Roscrea in 1916 by Joe Coughlan
In Roscrea in 1916 the volunteers seemed to be well prepared for the rising. Eoin Mc Neill sent Padraig Gleeson to Tipperary with word that the rising was cancelled. After delivering the message to Thurles he went on to Roscrea and relayed the message to Countess O Byrne. Count O Byrne was a papal count who lived in Corville House (where St Ann’s is today). He was a prominent nationalist in the area and was a member of the local IRA, his wife and two of his daughters were members of Cumann na mBan.
On Easter Saturday night in Roscrea the local volunteers had cut down the telephone and telegraph lines while in Portlaoise the train track was being destroyed. After the rising the local RIC went to Corville House but found nothing to incriminate the Count or Countess. However After searching the house of Patrick Gantly he was arrested and taken to Richmond barracks where the leaders and volunteers of the rising were held. Gantly was taken with the others to Frongogh prison camp in Wales. When he was released a large crowd of his supporters gathered at the railway station to welcome him back.
Patrick came from a very nationalist background he was a descendant of William Orr who was a leader of the United Irishmen and was executed in 1797 in what was believed at the time to be a judicial murder and his death led to the rallying cry in 1798 of “ Remember Orr”. He was also a cousin of Michael Larkin who was one of the Manchester Martyrs executed in England in 1867. Patrick was a leader of the local IRA in 1916 while his cousin Michael and brother Sean were also prominent in the organisation. Their sister Anne was a member of Cumann na mBan. Michael was an engineer with the volunteers and went on to have a distinguished career in the Irish army and on retiring became editor of the Nenagh Guardian. Sean joined the new Gardaí and went on to become Chief Superintendent. In January 1948 Sean was killed by a bullet from a colleague’s gun while pursuing a criminal gang in Hammond Lane in Dublin.
At the time of the rising 25 year old Patrick was a clerk in Roscrea Bacon factory. In 1929 when a former manager was jailed for 18 months for embezzlement Patrick was appointed manager in his place. After the treaty he became a district court clerk for Moneygall and Cloughjordan. He was also a founder of Roscrea Fire Brigade and his vocal talents made him a prominent member of Roscrea Operatic Society and a founder of Roscrea Scouts. In March 1946 while on a business trip to Dublin Patrick died suddenly in his hotel room age 56.
In 2008 a new road was opened linking Green St with Chapel Lane and was officially called Gantly Road.
The following is part of a transcript from the statement of Patrick o Neill who was a Dublin Volunteer who was sent as courier to Roscrea and Thurles.
“There was an excursion train for Thurles that Sunday morning and I took it. I was told the get the message to Pierce Mc Cann. I gave it to the chairman of the Urban Council Donnacha O Muirgean and I got him to hire a car for me for which I had been given the money by Mc Neill. I cannot say now whether it was £10 or £20 that he gave me. I had also been told to deliver the message to Countess O Byrne of Corville House in Roscrea. I hired a car, went there and gave her the message.
After leaving Thurles I was stopped by a man on the road evidently in pain. It was Jimmy Kennedy, subsequently town clerk in Thurles. He had injured his leg and wanted to be taken to a doctor. I took him back to Thurles and then resumed my journey. This was the man who was detected handing some incriminating papers to Ernest Blythe at an Aeridheacht I cannot remember where and as a consequence Blythe was arrested and got six months”.
The pictures above show Patrick Gantly left, on the right is a very grainey picture taken in January 1922 of front L/R Harry Boland , Art O Brien, Eamon Devalera , Sean T O Kelly and Count O Byrne walking out of the Dail after the ratification of the treaty.