Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Frank/ Francis Bulfin 1874-1951

Frank Bulfin was born in 1874 at Derrinlough, where his parents William and Ellen Bulfin (nee Grogan) owned a large farm.

An uncle Patrick Bulfin acted as Lord Mayor of Dublin and a cousin General Edward. S. Bulfin served with distinction in the British Army during the Boer and Great Wars. In 1900 it was reported that Frank’s brother, J.V. Bulfin had died while serving with the Rimington Guides in the Boer War. Frank and his brother Joe (who was later associated with Clonony and Edenderry) were keen agriculturists. During the Ranch War both were vocal advocates for small farmers and Frank was among 15 men imprisoned for one month in 1907 for their role in cattle driving.

Frank’s uncle Fr. Vincent Grogan served as provincial of the Passionist order in Argentina. The South American connection was to have important ramifications for the family, as Frank’s older brother William emigrated to Argentina where he enjoyed considerable success and eventually became owner of the Southern Cross newspaper. On his return to Ireland, William Bulfin helped to stabilise the Derrinlough farms finances, wrote a popular nationalist travel book Rambles in Erin, promoted the Gaelic League and political movements of his friend Arthur Griffith. William died aged 45 in 1910.

William’s son Eamon attended St Enda’s school and fought under his former teacher Patrick Pearse in 1916 Rising.

On Eamon’s release from internment in late 1916, he and Frank were involved in establishing the republican movement in south Offaly. They were both arrested as part of the German Plot in the Summer of 1918 and imprisoned in Durham Gaol.

On his release Frank Bulfin was involved in sheltering Sean Treacy, Seamus Robinson, Sean Hogan and Dan Breen, who were on the run following shootings at Soloheadbeg and Knocklong.

Nominated as one of four Sinn Féin candidates, he was elected unopposed in the Laois-Offaly constituency at the 1921 general election. Arrested and interned at the Curragh, he was released  with other TD’s in August following the arrangement of the Truce.

Bulfin did not take a high-profile stance during the Treaty Debates but voted to accept the agreement. He was re-elected in the 1922 election. In August of that year he was one of the pall bearers who carried Arthur Griffiths coffin.

Although his rarely spoke in the Dáil, Bulfin continued to vote with the Cosgrave Government throughout the Civil War. In a statement to the Bureau of Military History Ernest Blythe suggested that because of republican intimation, Bulfin attempted to resign his seat, but after the intercession of armed Free State Intelligence officers he was convinced…

It might be more dangerous to resign from the dail than stay in it’. (1)

The veracity of Blythe’s story is difficult to authenticate.

Addressing an election meeting in July 1923 Bulfin commented…

Many unpleasant things we have had to do —many very distasteful decisions had to be made, but we never sought popularity at the expense of the real interests of the nation’. (2)

After his re-election, rifts appeared in Cumann na nGaedheal. Bulfin did not support the Army Munity of 1924. Nevertheless, he was understanding of those who left the party at that time to establish the National Group and critical of some in the cabinet whom he felt were self-important and drifting too far from the party’s roots in Sinn Féin commenting …

‘Let these people not get their heads swelled. Greater men than they, Griffith and Collins, had to be done without.’ (3)

At local level his electoral machine was considered ineffective, and he lost his seat in 1927.

In the 1930’s he moved to Barrysbrook, Croghan close to his mother’s birthplace and farmed there until his death in 1951. He was buried at Rhode cemetery.


Sources:

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

Bureau of Military History Statements: Ernest Blythe (Witness 939) Patrick Colgan (850) Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/bmhsearch/

Michael Gallagher. ‘Politics in Laois Offaly 1922-1992’ in Laois History and Society edited by Padraig G Lane and William Nolan online at https://www.tcd.ie/Political_Science/people/michael_gallagher/LaoisOffalyPolitics99.pdf

John Gibney RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography profile of Eamonn Bulfin online at https://www.dib.ie/biography/bulfin-eamonn-edmond-a10114

C.J. Woods RIA Dictionary of Irish Biography profile of William Bulfin online at https://www.dib.ie/biography/bulfin-william-a1109

Butte Independent. 26 February 1910.

Evening Herald. 14 March 1962.

Freeman’s Journal. 5 August 1921

Irish Independent. 15 June 1907. 22 July 1918.

Irish Times. 14 June 1907. 29 June 1907.

Leinster Express. 22 June 1907.

Leinster Leader. 31 March 1951.

Leinster Reporter. 20 January 1900.

Nationalist and Leinster Times. 19 Aug1922.

Offaly Independent. 26 March 1966.

Sunday Press. 1 April 1979.

(1) Bureau of Military History Ernest Blythe (Witness 939) Patrick Colgan (850)

(2) Offaly Independent 7 July 1923.

(3) Cork Examiner 20 January 1925.

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