Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick Reardon/ Riordan 1892-1976

Patrick Riordan was born around 1892. His parents John and Alice farmed at Coolroe, Coolderry. On reaching adulthood Patrick worked on the family holding.

By 1917, the execution of the Easter Rising leaders, the prolonged nature of the Great War, with related concerns around conscription had seen a drift in support from the home rule party towards those espousing political separatism. In Coolderry, this shift was promoted by a young curate Fr. William O’Kennedy. Chairman of Offaly GAA and President of the Sinn Fein executive in the south of the county, O’Kennedy was a vocal supporter of land agitation.

The most visual expression of the political shift was the widespread erection of republican flags to commemorate the anniversary of the Rising and Sinn Fein electoral successes. At Killyon Cross about twelve miles from Riordan’s home, a large tricolor emblazoned with the letters I.R. had placed on top of an elm tree to celebrate Eamon de Valera’s victory in the East Clare by-election.

On 13 July 1917, Riordan was present at Killyon when RIC Sergeant Lacey from Thomastown arrived and proceeded to climb the tree in an attempt to remove the flag. In response a local man acquired a shotgun from a nearby pub and opened fire, wounding the policeman.

In August that year, Riordan was probably in Birr when Joseph McDonagh and Eamon Bulfin addressed a large Sinn Fein demonstration held in the aftermath of a hurling game between Coolderry and Drumcullen.

Following a cattle drive at Coolderry House that September, Riordan and six other drivers refused bail and were imprisoned. A large crowd gathered and sang the ‘Soliders Song’ as the prisoners departed Roscrea railway station for Dublin.

Seeking support for the detainees Fr. Kennedy wrote…

MOUNTJOY JAIL, DUBLIN, is now the abode of many of the Coolderry Cattle Drivers, who had made up their minds that human beings are more valuable on a ranch than Bullocks or Foxhounds. These Cattle-drivers are Landless Men, or Uneconomic Holders, living in the District, who were denied an opportunity of bidding at a public auction for this Ranch. An Indemnity Fund has been started on their behalf. All Patriotic Irishmen who appreciate the efforts and the sacrifices of the men of Coolderry to smash the Ranching System will, it is confidently anticipated subscribe liberally(1)

Shortly afterward the prisoners were released following an agreement to divide the lands at Coolderry House.

Returning home, Riordan helped establish a company of Irish Volunteers and was elected its Captain. Throughout 1918 he was involved in training this unit and confiscating privately held firearms in the area.

A year later Riordan oversaw the passage of on the run IRA men Seamus Robinson and Dan Breen through south Offaly, billeting them at Clareen. In 1920 he cooperated with the North Tipperary Brigade during the destruction of abandoned police outposts at Dunkerin and Knock.

Involved in roadblocking operations to facilitate the largescale attacks on barracks at Clara and Borrisokane, when the 4th Battalion Offaly No. II Brigade was formed with companies at Clareen, Birr, Coolderry and Rathcabbin, Riordan was appointed vice commandant.

In March 1920 he mobilised to take part in a plan devised by GHQ organiser Liam Hogan to attack a police patrol in Birr, but the operation was aborted after 3rd Battalion vice commandant Lar Langton from Kinnitty was wounded while scouting the town.

In the run up to the truce Riordan was involved in variously sniping operations and unsuccessful attempts to target RIC District Inspector Dougan.

In February 1922, Riordan participated the pursuit of the Birr Bank raiders.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, he moved to Birr and was involved in the development of St Brendan’s Park. Employed as a rate collector, he also deputised for fellow republican veteran Sean Robbins as a Home Assistance Officer. A member of Fianna Fail, he participated in the formation of a Sluagh of the Volunteer Force in 1934 and served in the Local Defence Forces during the emergency.

Patrick Riordan passed away in April 1976 and was buried at Clonoghill cemetery after a funeral mass in St Brendan’s Church Birr.

Sources

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

Bureau of Military History Statements: Patrick Riordan (Witness: 1,688). Michael Cordial (1,712)

Military Service Pension Collection. Offaly Brigade A18. Search online at https://www.militaryarchives.ie/collections/online-collections/military-service-pensions-collection-1916-1923

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

Clare Champion. 10 1968.

Constabulary Gazette. 21 July 1917.

Freemans Journal. 8 February 1922.

Irish Independent. 7 April 1976.

Leinster Reporter/ Midlands County Advertiser. 4 August 1918. 11 August 1918. 6 October 1918. 27 October 1918. 30 March 1933. 15 March 1934.21 January 1937. 7 December 1939. 2 July 1942.

Midland Tribune. 10 April 1976.

Nenagh Guardian. 6 October 1917.

Offaly Independent. 3 May 1931. 2 November 1940. 8 January 1966.

Tipperary Star. 7 September 1977.

(1) Nenagh Guardian. 6 October 1917.

 

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