Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Annie McGrath- Fleming1897-1972

Annie McGrath was born in Limerick around 1897. After school she moved to Clara, working as a domestic servant for Lewis Goodbody and his family at Drayton Villa.

The Goodbodys’ were one of a group of interconnected Quaker families who had driven Irish industrial development throughout the 19th century and prospered in the process. At Clara the family operated a flour mill, along with a jute factory and employed over 700 people.

Lewis Goodbody presided over an extensive solictors practice with offices in Tullamore and Dublin. In addition to everyday legal dealings his firm also managed the estate affairs of landlords such as the absentee Lord Digby at Geashill. An opponent of Home Rule, Lewis was a leading figure in Kings County unionism and despite his Quaker roots spoke at recruitment meetings during the Great War.

Lewis’s cousin, the jute magnate James Perry Goodbody served as a county councillor until unseated in 1920, in an election which saw a former Goodbody factory hand, Sean Robbins top the poll for Sinn Fein. James’s son, Jim Perry Goodbody managed the families interests in the Limerick flour mills and was appointed to the Free State senate in 1923.

Annie McGrath joined the Cumann na mBan at Clara in January 1919. She took part in parades, attended first aid courses, fundraised, and provided food parcels for republican prisoners before being appointed branch secretary in early 1920. In June of that year the Offaly IRA launched a massed attack on Clara RIC barracks. The assault was repelled but the RIC vacated the barracks a short time afterward. Later that year a detachment of British military was deployed to Clara and billeted for a period in some of the Goodbody properties.

McGrath would later recall that during the prolonged stay of British troops at Drayton, she managed to pilfer 80 rounds of ammunition. Despite her duties in Clara, she remained in contact with republicans hiding out in Rahan and delivered dispatches warning of an upcoming sweep of the area. When the local IRA became aware of a plan to carry out searches in the town, McGrath took responsibility for an arms dump and stashed it at Drayton Villa until the operation had been completed.

In early 1922 McGrath married Clara man Thomas Fleming. O.C. of the local IRA battalion. Fleming had previously imprisoned in Belfast Gaol for his republican activities. Husband and wife both opposed the Treaty and were active during the Civil War.

After the conflict Thomas worked for a period on the staff of Rossmore coal mine in Kilkenny. In later years, the Flemings lived at Kilcoursey, Clara.

Annie Fleming passed away at the county hospital Tullamore in June,1972. Amongst the condolences was a telegram from the Taoiseach Jack Lynch. After mass at St Brigid’s church, she was buried at the Monastery cemetery, Clara.

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Pat McLoughlin.


Sources:

Military Service Pension Collection. Annie Fleming MSP34REF25921. Thomas Fleming MSP34REF6846. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions- collection-1916-1923

Michael Byrne. ‘James Perry Goodbody: Offaly’s leading industrialist and county council member for 21 years’ online at https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2023/04/19/james- perry-goodbody-offalys-leading-industrialist-and-county-council-member-for-21-years-1853- 1923/

Michael Goodbody. ‘Drayton Villa, Clara. ‘a handsome residence, a good home neatly furnished’ online at https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2020/04/04/drayton-villa-clara- a-handsome-residence-a-good-home-neatly-furnished-by-michael-goodbody/

Leinster Reporter. 20 April 1893.

Nationalist and Leinster Times. 9 June 1972. 10 March 1978.

Offaly Independent. 9 June 1972. 17 February 1978.

Westmeath Independent. 5 June 1915.

Westmeath Examiner. 10 June 1972.

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