Art Agnew (b. 1921)
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Art Agnew (b. 1921)


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Art Agnew recalls his father, Arthur Agnew, who was born in Liverpool. He explains that three factions of the IRA, from Glasgow, London and Liverpool were stationed at Kimmage and were known as the Kimmage Garrison. They camped on the grounds at the home of the Plunkett family. Arthur Agnew was captured after the Rising and was sent to Frongoch Camp in Wales, where he learned Irish. Art recalls his father travelling back and forth between Liverpool and Belfast. He was very friendly with a man named Joe Duffy, also Liverpool Irish, who had come to live in Dublin. Art recalls the old comrades, including Duffy, coming to visit the family home in Swords on Sundays during his youth. One of the insurgents, Joe Good, is recalled, as is Maurice Good’s journal of the revolutionary times entitled Enchanted by Dreams: the journal of a revolutionary. The first Agnew family home in Swords after the move from Belfast in 1932 is recalled as being quite primitive. Art’s mother had been involved with the female section of Fianna Éireann (known as a sluagh) in Belfast, and she would have come down to Dublin for camping jamborees. Art owns two paintings of his mother which are signed with the initials C.G.B. (Constance Gore-Booth). He recalls his early childhood in Belfast where his grandmother, Mrs Stewart, lived on Hawthorn Street off the Springfield Road. Art discovered when he read his father’s application for the IRA pension in the 1930s that the place was used as a safe house. His father had been a quartermaster during Art’s young life and this discovery came as a surprise to him as he had no memory of any activity around the house. He describes his early life in Belfast and the sectarian nature of life in the city. Later, his teacher in Swords school was Andrew Hamill from Springfield Road, Belfast. During the Emergency, Arthur Agnew was a group leader in the FCA and was allowed to carry his gun on duty. Art’s younger sister handed the weapon over to the Garda Siochána some years ago. His parents’ activities were not mentioned at home but Art can well understand his mother’s participation, and he describes her as a ‘red hot republican’. Her family was Catholic and one of her sisters, Rosaleen, left Belfast in 1933 to join a French enclosed order at a convent near Paris. Later she was sent to Papua New Guinea where she worked for the rest of her life. During the Second World War the Japanese invaded the islands, resulting in a difficult period for the nuns. Arthur Agnew kept in touch with his comrades, and Art explains that it was through Joe Good’s book that he discovered the details of his father’s involvement in Ireland’s struggle for independence. He remembers his father as a good singer and Art was himself encouraged to continue with his voice training. He recalls his teachers, Michael O’Higgins and Denis Noble, a British baritone. Art’s son now teaches at the DIT Conservatory of Music and is an oboe player in the concert orchestra. Art again discusses his father’s activities during the revolutionary period and he explains that Arthur Agnew had a shop on Springfield Road in Belfast, and later in Swords. The O’Boyle family who lived in the house behind the shop in Belfast are remembered. Art Agnew played the violin, attended the School of Music and also studied singing, and he passed his love of music to his son. Art’s first teacher was a Frenchman named Jean Bertin, and later he was taught by Michael O’Higgins at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Under his tutelage, Art appeared in operettas and musicals. He joined the Civil Service in 1939 and worked in the Savings Bank, based in the GPO building. He explains the operations of the Post and Telegraphs service which encompassed many services, including Radio Éireann and an orchestra.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

57.77 MB

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Arthur Agnew (Interviewee’s father)

Recorded by:

Robert Woods