Patrick “Patsy” Dougan a member of a captured IRA unit during Irish War of Independence in 1921, he sadly died on the streets of New York. Now, on Sept 22 he'll be properly laid to rest in the Bronx.
Patrick “Patsy” Dougan died alone in New York back in 1937 in the throes of the American Depression. The native of Belfast was only 37 years old when he was found on a Bronx street dying of pneumonia.
Dougan was buried in an unmarked grave along with two other Irishmen who also perished at the time, but thanks to investigative work by a nephew back in Ireland and the assistance of prominent members of the local Irish American community, the site of his burial now features a tombstone with a Bible, Celtic Cross and some shamrocks.
An unveiling of the new stone, and a tribute to the short, heroic life of Dougan, will take place on Saturday, September 22 at his final resting place, Old Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, and all are invited to attend.
“It’s an extraordinary story. Poor Patsy died a horrible death and so many of us here are happy we had a chance to give him a proper tombstone and proper recognition,” Sean Mackin, the long-time Irish American activist, told the Irish Voice.
Indeed, Dougan’s short life and times make for fascinating reading. His nephew Tomas O Dubhagain conducted research after seeing an old newspaper piece about a captured Irish Republican Army (IRA) unit in Co. Cavan during the Irish War of Independence in 1921.
Patsy Dougan was one of those captured, and he and his comrades received a death sentence which was commuted due to the truce of 1922.
“In 1921, Patrick and other Belfast volunteers were deployed to East Cavan as a Flying column to help in a raid to procure arms. They were detected on the mountain by British forces and though hugely outnumbered, they fought bravely for over four hours,” O Dubhagain wrote in a follow-up report on his uncle.
“Volunteer Sean McCartney was killed, two of the Belfast Volunteers escaped but the rest were captured. Patrick was wounded going to the aid of another volunteer. They were brought to Belfast and charged with high treason.”
Finding work was difficult in the North, so Dougan set sail for America, leaving his wife Annie and daughter Peggy behind. The plan was to make some money and bring them across the Atlantic too, but New York proved to be as tough as Belfast when it came to getting employment due to the Depression.
O Dubhagain reported that his uncle spent seven years in New York and succumbed to pneumonia, a common form of death at the time due to poor, unsanitary living conditions. He was found dying on the street, the only ID on his body a card from his membership in the Belfast United group.
Dougan was buried in an unmarked grave along with two other Irishmen who died at the time, Hugh Stranney and J. Dougherty. O Dubhagain and all those who assisted in financing the new tombstone are thrilled that all three men now have the recognition they deserve.
“We will never forget the patriots of the past,” Mackin said, “and we hope for a great turnout to salute a hero on September 22.”
The event is set for noon at Old Saint Raymond’s, and Sinn Fein West Belfast MP will be on hand to give a graveside oration. Those attending should gather outside the cemetery at 2700 Gifford Avenue. A social will follow at the Rambling House at 4292 Katonah Avenue, with music by Mary Courtney and Patrick Madden.