My great-grandfather John O’Connor and his brother Tommy O’Connor were imprisoned in Richmond Barracks after the 1916 Easter Rising.

Áine Wayne  –  on work experience at Richmond Barracks, November 2019

Tommy O’Connor was born in 1895 and John was born in 1896 in Limerick.  They moved to Dublin in 1900.  In 1912 Tommy was working as a scullery man on the Carpathia ship.  On the 15th April 1912 the Carpathia was sent a distress signal from the Titanic.  The Carpathia was the first rescue boat to arrive.  The crew including Tommy received a bronze medal for bravery.

John and Tommy joined the 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade.  Tom Clarke and Sean Mac Diarmada sent Tommy to New York to carry secret messages to Clan na Gael.  He also brought funds back to Dublin for the rebellion.  He did this multiple times before the Rising.  During the Rising Tommy and John both fought at Jameson’s Distillery.  Tommy was also Tom Clarke’s bodyguard. 

At the end of the Rising Ned Daly asked Tommy to take off his uniform and see if the rumours about the capture of the GPO by the British were true.  On the way Tommy was captured.  Meanwhile John surrendered at the Four Courts.  Tommy and John were then sent to Richmond Barracks with all the 1916 Rebels.

On the 1st May 1916 John was sent to Stafford Jail and the following day Tommy was sent to Knutsford Detention Barracks.  Tommy and John were released in June 1917. During the War of Independence Michael Collins sent Tommy to New York to carry messages and supplies to and from New York.  At the time he was a well-known IRA man and had to change his name to Tommy Walsh.  However, in 1918 Tommy was arrested by the US secret service and spent a year in prison in Atlanta.  When he was released he continued to work secretly for Michael Collins.

While in the United States Tommy was also working with Harry Boland in an effort to bring Clan na Gael under the control of the IRB but John Devoy refused to hand over the names of the members.  As a result of this Harry and Tommy broke into the headquarters and got the list of members and then began to put it to use.

Back in Ireland John became very involved with the activities of the 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade including Bloody Sunday.  During these years their family home was continually raided by the Black and Tans.  In 1921 John became a Battalion commander.  During the Civil War Tommy remained in America. 

John was involved in the Civil War on the Anti-Treaty side, however there is no further information.  After the Civil War Tommy stayed in the United States and John became a TD for Fianna Fáil, as well as being Eamon De Valera’s election agent.