Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

William Dolan 1896?-1918

Willam Dolan was born at Lavagh, Lusmagh in or around 1896. At the time of the 1901 census his mother Mary a widower was head of a house containing 11 children from ages 24 to 5.

At least two of Willliam’s brothers joined the RIC. One served as a District Inspector in Donegal, while another Loughlin Dolan was stationed in county Kerry. In 1920 Loughlin was one of 14 policemen led by Jerimiah Mee who took part in the Listowel Mutiny.

The mutiny centred around opposition to the takeover of RIC barracks by British military personnel and an allegation that policeman had been encouraged to engage in a shoot to kill policy by Colonel Gerald Bryce Ferguson Smith.  Smith was later shot by the Cork IRA. Loughlin Dolan later emigrated and spent many years as a recluse in the Australian bush.

 William Dolan lived with his older brother Patrick on the family holding at Lavagh. During the Spring and Summer of 1918 Irish Volunteer units across Ireland began to seize privately held firearms. In some cases, these seizures involved asking farmers to hand over their shotguns to the local company, in other instances armed men carried out night raids on the homes of those they suspected of owning guns. In late May, raiders visited houses at Derrylahan, the Fivealley and Ferbane where two volunteers were captured and subsequently prosecuted.

As part of these raids, a party of men visited the home of Thomas Donnelly a rate collector at Lusmagh. Having refused the raiders entry, Donnelly escaped dressed only in an overcoat through the back door and travelled across the fields to the home of his neighbour Frank Larkin. Arriving at the Larkins, Donnelly recounted that there were ‘a lot of raiders at his home and they thought to murder him’. Two of Larkin’s son set out to fetch the RIC at Annagh.

William Dolan had spent the evening rambling at a house in Gloster. He set out on bicycle for home around twelve thirty. Thomas Larkin would later tell the RIC…

‘I heard Thos Donnelly crying outside the door calling my brothers up, so he called for me too. So, I heard him say there were burglars at his house, His house was raided on. How he was in his nakedness. My brothers screaming. I met this man (deceased ) coming his best on a bicycle, so I said, ‘Stand there, or I’ll fire on you. He did not stand, so I fired after he passing me. I thought I did not hit him at all, that he went on. He never said anything, so I didn’t see or hear of him till my father went out about three o’clock, and when he came back, he said ‘He’s Dead’ (1)

Larkin later plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter and was given a three-month suspended sentence. 

The raiders at Donnelly broke a number of windows but are reported to have left following what is described as a lively reception for the owners 80-year-old mother.

The local paper commented that William Dolan was a…

‘Lighthearted, popular and well-liked young man. In fact, it is only the literal truth to say that during the short span of his young life he never made an enemy’ (1)

After a funeral at Lusmagh church Dolan was removed for burial to the old graveyard in Mellick county Galway.


1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at

Kerry Writers Museum online at

Cork Examiner. 19 June 1918.

Freemans Journal. 30 May 1918.

Leinster Reporter. 8 June 1918.

Westmeath Examiner. 10 August 1918.

(1) Leinster Reporter. 8 June 1918.

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