Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

John Bergin 1899-1922

John Bergin was born in 1899. His parents Daniel and Catherine Bergin farmed at Dromad Beg, Clomore, Templemore. John Bergin and his brother Michael were members of the IRA and operated a car hire business in Templemore.

On Monday 6 February 1922, armed men robbed the Birr branch of the Provincial Bank and fled by car in the direction of Roscrea. IRA men from Offaly followed in pursuit and a wireless message from Brigade engineer Joubert Powell to Divisional headquarters at Inane House allowed checkpoints to be erected in North Tipperary. The Bergin brothers were arrested on suspicion of robbery and conveyed to Birr RIC barracks from where John Bergin escaped by scaling a wall.

Bergin was at large for number of days, but having struggled to acquire food or shelter was recaptured while concealed in a hay cock at Clareen. Suffering from pneumonia he was removed to Nenagh Hospital and was later released under medical certificate. That June, Bergin was suspected of involvement in a raid on the Munster and Leinster bank at Rathdowney which netted over £2,000.

Some days after the robbery he was shot dead by anti-Treaty IRA forces while fleeing from a neighbour’s home.

The Freemans Journal described  Bergin’s funeral as of immense proportions and he received full military honours.  

Just before the outbreak of the Civil War, pro and anti-Treaty forces came together to facilitate an inquiry into Bergin’s death. The onset of war appears to have scuppered the possibility of this investigation completing its work. 

His family rejected any characterisation in the press of John Bergin as an ex-IRA man, writing to the Tipperary Star…

‘An ex-member of the IRA is but an ordinary civilian and John Bergin was buried with full military honours, same being carried out under the Batt. Comdt. of GHQ troops with a contingent of his men, and a contingent of executive troops of whom John was a good and faithful officer, all of which goes to show that John Bergin was no ‘ex member of the IRA.’ John Bergin has been an active volunteer for long before many of our truce men dare spent a night out of their bed in the cause of Ireland and Irish Freedom, in which he played no small part to bring our motherland, but which je was not left long in the flesh to enjoy. He spent months in the flying columns and all officers in the columns in which he acted pay the highest tribute to his courage and manly qualities; never to a moment did he shut his eyes to the cause of Ireland for which it seemed God placed him solely on this earth because for Ireland he risked all, and for Ireland he lost all. His character stands the acid test of criticism., perhaps a few small faults he may have had, bur as divine redeemer has reminded us, who is there among us can cast the stone but how many there are can see the tiny speck in their brother’s eye when they fail to notice the mountain of specks in their own.’ (1)


Sources:

Cork Examiner. 7 February 1922.

Evening Echo. 9 June 1922.

Freemans Journal. 9 June 1922.

Leinster Reporter. 18 February 1922. 17 June 1922. 24 June 1922. 1 July 1922.

Westmeath Independent. 11 February 1922

(1) Tipperary Star. 17 June 1922

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