Maria Dwane
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Maria Dwane


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Maria Dwane explains that it is probable that her great-grandfather, James Dwan, a labourer from Cork, arrived in Dublin in late 1800. Her grandfather James Dwan and his brother John were born and grew up in a tenement in Gardiner Street. The brothers had an older and a younger sister. In 1906 both sisters became ill and died within four months of one another. John Dwan was a member of the Irish Volunteers and was stationed at the Four Courts in 1916. He was also a member of the Pioneer Temperance Association. Maria explains that John Dwan was at Langan’s public house on King Street in 1916. When their ammunition ran out, the men decided to move to Reilly’s Fort on the night of 27 April. John Dwan was shot and he died three days later in hospital. He is buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, as are his two sisters. As he had no dependents, it is likely that were it not for his brother’s efforts in remembering him he would have been forgotten. In 1932 the Graves Association marked his resting place. His brother, James Dwane, served with the British Army in WWI. He had enlisted with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1914. He survived the war and returned home in 1918. Maria explains that he was the sole survivor of the bombardment of the tank on which he served as a gunner, and was to suffer from poor hearing for the remainder of his life. He died when Maria was three years old, but she has photographs of them together. Her father James’s older brother John was told about his uncle John by their father, James Dwane, as it was important to him that his brother would be remembered. The family has one photograph of John Dwan and some material is also available in the Military Archives. James Dwane joined the Free State Army in 1922 and was stationed in Tipperary. Maria says that the family are trying to gather information on his activities between 1918 and 1922. From 1924 to 1928, he was on sick leave from the army. Maria considers the effect on her grandfather of losing most of his family by 1926, and says that her father had learned about this from him. It is known that John and James Dwane were part of an unnamed organisation since 1910, and Maria is of the opinion that if WWI had not broken out both would have taken part in the Rising. She feels that because James was unemployed in 1914 he enlisted for the income from the British Army. John had employment at Inchicore railway works at this time. Her great-grandmother received compensation payments, in four instalments of £25, following the death of her son John in 1916. Her husband James died in 1922 and she then applied for a dependent’s pension. At this time, her son James had his own family in Clonmel, and at the age of 51 she had to seek employment to support herself and her youngest child. Maria recalls the papers kept by her grandfather and donated to the Military Archives, from which she has learnt more about her granduncle. She knows that her grandfather supported Michael Collins. She believes that he joined the Free State Army because of this support, but also because he had previously served as a soldier. In 1926 his mother died and the family moved to the tenement in Gardiner Street which is where Maria’s father was born. James Dwane retired in 1943. His wife was Margaret Corcoran from Cashel, Co. Tipperary. Her brother William had also served in the British Army and he died in action in November 1917. Maria recalls the fact that she and her parents lived with her grandparents in Cabra for a time. Her grandmother lived until 1983, and she did not discuss her own or her husband’s experiences. Maria’s uncle has James Dwane’s three medals from WWI. The family does not have any medal for his brother John, and it appears that it may never have been sent to his family. Maria considers this to be regrettable, and she remarks that her grandfather lived to see a free Ireland, though tragically his brother did not. Maria is finding it helpful to be a member of the Four Courts committee and the Relatives Association, as she is discovering more about her granduncle. She has been in touch with a man in Meath whose grandfather would recall John Dwan as a good friend. Previously the only information known to the family had come from a newspaper article. Maria discusses the location of her granduncle’s shooting, between Langan’s public house and Reilly’s Fort. She says that she would like to visit her maternal granduncle’s grave in Belgium. She emphasises the fact that but for her father’s sharing of his family’s history, they would not have known about John and James Dwane and their activities in times of war and rebellion. (Note: When James Dwan returned home in 1918 following his service in WWI, he changed the spelling of his surname to Dwane)

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

31.99 MB

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James Dwane (Interviewee’s grandfather), John Dwan (Interviewee’s granduncle)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore