'A People's Army' charts story of Offaly area in War of Independence


Ronnie Ridgeway, Michael Kirwan and PJ Goode at the launch of "A People's Army “

THE story of Cloneygowan D Company of the Old IRA in the War of Independence has been charted in a new publication.

The book, “A People's Army– Cloneygowan D Company, Second Battalion, Offaly No. I Brigade, Irish Republican Army 1919-1923”, is penned by local historian, P.J. Goode, a native of the area.

The meticulously researched volume was launched at an informal ceremony in the grounds of Raheen Church on Saturday week last.

Speaking at the launch, held in keeping with Government Covid-19 regulations, author P.J. Goode said the book was primarily aimed at the people of Cloneygowan and district “for us to recall what it must have been like a century ago in what was once one small part of an empire.”

“There was a people's army here and a new National army who fought in our name,” stressed Mr Goode.

He said the names of those men and women featured in the book would forever be cherished and remembered by the people of the area.

Among those profiled in the history are John McEvoy, Daniel Finlay, Jack Deegan, Joseph Guinan, William Hyland, Edward Dunne, Christopher Smart, Joseph Dempsey, Denis Hyland, John Aspell. Edward Bracken, Harry Bryan, John Carthy, Thomas Cox, Patrick Dempsey, James Duffy, William Dunne, James Deering, Tom Davis, William and Edward Flanagan, Michael Feeney, Tom and John Guinan, Walter and Edward Gordon, Tom and Pat Gibson, Michael Kirwan, Denis and George McEvoy, Joe Mulpeter, James Moran, Joseph D. McKenna, William Quinn, Seamus Cummins, Daniel Quinn, John Richardson, Patrick Trimble, Patrick Tobin and Tom Wyer.

Members of Cumann na mBan from the area are also featured including Charlotte Fitzgerald Keller, Kate McEvoy, Catherine Mulpeter, Kate Dunne, Elizabeth Carthy and Jane Deegan Coleman.

“Stirring times and dangerous ones too, it was Cloneygowan versus the empire,” stressed Mr Goode.

He added: “Outgunned, half trained, inexperienced under fire, these part time volunteer soldiers took on the might of an empire and not without some understanding of the significance of so doing.”

At the time of taking the oath of allegiance to the Republic, Coneygowan IRA company numbered 40 people, and about 30 a year later.

The adjoining companies of Garryhinch, Geashill, Killeigh, Ballinagar and Walsh Island could perhaps number an equal number per company.

Cloneygowan company was active and played its part in the revolution then under way.

“Police barracks were abandoned and burned out, neighbouring barracks attacked with fire and bombs, roads trenched repeatedly, trees felled, bridges blown, trains halted by armed men, sniping at military and direct ambushes in daylight causing casualties among police and military,” outlined the author.

The era also saw the creation of an alternative courts and justice system for citizens, much to the consternation of loyal citizens of the empire.

The Volunteer Flying Column commandant for north Offaly described the area as hostile and unsuitable terrain for ambushes. Yet a number of these attacks took place at one site in Raheen on the edge of the company's area. Though they were militarily unsuccessful they were useful for future experience in the field, stressed Mr Goode.

Writes the author: “It was unfortunate that the bloodiest attack on military happened in the late Civil War leading to the deaths of two young soldiers, former comrades now shooting at each other in a frenzy of bitterness over ongoing political settlements.”

Mr Goode dedicated the book to his father, Volunteer Michael Goode “C” Company (Mountmellick) II Battalion and “A” Company (Mountrath) VI Battalion Leix No. I Brigade IRA.

In his introduction the author pays tribute to all those who helped in researching the publication in particular Ronnie Ridgeway, Mike Kirwan, Breda Coleman O'Connor, Sean Carthy, Jim Keller and Dr Philip McConway.

He said you could have no greater companion for a day out than Ronnie Ridgeway. “His breadth of knowledge of local and county families, their offspring, the houses they live in or have lived in, his memory for names and his ability to charm and elicit information is second to none.”

“A People's Army” is available for purchase in the Offaly Historical Society shop in Tullamore and in Central Stores in Portarlington.

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