Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

James/ Jimmy/ Seamus Kelly 1895-1986

Jimmy Kelly was born at Geashill in 1895. His parents Patrick and Margaret (nee Conroy) lived at Ballyndowan, where Patrick worked as a herd.

On leaving school Kelly was employed at the Skerries Hotel and Shop, which was owned by well-known Tullamore business concern D.E. Williams.

In Skerries he joined the local company of the Irish Volunteers. As a member of the 5th (Fingal) Battalion of the Dublin Brigade he participated in the funeral of O’Donovan Rossa to Glasnevin Cemetery in 1915.

Armed with Howth Mausers, the Skerries company mobilised at Swords on Easter Sunday 1916 but stood down after receiving Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order. Kelly returned to work on Easter Monday but on Wednesday he set out to link up with those who had come out in support of the Dublin Rising. Fighting under the command of Thomas Ashe and Richard Mulcahy, he joined a group of 5th battalion men targeting police installations across north county Dublin and Meath.

He took part in the Battle of Ashbourne, where the Fingal rebels captured a large force of RIC men, arms, and vehicles after a prolonged firefight. The column laid down their arms on Sunday having received Pearse’s surrender order.

Kelly was released from interment at Frongoch Camp in Wales on Christmas eve 1916. In 1917, while employed as a shop assistant in the D.E. Williams facility at Belmont, he worked with other Easter Week veterans to establish the Irish Volunteers in west Offaly. After periods in Mayo and Dublin he returned to Offaly in early 1921. His brother Sean had been appointed O.C. of the Offaly No. 1 Brigade and Jimmy took up the role of Quartermaster.

He took part in in attack on RIC Tullamore in April 1921, during which volunteer Patrick Conroy was shot. In the aftermath of the shooting Kelly was arrested along with his brother Sean while traveling to visit the wounded Conroy. Interned in the Rath Camp he received a bad beating after participating in failed escape attempt in October and was transferred to Kilkenny prison. In November, he was one of 44 prisoners to escape from Kilkenny via tunnel.

Opposed to the Treaty he had no major involvement in the Civil War and suffered periods of ill health connection to his imprisonment. He later operated a shop and filling station at Screggan, Mucklagh.

Kelly joined the reserve forces during the 1930s and enlisted in the army following the outbreak of World War II. He was a regular attendee at 1916 commemorations held at the IRA monument outside Tullamore courthouse and vocal on the need to preserve the memory of his deceased comrades.

Jimmy Kelly passed away in October 1986, he is buried at Mucklagh graveyard.


Military Service Pension Collection. James Kelly MSP34REF6368. Search online at 1916-1923

J.F. Burke. The Midland Tribune 1916-1966 supplement online at content/uploads/2017/03/Supplement-1966.pdf

Padraig Heaney ‘On the banks of three rivers: Stories from West Offaly’ (Cork) 2015.

Dr. Philip McConway. ‘Offaly’s links to the 1916 Rising’. Online at

Offaly Independent.16 April 1966.

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