Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Felix Cronin 1890-1961

Felix Cronin was born in Lorrha, County Tipperary in 1890. His father Felix Sr was a Kerry native who married Mary Daly of Kenmare and taught at Lorrha national school for 40 years. Felix Sr was succeeded in his role as headmaster by his son, Michael F Cronin an All-Ireland winning Tipperary hurler and Clan na Poblachta councillor. Another member of the family, Phill Cronin fought in the War of Independence, the Civil War and later with the pro-Franco Irish Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

Felix Cronin junior was himself a noted hurler and handballer. He is credited with scoring the winning goal when Tipperary defeated Offaly in the 1915 All Ireland Junior final. In 1917 he formed a company of Irish Volunteers at Lorrha and this unit was later affiliated to the Birr Battalion of the Offaly Brigade. 

Appointed Battalion Quartermaster, a personal animosity developed between Cronin and Battalion adjutant, Sean Casey. A Clare man, Casey worked as a teacher in neighbouring Rathcabbin. The source and exact start date of this dispute is difficult to decipher but as a result Cronin was suspended, causing disquiet among the Lorrha company. It is possible that the disagreement steamed for the Lorrha IRA’s attack on local RIC in 1919, but if not, that event certainly exacerbated bad feelings. 

In the Summer of 1919 Lorrha provided shelter to Dan Breen and others on the run after the Soloheadbeg ambush and Knocklong rescue. The presence of the south Tipperary men is partially credited with provoking activity in the locality. That September, Cronin lead an ambush on a RIC patrol at Lorrha, where Sergeant Phillip Brady was shot dead.

The killing was condemned by the local parish priest, but the RIC’s use of an unreliable informer and highly dubious eyewitness testimony to prosecute two local men saw the ensuing murder trial collapse and provided for republicans with a propaganda boast.

In 1920, the ongoing disputes within the Birr Battalion were resolved when Sean Casey left the area and the Lorrha company demanded Cronin’s official reinstatement. Lorrha was transferred to the north Tipperary Brigade while Rathcabbin remained with the Offaly Brigade. The dispute within the Birr Battalion staff exemplifies the territorial and personality clashes that existed within the republican movement throughout the revolutionary decade and the solutions sometimes applied to allow for their resolution. 

Imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs, Cronin took part in a hunger strike. On his return he took command of the 4th Battalion which encompassed Borrisokane and its environs, he was later appointed Vice O.C. of the Brigade.

Promoted to the Divisional staff during the Truce, Cronin probably accompanied his O.C. Michael McCormack at the takeover of Birr Military Barracks in early 1922. In March he represented the Division at the funeral of  Private John Fox from Terryglass who died after contracting influenza while stationed at Birr.

While north Tipperary officers such as Sean Gaynor and Sean Glennon played an important role in the anti-Treaty takeover of Birr Barracks, Cronin took a pro-Treaty position and served in the National Army throughout the Civil War.

Along with Colonel Hugo MacNeill he led a raid on Devlin’s pub during the ‘Army Mutiny ‘. In the immediate aftermath of the Mutiny crisis was appointed Quartermaster General of the Army.

Cronin married Kitty Keirnan the former fiancé of Michael Collins in 1925.

After leaving the army in 1929, Cronin suffered from financial difficulties and a drink problem, but quit alcohol in the 1930’s. Having worked for the Irish Sweepstakes under Joe McGrath and he was appointed director of Fuel Importation Ltd by Sean Lemass. 

Cronin enlisted in the Local Security Forces at the onset of the Emergency.  At various times he had acted as an organiser and fundraiser for Ireland’s earliest professional golf tournaments.   

Felix Cronin passed away in October 1961, while playing at Woodbrook Golf Club in Bray, where he was a trustee and former president.

His funeral from the Church of St. Therese Mount Merion to Glasnevin Cemetery was attended by many from the higher ranks of the Army including the Chief of Staff. Full military honours were granted. Cronin’s coffin was carried to the graveside by senior officers from the different branches of the Defence Forces, with music provided by the pipe band of the Eastern Command and a firing party from the motor squadron. 


Sources:

Communications Offaly Brigade. IE-MA-CP-02-15. Collins Papers online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/the-collins-papers/

Bureau of Military History Statements. Ned Needham. Witness 1323. Search online at  https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/bmhsearch/

Military Service Pension Collection. Felix Cronin 24SP11620. John J. Casey MSP34REF1309. John Fox 2D482. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923/search-the-collection

Daithí O Corráin and Eunan O’Halpin. The dead of the Irish Revolution. (Yale) 2020. P 127.

Richard Abbott. Police Casualties in Ireland 1919-1922 (Cork) 2019.

Sean Hogan. The Black and Tans in north Tipperary: Policing, Revolution, and War 1913-1922. (Tipperary) 2013.

Fearghal McGarry. ‘Eoin O’Duffy: A Self Made Hero’. (Oxford) 2008.

William Laurence White ‘Catherine Kiernan’ RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography online at https://www.dib.ie/biography/kiernan-catherine-brigid-kitty-a9212

Seamus King. ‘A Tipperary Stalwart: Michael F. Cronin’ Tipperary Yearbook 1983. Online at https://www.seamusjking.com/sjk-articles/2014/3/28/span-classposttitlea-tipperary-stalwart-michael-f-croninspan-tipperary-gaa-yearbook-1983-pp-44-45

Irish Times. 25 October 1961.

Nenagh Guardian. 4 September 1943. 25 November 1961. 16 January 1982.

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