Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick/Paddy Seery 1889-1920 

Patrick Seery was born at Cloneyheigue, County Westmeath in 1889. His parents Matthew and Anne were small farmers and Matthew was secretary of the local United Irish League branch. In 1908, Matthew and Patrick along with other members of their extended family were amongst 13 local men jailed for their part in a cattle drive at New Forest.

The Irish Volunteers formed in late 1913 but spilt in response to John Redmond’s call for Irishmen to enlist in the British Army during the Great War. In the aftermath of this spilt, many rural units became morbid, but at Tyrellspass a small group supporting the anti-recruitment stance of Eoin MacNeill’s Volunteer executive and in contact with the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, continued to arm and drill.

This endurance of the Tyrellspass Volunteers was facilitated by the support of a local nationalist priest Fr. Smith (The unit were sometimes dubbed Fr. Smith’s Volunteers) and the leadership of the well-connected republican, Malone brothers. The unit was detailed to take part in the 1916 Rising, but in the general confusion following Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order, its members found themselves hemmed in by the local RIC at the Malone homestead in Meedin. Patrick Seery spent Easter Week at Meedin as part of the Tyrellspass company but appears to have avoided arrest in the aftermath of the Rebellion.

With the reorganisation of the Volunteers in 1917, Seery was elected captain of the Tyrellspass company, which was part of the Offaly Brigade area. In June 1920, the Brigade mobilised hundreds of volunteers across Offaly and South Westmeath to facilitate a mass night attack on Clara RIC barracks. Trees were felled to block roads in a wide radius, a smaller diversionary attack instigated at Geashill. The IRA occupied buildings surrounding the barracks and after the police sergeant’s family had been removed from an adjoining premises, deployed explosives and gunfire against the small garrison, but the RIC put up a stout defence and with daylight approaching the attackers withdrew having failed in their efforts to take the station.

Several republicans including  Seery, Martin Fleming from Ballycumber, Ned Brennan from and Martin Meleady from Ballydaly were wounded during the attack. Clara IRA leader Sean Robbins removed the injured Seery -who had been shot in the chest- from the scene of the fighting to receive the last rites from local priest Fr. Bracken. Transferred to receive medical treatment in Dublin he appeared to make some recovery, but died at the Mater Hospital, in September 1920.  

Patrick Seery’s funeral was a major event for the Offaly IRA, with large numbers of volunteers from across the Brigade area cycling to Tyrellspass and mustering unarmed on the village green, from where they marched to the nearby church behind Tullamore’s St.Enda’s pipe band. After mass the band played the ‘Flowers of the Forest’ as the cortege made its way through the village and a contingent of nine British Army soldiers who had arrived by lorry from Rochfordbridge stood to attention and saluted.

At Meedin churchyard the coffin was carried to the grave by volunteers and a firing party was present. Fr. Smith (who played a prominent role in republican activity while stationed at Rahan during the War of Independence) recited the rosary in Irish and paraphrased from ‘Who fears to speak of 98’…

And we will pray that from his clay
Full many a race may start
Of true men, like you, men,
To play as brave a part
.’ (1)

In 1924 the Free State government released the bodies of anti-Treaty prisoners executed during the Civil War. Among the remains disinterred from prison graves and returned to their families were those of Patrick Geraghty O.C. of the Tyrellspass Battalion. Geraghty was reburied at Meedin in a plot adjacent to Seery’s grave. In late 1970 the executed Connaught Ranger Mutineer James Daly was later reinterned at Tyrellspass cemetery.

A few months earlier a memorial to Offaly and Westmeath republicans was unveiled on Tyrellspass Green by Joe Redian in front of a crowd including 150 old IRA men.  The monument produced by Imogen Stuart features three schoolchildren representing Ireland’s future.


Sources:

1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/

Bureau of Military History Statements. Tomas Malone ‘Sean Forde’ Witness 845. Sean O’Neill Witness 1219. Search online at  https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/bureau-of-military-history-1913-1921/bmhsearch/

Military Service Pension Collection. Patrick Seery 1D233. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923

Michael Byrne. ‘The IRA attack on Clara Barack June 2 1922.’ Offaly History online at https://offalyhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/30/the-ira-attack-on-clara-barracks-on-2-june-1920-the-opening-salvo-in-the-war-of-independence-in-offaly-michael-byrne/

Daithí O Corráin and Eunan O’Halpin. The dead of the Irish Revolution. (Yale) 2020.

Daniel Murray. ‘Undefeated: The attack on and defence of Clara RIC Barracks’. Éireann Ascendant online at https://erinascendantwordpress.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/undefeated-the-attack-and-defence-of-clara-ric-barracks-june-1920/

Irish Independent. 24 March 1900.

Irish Times. 23 November 1908.

Westmeath Independent. 11 September 1920. 15 April 1939.

Westmeath Examiner. 5 September 1970.

(1) Westmeath Independent. 11 September 1920.

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