Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick Gilligan 1882-1916

Patrick Gilligan was born in 1882. He was the third son of Owen and Kate Gilligan Noggusduff, Gallen. Owen Gilligan was an extensive farmer with substantial interests in the local brick yards, served as a justice of the peace and a county councillor before his death in 1912.

As a young boy Patrick Gilligan enlisted in the Irish Guards and served for a year before being bought out by his father. He returned home and worked on the family farm.

In June 1914, a meeting held in the Ancient Order of Hibernians Hall Belmont resolved that…

‘we the nationalists of Belmont and surrounding districts, in the meeting assembled, hereby express our unabated confidence in the Irish Parliamentary Party under the able leadership of John Redmond and congratulate them on the success that has attended their efforts in the cause of Irish Nationality. That we now establish a corps of the national volunteers believing that such is an effective way of hastening the passage of home rule bill on the statue book… Patrick Gilligan Gallen, Ferbane was with acclamation appointed commander of the corps.’ (1)

Throughout 1914, newly formed volunteer companies often sought the assistance of ex-servicemen like Gilligan. The Drumcullen volunteers trained twice a week under the supervision of retired sergeant Michael Wall. At Shinrone the local unit was drilled by Patrick Dempsey, a Longford born reservist who was employed as a postman in Brosna. From Birr, Patrick Ahern (who had previously served as a sergeant major in the Leinster Regiment) oversaw the training of the six companies which came to form the South Offaly Battalion. On Sunday 26th July, Gilligan was probably present when units from the west of the county gathered at Cloghan…

At 3pm, as the Cloghan Corps lined up on the Square, the Shannon Bridge Corps, as prearranged, marched into the town. Immediately they joined forces, and preceded to Belmont, there meeting companies Belmont and Ferbane, headed by the Clara Fife and Drum Band. Then the combined forces, numbering between six and seven hundred, marched back into Cloghan. After parading the streets, each company took up an appointed position on the Square and went through various evolutions of company drill. The whole proceedings were marked by the military precision, alertness, and deportment of various companies. The Cloghan men, equipped with bandoliers and haversacks looked quiet a smart body, whilst the Shannon Bridge Corps, conspicuous by their wooden rifles, proved that if they had real Mausers, they would use them with effect’  (2)

A couple of hours earlier, the Irish Volunteers in Dublin had landed 900 Mausers at Howth on board Erskine Childers yacht the Asgard . Later that evening three civilians were shot dead on Bachelors Walk when members of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers opened fire on a crowd jeering the soldiers inability to prevent the gun running operation. The training of rural volunteer units took place in tandem with major international upheaval. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by Sarajevo on 28 June had acted as a catalyst for the so-called ‘July Crisis’ and by early August the Great War had commenced. 

On the outbreak of hostilities , reservists were called up and many ex-servicemen volunteriry reenlisted. Patrick Ahern was commissioned as an officer in his old unit and was killed in France in September 1916. That same month sergeant Patrick Dempsey was killed while serving with the Yorkshire Regiment.

Patrick Gilligan reenlisted and served with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was killed while fighting on the Western Front on April 5, 1916, and is buried at Grave Bois Carré military cemetery in Haisnes, France. In a letter to his brother at Gallen a captain from his regiment stated…

‘I knew him from the very first day he joined and had a great admiration for him. His loss was deeply felt in the company, for he had many friends and was popular with everybody. I wish there were more like him. He was a fine man and met a soldier’s death.’ (2)

The author wishes to acknowledge the existing work on Patrick Gilligan by Brendan Ryan and PJ Dooley.


1911 Census search online at

Brendan Ryan ‘The Dear Old Town: A history of Ferbane’ (Ferbane) 2002.

Brendan Ryan ‘On Gallen Green: The story of a West Offaly Townland’ (Ferbane) 2020.

Longford at War. Online at

Freemans Journal. 23 July 1914. 19 September 1916. 

Leinster Reporter. 8 August 1914. 22 April 1916. 19 September 1916. 21 October 1916. 

Longford Leader, 21 October 1916.

Midland Tribune. 1 August 1914.

(1) Freemans Journal. 23 July 1914.

(2) Midland Tribune. 1 August 1914.

(3) Leinster Reporter.22 April 1916.

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