Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

James Corrigan 1891-1918

James Corrigan was born in 1891 at Breaghmore, Clareen to John and Annie Corrigan. His family were farmers and his brother Hugh was a well-known hurler. James is reported to have received teacher training at the De la Salle school, Mountrath.

The 1911 census lists a Kings County born 20-year-old, Brother James Corrigan living in a religious house in Dundalk. In 1914 Corrigan had been working in Castlecomer when he was appointed headmaster of the school at Birr workhouse.

An avid hurler he won a junior title with Seir Kieran in 1912 and a senior with Birr in 1915. Corrigan went on to captain the Offaly junior hurling team to a Leinster title that year, giving the county its first provincial success. The team also included a number of players who were to a emerge as officers in the south Offaly IRA, such as Michael Cordial, Peter Lyons and Frank Reddin.

When he was elected secretary of the county board its Chairman Fr Crowe commented…

‘He was very glad to see Mr Corrigan elected. His school was over at about two o’clock, so he would have time to devote to the position which he was thoroughly capable of filling. He believed that Mr. Corrigan dreams of hurling while sleeping and thinks of it while eating.’ (1)

In July 1918, Corrigan was probably a member of the Offaly hurling panel whose Leinster championship game against Wexford was cancelled after the imposition of a requirement that the GAA apply for permits to hold games. In his administrative role he would have been involved in organising games on Gaelic Sunday in August 1918, as part of the GAA’s refusal to accept the permit system.

A cultural nationalist, Corrigan cycled across the midlands to provide Irish language classes to Gaelic League branches. By 1917 he was a member of the Birr Sinn Féin club and an officer in the Irish Volunteers.

In early October 1918 Corrigan lined out in Croke Park for Offaly’s delayed Leinster championship game with Wexford, by the end of the month the Kings County Chronicle reported…

‘The influenza epidemic which reached Ireland a few weeks ago and was for a time confined to the chief cities of Dublin and Belfast has spread apparently over the entire county, and scarcely a town or district is now without a large number of sufferers in proportion to the population… In Birr the epidemic has spread with marvellous rapidity during the past few days; every public institution and department is shorthanded owing to the illness of staff… The death occurred on Tuesday of James Corrigan schoolmaster of the Birr Workhouse and teacher of Irish and elementary English and mathematics in Birr Technical School; but this is the only death from the disease recorded up to the present time in Birr’ (2)

The funeral was held in Birr and the cortege to St Kieran’s cemetery, Clareen was described as of …

‘Immense proportions, over 100 vehicles and a large concourse of sympathisers from town and country were present. The local volunteers and Cumann na mBan marched in procession order the entire distance to the cemetery.’

Where the grave side prayers were recited as gaeilge. An obituary in the Midland Tribune opined…

‘The radius of Jimmy’s popularity stretched far on all sides of Birr. The chords of devotion which so indissolubly bound him to a host of comrades were the offspring of his sincerity of manner, fidelity to duty, compassionate nature, and purity of ideal.’ (3)

The Author wishes to acknowledge the existing work on Jimmy Corrigan carried out by James Blake


Sources:

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

Leinster Reporter. 11 April 1911. 3 April 1915. 5 October 1918. 26 October 1918. 2November 1918.

Midland Tribune. 3 April 1915.

Offaly Independent. 20 August 1971.

James Blake. The music of the Ash- A history of the Seir Kieran GAA Club. Edited by Muiris O’Sullivan. 2006.

(1) Midland Tribune. 3 April 1915.

(2) Leinster Reporter. 2 November 1918.

(3) Midland Tribune. Quoted in James Blake. The music of the Ash- A history of the Seir Kieran GAA Club. Edited by Muiris O’Sullivan. 2006. P 18.

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