Between April 1916 and May 1923 Ireland was involved in three wars that changed the course of history in this country. We also had 200,000 Irishmen involved in World War 1 between 1914 and 1918 where 35,000 of these perished. In Ireland the Easter Rising took place between Monday 24th April and Sunday 29th April 1916, mainly in Dublin and a few outposts across the country. The War of Independence a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army and British forces from 1919 to 1921 ending with the signing of the Anglo-Irish agreement on December 6th, 1921. These two wars were launched by Irish Republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish Ireland as an independent republic. The signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty led to the ugly internal Irish civil war from June 1922 to May 1923. The treaty signed by Michael Collins granted Ireland a twenty-six-county independent state with six of the Ulster counties remaining under British rule. This caused huge conflict with some because a thirty-two county Republic was not granted. The result was two-way split with one half supporting the terms of the treaty, the Pro treaty Provisional Government and the remainder that opposed the treaty were the Anti treaty IRA who saw it as a betrayal of the Irish Republic proclaimed during the Easter Rising. A “War of the Brothers” broke out where families were divided and fought on both sides.
One man who experienced all three wars was Glenbeigh man Frank O’Grady. He was born in 1895 into a farming family in Killnabrack Lower, Glenbeigh, County Kerry. He joined the Irish Volunteers at a young age and was appointed captain in the Glenbeigh Company of the 6th Battalion of Kerry No.1 Brigade. He served a prison sentence in 1918 for illegally drilling of soldiers. Active during the War of Independence he was involved in the attack on a military detachment at Glenbeigh Railway Station on May 26th, 1921. After the signing of the treaty Frank took the Anti Treaty IRA stance and became active in the Mid Kerry region during the Civil War spending time on the run to avoid arrest, execution or being shot. Some of his comrades who were killed during the conflict were Capt. Michael Ahern from Glencar and William Riordan from Glenbeigh both killed in action October 25th, 1922. Patrick Murphy from Dooks was killed on September 27th, 1922.
March 1923 was one of the worst months of the Civil War in Kerry, thirty-two Republicans were killed in battle and five executed. Conway O’Connor and George Nagle were killed in action at Glencar on April 6th, 1923 John Tadhg O’Sullivan was shot at Gleesk Kells on the same date. Seamus Taylor of Glencar was murdered by the Free State soldiers near Lough Acouse on March 9th,1923, his brother Joe fell to the Black and Tans in 1921. Some terrible atrocities at Ballyseedy and Cahirsiveen when Republicans were blown up on mine bombs.
Sunday morning,March 11th, 1923. Republican prisoners were being transferred from the barracks at Bahags Cahirsiveen to Killorglin. They were handed over to an escort at Mountain Stage, a detachment of the Dublin Guards under Captain “Tiny” Lyons who had come from Killorglin with Lieutenant Gerard McGuinness. When they arrived in Glenbeigh Lyons travelled the main road and McGuinness went by the Curra Rd where he raided Sullivans'(Crones) family home where he arrested Frank O’Grady. Republican Michael Cahill, grandfather of the present county councillor was with O’Grady in the house. McGuinness took the captured men to Mountain Stage where they met Tiny Lyons who had also rounded up a number of prisoners on his way. There they joined prisoners coming from Cahirsiveen which included the well-known Denis Daly. These prisoners were in bad condition due to beatings and starvation. About two hundred people had gathered at the scene including prisoners and locals who were on their way to Sunday mass. O’Grady was known by name only to Tiny Lyons and was unable to identify him in person. A whisper went through the gathering which was overheard by the Free State soldiers that such a prisoner was Frank O’Grady. Lyons approached Grady and asked him his name to which he replied, O’Shea, this infuriated Lyons because he now knew his identity. O’Grady was a wanted man blamed for blowing up the Caragh bridge the previous February. Lyons held a revolver which he reversed and l whacked O’Grady in the face saying “you made a good job of Caragh bridge”. As O’Grady put his hands to his bleeding face Lyons reversed the gun and shot O’Grady twice through his hands and head killing him instantly. McGuinness also fired a shot into O’Grady and was about to shoot Denis Daly but two officers named Foley and Swayne stepped in and prevented further murders. Lyons and McGuinness gathered up the remaining prisoners unperturbed by the event and marched them to Killorglin. A woman by the name of Mrs. Diggin with the help of some locals brought the body into her house until his father and Tom Finn came with a horse and cart and brought him home to his grieving mother. Local parish priest Father O’Reilly administered the last rights. Frank O’Grady was buried in the local Killeen graveyard and in spite of spies and soldiers huge numbers attended. Three of his comrades crossed the Behy river with rifles while undetected by the Free State army fired a three gun salute at his grave. An impressive headstone was erected and unveiled on October 16th, 1938 by 6th Battalion o/c Bertie Scully.
A celtic cross monument in his honor near the location of the murder at Mountain Stage was unveiled by Sean O’Murchu in 1958. It replaced a wooden cross that was erected in 1924. One of the stained glass windows in the Glenbeigh Catholic church is dedicated to Frank O’Grady (Proinsias Ui Ghrada) and we have the Frank O’Grady Fianna Fáil Cumann in Glenbeigh. Such was the high esteem that this man was held in. His murder didn’t go unnoticed nationally. The Dáil Éireann debate on the March 23rd, 1928 discussed the brutal killing of O’Grady in 1923. Wexford Fianna Fáil TD Dr. James Ryan asked if the minister was prepared to hold an inquiry into the murder case and if he was prepared to make some compensation to the relatives of Frank O’Grady. Witnesses who were prepared to testify in the event of an inquiry were Michael O’Connor from Curra railway cottage, Michael Cahill from Ross, Maurice Burke, Johanna and Mike Diggin and Mrs Bridge Sugrue all lived at Mountain Stage. James Ryan was the co-founder of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and held many ministerial positions during his political career. He was married to Killorglin republican author Mairin Creegan and both fought in the 1916 rising. Two of James Ryan’s sisters were married to future president of Ireland Sean T. O’Kelly (figure that one out). Another sister married future leader of the Fine Gael party Richard Mulcahy. Senator Eoin Ryan was the son of James and Mairin Ryan and died in 2001.
Frank O’Grady was 27 when he was murdered and had been an active Republican for 10 years. He was the only son in the family of four with three sisters who were born and reared in the house at the back of O’Connor’s caravan park Glenbeigh. One sister Bridget who was married to Patrick Sullivan from Curra Cottage, Glenbeigh. She had two sons Frank and Andy (the baker) and daughters Bridie and Eileen who died in 2009 both eighty-five. Frank’s youngest sister Elizabeth died 1988. They are all buried in the Curra graveyard close to Frank O’Grady’s grave.
The murder of Frank O’Grady was one the most and cowardly incidents witnessed in the Irish Civil War at that time. He may have been a suspect but was not given a fair trial. When captured he was on his way to mass and was not in possession of arms or ammunition. He was shot at point blank range in front of mass goers including children and other prisoners by a deranged lunatic representing the Irish State at that time. Frank O’Grady like Pearse, Connolly and others died for Ireland so let us commemorate his centenary on March 11th 2023.