense of the narrative.
In later years Tim lived in Gurteendevane. He always dressed stylishly and as a result was nicknamed “The Doctor”. He was a kind and helpful neighbour to Molly Quirke in whose house the local Republican court sat. He often wore the overcoat in which Seán was shot. The two bullet holes in its back were plainly visible.
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NOTE BY VOL. TIM RIORDAN.
(I), Tim Riordan (was) born 16th November 1897 at Leenane, Donohill. (I) was educated at Garryshane National School, Donohill. (I) player hurling & football and was a keen athlete. I joined the Gaelic League in 1909. (I) was a cycle mechanic at Willie Benn’s, Tipperary Town. (I) was in Redmond’s Volunteers from 1914 to 1916 under Bob Barry and Tom Cole. (I) joined the IRA in 1917 under Thomas Carew, C Coy., 3rd Batt. (I) collected guns, organised, and carried dispatches.
(I) was in the Hollyford barracks attack. (I was in attacks on) Cappawhite, Anacarty, and Dundrum (barracks and in the) Coolbawn ambush. (I) was in Lacey’s Column. During the Civil War (I) was in Tipperary barracks, Carrick-on-Suir, and in Cahir barracks. (I participated) in Thomastown ambush and Kilfeacle. (I) was in the capture of Carrick-on-Suir, Thomastown, & Mullinavat, and at Coalbrook, Ballingarry.
Seán Riordan, my brother, was killed in action at Coalbrook, Ballingarry the 13th Dec.1922. RIP. (I) was in many other fights, Ballyrobin etc. (I) was arrested 28th April 1923.
(I) was in prison in the Abbey, Tipperary, and from there to Limerick prison, and from there to Mountjoy, Dublin. (I) was on hunger strike in Mountjoy from 14th October to the 22nd November 1923 and was sent from Mountjoy to the Curragh Town.
(I) was released 24 February 1924. After my release I was still working for Ireland in the fight for Irish freedom. I joined (the) LDF. During (the) Emergency (I) was in Cork barracks and Castle Connell, Limerick, and was an instructor in (the) LDF 1940 to 46. (I) was still active on the Republican side and was allied to Muintir na Tíre. During the Emergency (I) was arrested for selling Easter lilies in honour of Ireland’s Dead. (I) worked with Tipp (SR) County Council from 1924 to 1952
WORK, SOCIAL, AND MILITARY ACTIVITY OF VOL. TIM RIORDAN
After leaving school I worked with Michael English, Moher, Cappawhite, and with William O Brien, Leenane, Cappawhite. He was a great singer and step dancer, indeed a nice and jolly man. RIP. And (I worked) with William Allis, Gortnacoola. He was a District Councillor and contractor, a great Nationalist, a great supporter of John Redmond and William O Brien. And I worked with Henry Crosse.
He was also (a) District Councillor. He also was (a) Nationalist and was arrested for shouting “Up the Germans”. I also worked with Michael O Brien, Knockgorman, Donohill. He was a very intelligent man who read a lot. And (I worked) with John Corbett, Newtown who was a very up-to-date farmer & ploughman.
I was in the National Volunteers in 1914 – Redmond’s Volunteers. (I was) under drill instructor Robert Barry from Tipperary Town and who was later a County Councillor. And (I was also) under Tom Cole – an army man (and) a fine instructor. I was then working with William Benn, cycle agent, Tipp Town, as (a) mechanic. In the National Volunteers I learned most of my training. I was about 17 years (old) at the time. The most we had was timber guns. We learned how to take cover and pick ambush positions which was necessary in guerrilla warfare and barracks attacks, arrowhead movement, and escape routes.
I was in the building of Graffin Hall in 1917 by members and voluntary labour. The members were Patrick Ryan (B), T. Cooney, Tom Scanling, Denny Hogan, Tom Carew, Dan Carew, Jack Carew, Michael Doherty, others and myself. It was a T. T. hall. The music was supplied by John Finnan, Tim Crowe, Patrick O Brien, Rody Ahern, and William Maher.
It was a well-run hall until it was burned in 1920. It was feared that Tans would occupy it so we destroyed it. I would say it (was) foolish for it was a death trap for Tans to take it over. My principal pick of dancers was Rebecca, Mary and Margaret Ryan of Jerry Jack’s. They were excellent dancers. And then came Mary Duggan of Gortnahoe who became my wife in Jan. 1922.
I joined the IRA in 1917 under Tom Carew (Leader), Dan Carew, Jack Carew, James Quinlan, Michael Quinlan, Patrick Quinlan, Michael Taylor, Tom Carroll, Denny Kelly, Martin English, Tim Ryan (W), Jack Burke, Jack Murphy, Simon Breen, Michael Ryan (M), Michael Doherty, Bill Corcoran, Martin Connors, James English, Michael Heffers, Pat Ryan (W), Matt Ryan (W), John Davern, Michael O Brien and others. The Coy. was called C Coy., 3rd Batt., 3rd Tipp Bde. Tom Carew was appointed Intelligence Officer for the Bde. And James Quinlan was appointed (Coy) Leader. I collected shotguns, carried dispatches, and helped organise the Batt. (I) was attached to an Active (Service) Unit under Denny Kelly, Coolacussane. (I) was in all bks. attacks and ambushes in the area. 3rd Batt. staff were Tadg Dwyer, John Ryan (L), Dan Keeffe, Phil Fitz, P. O Dwyer, (and) Jas Ryan. Bde. Staff were Séamus Robinson, Seán Treacy, Dan Breen, Paddy Dalton, T. Carew, Michael Fitzpatrick, E. O Malley, (and) Con Moloney (was) Chief of Staff. And Seán Hayes was OC Bde. after Dinny Lacey’s death 17 Feb. 1923. And leaders who attended meetings in at my house (were) Seán Russel, Mick Price, Frank Ryan, Jim Killeen, (and) Seán Brady. (I) was in the attack on Anacarty Bks. (I) was in Anacarty Bks. during (the) truce. (I participated in the) attack on Free Staters in Anacarty Bks. (during both) Tan (and) Civil Wars.
I was in (attacks in) Callan, Kilkenny, Nine-Mile-House, Windgap, Kilfeacle, Thomastown, Carrick-on-Suir, Mullinavat, Ballingarry, Limerick Junction, Goold’s Cross, (and) Ballyrobin. (I) was arrested by Free Staters the 28th April 1923.
A GRAVESIDE ORATION BY VOL. TIM RIORDAN
It seems right and fitting that one among you should speak the praise of that valiant freedom Fighter, Dan Breen. I (do) as one who went to Garryshane National School with him. (We) hurled, boxed, played, and went to Gaelic League classes together. And later in the fight for Irish freedom fought together and were on hunger strike in Mountjoy. Dan was on hunger and thirst and I was on hunger strike from 14th Oct. to the 22nd Nov.1923. Dan was released after seven days. He was TD for South Tipp and of his old comrades of Donohill and Anacarty who gave their lives in the fight for Irish freedom.
Their names are as follows, Michael Ryan (Patsy) killed by Black and Tans at Ballybrack, Anacarty 19…… and Dan Carew, Goldengarden who was killed in action by Black and Tans at Harcourt Street, Dublin, and Seán Riordan who was killed in action by Free Staters at Coalbrook, Ballingarry, Dec. 13th 1922. And last but not least the Brave Denny Lacy of Attybrick, Anacarty killed in action at the Glen of Aherlow in April 1923 by Free States troops. Dan Breen will now dream of battle fields no more or of days of danger (or of) nights of walking. The daring fights and feats which brought him fame will live on in Irish history’s pages. Dan Breen and fellow fighters risked everything with no thought of personal reward or gain. May he and his comrades rest in peace.
A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE ON HIS BROTHER SEÁN
No. 2 Active Service Column
3rd Tipp Bde.
Seán Riordan was born at Leenane, Cappawhite in February 1904. (He) Was educated at Garryshane National School, Donohill. (He) was a keen hurler and member of the Gaelic League. (He) joined the Volunteers in 1920 under the command of Capt. Larry Power, Coolnagun, C Coy., 4th Batt., 3rd Tipp Bde. IRA.
(He) was a very active member until his death on 13th December 1922 when he was Killed in Action at Coalbrook, Ballingarry and laid to rest with his Comrades in the Republican Plot in Saint Michael’s Cemetery. RIP.
No. 2 Flying Column
O/C Martin Breen.
Dep O/C Michael O Dwyer.
Adjt. Denis Ryan.
Volunteer Seán Riordan
C Coy., 4th Batt., Third Tipperary Brigade IRA.
Seán Riordan was born in the townland of Leenane East, Donohill, in February 1904. He was one of seven surviving children of George and Ellen Riordan, five sons and two daughters. The 1911 census recorded the following about the family. The head of the family was George, then aged forty two. His wife, Ellen was aged thirty two, ten years younger than her husband.
Their children in chronological order were, Timothy, aged thirteen, Joseph, eleven, John, nine, Patrick, seven, Philip, six, Mary, four, and Catherine, two. George and Ellen had been married for fourteen years, and they’d had eight children, one of whom had died. The family were enumerated in the townland of Gorteenduvane in the 1901 census. George was described as a farm servant. They had two children then, Timothy aged three and Johanna aged two. The latter was not counted in the census a decade later so it’s reasonable to suppose that she died in the intervening years.
John, or Seán as he later preferred to be called, attended Garryshane NS where a senior fellow pupil of his was Dan Breen. His teachers were Mary Power and Denis Tuohy. Before the latter’s appointment, there had been a temporary principal in the school, a Kerryman named Charlie Walshe. He was a native Irish speaker and taught his pupils Irish and Irish history, both of which were very neglected in National Schools in those days. Many of the past pupils from his Irish classes like Seán Treacy, Dan Breen, Dinny Lacey, Seán Hogan, and Pakie Deere played very active and leading roles in the fight for Irish freedom. Seán Riordan joined the Volunteers in Donohill in 1920. His older brother, Tim, had been a member since 1917. They formed C Coy. of the 4th Batt. of the Third Tipperary Brigade IRA. There were seventy six members in the Coy. and Laurence Power of Coolnagun was its captain. Seán was also a member of the Gaelic League and a keen hurler. He would have undergone a strict course of military training suitable for a guerrilla fighter.
During the War of Independence he saw active service locally. That usually consisted of sniping at RIC barracks, cratering roads or felling trees across them, gathering information, and participating in ambushes. Carrying despatches was an important activity. Guard duty at the local Republican court and arms dumps was a regular duty. When the Civil War started in June 1922 he followed his Brigadier’s example and stayed loyal to his oath to the Irish Republic. Like his brother, Tim, he would have seen active service all over South Tipperary and Co. Kilkenny. Gradually the Free State forces gained the upper hand militarily and pressure on the Republican forces increased rapidly due to the huge number of former British army soldiers who joined the FS army, and the amount of heavy and sophisticated weaponry from the same source. While on active service he killed in action defending the Republic at Coalbrook in the parish of Ballingarry on 12 December 1922. A report in the “Irish Times” stated “Free State troops came upon what they described as a ‘large body of Irregulars’ near Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary. They report that two were killed and eleven taken prisoner, with two of their troops wounded”. Actually Seán was the only casualty on that day. He died at the age of eighteen like his fellow Volunteers Kevin Barry and Dan Carew. He is buried alongside Brig. Gen. Dinny Lacey, his Brigadier and fellow parishioner, in the Republican Plot in St. Michael’s cemetery, Tipperary Town.
On the day after his death his commanding Officers wrote the following letter to his bereaved mother,
No. 2 Active Service Column,
3rd Tipperary Bde.
Dear Mrs. Riordan,
On behalf of the Officers and men of above Column, we wish to tender to you and family our sincere and heartfelt sorrow and sympathy at the loss of a brave and gallant Comrade, and to you a noble son. He died as he wished, a soldier of Freedom, ever ready to sacrifice his life that we his comrades might live, so it is that we miss him very much, but with the knowledge that he has joined that noble band where true heroes merit their reward. We will march on to victory, a victory made sacred by the life blood of our brave and comrade.
Signed on behalf of Officers and men,
Martin Breen, O/C.
Michael O Dwyer, Dep. O/C.
Denis Ryan, Adjt.
His family are immensely proud of him and every Easter for the past ninety four years they have without fail laid a wreath on his grave. In 1973 the Third Tipperary Brigade Old IRA Commemoration Committee erected a monument in his honour close to where he was killed in action near Lios na mBroc (Lisnamrock) National School in Coalbrook.
Kevin O Reilly, parochial commemoration of 1916, 10 June 2016, Anacarty.
(The following story is told by a witness to the event about George Riordan, a nephew of Vol. Seán Riordan. His nephew, Dermot, a member of the Third Tipperary Brigade Old IRA Commemoration Committee, says it’s very true to form.)
In spite of the very active and heroic role played by many men and women of the parish of Anacarty and Donohill during the War of Independence, that fiercely independent Republican spirit is not expressed politically a century later. In the February 2016 General Election 400 ballots were cast in the two ballot boxes in Anacarty NS and Garryshane NS. Only sixty six of them, less than 17%, were cast for the country’s only official “Republican Party”. In Anacarty it was as low as 14%. Even those paltry figures fall in local elections. The parish’s dominant political hue is definitely very blue.
In 1976 the Third Tipperary Brigade Old IRA Commemoration Committee unveiled a beautiful fine monument in Anacarty in memory and honour of the four local Volunteers who paid the supreme sacrifice of their lives in the noble cause of Irish freedom. One of them was Vol. Seán Riordan of Leenane East, Donohill. Later that evening his nephew, George, called in to his local pub. Unsurprisingly the majority of his fellow drinkers were true blue Fine Gael men. They were in expansive mood. They spoke approvingly of the fine monument. One remarked that George must be proud of the honour done to his late uncle. Looking into his pint he calmly replied, “I’m proud of him alright. And don’t forget it was you fuckers that shot him”.
 William Benn was an active and leading member of Tipp Town IRB Circle in 1916.  The Anacarty Company was actually “B Coy.” 3rd Batt.  Many of those attacks consisted of sniping rather than assaults on the buildings.  Now the CBS post primary school.  Should it be “Scanlon”? The name doesn’t appear on the Coy. roll.  Tim’s sister Annie married Mary’s brother Jack Duggan.  Should it be “Heffernan”? There was a Michael Heffernan from Knockgorman in the Coy.  Phil Fitzgerald in full.  Lacey was killed on 18th Feb.  The sentence in italics seems incomplete and doesn’t make sense as written.  Year incomplete in manuscript. The year was 1920.  Usually spelled “Dinny Lacey”.  Lacey was killed on 18 February 1923.  Commdt. Martin “Sparky” Breen was KIA at Bohercrowe, Tipperary, 10 January 1923.  WIA at Bohercrowe, Tipperary, 10 January 1923, died of wounds 19 July 1923.