Margaret Mulroe and Nora Dunne
These two women suffered greatly as a result of the direct involvement of Patrick and his brother Michael Tunney in the fight for Irish freedom. Their home in the mountains, south of Westport, was the headquarters of the West Mayo Flying Column of the I.R.A. It was an easy target for the British forces who raided with unparalleled frequency. The two women were taken out and threatened with death several times.
Margaret Mulroe was a native Irish speaker from Greenáun, Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo. She married Thomas Tunney, Derrykillew, Westport, Co. Mayo. These were the days of matchmaking. The ‘deal’ was done and the first time that either set eyes on the other was at The Pattern in Leenane. Thomas Tunney was twenty-one years older than his wife. He died in February 1916. At that point their two sons Patrick and Michael were heavily involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and independence for Éire.
Their home was a hive of republican activity. Liam Lynch and Liam Mellows, the Galway leader, found a warm welcome when he stayed with the Tunney home in Cushlough. Mellows, on one of his organising trips to Aughagower, was astounded to find that the local dance hall was in fact a strong I.R.B. centre and was amazed by the organisation of the Cushlough brigade. At the height of tension, Tom Ketterick, Westport, Co. Mayo brought rifles, revolvers and ammunition by truck to the Tunney homestead in Cushlough. The supplies had come from England by train via Maam Cross, Co. Galway. They were distributed by Tunney to the local members of the Sinn Féin.
Six months after his release from Frongoch Jail, Nora Dunne, Carrarevaugh, Liscarney, Westport married Patrick Tunney. She married not alone her sweetheart but she married ‘a cause.’ Her husband was a ‘man on the run,’ tailor, a poet, a songwriter and a small farmer. Unfortunately, poems and being on the run don’t put a dinner on the table. Nora was to raise ten children on the small farm in the barren rural area of Derrykillew, while he spent many years of his life in jails throughout Ireland and England. Later on, she would endure the hardship of seeing their young family split between Derrykillew and cosmopolitian Dublin.
Nora and Margaret were true patriotic Irishwomen. They were true to their family, community and true to the traditions of ancient Ireland who put the freedom of their country before everything earthly. The valley in which they lived being isolated was continually frequented by the members of the Active Services Units of the Irish Republican Army. These men on the run found a warm welcome under their hospitable roof, but it also attracted ‘visits’ by the Crown forces who sought information about the movement of the ‘boys.’ The gable ends of the Tunney family home bore ample proof of these visits with many the marks of British bullets.
One brutal episode occurred on March 21, 1921, when in the early morning, the Black and Tans arrived at their home. To their amazement they found Patrick Tunney there. They had believed, he was under lock and key in Galway Jail. The Black and Tans didn’t know that he had got a ten-day parole from Galway Jail because of special family circumstances. His poor mother, Margaret, saw the Black and Tans pin her son at gun point against the gable wall of their family home. Their sole intent was to execute him on the spot. And they would have carried it out had it not been for the cries of a tiny new-born baby from within and the pleading of the family. This is one of the very few occasions where the Black and Tans showed any since of compassion, but, that compassion was short lived. They broke into their home despite the pleas of the family telling them that Nora had just given birth to her third baby late on the day before. The baby, Margaret Mary (Mairéad) Tunney would grow up to become a renowned poet herself. The Black and Tans went up to the bed-room and pulled the bed clothes off the bed, in case Nora was hiding a fugitive. The grand-mother, Margaret, boldly refused to converse with the Black and Tans in a language that they could understand. So they hit her with the butt of their rifles and knocked her against the dresser, injuring her and breaking much of the delft. They smashed her spinning wheel and burned it in the fire. Patrick Tunney was advised for his own security to return to the ‘safety’ of Galway Jail. It would be another nine months before Nora and her baby would lay eyes on him again. In the interim, a truce would be called and the Treaty signed. It was during this time also that Patrick Tunney helped plan and participate in diversionary activities during the successful escape of fellow prisoners from the high security Curragh Camp in September 1921.
When Margaret and Nora died, their contribution to Irelands cause was honoured by large attendance of mourners and many leaders of the fight for freedom. Margaret’s coffin was carried shoulder high from her home to Cushlough church where her son Patrick recited the Rosary. The family received Mass cards and telegrams from Liam Cosgrave, T.D. Secretary to the Taoiseach, the High Commissioner for Australia (W.J. Dignam and Mrs. Dignam) and from the Cathaoirleach and staff of Seanad Éireann; W. Davin, T.D. Dun Laoghaire.
These were the women behind the men, the often forgotten people and the unsung heroes. Those two ladies faced down the rifles of the R.I.C. and the Black and Tan brutes for the cause of Ireland’s freedom.
Escape From The Workhouse
Patrick Tunney’s mother was Margaret Mulroe from Greenáun, Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo. They were related to the Mulroy families on Peter Street, Westport and Curvey, Aughagower. That connection served the families well. The following story was recounted by Mairéad Friel, daughter of Patrick Tunney: “Uncle Mick Tunney was jailed at the Workhouse at Westport Quay during the troubles where his nephew, Seán Mulroy was the guard. During the night Mick ‘escaped.’ He crossed the Oweenwee River and came to Derrykillew. In the morning, he left his home and went to McGovern’s house in Derryaun. They had to wash all his cloths and they put him to bed. The Black and Tans (the scum of English prisons) came looking for him at his home in Derrykillew. Not finding him in there, they went to Derryuan. The McGovern’s saw them coming and put Mick outside with only a blanket around him to hide behind a wall. They hid his cloths at the bottom of a pile of other cloths. The Black and Tans told them that Mick Tunney had escaped from the Workhouse at the Quay. They pretended to be alarmed. The three girls in the McGovern house got ‘cosy’ with the Black and Tans. They brought out the melodeon and started ‘dancing’ with them. They escorted the Black and Tans on a ‘merry dance’ past the wall where Uncle Mick was hiding.”
Great And Sincere Men
Men I knew
The Mayo News, September 9, 1944
Just as the verdure of Summer blooms and fades, so too does mortal man come and live and die. Where we are confronted with the trivial things of life, we are prone to forget that we are mere sojourners, ever knocking at the threshold of time, just preparing for Eternity. Our longest span of life on this planet is very brief – though at times we are so full of vanity as to think that if we quietly passed away we would be so missed that terra firma would hardly revolve on its axis. Full often I recall days now long gone by, and I calmly visualise great and sincere men with whom I had the honour of being associated some twenty-five years ago in my own beloved Mayo, every one of whom are today calmly sleeping in the realms of Eternity. Every one of those great men were endowed with the spirit of righteousness, and animated with the noble Fenian spirit which inspired them to work and strive for complete emancipation of the land they loved.
The ideals of Emmett, Tone, Mitchell and Ross guided them in their endeavours and no allurements, however fascinating, could decoy them or lead them o’er erring ways. Let us contemplate for a moment on the short period of 25 years, compared with the thousands of years since Adam’s time and millions of years lie ahead, then figure the enormous member of the trusted friends who have gone to their last reward in the quarter of a century.
At that time, the late Patrick J. Doris, editor “Mayo News,” was leading and counselling the people of Mayo, who flocked to him for advice. He laboured for the freedom of the Press, the liberty of the subjects and the redemption of all people from the stranglehold of slavery, and his paper, the “Mayo News,” was one of Ireland’s leading Nationalist organs. His able promptings were fruitful, because every town and district in Mayo had some enthusiast to spread the light. Amongst the outstanding figures were Joseph MacBride, Joseph Gill, Westport Quay; John McDonagh, Joseph Ruddy, Joseph Ring, Thaddeus Walsh, Westport; Pat O’Donnell, Newport; Owen O’Malley, Cushlough; Michael Duffy, Lanmore; Pat Duffy, Cloonskill; Vols’ Lally and O’Malley. Islandeady; Seán Corcoran, Kiltimagh; Henry Burke, Claremorris; Jack Griffin, Ballyhaunis; Mick O’Brien, Cong; Jim McEvilly, Castlebar; Maurice Mullins of Crossard fame and Owen Hughes and Harry Hughes, Aughagower.
The foregoing is but a brief list of the workers. But, alas, those labours have now ceased. All the above exerted all their energies during Ireland’s struggle for freedom – 1916-21 – and though Ireland may well acclaim countless heroes who freely offered their lives against foreign aggression, let us not forget that the heart of Mayo, was ever aflame and that her trusted sons were capable of guiding her destinies. Really, I think that P.J. Doris, J. MacBride, O. Hughes and H. Hughes were four of the most zealous and determined men that ever espoused a cause.
When the immortal O’Rahilly visited Westport early in 1916, those brave men arranged themselves for the arduous task which lay ahead and they made sure that The O’Rahilly’s mission would be fruitful amongst the men of the West.
The deeds and the work of those brave men cannot; or will not, be burned in oblivion. No, the resurrection of Banba will have their names emblazoned on Ireland’s Roll of Honour. Whilst we await the Day of Reckoning, let us reverentially remember their names, guard the torch which they guarded for us keeping clear the paths which they paved to freedom and always breathe a sincere prayer for the eternal repose of the immortal souls of the noble, the trusted, and true.
Mr. Thaddeus Walsh, Westport
The Mayo News, August 15, 1931
Whenever we reflect on days gone by we always find that some of our best friends and associates have, also, gone to other spheres – one by one they have passed away, therefore, whilst fate bades us to sojourn here and enable us to combat all forms of vice, strife, worry and depression which pave our paths, let us consider how briefly is our span of life, whereas, we, some day in the near future, will tread the lonely road our predecessors have travelled.
The recent demise of the lamented Mr. Thaddeus Walsh, Westport, recalls to my mind the cherished memories of some fifteen golden years ago when together we were harboured in Imperial fortifications and armed sentries guarded our repose lest we should interfere with the peace and safety of the Realm; therefore, I, regard his death as a lost link with other days, not the shining link of the valorous soldiers who nobly died for Irish freedom, and whose names are emblazoned on Ireland’s roll of honour, no, the late Mr. Walsh was predestined to take his place as an humble follower rather than yearn for the responsibility of leadership, and was a stern believer in constitutionalism, as an ever courteous, obliging and inoffensive man. But it is not for his disposition, or chairmanship of Westport District Council, or member of the Mayo County Council that I tender my sympathy, or record my appreciation of the late Mr. Walsh, but as patriot and Irishman.
When Republicanism was spreading its pure mantles o’er the villages and towns of Ireland during 1915, he joined Ireland’s ranks for Ireland’s sake; with zeal and energy, he stood in the gap of danger with devotion when England’s hirelings were conspiring to destroy Irish sovereignty; when recruiting and decoying Irishmen was rife in Ireland, he advocated fiscal freedom for the land of his birth although the advocacy of such policy was not too fashionable then, – besides the Irish Party, the shoneen, the aristocratic and all the Imperial elements within Ireland were lustily cheering Britannia in hopes she would kill the Kaiser and all the anti-national forces of Ireland were flocking to the recruiting platforms, still through all the throes Mr. Walsh never deviated; then Easter Week dawned gloriously, the Maxwellian agents raided, arrested, imprisoned, deported and murdered many Irishmen. In the Westport area a number of arrests were made, which included Thaddeus Walsh, P.J. Doris, “Mayo News”, Charles Hughes, Éamon Gannon, Edward Sammon, John MacDonagh, Michael Derrig, Tom O’Brien, Hubert Heraty, Charles Gavin, Tom Derrig, James Malone, Owen Hughes, Manus Keane, Joseph Ruddy, Joseph Gill, Joseph Ring, Joseph MacBride, as well as John Berry, Lanmore and Edward Haran, both of whom were, since, driven into exile. With brevity, I will summarise the ordeals which the late Mr. Walsh and his associates underwent during the ensuing months of 1916. Heavily handcuffed, the entire number of prisoners left Westport, and at midnight, by special train on the 10th May, all the Mayo prisoners were transferred from Castlebar to Dublin. On arrival in Dublin we were escorted directly to Trinity College; our stay there was brief, otherwise we may aspire to a librarianship. We were then removed to Richmond Barracks. In Richmond there was no accommodation whatever for prisoners save to sleep on the bare floor. On the 13th May, 380 Irishmen were paraded on the barrack square ready for deportation. About 6 p.m., under an armed guard of 800 soldiers, the march for North Wall begun and long ere the sun sunk in the West, we were out on the waters of the Irish Sea, on board a huge cattle boat, named, I think, “The Slievebloom.”
Early on the following morning we arrived in Holyhead and were entrained in a non-stop train direct for Surrey County Jail, it was an eight-hour journey, and on arrival at the nearest railway station we had to march to Wandsworth Prison, and were allotted to our cells, our meal then was one pint of cold water and porridge. Solitary confinement for seven weeks was the order of the day in Wandsworth Jail in conjunction with rigid military regulations, but all the rigors failed to subdue the late Mr. Walsh. Early in July we were transferred to an old disused Mill in Merrionethshire, known as the Frongoch Camp, of Wales. In August, we were again brought back to Wormwood Scrubbs Jail, London, where the Sankey Commission adjudicated over the Irish Republican trails or preliminary proceedings. Congestion prevented the authorities from detaining prisoners indefinitely in Wormwood Scrubbs; therefore, Frongoch Camp was once more our address. Internment allows association amongst the prisoners in the respective camps, therefore, it is never so melancholy as the prison solitary confinement, although the suspense of uncertainty is a wearisome ordeal, the British authorities exercise all deprivations which legislation permits. When the rank and file of the prisoners lost their learned advisors who were sent to Reading Jail from the camp, Mr. Walsh’s counsel was then encouraging and appreciative, thus it was with him in jail, camp or at home; his labours were unceasing after his release and he did a man’s part in overthrowing the forces of the Imperial Irish Party during the election campaign, December 1918. During the last 15 years many men’s minds have changed in Ireland. Some of the men we know in exile are now aiding the enemy which sent 1,900 men to British dungeons; 150 men to pine in penal servitude and 15 Republican martyrs to early graves, in 1916. Yet, whilst we have some of the 1916 heroes like Brian O’Higgins, Dáil Éireann; John O’Mahony, T.D.; Barney Mellows, T.D.; Patrick J. Doris and others to guide our destinies, there is hope for the future.
Each week the editorials of the “Mayo News” ring like thunderbolts and instill animation to the very heart of the wayward reader. Our slogan should be: “Read the “Mayo News,” study it, practice its doctrines.” No other organ in Ireland has worked with more energy than the “The Mayo News.” Black-and Tanism failed to subdue its editor when its machinery was dismantled, the offices sacked, raided and P.J. sent into exile.
Now, 15 years is but a short term in the normal life of a being and shorter in the life of a nation, still how great is the change we have lived to witness. Some of the pretentious Sinn Féiners and Republicans of 1916 are to-day Crown Colony enthusiasts – pillars of Imperialism.
Others of whom we had the honour of being associated with then have since died in defense of Irish freedom, amongst whom were Paddy Moran, Roscommon; Terence MacSwiney, Tom McCurtain, Lord Mayors, Cork; Dick McKee, Dublin; John O’Connor, John Kavanagh, Wexford; whilst others have died as the result of tyranny inflicted by our Saxon captors, Dick Fitzgerald, Kerry; Seán Corcoran, Liam Lynch, Patrick Hughes, Joseph Gill, Westport; Ml. Duffy, Lanmore; like hundreds of others of our Frongoch comrades, have passed away to their eternal reward with the ideals of their lives still a dream, and with his predecessors, to-day, rests Thaddeus or Thady Walsh, as he was familiarly known.
Space prevents me to go further into detail, though it would be my ambition to have the names of most of the Frongoch internees filed in letters of gold.
The spirit of 1916 still lives and will live ‘til Ireland arises from selfdom and the aims of Pearse are fully realised. It is our duty to hand down the ideals which animated the men of 1916 to posterity, unsullied, then let us breathe a prayer for the heroes who gave their lives and for the repose of the soul of Thady Walsh – a true Irishman, who filled an humble place in the rear guard.
PATRICK TUNNEY. Cushlough, August, 1931.
The Late Charles Hughes, Westport
The Western People, December 24, 1949
An appreciation by Patrick Tunney
The recent death of Charles Hughes, Westport, removed from the West of Ireland, one of its most distinguished Irishmen. His demise as an Irishman, a Republican and a business man is a loss not to Mayo alone, but to the Nation, which he loved, served and defended with untiring devotion. No man could conscientiously render more national service with greater zeal. He was sincere, fearless and righteous, and in the Council chamber or on the public platform he was an uncompromising orator, whilst in business circles he was a model for the creation of industries and employment.
Hailing as he did from the fountain-head of Fenianism in Aughagower, he was endowed with a truly Gaelic spirit, and blessed with all the enthusiasm which inspired him as a guiding advocate for the complete emancipation of beloved Banba, and at all times dispensed the counsel which pointed its magnet to the one aim only – Freedom. Yes, the freedom of the subject, the freedom of expression, freedom to live in Ireland, and the freedom of the serf from the galling stranglehold of serfdom, and the general rousing of our people from the service submissiveness of nurturing alienation or living the life of the wanton, willing slave.
In his earlier teens he laboured for the resurrection of the Irish language, Irish traits, customs and games. A leading light in the Gaelic movement, his followers were legion, and without any reservations he struggled for just rights for the Irish tenant farmers – secure in their homes on the soil of Ireland – thereby overthrowing the heinous powers of the harrowing system of British designed landlordism: a relentless system. In his efforts he was remarkably successful, causing vast tracts of fertile plains to be ‘cleared’ of the aggressors’ stock, and eventually causing “Crown” protection of the ranches to grow weary, thereby causing the landlords to surrender.
THE NEW ARENA – The year 1913 opened new avenues for his alertfulness, as he hoped that new tactics would lend strength for the completion of his endeavours. He went with vigour into the new arena, believing that passive resistance or compromising with the invader would never accomplish the ideals of dead generations of Irishmen and women, and the following three years he devoted his energies to unity, to the revival of dormant hopes, and to organisation. Then on St. Patrick’s Day, 1916, immortal O’Rahilly was booked to address a public demonstration in Westport, and to ward off somewhat the suspicions of the “mental note-takers,” it was deemed prudent that the meeting should be advertised as “under the auspices of the Gaelic League.” The burning embers were safely guarded to await the riper movement when they would burst into a living flame. I had the honour of being in company with those leading patriots that day, when I proposed Joseph MacBride to preside. Those on the platform were Patrick J. Doris, “Mayo News”; Thady Walsh, Westport; Charles Hughes, The O’Rahilly, the well-known Gaelic historian, Pat O’Donnell, Newport, and Michael Gavin, Kilmeena. Charles Hughes’ address that day was a gem of oratory when he appealed to his multitude of listeners to unite, stand firm, and throw off the shackles of alien domination, and “assert your rights in a free Republic.” His address was a masterpiece of eloquence. Might I observe that the seven trusted Irishmen mentioned are all today resting in eternity, and to my mind, generations will come and go before seven more faithful sons of the Gael will address a public meeting in the town of Westport.
That night O’Rahilly confided in his trusted standard bearers in a small room at the corner of The Octagon and James Street, now occupied by, I think, “Brown and Walsh agents,” and in about 6 weeks after, Easter, 1916, Charles Hughes and every member of his staff were placed securely in custody. His nephew, now deceased. Paddy Hughes, in company with John Berry, Lanmore, were sent to Berlienne Jail to pine; another assistant, Michael Duffy, was deported to Surrey County Jail, and died a premature death as a result of solitary confinement and penal persecution, and Charles Hughes himself with Joseph MacBride, P.J. Doris, and Joseph Gill, were held enchained in Richmond Barracks for the framing of a military court martial. They were later exiled to Merionethshire, Wales, to undergo a painful term within one of Britannia’s steel guarded fortifications. But all the inflections, servitude or torture of his captors failed to subdue the unconquerable spirit of the noble, the chivalrous, the uncompromising Charles Hughes.
On his return to Ireland he was more vigilant than prior to his captivity. He was on his keeping when enemy forces burned his property in Westport. Yet still, will all the faithfulness of youth’s inheritance, he honourably clung to the last to the sacred cause of Faith and Fatherland – the lessons which animated his heart in the home of birth, beneath the shades of the tower in Aughagower, where he is laid to rest today. Hallowed be his memory, and may the lights which lit his path light the way for all who may in this – or will in a future generation – follow in his footsteps. May his noble soul rest.
Edward O’Malley, Fenian
The Connaught Telegraph, February 7, 1948
An Appreciation by Patrick Tunney, Glasnevin.
Mortal man is on this earth predestined to end in the icy hands of Death – no matter how exalted man’s ideals may be or how long his sojourn may be, all may be summed up in the fact that we come and live and die. Such is man. Well advanced in his nineties, the late Edward O’Malley of Cushlough has been called to his eternal reward following seventy years of a stormy life pledged in defence of the emancipation of beloved Banba. Early in the eighties, he threw himself into the Irish struggle, and took an active part in the movements which then inspired his fighting clan, and was soon afterwards within the folds of Fenianism. From that time onwards he agitated, he organised and displayed the most ardent support for everything Irish. He was a fluent Gaelic speaker and to the end upheld all the native traditions which tend to build nationhood. At the formation of the Volunteer movement (1913-1915) with renewed energies he continued his arduous task; 1918 found him and his sons in the heart of the fray, although he was then advancing in years. In March, 1918, his son, Owen, as a result of contact with British forces was brutally beaten and had to be detained in hospital for many months. When in March, 1921, Crown forces surrounded his home at midnight, they foully beat him and his family, saturated his home with petrol, and burned it to the ground; they shot his stock and razed his out offices and other property. As a result of the barbarous treatment suffered by his family that night, his two boys, Owen and John, were consigned to early graves. May the day rest lightly on their hallowed graves. Still all those harrowing ordeals failed to subdue the true and fearless Edward – he was faithful to the noble cause he espoused even unto death. His passing breaks a link in the great chain which bound the rising generation to the lofty ideals of Tone, Mitchell and Rossa. In his own simple way Edward O’Malley was a man amongst men; he was proud of his noble heritage, as all zealous Irishmen should be. He entered the arena when all national aspirations were outlawed. He never lost sight of the sacrifices and accomplishments of our Fenian dead; their responsibilities were his. An idealist really, his aspirations and dreams should be a guide and inspiration to others.
Patrick Tunney D.C.
1887 – 1951
Patrick Tunney D.C. was born in 1887 to Margaret and Thomas Tunney of Derrykillew, Cushlough, Westport. He became a member of the Westport District Council (for the electoral division of Erriff) in 1915. He was the only member to reside outside the Council area and he cycled the ten miles into Westport for the monthly meetings.
By the time his father, Thomas Tunney died in 1916, Patrick and his brother Michael were heavily involved in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (I.R.B.) and in the fight for independence for Éire. He strove to organise the movement throughout Mayo and set up the first branch of the Gaelic League in Cushlough in 1913.
That same year he set up the Cushlough Fife and Drum Band. Three years later, in 1916, the band had the honour of heading the parade on St. Patrick’s Day in Westport. They marched from the Octagon to Westport Railway Station to meet The O’Rahilly who was coming to address a meeting in Westport that day. (The O’Rahilly was killed in Dublin during the Easter Rising only a matter of weeks later). In 1918, he led the band at the trial of Mr. Ned Moane, Westport and Mr. William O’Malley, Newport. On that day, the band was attacked by the Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) on Castlebar Street, Westport. Some band members were so severely beaten that they had to be hospitalised. Their drums and fifes which they used in self-defence were no match for the batons of the R.I.C. That event saw the permanent demise of the band.
Patrick joined the Irish Volunteers at its inception. Following the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin, he was mobilised with the Westport Battalion. Under Joseph MacBride they marched from Farnaught Hill into Westport Town. In his article From Derrykillew to Frongoch, printed in the Mayo News in 1918, he reflected on his arrest for this: “The golden rays of a glorious summer’s sun were just brightening the heavenly canopy on Tuesday morning the 9th May 1916, when I suddenly awoke from my slumber to the tramp of marching feet, which were fast approaching my parental home, to the door of which a gentle knock was immediately given. My time for consideration seemed limited then. Whilst still barefooted I instantly opened the door and I was more than a little surprised when I saw standing outside three armed Constables with Sergeant Coughlan, Carrowkennedy, and Head Constable Creighton, Westport.”
Thus began a life where he would see the iron bars and barbed wire of no fewer than twelve different jails in England, Wales and Ireland. Starting in May 1916, with the R.I.C. barracks in Westport, to Castlebar Jail, Trinity College, Stafford Detention Centre, Richmond Barracks in Dublin, Wandsworth Detention Barracks, Surrey County Jail, Frongoch South Detention Barracks, Wormswood Scrubbs Prison in London and the North Frongoch Camp in Merrioneth, Wales. It was during his time in Frongoch Camp that he came into contact with the immortal Terence MacSwiney who was his dormitory leader. Then later, he was imprisoned in Eglington Barracks, Galway Jail and Rath Camp in the Curragh. He saw the inside of some of these jails on many different occasions. He was treated appallingly during his time in prison, including one beating in Galway Jail which was so bad, that he never fully recovered and carried a limp for the rest of his life. Likewise, he was tortured in Rath Camp in the Curragh. However, in September 1921, he played an active part in ensuring that sing-songs were lengthy and loud as a diversionary ploy while a large group of fellow prisoners made a successful escape from the camp.
In 1917, just six months after his release from Frongoch Jail, Patrick married Nora Dunne from Carrarevaugh, Liscarney, Westport, Co. Mayo. They would raise ten children on a small farm in the barren, rural setting of Derrykillew. Their home, in the mountains south of Westport, was headquarters of the West Mayo Flying Column and was continually frequented by the members of the Active Services Units of the Irish Republican Army from 1917 to 1922. These men on the run found a warm welcome under their hospitable roof. On this account the Tunney home was often raided, sometimes twice in one night, by British forces. They were threatened with death more than once when they would not give the required information about the movement of the ‘boy’s.’ The gable ends of their family home bore the marks of British bullets.
One brutal episode occurred early in the morning on March 21, 1921. The Black and Tans arrived at their home and to their surprise they found Patrick Tunney there. They had believed him to be under lock and key in Galway Jail. However, Patrick had been granted a ten-day parole from Galway Jail because of special family circumstances. The Black and Tans pinned him at gun point against the gable wall of his home with the intent of executing him on the spot. And thanks to the cries of a tiny newborn baby from within and the pleading of the family he was spared. Nora had given birth to her third baby, a girl, Margaret Mary (Mairéad) late the previous day. Patrick Tunney was advised for his own security to return to the ‘safety’ of Galway Jail. It would be another nine months before he would lay eyes on his wife and baby again.
He went on to become the first treasurer of the West Mayo Executive of Sinn Féin and later the clerk of a Sinn Féin court. In 1928, he stood as a Fianna Fáil candidate in the Westport area in the County Council Election.
Patrick was a tailor by profession, but this was not a sustainable occupation in rural Ireland in the early 1900s, so he was encouraged to leave his family and tiny farm behind. He moved to Dublin in 1932 where he lived in Ballygall Road, Glasnevin. He secured a job as a relieving officer in Store Street, Dublin. It was his job to assess the needs of the underprivileged in inner city Dublin and to assign to them monetary support. On many occasions, he gave of his own wages to support people who were in great need. Outside of work, he continued his active interest in the fight for nationalism. His daughter Mairéad reflected on this time stating:
“I remember at our home in Ballygall Road seeing all kinds of long and small guns. There were small revolvers that would fit easily in your hand. They were all shining and stacked in a line in the shed at the back behind the coal and timber. There were around 50 guns that were stolen from the magazine port in the Phoenix Park. My Dad came home to Derrykillew with Christmas presents. The Guards followed him and questioned him about the movement of people in Dublin. The very next day all of the guns had disappeared.”
In May 1933, he was nominated by Fianna Fáil to contest the County Council elections for the Finglas area. He was Secretary of the Mayomen’s Association in Dublin and a founder member and Secretary of the Dick McKee Memorial Pipe Band. Patrick Tunney died in Dublin in 1951. It was a co-incidence that on the day of his funeral, Éamon de Valera unveiled a monument to the memory of Dick McKee in Finglas, Dublin. He was also a Peace Commissioner in Dublin for many years.
In 1951, the Irish Independent described Patrick Tunney as “a prolific writer of patriotic ballads, articles and letters.” He was an ardent nationalist and a prolific contributor to local and national newspapers, having over three hundred and fifty articles published. His views were forthright and direct. In an article in the Western People, he expressed his views on Ireland and the Black and Tans where he wrote: “Banba’s sons were never defeated, but on all occasions were outnumbered, when England dispatched hordes of the lowest scoundrels she could recruit together from her jails and criminal lunatic asylums with orders to loot, burn, desecrate, assassinate and conquer.” His letters were often controversial and provoked reaction and replies, but Tunney was steadfast in his conviction.
The Mayo News described his passing as “a shock to his legion of friends and it removes yet another colourful figure of the fight for Independence period.” The article reported that “his funeral arrived at Cushlough on Saturday evening by road from Dublin and was met by a thousand people from the Westport and Drummin areas. After Mass on Sunday, internment took place in the nearby cemetery. His old comrades of the I.R.A. rendered full military honours at the graveside where an oration was delivered by Brigadier Ed. Moane, West Mayo Brigade, Old I.R.A.”
Mr. Patrick Tunney
Cushlough and Dublin
The Mayo News, June 9, 1951
Patrick Tunney died on 31st May, 1951. Aged 64 years.
We very much regret to announce the death at Ballygall Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, of Mr. Patrick Tunney, an ardent nationalist and a life-long contributor to this paper.
His passing which has come as a shock to his legion of friends removes yet another colourful figure of the Fight for Independence period. Born in Cushlough, Westport over 64 years ago. Mr. Tunney joined the I.R.B. when in his early teens and strove to organise the movement throughout Mayo. He quickly gained esteem and was appointed Organiser and Secretary of the Irish Volunteers. Actively associated with the Easter Week Rising, he was arrested and sent to Wandsworth Prison. Later he was transferred to Wormwood Scrubbs and finally was interned in Frongoch.
On his release from there he immediately began to organise the I.R.A. and Sinn Féin movement in Mayo. He became foundation treasurer of the latter Organisation in South Mayo. Imprisonment again rewarded his efforts and in Galway Jail he was severely tortured. So severe his injuries that he suffered permanently until his death. Tortured with him at the time was his brother, Michael. Afterwards the late Mr. Tunney was interned in Rath Camp, the Curragh.
Mr. Tunney contributed many articles of a nationalist nature to the “Mayo News” as well as several patriotic ballads. In later years, Mr. Tunney lived in Dublin and there too he took an active interest in the affairs of the Capital. He was founder there and Secretary of the Dick McKee Memorial Pipe Band. (It was a co-incidence that on last Sunday, the day of his funeral, Éamon de Valera unveiled a monument to the memory of Dick McKee in Dublin).
His funeral arrived at Cushlough on Saturday evening by road from Dublin and was met by a thousand people from Westport and Drummin areas. After Mass on Sunday, internment took place in the nearby cemetery. His old comrades of the I.R.A. rendered full military honours at the graveside where an oration was delivered by Brig. Ed. Moane.