Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Joseph Boyle 1889-1944

Joseph Boyle spent his formative years in Tipperary, although the 1901 census suggests he may have been born in Ulster. By that time, he and his sister Mary were living with their aunt and uncle Thomas and Mary Watters at Clonmel.

Ten years later he was to be founded studying to become a teacher at De la Salle in Waterford. After a brief spell teaching in Laois, he moved to Horseleap, a small village spanning the Offaly/Westmeath border around 1915. He was a long-time and prominent member of the Irish National Teachers Organisation.

Boyle seems to have been one of a very small number of rural activists that maintained membership of the Athlone Brigade of the Irish Volunteers under the leadership Peader Bracken in the run up to the Easter Rising. During the War of Independence, he was active in organising with republicans like Gerry Boland and was interned at Ballykilnlar camp. A staff captain, he served with a Westmeath anti-treaty column under David Daly which laid down its arms in early 1923.

Elected as a councillor for Fianna Fáil, he became the party’s director of elections in Offaly throughout the 1930s. He went on to serve on its national executive and Seanad Éireann.

In 1935 Boyle was elected chairman of Westmeath GAA County Board, but because his home was situated just over the border in Offaly, this appointment was later blocked by the Leinster Council.

On his death in 1944 he received a military funeral from his colleagues in the old IRA.

A fund was established by Fianna Fáil supporters to erect a monument at his grave in Horseleap. This gravestone was unveiled by Gerry Boland in 1950 following a procession featuring the Kilbeggan Boys Band, St Brigid’s Pipe Band and a contingent of old IRA men from both Offaly and Westmeath.


1911 Census search online at

Military Service Pension Collection. Seamus O’Brennan MSP34REF296.  I Offaly Brigade (A17) Search online at

Irish Independent 25 February 1935.

Irish Press. 20 October 1944.

Offaly Independent. 28 October 1944. 8 July 1950.

Westmeath Independent 10 February 1923.


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