Frank McAllister (b.1930), Noel McAllister (b.1943) and Ann McAllister
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Frank McAllister (b.1930), Noel McAllister (b.1943) and Ann McAllister


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Frank McAllister recalls that his father, Benny McAllister, never spoke much about his activities during the 1916 Rising. Each Friday night in later years his friend, Mick Rock, would come for dinner and then the men would talk. Frank’s mother, Kathleen Lawless, was a nurse by profession and she worked at the Rotunda Hospital before her marriage, having trained in Whipps Cross Hospital in London. Her father, Frank Lawless, was involved in the struggle for freedom and her brother, Joe Lawless, became an officer in the Irish Army. Kathleen and her sister, Evelyn, were members of Cumann na mBan. A photo of Evelyn in 1917 is examined and it is explained that their mother was a member of the Howard family from Swords. Frank’s maternal grandfather, Frank Lawless, was released from prison in England in 1922 and Frank has some letters written by him to his daughter Kathleen. Ann McAllister talks about these Lawless letters and their content, and she reads a letter written by Frank Lawless from Dublin Castle where he was imprisoned, in which he instructs Kathleen in relation to the family business, for which she did the accounts. Ann mentions that letters from P. H. Pearse to Kathleen also existed, though unfortunately these were stolen some years ago. A further letter written by Frank Lawless to Kathleen is read, written when he was in Ballykinlar Camp in July 1921. Kathleen Lawless delivered meat from a horse and cart, and using this as cover, she distributed arms around Dublin. It is mentioned that she was the sweetheart of Charlie McAllister before her marriage to Benny. Noel McAllister discusses some letters concerning his father’s army service, and explains that people would write to ask him to confirm details of their roles in the struggle for inclusion in their application for pensions. Frank and Ann McAllister married in 1958 and Ann says that it was only later that her mother-in-law, Kathleen, would talk about her life. She would explain that her father, Frank Lawless, was prosecuted for having his name written in Irish on his milk-cart. Frank McAllister provides further detail in relation to this. Ann remembers Kathleen as quite an imposing personality with very definite ideas. She was very concerned that some details should not be disclosed, and it is mentioned that she was very friendly with Desmond Ryan’s widow, Jenny Ryan. Desmond had been a teacher at St Enda’s. Ann recalls the fact that at one time they received forms requesting information about the Battle of Ashbourne, and they decided not to complete them. Kathleen would also talk to Ann about running the farm in Swords. Frank describes his pride in his parents’ role in the struggle. His father’s time as a Gaelic player is also recalled, as is the fact that Benny McAllister won an All-Ireland medal in 1917 with Geraldines, representing Dublin. Noel discusses the farming community in north Co. Dublin. He himself is now farming in Donabate. He talks about the mixed farming practices of the Lawless family. Ann continues to read from Frank Lawless’ letter which speaks of his hopes of release in time for his silver wedding anniversary and the ongoing rumours which were circulating about their release. It is thought that Colm and Brendan Lawless attended St Enda’s but Ann says that there is no record of them on the roll. Frank Lawless was released from prison in January 1922 and was killed in a road accident a few months later. He was the first to be afforded a State funeral. Ann reads a letter dated June 1920, written by Michael Collins when he was Minister for Finance. He was writing to Evelyn Lawless concerning her departure from her position as his secretary. Evelyn was to become a nun and Frank talks about his visits to her in a Dublin convent. He remembers her fondly, and when he passed his Leaving Certificate she gave him a gift of a bicycle. At one time, information was sought as to where the arms in the Howth gun-running were sourced, and Frank recalls his father’s role in this episode. Noel continues with an account of the role played by the Fingal Brigade. Their father Benny and his comrade got the last two guns from the boat. Ann reads a letter written by Jenny Ryan of Charleston Road, Dublin, in 1972 which relates to historical research being undertaken by Professor Lyons at the time, a question concerning any plan to invade the North in 1922 and another question relating to the history of the IRB. Ann recalls her mother-in-law Kathleen McAllister’s appointment, following her husband’s death, as Matron in charge of a refugee home for Russians in Dartry. Kathleen attended the commemoration ceremonies of the Rising in 1966 and features in a photograph from that time, along with Joe Lawless. Both she and her husband Benny McAllister (posthumously) received 1916 and Black and Tan medals. Noel and Frank McAllister describe some family photographs.

Additional information



Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

43.00 MB

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Kathleen Lawless and Benny McAllister (Interviewees’ parents/uncle/parents–in-law), Frank Lawless (1st Interviewee’s grandfather)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore