John (Seán) Broderick’s story based on his witness statement BMH WS 344

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Seán was present at a meeting in Athenry in early 1914 at which the volunteers were started. His father John Broderick, Building Contractor, was elected President. Thomas Cleary was elected Vice-President. Two parades a week were held and they were drilled by reserve NCOs of the British Army. Shortly after the formation of the Company elections for Company Officers were held. Larry Lardner was elected Captain and Frank Hynes was elected Vice-Captain. Seán was elected Lieutenant.

A parade of Volunteers took place in Athenry the 29th June 1914 and the salute was taken by Colonel Maurice Moore. It was a splendid parade; almost 2,000 volunteers taking part.

Following the outbreak of the First World War the British Army Reserve NCOs who were training them were called up but by that time they had gained sufficient knowledge to be able to continue training and in fact members of the Athenry Company assisted in the training of Companies in the surrounding parishes. At the split the Athenry Company stood firm behind McNeill.

Early in 1915 Liam Mellows was appointed chief organiser for Galway. He stayed in Seán’s father’s house in Athenry. Immediately after his arrival he organised Galway into a Brigade of four Battalions. Larry Lardner was appointed Brigade O/C, Éamon Corbett was Vice Brigade O/C and Mattie Neiland (Nealon) Brigade Adjutant. The following Companies were formed into the 1st Battalion (Also known as the Athenry Battalion) – Athenry, Cussaun, Rockfield, Craughwell, Kilconieron, Kiltulla and Killimordaly. Gilbert Morrissey was appointed Battalion O/C and Ned Burke Battalion Vice-O/C. Seán Broderick was appointed Battalion Quartermaster.

A parade was held in Galway city on St. Patrick’s Day 1916 where the volunteers received a rough reception from the wives and the dependents of the British Soldiers. Shortly after this parade Liam Mellows was served a deportation order in Broderick’s house. He was given seven days to comply with the order. He refused to comply and was arrested on expiration of the order. Seán went to the RIC Barracks to see Mellows and sat beside him during the visit. When he stood up to leave he discovered Liam had slipped his revolver into Seán’s pocket.

During Holy Week the volunteers were told to have their communications ready to be put into operation at a moment’s notice. They were also advised to go to Confession and to receive Holy Communion on Easter Sunday. On Holy Thursday night, a tall woman, Seán thinks her name was a Miss Browne, arrived in Athenry at 8.30.Seán met her at the station. She had a message for Larry Lardner but Seán did not know who the message was from. As Lardner was not in Athenry that night she gave the letter to Seán to give to him. The woman left on the midnight train for Galway city. Seán subsequently gave the letter to Lardner.

On Easter Sunday practically all the Volunteers received Holy Communion. Later that morning a message was received in Athenry from McNeill stating that “all parades of Volunteers for the weekend were cancelled”. At about 6 pm that evening another message came to Athenry to say “that operations were postponed but to remain in readiness for another mobilisation”.

On Easter Monday a woman arrive on the 1.15 pm train with the news “that Dublin was in action since 12noon” and orders to “mobilise immediately”. Orders were sent to all companies to mobilise. The Athenry Company was to mobilise in the Town Hall. At about 9 o’clock that night they moved to the Department of Agriculture Farm leaving scouts to inform late arrivals of our whereabouts. On Tuesday Mellows arrived at the Farm with some other companies. There were about 650 men. They had about 20 .303 rifles, a few miniature rifles, about 300 shotguns and a good supply of home-made hand-grenades. While at the Farm Seán was promoted to Brigade Quartermaster by Liam Mellows.

It was only afterwards that Seán Broderick learned that the plan was that each company was to attack and capture all the Police Barracks in its area. At about noon on Wednesday they moved to Moyode Castle. They took cattle and sheep from the farm to feed the men and also horses for transport purposes. They commandeered a load of flour which was being delivered from the mills in Galway to Loughrea. They distributed the flour amongst people living in the locality who baked it for them.

On Thursday they moved to Lime Park. On Friday Mellows disbanded some of the men who had no arms as they had difficulty feeding such large numbers. Very late on Friday night Fr Tom Fahy arrived at the camp with the news “that Dublin had surrendered and that the British reinforcements had arrived in Loughrea”. A meeting of the Officers was held to discuss the situation at which, Seán tells us “the following were present – Liam Mellows, Alf Monaghan, Larry Lardner, Mattie Niland, Brian Molloy, Nicholas Kyne,  Frank Hynes, Tom Ruane (Carnmore), Tom Howley (Ardrahan), Pat Callanan and Seán Broderick. Fr. Tom Fahy and Fr. Feeney were also present. Fr. Fahy told them the position as he understood it and advised them to disband”.

Mellows at first refused to disband but eventually agreed saying he was sorry to do so without a fight or as Seán says “words to that effect”. Fr Fahy then addressed the officers and the man from the steps of the house. He told them that it had been decided to disband owing to the overwhelming forces against them and that they deserved great credit for being prepared to fight for the freedom of the country. Mellows told them to “hold on to their arms and to evade arrest for as long as possible – especially the officers”. Seán went to Esker (Monastery) with Larry Lardner and a few others. From there he went to Fr. Tom Fahy’s house at Gloves where he remained until Sunday when a car arrived to take him to Fr. Melvin’s house in Attymon.

Later that night Seán went with a priest to his brother who was a curate in Killoran. Later he went to the Cistercian Monastery in Roscrea, where he remained for about two weeks. He then went to Drumbane for a week and from there to the Cistercian Monastery in Mount Melleray for ten or twelve days. His next move was to a farmer’s house in Upperchurch where he spent four weeks. He then went to Borris-o-Leigh and on to Dublin on an excursion train from Thurles. He remained in Dublin until September and them Fr. Tom Fahy got him a job in Maynooth College where he met Alf Monaghan and Frank Hynes who had also got employment there through Fr. Fahy. Seán says “I remained there until the prisoners were released in June 1917 and then returned home”.

Source – BMH WS 344

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About this record

Written by Finbarr O'Regan

Published here 04 Feb 2021

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