Bruff Revolutionary Workshop

Thank you to everyone who attended our third revolutionary workshop at the Thomas Fitzgerald Centre in Bruff last week. It was great chatting with you about your area’s history, hearing your stories and seeing some of the extraordinary revolutionary objects you have looked after so well. Without your dedication to preserving the memory of this time, a lot of important history would be lost.

For those who could not make the event but are curious about what was shown, here is a collection of some of the stories and objects from the night.

During the evening, we saw several objects that once belonged to IRA Volunteer Timothy Keane (Tadg Keane). He fought for the East Limerick Brigade during the War of Independence, where he held the rank of Vice Commandant of the 2nd Battalion East Limerick Brigade before being captured by the British in 1921. After the Treaty, he became the Commandant of the 2nd Battalion East Limerick Brigade for the Anti-Treaty IRA and was captured by the National Army in August 1922. He was imprisoned in Gormanstown Internment Camp, Co. Meath, for his role with the Anti-Treaty side. While there, he wrote a letter to his mother on the 20th of December, 1922. Naturally, the letter refers to Christmas, which was only five days away at the time of writing. In the letter, he thanks his mother for his gifts, including letters, a cake, a goose, leaks, tea, sugar (of which he has too much) and Christmas cards.

Letter from IRA Volunteer Timothy Keane who was held in Gormanstown Internment camp in 1922

If you look at the paper the letter is written on; you can see it was issued by the internment camp. In the top left corner is a note about how much paper the prisoner can use, and the bottom left corner gives the prisoner’s name and camp number. Beside the camp number (474), Timothy ends the letter by saying “going to have a very happy Christmas though in side barb wire. With love from Timothy J Keane”.

Luckily this interesting letter, which sheds light on prisoner life, was preserved in a scrapbook along with a note listing officers in the East Limerick Brigade and a letter from the Minister of Defence Richard Mulcahy (Ristéard Ua Maolcata) stating that Timothy Keane was not to be released from prison. Richard’s letter is dated the 9th of August 1923, by this stage the Civil War had technically been over for three months. It would be another three months before Timothy was released from Gormanstown.

Scrapbook with letter from Richard Mulcahy (left) and a letter with details of East Limerick Brigade officers (right)

We were also kindly shown Timothy’s medals and binoculars which were still in their original case. It’s incredible what some people have stored in their attics.

Another impressive collection of objects we saw on the night belonged to George (Seoirse) Clancy. He was born in Grange in East Limerick and educated at St Patrick’s Seminary in Bruff before attending third-level education in UCD. There he became very close friends with the novelist and poet James Joyce. Apparently, James Joyce even based some of his characters, such as Madden in Stephen hero and Davin in A portrait of the artist as a young man, on George Clancy.

Image take in UCD around 1901. George Clancy is sitting on the extreme left of the second row from the bottom,
directly behind him is James Joyce

George came from a very republican family, his uncle fought in the rising of 1867, and his brother Patrick Clancy was an active member of the Irish Volunteers and the East Limerick Brigade. George was involved with the Gaelic Revival and led a very interesting life which you can read more about here.

In January 1921, George became the Mayor of Limerick City but unfortunately didn’t hold the office long. His house was raided two months later on the 7th of March, and he was shot and fatally wounded by masked men, believed to be Black & Tans. During the raid on his house, his wife, Mary, was also shot in the forearm. Joseph O’Donoghue and Michael O’Callaghan (the previous Mayor of Limerick) were also killed on that night.

Memorial card for George Clancy
Image of the house where George and his wife Mary were shot

Both George and his wife Mary recieved letters from Michael Collins. George’s letter, which arrived in 1920, was in relation to a substancial Dáil loan which you can read below. Mary recieved her letter after her husband’s death in 1921, it was written to her while she was living in Bray, Co. Wicklow and invites her to a Dáil meeting.

Letter from Michael Collins to George Clancy
Letter from Michael Collins to Mary Clancy

Another fascinating item that we saw was a shell case from the Battle of Kilmallock which is owned by the Bruff Heritage Group. The Battle of Kilmallock took place in July and August 1922 between the National Army (Irish Free State Army) and the Anti-Treaty IRA. The fighting went on for just over a week; during that time, a shell was fired by the National Army towards the Anti-Treaty IRA, and all that remains of it is this case. The engraving on this impressive object tells more of the story:

Bruff-Kilmallock Battle
20th July-4th of August 1922
This is the case of second
Shell fired by the Free State
Troops from Ballycullane
Hill on August 4th 1922
Presented by
Captain Healy 1st Southern
Unit, to Daniel J O’Leary
Munster & Leinster Bank

Shell case from the Battle of Kilmallock 1922

We hope you have enjoyed these objects and their stories as much as we have. If you have any stories, memories or items connected to East Limerick’s Revolutionary period (1917-1923), please bring them along to our next revolutionary workshop, which will be held in the Cannon Hennessey Community Centre, Galbally, on the 18th of May at 7:30 pm.


Special thanks to The Bruff Heritage Group, Seoirse Clancy and Diarmuid McMahon from bringing in their wonderful objects and sharing them with the community. It was a pleasure discussing the history of those items with you.


The Archaeology of the Irish Revolution in East Limerick project is funded by the Irish Research Council COALESCE fund, which funds excellent research addressing national and European-global challenges across a number of strands. This project is part of the INSTAR+ awards, funded by the National Monuments Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage in partnership with the Heritage Council. It is being undertaken by University College Dublin School of Archaeology in partnership with Abarta Heritage. Other partners on the project include Dr Damian Shiels, the National Museum of Ireland, Limerick Museum, Heritage Maps, and local historians of the War of Independence and Civil War eras.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: