Captain Pat Keane aka Pádraig Ó Catháin of Kilnamona played a leading role in the Irish struggle for freedom representing the Mid-Clare Division.
At an early age, he joined Óglaigh na hÉireann aka the Irish Volunteers (which was well-established in most parishes by 1913). In May 1915 Ernest Blythe was appointed as an organiser for the Irish Volunteers and sent to Clare to train the Cloonagh and Kilfenora Volunteers. Keane was present at this inaugural meeting at O'Callaghans Mills, County Clare. Albeit ready, 'attended meetings and standing to' Pat was not called to fight in the 1916 Easter Rising, due to confusing orders from Dublin. As the First World War was entering its final phase in 1917, a peeler (police officer) called to the home giving his mother advance notice that Pat was due to be conscripted. However, with strong opposition from Church and Sinn Féin, conscription never took place in Ireland.
In the spring of 1918, Pat Keane was among a group of Kilnamona activists asserting the right of the Irish people to own their land. They were arrested for ploughing and tilling the land of Landlord Crowe. Pat Keane and Mick Brody refused to recognise the court and for this, they were sentenced to three months in Mountjoy Jail.
On March 1st 1919, when the Mid-Clare Brigade was established, Pat Keane was appointed Section Commander of Kilnamona Coy. In 1920 he was promoted to Adjutant, and to Officer in Command in 1921. Pat was also operating all over the Mid Clare Brigade area as a member of the ASU, 3rd Battalion, Mid-Clare Company. Pat was then selected for and served as a cadet in the Officers Training College at Ennis under Michael Brennan.
Pat took part in a number of ambushes to include:
- The Ennis Assault (the disarming of seven soldiers who daily paraded through the streets of Ennis on the evening of June 23rd, 1920);
- the capture of guns from the Barracks in the neighbouring parish of Ruan in October 1920,
- the highly dangerous transport of a consignment of guns from Ennis for the Monreel ambush near Miltown Malbay, December 18th, 1920.
Upon the signing of the Treaty in December 1921, local volunteer commanders assumed control from the departing British forces. Pat commanded the taking over of the Lisdoonvarna Barracks and subsequently at the Ennistymon Barracks. He was rigged out in full military uniform with Sam Brown belt and appointed Quarter Master of the barracks and later O/C with the rank of Captain and over 60 men under his charge.
"On the day of the departure of the British all Parliament Street and Main Street was lined up with lorries full of R.I.C. men, Tans, Auxiliaries and soldiers. When we were coming out of school a group of us stood opposite the R.I.C. barracks watching the departure (and shouting 'Up Rinneen, Up the IRA') but as we stood there the last act of the British before moving off was to fire a hand grenade (Mills bomb!) into our midst wounding several of my companions. Those of us unhurt ran for our lives down side streets and waited until the last of the army was gone." Br Thomas Keane (Memoirs 1989).
While in command of the Ennistymon Barracks, Pat received many offers to entice him to join the Free-State cause including offers of a commission in the Free-State army, a large farm in County Meath, and the post of rate collector in Co Clare, all of which he declined. In the Civil War that followed, Pat took the Republican side. He remained at the Ennistymon Barracks up to the end of June 1922 when Free State soldiers gave notice that they were to attack the barracks. The Republicans, who were far outnumbered, withdrew setting fire to the barracks and from then Pat Keane was on the run.
In August 1922 Pat was assigned the task of retaking the new Barracks at Ennistymon for the Republicans. The divide in Co Clare was not as marked as in some other counties. He planned to have his Free-State soldier cousin, Mylie Keane (who was stationed at Ennistymon) allow Republican access to the barracks on the night he was on sentry duty. However, Mylie's tongue, loosened in drink, let word of the plan get out. While carrying a dispatch of the information, another first cousin was arrested and the plans found hidden in the sole of his shoe. Pat Keane was thus surrounded and captured by Free State soldiers at his maternal home in Knocknagraga near Ennistymon. (Pat made a successful plea to the Free-State forces to spare Mylie Keane from court-martial).
Pat's own account can be found in his Service pension application and in the Clare County Library website.
On 8 September 1922, Keane was brought to Limerick Prison for transfer to Gormanstown Internment Camp, Co. Meath, where he remained until December 1923. On the day of his release, Keane's trench coat was covered in clay from attempts to dig an escape tunnel. At this point, he broke away from militant Republicanism and turned to education and constitutional politics instead.
Pat was again offered a post in the state army (the Regular Defence Forces) but did not take up the offer because of his heart condition (contracted from 'outdoor hardship while on the run'). He did, however, volunteer with the Local Defence Forces (An Forsa Cosanta Áitiúil), during the 'emergency' years of World War II.
Having earned an Irish teaching certificate at Gormanstown Internment Camp, Pat initially taught Irish to adults in Kilnamona, Dysart and Toonagh. In 1926, he participated in the founding of the national political party of Fíanna Fáil in Co. Clare. In 1935, Pat was appointed Temporary Assistant Supervisor (Cattle and Meat) by the Dept of Agriculture.
In 1952, Pat Keane died age 57 and was interred at Kilnamona Old Cemetery. At the time, he was vice-Chairman of the Clare Cumann Fíanna Fáil and Chairman of the local branch at Kilnamona.
|Keane of Kilnamona||Ireland|