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The Tuam Martyrs, April 11, 1923

April 11, 2009

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No matter what the future may hold for the Irish nation, the seven years — 1916 to 1923 — must ever remain a period of absorbing interest. Not for over two hundred years has there been such a period of intense and sustained effort to regain the national sovereignty and independence.”


This weekend is a symbolically important one in Ireland, not least as it’s the commemorative weekend of the 1916 rising, but today (April 11th) also marks the 86th anniversary of the execution of the ‘Tuam Martyrs’ during the closing months of the Irish Civil War.

The Civil War began in June 1922 (although in April of the same year a group of 200 anti-Treaty Republicans had occupied the Four Courts in Dublin in defiance of the Provisional government). As with all civil wars, the conflict generated great bitterness and division, and has had long lasting political and social implications which have affected the Country right up to the present day.

In February 1923 Anti-Treatyite, Frank Cunnane, along with the other members of his unit were captured at Cluid, Headford, after a brief gunfight. One of Franks compatriots was killed while attempting to escape. The remaining men, including Frank, were marched to Galway.

On April 11, 1923, Frank, Michael Monaghan (also from Headford), Martin Moylan (from Annaghdown, Co. Galway) and John Maguire (from Cross, Co. Mayo) were executed in Tuam. Two further executions took place in Tuam on the same day – James (or John) Newell (from Galway) and James O’Malley (from Oughterard, Co. Galway).

One month later, on 24 May, 1923, Frank Aiken published the order of cease-fire and ordered the dumping of arms. De Valera also issued a statement to the Anti-Treaty army which said that:

“Further sacrifice on your part would be now in vain and continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic.”

We’ve recounted the events which led to the executions of the men in a little more detail in an earlier blog post here. That earlier post was instigated by the discovery of a letter sent by Frank Cunnane to his mother on the eve of his execution which had been taped to the back of a shelving unit in a friend’s house in Headford. As a result of that post, we received correspondence from several relatives of Frank’s as well as other interested parties.

One of our readers, Alison Larkin, came across our blog while researching some mass cards she found among her Grandmothers things. She very kindly forwarded us copies of the series of Cards which relate to the Tuam Martyrs and others and which we have posted below to mark the anniversary of the executions. She theorizes that her grandmother may have been involved personally with one or was affiliated somehow with all of these men during the War of Independence – a relationship which landed her in jail without a trial after the Treaty, when the country was divided.  She was about 18 years old when she was imprisoned.

Her grandmother was still a prisoner at Kilmainham when some of these men were executed.  Alison thinks that she may have received some of the cards in a parcel as word that the executions had happened.  Either that, or she attended mass for them when she got out.  From what Alison can tell it was probably something that was grieved on in private and not at a public mass.

These individual items, small mementos of a deeply traumatic time in Ireland, put our current economic woes in perspective. The fact that Alison’s Grandmother treasured and kept the cards hints at the deep admiration she had for these men and the sacrifice they made. The deep rifts in our communities and families that remained after the Civil War and the pain the war inflicted imbue these objects with a deeper significance.

Alison’s Grandmother’s story is one which could be told in almost any household in Ireland. As far as I can ascertain, for instance, my own Grandfather was imprisoned in Kilmainham along with his future brother-in-law at the same time as Alison’s Grandmother. He allegedly met my Grandmother when delivering news of her brothers health after he was released. Who knows, perhaps he even knew Alison’s Grandmother.

These simple family stories exist at the cusp of living memory, a period in our shared history, the telling of which was glossed over or avoided by our forebears, principally because of the pain and, perhaps, the guilt.

Alison and her sister are making a trip to Ireland in June to revisit Kilmainham jail and to carry out research at the National Archives, as well as visiting their Grandmothers homestead.  We wish them luck and hope that their research is fruitful.

The images below are scans of photocopies, so we’ve appended some of the text below the images. Some of the cards are directly relevant to the Tuam Martyrs – if anyone can clarify the identities and backstories of the remaining cards, I’m sure Alison would be very grateful.


Frank Cunnane

Frank Cunnane: In Loving Memory of Commandant Frank Cunnane, Irish Republican Army, Who gave his life for Ireland on the 11th April, 1923, Aged 22 Years. Deeply Loved and Deeply Mourned.



The Tuam Martyrs

The Tuam Martyrs, Pray for the Souls of Frank Cunnane, John Newell, James O'Malley, John Maguire, Michael Monaghan, Martin Moylan, who gave their lives for their country, at Military Barracks, Tuam, April 11th, 1923.


Martin Burke

Martin Burke. In Proud and Loving Memory of Martin Burke (Captain I.R.A.) Who gave his life for his Country at Custume Barracks, Athlone, on January 20th, 1923, Aged 25 Years.



Patrick Garvey

Patrick Garvey, Kilroe Cottage, Headford, who died on May 4th, 1918



Tom Collins

Tom Collins. In Loving Memory of Thomas Collins, Kilkeel, Headford, Co. Galway, Who was shot the 18th Jan., 1921, R.I.P.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison Larkin permalink
    April 11, 2009 10:00 pm

    Thank you, Declan. What a beautiful article – thank you for this. My grandmother’s name was Maggie Langan. She grew up in Headford and I’m sure she would be very touched by this memorial.

    I believe that she was proud of what she did for Ireland during the War of Independance, but never spoke of these dark times from the Irish Civil War. It is hard to understand how it all came to this horrible tragedy in Tuam.

    I’d like to only add to your story that I have not yet discovered the real reason that my grandmother was jailed in Kilmainham. I only have my theories based on what was found with her things, and my own research of the time in history. Maggie Langan was accused by the Free State Army as being a “dangerous person” – but was never tried for any particular crime.


    Alison Larkin
    Watertown, MA

  2. April 14, 2009 3:26 pm

    Thanks for your very kind comment Alison.

  3. April 15, 2009 1:17 pm

    I do appreciate the author’s insightful approach towards the history of Ireland, the consequences of the Irish Civil War and the efforts taken to regain Independence…;)

  4. April 17, 2009 12:35 pm

    Thanks Tanya.

  5. michael Johnson permalink
    May 3, 2009 4:10 pm


    I have copies of letters written by Martin Burke and Stephen Joyce, the night before they were executed at Athlone. Martin wrote to his cousin, Kathleen Greaney, of Ballinapark Headford and Stephen wrote to his sister Julia. I haven’t figured out yet, where the Joyce family is from. The originals belong to my cousin in New York City. Another cousin also has another letter from Martin and I believe, one from Thomas Collins. Those letters are in Galway. I have not seen those yet. Please send me your e-mail and I’ll send you copies of Martin’s and Stephen’s.

  6. May 9, 2009 4:03 pm


    my grandad was a an active member in Athlone prior to the civil war, he took part in dangerous operations in Athlone area which involved the supply and smuggling of messages as a bread delivery boy to republican prisoners in Custume Barracks … on the other side of the family of the same generation is the Cmdt od the 4th West Bde IRA. He organised countless flying column raids on crown forces and his bayonet is on display in the National Museum.

    Tough times by all. I cant help but think that these aboce names were very fresh in their minds up unitl the days they died.

    • Sean O'Grady permalink
      March 16, 2012 1:43 am


      My brother and I are possession of a similar letter from Stephen Joyce the night prior to his death. Do you have correspondence related to Thomas O’Grady?


  7. Lindsey permalink
    May 19, 2009 5:33 pm

    I am currently doing my masters thesis on the topic of the Tuam Workhouse where the six martyrs were executed. If anyone as any information at all that they feel would be useful to me in anyway, I would be delighted to hear from them.

    Many Thanks,

  8. Alison Larkin permalink
    May 20, 2009 4:07 pm

    We recently found an old newspaper clipping from the 1950’s about the unveiling of a monument for these Martyrs in a cemetery of Donaghpatrick near Headford.

    My sister and I plan to search for it when we visit the area next month.

    – Alison

  9. May 21, 2009 11:39 am

    Hi Alison & Lindsey

    Apologies for the delay in replying but been very busy – out doing fieldwork and internet unenabled…

    Will put you both in touch.

    I’ll put up a piece later this week with the new letters. And with Alisons permission I’ll post up the newspaper articles.

  10. August 6, 2009 9:18 pm

    My late mother was from Headford.One night she gave her new autograph book to one of a group of men who were sheltering in her home.As he could not think of a suitable verse he brought the book with him.That was the las she saw of the book until it arrived back by post without any explaination some three years later. Much to her surprise the book had been in Costume Barracks Athlone and Mountjoy prison Dublin where it was signed by Eamonn de Valera, Austin Stack, Liam Deasy, Dan Breen,Sean McBride and a visitor Richard Mulcahy.
    In Athlone it was signed by An Athlone man who escaped, A Sligo man who quoted from the latin poet Horace and another Sligo man who was a budding artist and had his water colours with him as he painted some nice pictures in the book which is now in the museum in Millstreet Co. Cork. Incidedtially my mother was a cousin of the late Jerry Hoade, grandfather,of your co. counciller,who was a courier with the republican forces.

  11. John permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:43 pm

    My Great Uncle was John Newell, one of the men executed in Tuam. I am researching my Grandfather’s family as he did not speak about his brother Sean (John) at all. Any assistance that anyone could provide on the movements and last days of Sean Newell would be greatly appreciated.

    Ms. Larkin, I would like to know if you have discovered any reference to my uncle as your Grandmother knew many of the same individuals that Sean referenced.

    Thank you,

    John Newell

  12. Alison Larkin permalink
    August 26, 2009 2:46 pm


    Feel free to email me directly at

    Best regards,

    Alison Larkin

  13. ger hoade permalink
    September 16, 2009 12:53 am

    a letter writen by frank cunnane to his mother on the night before his execusion was in my fathers possession in the 1970s. i think it was passed on to his family

    • poorbutspirted permalink
      October 29, 2009 7:00 pm

      Ger, One of the men sheltering in my mothers home the night she lost her autograph book was a first cousin of my grandmother named Jerry Hoade who was a courier with the republican forces.In later life he had two sons named Frankie & Paddy, both now gone to their eternal reward. Frankie was given his fathers home where his family still live. His daughter is a member of Galway Co. Co. To day my wife said I could have next Thursday off so I have decided to go up to HEADFORD FOR THE DAY.Do you know if there is any relationship.

  14. September 22, 2009 9:11 am

    Hi Ger – I assume thats the same letter which we published some time ago on the blog – see this link:

    It may be that the letter came via your father and ended up taped to the back of the dresser in our friend Johnny’s house! Do you know was your copy the original and have you any idea when it was passed on to the family?

  15. Jack permalink
    September 28, 2009 4:38 pm

    My great-uncle was Mickey Monaghan. My cousins have a copy of the letter that he wrote to his mother the night before they were executed. If I can find a copy I will let you know. My grandmother was already in Chicago at the time, but Mike’s Brother John live until 1999.

  16. October 9, 2009 4:06 pm

    As I saw a refernce to an Athlone man who was detained in Costume Barracks during the civil war I will give you one of the entries in my late mother’s autograph book.
    Confide ye all in providence
    For providence is kind
    And bear ye all life’s changes
    With a calm and tranquil mind. Liam P. Martin. 3, St. Mary’s Terrace . Athlone
    escaped4th. May 1923. T.O. G. (Tomas O Gradaig Listowel)What was a Listowel man doing in the West of Ireland?
    I havw=e been in touch with the military Archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks Rathmines Dublin 6and they hold a small collection of general material on civil war prisonersbut a person would want to make an appointment to see this material.

  17. Bridget Becker permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:02 am

    I was stunned to see your article on the Tuam executions. James O’Malley was my great uncle.
    My aunts have been to Ireland and visited Tuam. It’s nice to know they are not forgotten in Ireland.
    Thank You,

    • Mary Cate O'Malley permalink
      May 3, 2010 4:32 am

      Hi! Bridget! I always heard the story with James being referred to instead as “Seamus O’Malley”. I would love to check the other “facts” I heard about his being buried in Tuam.

      Is it true he was a founding member of the IRA? Or was it another organization?

      Is it true that no tombstone can be higher than his?

      These are family “legends”, but I imagine that the story grew over the years of retelling. (I am Bridget’s sister. I took my mother’s maiden name.)

      Also, are “James” and “Seamus” interchangeable?

      • John O'Malley permalink
        October 10, 2010 2:20 am

        Seamus O’Malley (o maille) was my geat uncle too…I visited the memorial last week…and Oughterard, his home town…my father James, his namesake also vistied there

  18. Ger Hoade permalink
    November 17, 2009 5:51 pm

    Ger I have been racking my brains wondering who you are when suddenly it struck me.You must be a son of Jarlath Hoade.I am editing some old photographs at the present time.One of them is of the Hoade re-union after 41 years at Cahernaheenagh and the other one is a photo of my grandparents wedding taken in 1903.The three Curran sisters are in it,Catherine,the eldest married Martin Hackett who died shortlyafter leaving her and her daughter extremely well off.She then married Henry ffrench Lynch of Rockwell House KilconleyShe had 4 further children. The second sister was Jerry Hoade’s mother.The third sister Julie never got married.I have been in touch with the military archives and I found that a Thomas O’Grady of Bishop St. Tuam had a lot of entries in My late mother’s autograph book.Please feel free to contact me and we might exchange family info.

    • ger hoade permalink
      May 19, 2010 2:06 am

      I saw a picture of that wedding on some site could you help me find it please

  19. Alison Larkin permalink
    November 18, 2009 12:32 am

    Executed — Six County Galway Men Suffered Death Penalty — Natives of Headford — Confined in Galway Jail until Tuesday
    Connacht Tribune, Tuesday April 14, 1923.

    Our Tuam correspondent telegraphs: six men were executed in Tuam Military Barracks on Wednesday morning at eight o clock. They were taken out in two batches of three each. Their bodies were subsequently interred in the barrack grounds.

    The condemned men were taken from Galway jail yesterday, where they had been detained for some months after having being captured with arms in their possession. They were nearly all from the Headford district.

    Our Tuam correspondent writes: On Wednesday morning at about eight o’clock, six men were executed in Tuam military barracks.

    They were taken from Galway gaol on the evening before, after having been tried and found guilty of having arms in their possession when arrested by national troops about two months ago in the Headford area. Five of the men were natives of the Headford district, the condemned men, it is stated, went to their doom firmly and with brave hearts. They had been attended during the night by two of the towns priests. And in the morning heard Mass, in which two of them served. The priests were with them to the last.

    The news of execution cast a gloom over the people, who could hardly realise what awful events had taken place in their midst that morning. About eight o clock a.m. two voleys were heard and it is stated the condemned men were taken out in parties of three each, and blindfolded, and their hands joined as in prayer. They had prayed fercently during the night before, and in the morning and were fully consoled, prepared to meet their creator.

    The six bodies enclosed in six coffins, were interred, in the grounds within the barracks, and it is stated that the ground was consecrated.

    No, official information of the executions would be supplied to the press:

    The following official report giving the names of the executed men was issued on Wednesday night from G.H.Q.:

    James O’Malley, Oughterard, was charged before a military tribunal of having a rifle and ammunition in his possession without proper authority, at Knocklahard: County Galway, on 21st February, 1923.

    Francis Cunnane, Kilcoona, Headford, was charged before military tribunal with having in possession a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority. Michael Monaghan, Clooneen, Headford, was charged before a military tribunal of having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority.

    John Newell, Wineforth, Headford, was charged before a military tribunal with having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority.

    John McGuire: Cross, Cong was charged before a military tribunal with having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on 21st February, 1923, without proper authority. Martin Moylan: Farmerstown, Annaghdown, was charged before a military tribunal with having possession of a rifle and ammunition at Cluide on February 21st, 1923, without proper authority.

    All six prisoners were found guilty. The findings were confirmed in each case, and the prisoners were sentenced to death. The executions were duly carried out at Tuam.

  20. August 22, 2010 10:25 pm

    I wrote to the military archives for information on a Tomas O’Gradaig frrom Listowel but I was told there was no O’Grady from Listowel in custodyduring the Irish civil war. They e3ven sen me a list of all of the Thonas O’Gradys who were in custodyOne was from Bishop St. in Tuam.I then got in to the 1911 census and found a Tomas O’Gradaig. I then wrote to the Kerryman newspaper and lo and behold a nephew of Mr. O. Gradyanswered my letter.The late Mr.T. O’Grady was an electrician working in Tuam so that explainswhy the military archives had no record of the Listowel address The nephew, Mr. Horan brought with him a newspaper photograph of his uncle taken in 1971 and 2 letters written by Headford menthe night before they were executed and one from M. J, Burke written Saturday morning minutes before he was executed

    • Kilcoona history permalink
      April 16, 2012 1:59 am

      Hi. I’m from the area and I’m very interested to know where did Frank Cunnane live in Kilcoona? Where was his mothers house? I went to school in both Kilcoona and PCH and I never heard this story. Where did he teach? I’d love to know more about him.

  21. Martin Morris permalink
    June 3, 2012 2:23 am

    Where can i get the words to the song Martain Moylan from Farmstown in Lovely Annaghdown

  22. orlando permalink
    January 28, 2014 5:43 pm

    just to let u know james newell was from headford

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