Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Francis/Frank Dolan 1896?-1922  

Frank Dolan was born at Noggusduff, Gallen around 1896. His parents Patrick and Mary later moved the family to live at Rosfaraghan, Ferbane. Patrick worked as postman and many of the Dolan family were connected with postal duties. Frank is listed as a messenger on the 1911 census and as an agricultural labourer on later compensation files. Frank’s brother James was an IRA volunteer and associated with the GAA.  

Frank Dolan was listed by Sean Dockery as one of the Ferbane IRA men mobilised to resist reprisals in the aftermath of the Belmont Ambush in October 1920.   

Earlier that year, the Connacht Tribune reported on the arrival of a number of vehicles at Ferbane…  

‘The residents in the town at first thought the barracks was going to be attacked, but afterwards they were more surprised to see the police taking out furniture and placing it on lorries. Just at two o’clock, as the last policeman left the barracks, a number of young men smashed in the door, while others proceeded to the rear of the building, and threw petrol on to the roof, which was soon a mass of flames which, fanned by a breeze , quickly reduced the large house to a heap of ruins. A house which adjoined the barracks was at one time in danger, but a body of young men climbed on the roof and kept it deluged with water till the barrack roof fell in. The entire out office, containing a quantity of turf belonging; to Sergeant Collins, was also burned.’  (1) 

Arrested in 1921, Frank Dolan was tried by court martial for his role in the burning

‘A witness swore he was in a public house next door to the barracks on this date and he heard footsteps and sounds of hammering in the barracks. He went into the yard and looked into the barrack yard and saw the accused breaking into outhouses of the barracks with an instrument like a pickaxe. There was a number of men there whom he did not know. He knew the accused for 19 years. He afterwards saw the barracks on fire.’ (2)

Sentenced to three years penal servitude he was transferred from Mountjoy to Dartmoor prison and was released in January 1922. At the beginning of the Civil War, Dolan was a member of the anti-Treaty IRA unit occupying Ferbane railway station …  

‘On Sunday night, July 8th. While Republican soldiers were on guard a loaded rifle was accidentally discharged, the bullet striking Francis Dolan in the abdomen and fatally wounding him. Dr. Meagher was quickly on the scene and rendered every assistance but found the unfortunate young solider, though quite conscious, beyond all medical aid. Rev Father Brady and Rev. Father Daly attended the dying solider who died five hours later… A military inquiry found the deceased was accidentally shot by the discharge of a comrade’s rifle and exonerated him from blame.’ (3) 

Frank Dolan was buried at Kilourney cemetery, Cloghan, his coffin covered in the tricolour was carried to the graveside by anti-Treaty IRA men, the last post was sounded, and a firing party was present.  


Sources:

1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/ 

Military Service Pension Collection. Francis Dolan DP2123. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923/search-the-collection 

Bureau of Military History Statements. Sean F Dockery Witness 1711. Search online at  https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/bmhsearch/

Connacht Tribune. 10 July 1921.

Evening Herald. 18 May 1921.

Leinster Reporter. 22 July 1920.

Offaly Independent. 28 April 1978. 25 December 1987.

Westmeath Independent. 15 April 1950.

(1) Connacht Tribune. 10 July 1921.

(2) Evening Herald. 18 May 1921.

(3) Leinster Reporter. 22 July 1923.

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