Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Sir Andrew Harvey Armstrong 1866-1922

Andrew Armstrong was born in London in 1866. His parents the Reverend Edmund Armstrong and Alice (Nee Fisher) owned Gallen Priory and adjoining lands outside Ferbane.

At one point the Armstrongs had been among the premier landed families in Kings County, but a large amount of property had been deposed of in the Landed Estates Courts in the 1850s. Andrew’s grandfather had served as a Whig member of parliament for the county during the 1840s and his uncle Charles was for a time married to the Australian prima donna Melba.

Lieutenant Andrew Armstrong was one of four Leinster Regiment officers charged and acquitted during the ‘Birr Military Scandal’ of 1894. Andrew acquired the baronetcy on the death of his father in 1897. During the Boer War he saw service as a member of the Imperial Yeomanry. Returning to Ireland he served as a Justice of the Peace and High Sherriff for Kings County in 1914.

At the start of the Great War, he donated £5 to the Ferbane unit of the National Volunteers to purchase three rifles. Enlisting in the Connaught Rangers with the rank of captain he was posted to Renmore Barracks and assigned a role in recruitment.

With the outbreak of the Rising in Dublin on Easter Monday 1916, Liam Mellows mobilised the Galway Volunteers. On Tuesday, republicans attempted to capture Oranmore RIC Barracks. Captain Andrew Armstrong and County Inspector Ruttledge lead a joint group of RIC men and Connaught Rangers to relieve the Barracks. A day later Constable Patrick Whelan was shot and killed in a fire fight at Carnmore Cross. Kilkenny born Whelan was the only fatality of the Rising in Galway. Following the deployment of artillery from Royal Navy ships the Galway rebels dispersed late in the week; with Mellows and other leaders forced to go on the run.

Following the Armistice, Armstrong spent less time in Ireland and began the process of selling his remaining holdings. His manor house at Gallen priory was used to billet IRA men during the truce and eventually sold to the Sisters of Cluny. A keen angler he passed away in Auckland, New Zealand in June 1922 and was buried in Waikaraka cemetery.

The author wishes to acknowledge the very substantial existing work carried out on the Armstrong family by Brendan Ryan and the Rebellion in Galway by Kevin Jordan


Rebellion in Galway: Easter 1916. (Athlone) 2016

Brendan Ryan ‘On Gallen Green: The story of a West Offaly Townland’ (Ferbane) 2020. Evening Herald. 3 October 1894.

Sandra Lee. Armstrongs Grave. Online at 

Freemans Journal. 30 March 1895.

Irish Times. 27 April 1901.

Leinster Reporter. 3 October 1914.  10 June 1922.

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