Laurence (Larry) Lardner

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Larry Lardner, a native of Athenry, lived in Chapel Lane, now called Church Street.  He was an auctioneer and a publican by trade and his pub was situated where Rooney’s Menswear now stands. He was a longstanding member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and was eventually promoted to the Supreme Council for Connacht.

Larry agitated for the division of the local estates among the tenants and Stephan Jordan, Dick Murphy (who owned the Town Hall) P J Holland, Willie Reilly and Larry, all members of Tom Kenny’s Secret Society, were the leaders of the Athenry Town Tenants League. As a result of their agrarian aggression and outrages against graziers and landlords in the locality, included cattle driving and the non payment of rent, in 1908, a number of estates were sold, grazing land was redistributed and many of the tenants in Athenry were given houses and land.

He was one of the first organizers of the Volunteer Movement in Galway. At the inaugural meeting of the Athenry Volunteers in the Town Hall held on the 8th February 1914 the elected officers were Larry Lardner, Company Captain and Frank Hynes, Vice-Company. In 1916 Liam Mellows came to County Galway to train the volunteers and made Athenry his headquarters.

Immediately after Mellow’s arrival the Volunteers in were put on a stricter military basis and re-organised as a brigade. Brigade Headquarters was Athenry and was known as the “Athenry Brigade”. Larry Lardner was appointed Brigade Commandant. Eamonn Corbett was Vice Commandant.

Commandant Lardner took a prominent part in the Easter Rising 1916. After the rebellion he had to go on the run and was a much wanted man. He succeeded in outwitting the RIC for some time but eventually was arrested and spent three months’ imprisonment in Belfast prison. After serving his sentence he was released but was rearrested at the prison gates and charged in connection with the German plot. He was deported to England and served a twelve month sentence in Lincoln prison. Amongst his fellow prisoners was Mr. Eamonn de Valera, in whose escape he assisted.

He took part in the War of Independence and in 1919 he was captured and imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs in England and was one of a group of IRA men who went on hunger strike.

Early in January 1920, he was part of a group of local men (including Bill Freaney, who died during the burning of the Athenry Cricket Pavilion, approached Frank Shawe Taylor on behalf of some local people who were requesting a road to travel to Mass. As a result of some aggression against the estate the gates of Castle Lambert were locked and the tenants were not allowed to use then to get to Athenry. Instead they had to go by Toberoe which was much longer.  It is said that Shawe-Taylor himself was amenable to their demands but the landlord, who was absent, refused. Shawe-Taylor was later murdered and his death resulted in much violence in the area.

Lardner was one of the pioneers of the G.A.A. in the West of Ireland, was county secretary and was also secretary of the local branch of the Gaelic League. He was secretary of the Athenry Show Committee and an active organiser of the Tuam Beet Factory and organizing secretary in the formation of Athenry Sack Factory Company

He died in Athenry one 21 April 1936, survived by his wife Bridget (nee Kennedy), a leading member of the local branch of Cumann na mBan and his daughter Kitty who was well known in amateur drama in Athenry for years afterwards.

According to the Connacht Tribune in June 1936 – a Memorial was unveiled in Athenry Graveyard with the following inscription on the monument –

“Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on the soul of Laurence Lardner,

Commandant, Galway Brigade, Irish Volunteers, Easter Week, 1916,

and afterwards I.R.A.

“Died April 21st, 1936.

“Erected by his comrades and friends.”

On the platform at the unveiling ceremony were: Very Rev. Canon M. J. Conroy, P.P., Athenry; Rev. John Burke, C.C., Athenry; Rev. John Concannon, C.C., Athenry; Rev. P. Conroy, Athenry; Mrs. Bridget Lardner (widow); Miss Kitty Lardner (daughter); Mrs. Finlay (sister—in—law); Mr. Sean Broderick, T.D. (cousin); Mr. P. Beegan, T.D.; Mr. S. Jordan, Mr. J. J. Walsh, N.T. (Old Boys School, Abbey Row) and Frank Fahy, Ceann Comhairle, Dáil Éireann, who gave the graveside oration.

The executive committee in connection with the Memorial were: Messrs. Stephan Jordan, chairman; Sean Broderick, T.D., vice-chairman; T. Ruane, Carnmore; J. Harrett, Athenry; J. Egan, do; James Shaughnessy, Craughwell; Tom Kennedy, Carnaun, Athenry; P. S. Courtney, do.; Michael Walsh, Athenry; M. Freeney, Derrydonnell, Messrs. J. J. Whelan, N.T. and J. Cleary, Athenry, were joint honorary secretaries.

Sources:

Lardner Memorial unveiled in Athenry – http://places.galwaylibrary.ie/history/chapter326.html

Connacht Tribune

Land and Revolution – Fergus Campbell, Oxford Press 2005

Witness Statements from the Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 – www.militaryarchives.ie.

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Written by Finbarr O'Regan

Published here 04 Feb 2021

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