An excerpt from Echoes of Their Footsteps Volume I by Kathleen Hegarty Thorne, researched by Patrick Flanagan

The success of the Irish Republican Army one hundred years ago during the War of Independence was a result of not only grit and wiliness of the fighting men and women in the field but also of a vigilant supply chain that kept supplies and guns coming from abroad. Gelignite, revolvers, and sometimes personnel were transported into Ireland by secretive, capable operatives who worked on the other side of the Irish Sea.

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How did the Volunteers acquire their much-needed guns? Aside from their capture from local policemen, a valuable conduit proved to be the “Liverpool Lifeline."

Volunteers in Liverpool would purchase arms for shipment to Ireland. Active in this role were, among others, Joe Kelly of Ballaghaderreen and Sean Quinn from Milestone, Newry. Jim Gallagher of Brusna, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, procured explosives from the mining area of St. Helen’s.

Arms and explosives were stored in various houses—Stephen Lanigan’s of Cork, a chief customs inspector, and Moran’s Men’s Outfitters—and moved by the likes of Nick Kelly and Jack Dobbyn of Tipperary when threat of a police search surfaced.

Irish sailors risked imprisonment by transporting them. Captain Ned O’Connor and Chief Engineers Joe Vize and Joe Furlong were high in the ranks of the arms and ammunition traffic. Vize operated out of Glasgow from 1918 onward. He was the Director of Arms procurement for the IRA. Ned O’Connor later became the harbourmaster in Dun Laoghaire (“Mayo’s Fighting Story—The IRA in Liverpool,” as told by Anthony Lavelle, Western People, 6 June1964) and (Sean O’Hegarty by Kevin Girvin, p. 227)

“I was a special service officer in charge of purchases. I was appointed by Michael Collins. Liverpool was our main base for getting stuff across. It was coming in ton loads from there under the eyes of the British authorities and they never knew.”

-Henry Coyle, “The Burnings in Liverpool,” Western People, 27 June 1964

“The law seemed to have been reversed for IRA prisoners in Dartmoor, who were first found guilty and then farcically tried . . . there were many others who were savagely battoned and severely injured. I saw gloom but never despair.”

-Batty Keaney, “With the IRA in Dartmoor,” Western People, 26 September 1964

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Known members of the Liverpool IRA or those who worked with them

The names have been extracted from news articles in the Western People newspaper, In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, and various other news articles cited below.

Captains of the Liverpool Company:  Tom Craven (emigrated to America), Mike O’Leary, Tom Kerr (arrested), and Hughie Early.

Although some authors claim the Liverpool “Battalion” had nearly 200 members, John Pinkman, author of In the Legion of the Vanguard, claims that there was only an under-manned Company of about 30 (p. 22).

Their meeting places were in No. 93 Scotland Road or sometimes the Irish National Foresters’ Hall in Bridge Road, Litherland

Some were imprisoned in Dartmoor, 1921−1922

Name and family’s place of origin in Ireland:

Harry Allister Ardee, Co. Louth

Joe Ballintyne Ballymore, Sligo

Charlie Barrett Keel, Co. Mayo

Neil Blaney later Teachta Dála (TD)

Jack Bowen Drogheda

___ Brady

Michael Brennan Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo. Was arrested in connection with the burning of the docks but was not a Volunteer (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 43)

Michael Byrne Dublin. Died shortly after release from prison

Paddy Caldwell

Jim Campbell and his son. Bambridge, Co. Down

Pat Clancy Scarriff, Co. Clare

Frank Cardin Dundalk

Pat Clarke Dundalk

Andy Conway Cliffony, Co. Sligo. Had been incarcerated at Frongoch

Harry Coyle Mayo. Was a proficient gunrunner. His job was to smuggle guns and munitions from Glasgow to Liverpool. He was arrested near Sterling, Scotland, with a full carload packed with 300 pounds of explosives, several hundred yards of fuse, thousands of detonators, rifles, revolvers, and the ammunition to go with them. He served his time in Edinburgh

Phil Coyne Maam Cross, Co. Galway. A married man with children (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 35)

Tom Cunningham Dundalk

Paddy Daly medical student from Dublin

Frank Darby

Dan and Jack Darragh Co. Antrim. Active in arms trafficking

Tony Deane (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 183)

Seamus Devins Sligo O/C of prisoners in Dartmoor and organist for the chapel. He “always played the hauntingly beautiful strains of ‘The Coolin,’ an ancient Gaelic melody that had survived the suppression of Irish culture during the time of the Penal Laws” (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 75). He took the Anti-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War and died in September 1922 on Benbulben Mountain in his home county

Jack Dobbyn Tipperary

Joe Donoghue Co. Carlow

Michael Doogan Bleanaskill, Achill, Co. Mayo

Joe Drury Tibohine, Co. Roscommon

Hugh Early O/C of the Liverpool Company. Deported and sent to Ballykinlar Internment Camp

John Fitzgerald Cork. Although not a Volunteer but a member of the IRB, the seventy-year-old man, who lodged with the Healy family, took the blame when an arms dump was discovered in the home. He was not responsible, but he couldn’t bear to see the father of the family hauled off to prison (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, pp. 79−80). Sentenced to ten years in Dartmoor

Paddy Fleming Portlaoise

Denis Fleming

Matthew Fowler Oldcastle, Co. Meath lived in Birkenhead. Arrested the night of the burning of the Liverpool docks. He survived the Liverpool Bridewell and Dartmoor Prison, only to be killed during the Irish Civil War (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 45)

Jim Gallagher Brusna, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Charlie Gannon East Mayo Brigade area

Joe Gleeson the Midlands

John Hannon East Mayo Brigade area

Jerry Harley Cork

Sean Harrington Litherland area of Liverpool, whose family came from Cork

Edward “Ernie” Joseph Hayes Broadford, Co. Clare, Liverpool Coy. Arrested April 1921, imprisoned in Dartmoor. Boarded a train in the early months of 1922 to enroll in the Garda at the Curragh Camp. Was never heard from again by his Liverpool mates (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 84)

Jack and Michael Horan Mayo

Peter Keane Dundalk

Bartley “Batty” Keaney Ballymote, Sligo. Imprisoned in Dartmoor

Joe Kelly (alias Alfie Doyle) Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Michael “Bertie” Kelly Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon, brother of Joe, a former medical student in Dublin

Nick Kelly brother of Joe―perhaps a nickname?

Neil Kerr Sr. native of Co. Armagh. Kerr was a purser on a shipping line and acted as courier for Sam Maguire, assisted in the cross-channel movement of key men. He arranged passage to the United States for Eamon de Valera in 1919, and was one of a small party to help six IRA prisoners escape from Strangeways Jail in Manchester on 25 October 1919. Kerr was the Head Centre of the IRB in Liverpool (Frongoch University of Revolution by Sean O Mahony, p. 129) and (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 108)

Tom, Jack, and Neil Kerr Jr. Liverpool. Sons of Neil Sr. Jack Kerr had been incarcerated after the Rising at Frongoch (Frongoch University of Revolution by Sean O Mahony, p. 216). “Tom was a big, powerfully built man over six feet tall who worked as a docker” (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 20). Neil Jr. also fought at the GPO during the Rising and had been incarcerated in Frongoch―address given in 1916 as 6 Florinda St., Bootle, Liverpool. Sentenced to a long term in prison after the burning of the Liverpool docks. He was accidentally killed in the basement of Moran’s Outfitters shop while handling arms

Paddy Kerrigan Sligo

Jim Kilroy

Stephen Lanigan a senior official with the Customs and Excise Branch, arrested after the burning of the docks

Anthony Lavelle Co. Mayo

Michael James Lavelle Co. Mayo deported and sent to Ballykinlar Internment Camp

Joe Leonard Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo

Neil Lively Co. Derry

Niall Lively family from Cork, whose father, Patrick Lively, was the District Circle Head of the IRB in Liverpool (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 19)

Paddy Lowe Dublin. Later killed in Capel Street in Dublin during the opening days of the Civil War (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 116). He was the nephew of Captain Ned O’Connor, gunrunner

Sean Mor Lynchehaun Pollranny, Achill Sound. “Had the stature of de Valera, the face of Dan Breen, and the courage of Michael Collins”

Eddie McAteer Co. Monaghan

Seamus McCaughey Tyrone. Sentenced after the burning of the Liverpool docks. Married a Cumann na mBan member, Nan Feeley (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 22)

Charlie McDonagh Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Joe McDonagh Gurteen, Co. Sligo

Tommy McGennity

Patrick McLoughlin Co. Armagh/Donegal

Jim McNance Co. Derry

Andrew McParland Dublin

Francis McPartlin arrested in connection with the burning of the Liverpool docks (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 43)

John Patrick McPhillips Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Liam Malone native of Westport, recalled to Ireland several months after the burning of the docks and became part of Michael Kilroy’s West Mayo Flying Column (“IRA Man’s Death,” Connaught Telegraph, 15 December 1966, p. 1)

Eamon, Joe, and Sean Martin Co. Derry

Barney Meehan (Meighan) Cliffoney, Co. Sligo cousin of John Pinkman, spent time in Frongoch after the Rising (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 18), arrested April 1921, imprisoned in Dartmoor

Seamus Monaghan Liverpool Company

Michael Moran Donagh

Tommy Moran on the night of the burning of the docks he was busy using bolt cutters in an attempt to break into the cotton warehouse in Bankhall Lane (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 39)

Sean Morgan Ahascragh, Co. Galway

Donal Mulhall (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 122)

― Murphy middle-aged, had a coal yard in Island Road, where the Volunteers would store their guns. He could load them in his cart and travel to various arms dumps without arousing suspicion (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 36)

Charlie Neary Callow, Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon. Brother of Jack

Jack Neary Callow, Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon

Sean Charles O’Byrne Killmacow, Co. Waterford. Incarcerated in Dartmoor

Charlie O’Gorman Co. Antrim. Worked for the Liverpool electrical contracting firm of Campbell & Isherwoods (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 17), arrested April 1921, imprisoned in Dartmoor

Denis O’Kelly Mullingar, Co. Longford

Denis O’Leary Co. Kerry

Mick O’Leary Co. Kerry

Stephen O’Meara Limerick

Seamus O’Malley Oughterard, Co. Galway. Railway fireman (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 54), imprisoned in Dartmoor, executed by the Free State 11 April 1923

Stephen O’Meara Aintree, Liverpool

Richard “Dick” O’Neill Newry. Worked with British customs

Sean (John) Pinkman Sligo and Leitrim. Arrested April 1921, imprisoned in Dartmoor. Later wrote In the Legion of the Vanguard, his personal account of the wartime activities in Liverpool and in Ireland during the Civil War

Sean Quinn Milestone, Newry. Killed in the Camlough Ambush shortly before the Truce

Peter Rowland Keel, Co. Mayo

Owen Sammon Swinford, Co. Mayo

Joe Small Limerick

Andy and Jack Supple

___Tighe North Mayo

Colman Walsh Galway

Dick Walsh Balla, Co. Mayo

The last forty-seven Irish prisoners, who had not been released after the Treaty, were at last freed on 14 February 1922 as a result of intervention by Michael Collins.

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Known members of the Liverpool Cumann na mBan

Kathleen Barry, sister of Tom Barry of Cork

Shelia and Kathleen Browne Litherland, Liverpool, whose family came from Cork the only two women arrested in connection with the burning of the docks

Annie Curran, descendant of Sarah Curran

The Dagle sisters

Susy Lavelle, sister of Anthony and Michael

Moira Lively sister of Niall, family from Cork (In the Legion of the Vanguard by John A. Pinkman, p. 19)

Miss Magher Co. Tipperary

Mrs. Jerry Nevins, sister of Dick O’Neil

                “West Mayo’s Fighting Story” by Anthony Lavelle, Western People, 16 May 1964, p. 8

                “The Burnings in Liverpool” by Henry Coyle, Western People, 27 June 1964

                “The IRA in Liverpool” by John MacPhillips, Western People, 25 July 1964

                “With the IRA in Dartmoor” by Batty Keaney, Western People, 26 September 1964

Guns were also funnelled through Scotland to various Irish ports. Andy Fagan, Quartermaster for the Scottish Brigade, paid several visits to Michael Collins to arrange for the flow of arms and ammunition to secret landing sites. Incidentally, Fagan led a charmed life. Not only was he the recipient of an IRA Service Medal, but in 1975 he was the recipient of the British Empire Medal, awarded to the oldest living working man in Scotland. At age 89, Fagan was still doing manual labour for Murdoch MacKenzie Ltd., a civil engineering and construction firm in Motherwell (“Analysis,” Irish Press, 29 April 1995, p. 12). Other men in various cities of Scotland played their part in arms procurement. Jack Thompson was in charge of affairs in Edinburgh and Sean Doherty in Dundee, where the unofficial headquarters was the home of Lena McDonald, who lived in an apartment over an antique shop. Munitions were generally purchased in Germany and small arms in Belgium, although arms were purchased wherever and whenever the opportunity presented itself (“The Smashing of the Van by Glasgow’s IRA,” The Kerryman, 20 January).

Read More: Republican Courts during the Irish War of Independence

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