Wednesday, February 12, 2014

John Moran Killed 9 February 1921

There was a quick response to last weeks request for information on local clockmaker, W. O’Connor who was mentioned in the Kildare Observer of 1880.  Mrs. Duthie phoned me with the information that her late father-in-law, Willie Duthie, was apprenticed to Mr. O’Connor in the late 1880’s and inherited the business with two Miss O’Neill’s on his death in 1903.  Two years later he bought out the other beneficiaries and so the name Duthie went over the door of the business which remains to this day.

Last week I spent two days in Dundalk, Co. Louth and availed of the opportunity to visit the scene of the shooting of John Moran which took place in nearby Drogheda on 9th February 1921.  John Moran was the son of William Moran who was born in Stanhope Street, Athy to John and Judith Moran and in a previous Eye on the Past I made a brief reference to Moran’s killing, incorrectly claiming it occurred during an ambush.  The Morans originally came from Kilpatrick, near Kildangan, and it was John Moran (Senior) and his wife Judith who with their three children came to live in Meeting Lane, Athy in 1853.  Two years later they moved to Stanhope Street where John carried on his tailoring business and where five more children were born, including the earlier mentioned William.  Tailoring was also William’s profession by the time he came to adulthood and he eventually left Athy to set up as a tailor in Enniscorthy where in 1887 he married Mary Anne Fitzgerald from that town.  One of their seven children, John or Sean, was born a year later.

John Moran married Brigid Cullen from Oilgate in Enniscorthy in 1919 and in April of the following year they moved to Drogheda where John got a job as a printer.  I have been unable to find out if he was a member of the IRA while in Enniscorthy, but while in Drogheda Moran was a member of the A. Company 1st Battalion of the South Louth Brigade I.R.A.  I am more than confident that his membership of the I.R.A. pre-dated his time in Drogheda and may well have been the reason for his transferring to the County Louth town shortly after the commencement of Black and Tan activity in that area.

The Black and Tans were active in the Louth area throughout 1920 and were implicated in the murder of two men in Ardee on the night of 30th November of that year.  Patrick Tierney was arrested in his parents home, taken out and shot.  On the same night Sean Carroll, a native of Celbridge and employed as an Irish teacher in Ardee, was arrested in his Main Street lodgings, taken down a side street and summarily executed.  Both men were volunteers in the local I.R.A. Brigade.

Just a few months later the same scene was to be re-enacted when on 19th February 1921 two men were removed from their homes in Drogheda and shot.  The shootings occurred just five days after the Black and Tans had gone on a looting spree in the centre of Drogheda.  John Moran who was employed by Cahills lived in Magdalene Street with his wife and baby daughter Maura.  Shortly after midnight on 9th February a number of men entered Moran’s house and arrested him.  His wife who was understandably distraught at the nights events heard one of the raiders refer to her husband as being implicated in the killing of District Inspector Percival Lea Wilson in Gorey some months previously.  Whether John Moran had or had not any involvement in Wilson’s death we cannot say but what is certain is that Moran was already living in Drogheda when Wilson was killed in June 1920. 

The second man arrested on 9th February was 26 year old Drogheda Corporation member Thomas Halpin.  He was a married man who had been elected as a Sinn Fein representative on the Corporation the previous year.  Early on the morning following their arrest the bodies of both men were found lying on the roadside at Mornington Road about two miles or so from where they lived.  At the location where they were shot and their bodies found is a memorial in the form of a Celtic cross commemorating Moran and Halpin.  John Moran and Thomas Halpin are further remembered in the names of two housing estates in Drogheda, Moran Terrace and Halpin Terrace.  The body of John Moran was removed for burial to the family plot in Enniscorthy.  His wife and daughter returned to live in Enniscorthy where the young child grew up and where she died at an advanced age, unmarried, a few years ago.

John Moran’s father, Willie, was a brother of Thomas Moran who like their only own father was a tailor for many years in Athy.  There was a long family tradition in tailoring and at one time Thomas Moran, his son Thomas who later lived in St. Patrick’s Avenue, and his daughter Catherine who on marriage lived at No. 2 Offaly Street, Athy were all employed in Lumley’s Merchant Tailors of Duke Street.

Before I left Dundalk last week I visited the site of the killing of the Watters brothers John and Patrick who were murdered on the night of 17th June 1921.  Their deaths followed within a few hours of the killing of William Campbell, a Black and Tan stationed in Dundalk whose body was found on the Newry Road about a mile from the town.  He had been murdered while out cycling on a bicycle he had bought earlier that day.  His body was not discovered until just after midnight and within two hours the Windmill Bar at the junction of Seatown Place in Quay Street was raided and John Watters, aged 23 years, and his brother Patrick, aged 18 years, were arrested.  They were taken away about 50 yards from their home and shot dead.  Memorial stones are set into the wall near where the brothers were shot, providing a chilling reminder of the events of that night.  There is however no memorial for William Campbell, the young English man who came to Ireland just six months previously and who was also summarily executed just hours before the Watters brothers.

I noticed on the daily papers a few weeks ago the death of Ken Reynolds formerly of Athy.  His father was J.C. Reynolds, a dentist in Leinster Street who was first elected to Athy Urban District Council in June 1934 and remained a member until his death on 15th October, 1951.  His son Ken was co-opted in his fathers place but he is not listed amongst those on the Council following the June 1955 election.  Ken was a member of the Athy Social Club and is featured in several photographs of plays put on by the Social Club players in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

My thanks for information for this Eye to Denis Smyth whose mother, Catherine Moran, was a first cousin of John Moran.  I would also recommend Stephen O’Donnell’s recently published book, “The Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans in County Louth 1919 - 1922”  for anyone interested in that period of our history.

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