Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Leo White 1887-1967

Leo White was born on Main Street, Clara in 1887. His parents P.J. and Delia White operated a public house and were extensive merchants. The foremost advocate for Fenian movement in the midlands, P.J. White was imprisoned for his activism during the Land War, championed Parnell following the spilt in the Irish Party, was a pioneer of the GAA in King’s County and served as a county councillor before his untimely demise in 1902.

P.J. White’s sons were educated at Blackrock College, where James White met and befriended Eamon de Valera. The oldest son Michael Henry inherited his father’s business interests and council position. An early promoter of the Irish Volunteers, after the outbreak of war, Michael continued to support John Redmond’s home rule party but in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and with the looming threat of conscription, transferred his allegiance to Sinn Féin. The White premises served a focal point for republican activities throughout the War of Independence.

At the onset of hostilities Leo White volunteered as private in a cavalry regiment before transferring to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He saw action at the second battle of Ypres in 1915, was wounded on the Somme in 1916 and commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1917. In December of that year, he was onboard the troopship Aragon when it was sunk by a German submarine off the coast of Egypt with the loss of over 600 passengers and crew.

Returning from war he was frequent guest at his brother Michael’s home. When two members of the IRA party which had unsuccessfully attacked the nearby RIC barracks retreated to Whites in June 1920, they were welcomed by Leo.

After RIC Sergeant Henry Cronin was shot dead in Tullamore by the IRA at Halloween 1920, crown forces launched a series of reprisals over several nights. Business premises and the private homes of local republicans were targeted and a hall belonging to the Irish National Foresters was burned.

On the evening November 2nd a large body of RIC raided Clara. Leo White was shot after answering the door to the raiding party. Removed by train to a Dublin hospital the following day, he made a full recovery

White later emigrated to England but he remained a frequent visitor to Clara and an occasional author of letters to newspapers on the subject of his native towns history.

Leo White passed away in Manchester in 1967.


Sources:

Bureau of Military History Statement. Sean O’Neill Witness 1219. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923/search-the-collection

Michael Byrne. The Killing of Sergeant Henry Cronin in Tullamore on Sunday 31 October 1920 and the consequences in Tullamore and Clara. Offaly History online at offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com

Michael Byrne. The by-elections in Kings County/Offaly in 1914 and 1918. In Offaly Heritage 9 edited by Ciaran Reilly. (Tullamore) 2016.

Cork Examiner. 4 November 1920.

Leinster Reporter. 1 March 1902. 8 March 1902. 6 November 1920. 

Offaly/Kings County Independent. 12 February 1916. 1 November 1941. 7 June 1958. 7 October 1967.

The Nation. 27 May 1882.

Westmeath Examiner. 1 March 1902.

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