Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick Francis/ Paddy Adams 1881-1939

Patrick Adams was born in Tullamore to Henry and Mary Anne Adams in 1881. His paternal family had moved to the county from England to work as gamekeepers and later opened a successful business exporting meat. The family’s business interests diversified in the decades which followed, and they were heavily involved in commercial farming and the licenced trade.

Henry Adams was one of Tullamore’s leading nationalists, serving a term of imprisonment for Land League activities in the 1880s and was a prominent member of county council until his retirement in 1912.

Patrick’s brother James Adams served as a cavalry officer with the 3rd Dragoon Guards during the Boer War before emigrating to Portland Oregon where he died in 1914.

Patrick Adams replaced his father on the Council and was involved in the committee which oversaw the local Volunteer Corp’s activities throughout 1914.

Patrick married Rosaleen Egan. Rosaleen’s family operated a large distillery in Tullamore and like the Adams’s were member of the town’s Catholic business’ establishment.

Following the death in 1914 of Edmund Haviland Burke M.P. for Kings County (Tullamore), Adams was nominated by a convention as the official home rule candidate. Rejecting the validity of the convention, Edward Graham sought election as an independent nationalist and defeated Adams in a tempestuous by-election. Throughout this period Adams was involved in land agitation on the Digby Estate, resulting in his imprisonment for helping to organise a largescale cattle drive at Geashill.

A noted cricketer, golfer, and equestrian enthusiast, he served as chairman of Tullamore GAA and worked to resolve a spilt in the club which had resulted in advanced nationalists establishing their own ‘Volunteers’ side. He helped to facilitate the establishment of a Cumann na mBan branch in the town.

Following Captain Willie Redmond’s victory in the 1918 Waterford by-election Adams told a crowd at Tullamore…

‘Mr Redmond’s victory was an indication that the people were still Irish and not pro- Germans. The victory gave the lie to Mr de Valera when he said in Armagh a few weeks ago that the north would yet be Sinn Fein. The Armagh election gave him his answer for Ulster. Waterford answered for Munster; and they would soon have the opportunity of answering that challenge from Leinster.’ (1)

Following Grahams death, Adams was among the possible nationalist candidates to replace him, but Sinn Féin’s Pat McCartan was elected unopposed in the byelection which followed. Patrick Meehan suggests Adams decision not to contest the seat was taken after republican intimation.   

Adams had stepped down from his council seat in late 1916 but remained heavily involved in the Land and Labour movement and later with the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He spoke at the unions large May Day demonstration in 1919. Standing in the 1920 council elections he found himself pushed a side with a dramatic swing to Sinn Féin.

With the establishment of the Free State expectations rose again that Adams would seek election to the Dail as a representative of the Tullamore Town Tenants. Instead, his brother-in-law Patrick. J. Egan was elected on a Cumann na nGaedheal ticket.

Following the foundation of Fianna Fáil in 1926 Adams joined the party and was among its most prominent local councillors. He advocated for the employment on the building of Tullamore Hospital, the creation of a town swimming pool and received some national attention following his dismissive attitude to a circular from Clonmel Corporation in 1936 recommending the government adopt a pro-Franco policy regarding the Spanish Civil War.

When de Valera visited Offaly during the 1938 election Adams chaired an election meeting in O’Connor square and told the crowd…

‘They all recognised the great work he had done for the country. They were told by the Irish Independent that de Valera’s ambition was to become a dictator The people had not forgotten the dictatorship that existed when the Cosgrave government was in power.’ (2)

Adams death after a short illness in 1939 brought tributes from across the political divide. Addressing a meeting of the council his Fianna Fail colleague P.J. Bowles (whose own political activity sketched back to the Plan of Campaign at Woodford during the 1880s) commented of Adams…

‘He was a great sportsman and a great Irish man and his colleagues in the council would miss him sorely, but none would miss him more than the poor working people whose cause he championed at all times.’ (3)

Adams Villas a Tullamore housing development was named in honour.

The author wishes to acknowledge the considerable existing literature on Paddy Adams by both Michael Byrne and Sean McEvoy. Michael Egan’s works have also given a greater understanding  of the Tullamore bourgeoisie during the period.

 


Sources:

Michael Byrne. Tullamore and 1916.The making of the Tullamore Incident. (Tullamore) 2016.

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

Michael Egan. Merchants, Medics, and the Military. (Tullamore) 2021.

Patrick .F. Meehan ‘ The Members of Parliament  for Laois & Offaly (Queens and Kings Counties), 1801-1918‘ (Portlaoise) 1983.

John Noel (Sean) McEvoy ‘A study of the United Irish League in Kings County 1899-1918’ Masters thesis online at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/297016622.pdf

Sean McEvoy. The declining fortunes, strength, and influence of the Home Rule movement in Offaly, 1910 to 1916. In Offaly Heritage 9 edited by Ciaran Reilly. (Tullamore) 2016.

The Blues- A 125 years photographic history of Tullamore GAA 1888-2013. (2013)

Cork Examiner. 27 August 1936.

Kings County Chronicle/ Leinster Reporter. 25 April 1914. 27 June 1914. 29 September 1917.

Irish Independent. 11 September 1958.

Irish Press. 24 October 1932.

Leinster Express. 2 September 1939.

Leinster Leader. 2 September 1939.

Midland Tribune. 11 April 1914.

Offaly Independent. 18 August 1923. 2 September 1939. 22 August 1953.

Westmeath Independent. 25 January 1919. 10 March 1923.

(1) Kings County Chronicle/Leinster Reporter.30 March 1918. 

(2) Offaly Independent. 11 June 1938.

(3) Offaly Independent. 2 September 1939.

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