Jim Watkins (b.1931)
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Jim Watkins (b.1931)


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Jim Watkins discusses his maternal family, the Fitzgeralds. His uncle Gerald Fitzgerald fought in WWI. His embarkation in India for Marseilles and his journey up through France are described. He was at a remount depot when he met with John Kelly with whom he had been at school and who fought in the Boer War. After the war, Gerald worked with the police at Scotland Yard where he was to remain for some years, later emigrating to America. Gerald’s final years were spent working with the John Hancock Insurance Company of Boston, Massachusetts. Gerald’s brother, Tom Fitzgerald, was a member of the British Army stationed at the Curragh during the Rising, and Jim remembers that Tom told him about being sent to Dublin city centre and being in position on the roofs of buildings in Dame Street. After the Rising he was re-deployed to France, and at the remount depot in Rathcoole he was given the news that his father James had died. Permission to attend the wake was refused. Jim recalls one engagements during the war in which his uncle was involved. Jim has photographs of his uncles in British Army uniform. After the war, Tom worked with Guinness in Dublin, but he was seriously injured in a road accident which affected him for the remainder of his life. Michael Whelan, an RIC sergeant in Dublin and a cousin of Jim’s mother Diana Fitzgerald is recalled, as is his narrow escape to England having been warned by her fiancé, Tom Watkins, that his life was in danger from the IRA. Jim remarks that many of the Whelan children joined religious orders and they all lived long lives. Michael Whelan would visit the Watkins house when Jim was a child, but he remembers that his father Tom would not speak to him. Dan Breen was also a frequent visitor to the home. Tom was friendly with his brothers-in-law, Tom and Gerald Fitzgerald, and Jim explains there was an understanding that men had to get employment which was provided by the British Army. Diana Watkins was a committed republican though her brothers had served in the British Army. A variety of photographs are examined. One of these shows Kevin Barry’s family and Jim explains the reason why this is in his possession. Another photograph shows Gerry Boland at Jim’s sister Kathleen’s wedding. Gerry and Tom Watkins were close friends, and Jim recounts an anecdote about a trip with Gerry Boland when he was Minister and meeting the British ambassador, Sir John Maffey (later Lord Rugby). A photograph of Free State officers saluting the flag at the Curragh, which shows Judge Barra Ó Broin, and other photographs taken are at the grave of Liam Lynch at Kilcrumper are examined. Jim reads a letter from Gerry Boland to Diana Watkins after her husband’s death. John Watkins, who was captured and transferred to Belfast by destroyer, chained together with Fr Burbage, is remembered. Jim examines his father’s application for the military service pension in 1934, which was stamped to indicate that he was a member of the Irish Volunteers and Óglaigh na hÉireann. Jim explains that his father was on the Military Pensions Board, and a man from Ballyknocken who applied for a pension is remembered. The occasion when Jim presented a British flag to General Coakley for the Curragh museum on the anniversary of the handover of Curragh Camp is recalled, and he explains that at this time he was Veterinary Officer, Curragh Command. He explains that the flag had been kept in the house of Reverend Stokes in the intervening 75 years. He also had the clock which had been left in Kilbride Camp, and this he also presented. He explains that because the Watkins’ ancestors were Protestants, his father never burned Protestant houses during the Troubles, and as a result he always had a good relationship with his Protestant neighbours. The loan given by Michael Collins on behalf of the Irish State, using the Russian Crown jewels as collateral, is recalled. For many years the jewels were stored at Seán O’Donovan’s house in Clontarf, which is where Tom Watkins saw them. Jim says that he asked his father about the jewels but he did not recall very much about them as he had no interest in jewellery. Jim explains that his father had less time for ex-Free State soldiers than he had for British Army men. He talks about families who had sons in the British Army and who were also active in the Rising. He does not remember any embarrassment in his family about this situation. In the 1940s Tom Watkins became a district leader of the LDF. His deputy was Mr Bullman, a teacher in Rathfarnham. Later Tom was appointed leader of the Baldonnel group and Bullman led the Rathfarnham branch. One of Tom’s officers was Jack Rafter who had been batman to Michael Collins. Jim remembers that he and his father assisted Jack when he lost his house, and he describes his father as a decent man.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

36.85 MB

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Tom Fitzgerald (Interviewee’s uncle)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore