By Jim Hayes: (Grandnephew of Jim Egan)
A fitting two day Commemoration was held recently for the 100th anniversary of the death of IRA Captain Jim Egan of the 7th Battalion Kilkenny Brigade IRA and the 3rd Battalion Tipperary Brigade IRA. The Commemoration took place at his home in Poulacapple on the 22 April and in Mullinahone the following day 23rd April 2023.
In Poulacapple, an oration was given by renowned author and historian Niamh Hassett and a plaque was unveiled on the wall of the house in memory of Jim and his brothers Pat, Ned, Peter, Tommy and Charlie Egan who played major parts in the War of Independence and Civil War.
It was from this home, The Irish Republican Army met to end the Civil War. A walk was held through woodland to the spot where Jim was killed in a gun battle with Free State Forces.
There were wreaths laid at the place where Jim was wounded. The ballad of Jim Egan was played and sung by composer Joe O Gorman, a long-time friend of the Egan family, which proved to be a very moving tribute.
On the second day there was mass offered in St Michael’s Church, Mullinahone, followed by a wreath laying ceremony and oration given by Niamh Hassett at the Grave of Jim Egan. From the graveside there was a procession to the Egan, Brett and Quinn monument where another wreath laying ceremony took place. The colour party re-enactment was of the 7th Battalion 3rd brigade Drangan.
Tadhg Ryan played Amhrán Na bhFiann on the Bagpipes, while later there was light lunch and music in Brett’s “ Stack of Barley” where neighbours friends and relations spent the evening chatting and telling stories they heard of the famous Egan family and their ‘Fight For Irish Freedom’.
There was a huge turnout on both days which goes to show the high esteem Jim Egan and his family are held and for the part they played and struggles they endured during the early part of the last century.
A special thanks has to go to the Costello/ Egan family for opening and welcoming large crowds of relations and friends into their home over the weekend of the commemorations and to the many organisers who put a lot of time and effort into the commemoration to make the weekend the success it turned out to be.
Jim’s granddaughter Josie Gill, her husband Sean and his great-grandson James travelled from Manchester for the commemorations.
Jim Egan, his parents John and Bridget, brothers and sisters would have been proud of everybody who took part in the100th anniversary commemorations.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh siad.
The Story of Jim Egan
Jim Egan was born in 1896 in Poulacapple outside Callan on the West Kilkenny Tipperary border. He was the ninth of fifteen children. His father John married his neighbour Bridget Gardiner on Valentine’s day 1884. Together John and Bridget built up a thriving egg exporting business and bit by bit they bought small parcels of land until they had a good size farm. By the time Jim was born, the Egan’s were doing very well indeed. John and Bridget were staunch supporters of Davin and Cusack so it was only a matter of time before the Egan family would take part in the fight for Irish freedom in the turbulent years ahead.
Jim took an active part in the volunteer movement since its inception. His brothers Pat, Ned, Peter, Tommy and Charlie were also involved in the struggle for independence and all were interned together at one stage .
Along with being an active volunteers Jim Egan and his brothers were outstanding footballers and were the backbone of the Mullinahone football team, winning many county titles between them.
Jim Played centre back for Tipperary in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday 1920. He braved Black and Tan bullets to get a priest Fr Crotty from Mullinahone to attend to his team mate Michael Hogan who had been shot. Michael Hogan died on the field of play a few minutes later.
IMPRISONED IN KILKENNY AND SPIKE
After Bloody Sunday Jim and his brothers were arrested and detained at Woodstock House, Inistioge, Co. Kilkenny where they was interrogated, tortured and badly beaten by the Auxiliaries. They were imprisoned in Kilkenny Jail and later on Spike Island.
When the truce came, and after the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty, Jim his brothers and comrades were released as part of the terms of the Treaty.
On release from Spike Island Jim Egan joined the National army. When Civil War broke out he left the army and went back to the fight again. Opposing the Treaty, the battalions regrouped and he joined the 7th battalion Kilkenny Brigade IRA. In the final days of the Civil War he was one of a number of IRA men guarding Eamon De Valera, Liam Lynch and Frank Aiken in the Nire Valley. He left the Nire Valley escorting De Valera back to Poulacapple.
Jim was in his home in Poulacapple when it was raided by Free State Forces. Avoiding arrest, he got out through a window, while his brothers and sisters were being arrested around the farm and haggard. Hopelessly outnumbered he fought a fierce gun battle through the fields around his home, returning fire with his revolver. He managed to shoot Lt. Patrick McGrath resulting in the loss of his finger. Jim himself was shot and badly wounded, and was left lying on the ground for three long hours in the worst weather imaginable without being allowed the attention of a doctor or a priest. His family tried several times to see him as he lay bleeding to death but were not allowed. Had Jim got the medical attention he needed he may well have survived as he was a very fit young man He was eventually brought to the Callan County home where he succumbed to his wounds and died the following morning on the 19th April 1923.
A TIME FOR PEACE
Later that same April, twelve members of the Anti-Treaty IRA executive were present at a meeting at the home of the Egan’s of Poulacapple. Frank Aiken was elected Commanding Officer in succession to General Liam Lynch. With one dissident at the meeting it was decided to negotiate peace.
Frank Aiken, Liam Pilkington, Tom Barry and Sean Hales were empowered to make the final decision for peace or war in conjunction with the Republican cabinet.
These four officers travelled to Dublin and consulted with the then President Eamon De Valera to make a public proclamation for peace proposals and to order a cessation of aggressive action. The proclamation was issued and was accompanied by an IRA instruction ordering suspension of military operations as of noon on the 30th April 1923.
Just days after Jim Egan’s death, this meeting held at his home in Poulacapple ultimately led to the ending of the Civil War in Ireland.
Thanks to historian Jim Maher for recording the actions of Jim Egan and his family in his book ‘The Flying Column West Kilkenny.’ Without his research and documentation a lot of what we know on the war of Independence and Civil War in West Kilkenny and South East Tipperary would not have being recorded.