Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Seamus O’Brennan/James Michael Brennan 1886 -1968

James Brennan (Seamus O’Brennan) was born in 1886. His parents John and Mary Brennan (nee Finn) lived at Daingean, where John served as an RIC officer. After John Brennan’s death, Mary moved the family to Tullamore and operated a small shop there.

James’s brother Fr. John.T. Brennan served as priest in New Zealand. His younger brothers Aloysius, Frank and Edward were all prominent republicans during the War of Independence. His sister Kathleen operated a restaurant in Dublin, where she purchased arms from British soldiers, delivered dispatches and provided support to the Republican movement in the city from before the Easter Rising until the Civil War. The family were strongly associated with the Irish National Foresters, Tullamore GAA, and St Colmcille’s Pipe Band.

An employee of P.H. Egans, Seamus was enthusiastic member of the towns various Irish-Ireland movements. An officer in the Tullamore company of the Irish Volunteers, he supported the MacNeill leadership against the Redmondite National Volunteers following the outbreak of the Great War. His brother Alo was imprisoned for defacing a recruitment poster in October 1914, while Fr. John. T  acted as chaplain to Anzac forces throughout the War. 

Seamus Brennan was present  in the Sinn Féin rooms in March 1916, when his commanding officer Peader Bracken fired over the heads of a hostile crowd which had gathered outside. When the Tullamore RIC entered the hall to disarm the volunteers, a melee developed during which RIC Sergeant Ahern was shot.

In the aftermath of the shooting Brennan and Bracken went on the run. Traveling to Dublin, Brennan reported the incident to Patrick Pearse at St. Enda’s school who told of a group of assembled students…

first blood has been spilled and the first blow struck in the defence of the volunteers right to carry arms’ (1)

Brennan spent the next month as part of the Kimmage Garrison based at the Plunkett family’s Larkfield house. Deployed to Tullamore on the eve of the Rising to mobilise the local volunteers, he returned to Dublin on Easter Sunday evening after receiving Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order.

He mobilised on Easter Monday and was among the group which marched from Liberty Hall to occupy the GPO. He was stationed at the post office and its outposts during the rebellion. Arrested in the aftermath of the Rising, he was charged with several Tullamore men in connection which the incident at the Sinn Fein rooms but was released in June of that year.

In 1917 he accompanied Eamon de Valera on his first visit to Tullamore. As Sinn Féin expanded, he travelled to Cavan, South Armagh and Waterford to provide support during contentious by-elections. Basing himself in Dublin he attempted to purchase rifles from British soldiers and was elected to serve on the corporation. Arrested once again, he took part in a hunger strike while imprisoned in England.

After his release he was present at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday 1920. Arrested shortly afterwards, Brennan was interned in Ballykinlar camp Co. Down. Released in the aftermath of the Treaty he was not involved in the Civil War. Working as a civil servant in the capital he was heavily involved in the activities of the Dublin Old IRA. He passed away at Rathmines in 1968.


Sources:

(1) Bureau of Military History Statement. Seamus Brennan (Witness 48)

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

Michael Byrne. The Tullamore Incident:20 March 1916. Prelude to The Easter Rising.

Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o5PgPfxxHaU

J.F. Burke. The Midland Tribune 1916-1966 supplement article ‘First shots fired prelude to the Easter Rising.’ Online at http://www.irishidentity.com/stories/firstshots.htm

J.F. Burke. The Midland Tribune 1916-1966 supplement article ‘Seamus O’ Brennan with the GPO Garrison’ online at www.offalyhistory.com

Paul Hughes. Prelude to rebellion: the 1916 ‘Tullamore affray’ in context. In Offaly Heritage 9. (Tullamore) 2016.

Dr. Phillip McConway. ‘Offaly’s links to the 1916 Rising’. Online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkEiuHJc8J0

Military Service Pension Files. Search online at www.militaryarchives.ie

James Michael Brennan: MSP34REF296. Kathleen Angela Brennan:MSP34REF58865.

Edward Brennan: MSP34REF16469.

Freemans Journal. 31 October 1914.

Irish Press. 19 February 1935. 11 February 1964.

Offaly Independent. 16 March 1957. 24 March 1962. 22 January 1966. 7 August 1970.

Sligo Champion. 22 February 1964.

Westmeath Independent. 27 March 1915.

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