Pádraig McCartan SC (b. 1943)
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Pádraig McCartan SC (b. 1943)


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Patrick McCartan, father of Pádraig McCartan, came from the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains in Co. Tyrone. His father was a Fenian and a Parnellite, and Patrick attended a local hedge school in Carrickmore where he was taught by a former student of Carolan. He went on to study at St Malachy’s in Belfast. The interviewee recounts the story of his father’s emigration from Derry to New York along with his friend Joe McGarrity. He became involved with Clann na Gael in Philadelphia. While in America he met the activist John Devoy, and mention is made of his friends who included Tom Clarke, Seán MacDiarmada and Denis McCullough. He returned home and registered at the Royal University of Ireland as a medical student. He was active in politics, and in around 1906 was elected a councillor on Dublin Corporation. Owing to his political involvement he was expelled from the RUI and was subsequently elected to the RCSI. His membership of the IRB in 1912 is discussed, and his son also refers to the atmosphere of the time and the split within the organisation. Patrick McCartan’s contacts with people such as Seán MacDiarmada and Eoin MacNeill are mentioned, and his orders for the Rising in the northern counties are described. From Holy Thursday onwards, with the scuttling of the Aud, he would have supported McNeill in calling off the mobilisation. However, Nora Connolly brought the message to Carrickmore that the Rising was to go ahead. Pádraig explains that between 180 to 200 men were grouped under his father’s command at Carrickmore, along with Denis McCullough’s men. They were ill-equipped with arms and both leaders knew that they were being watched by the authorities, so the men were sent home again. Patrick McCartan went on the run, and his son tells an anecdote about this time. His father had been a GP in the area and this worked to his advantage for a time, though eventually he was captured and sent to Frongoch Camp. He was elected to the First Dáil for the Offaly constituency in 1918, and was sent as an emissary to Russia to campaign for recognition of the Provisional Government sometime between 1917 and 1919. There he met Korinsky but was unsuccessful in his endeavour owing to the nature of the Treaty negotiations. He was later sent to New York to be joined by Diarmuid Lynch, where a plenipotentiary office was set up. During this time he earned a living as a GP which funded the office. Lynch was the contact man between Clan na Gael and the IRB, and Pádraig discusses his father’s admiration for Diarmuid Lynch. Harry Boland and Seán T. O’Kelly also went to America to set up the Bond drive. Later again, Éamon de Valera travelled there and toured around raising funds for the new State. Patrick McCartan’s attitude to de Valera is reflected upon. Patrick returned home in 1921 or 1922, bringing several thousand dollars for the Minister of Finance and a donation for P. H. Pearse’s school. The loan given to Russia is recalled, and Pádraig describes how details of this came to light during the 1948 election. Patrick McCartan did not approve of the Treaty but he valued Michael Collins’s opinion, which was that the military struggle could not continue. He supported the Treaty because he believed there was no realistic opportunity for military advance. Pádraig believes that his father was disillusioned. Among his friends were Liam Mellows, Risteárd Mulcahy, and Harry Boland, and he found it very hard to accept the fact that men who had done so much for Ireland were shot. Patrick was still running the embassy in New York until 1922 or 1923, and he remained in the USA. Until 1938 he was practising as a medical doctor. During these years, he returned to Ireland several times, bringing funds for the State. His son discusses Clann na Gael and his father’s belief that the split was fostered by de Valera. Following Patrick McCartan’s death, Joe McGarrity published his papers. The reciprocity between these two men is recalled. Pádraig recalls his own childhood and time spent with his father. At this time Patrick McCartan was a senator and a member of Clann na Poblachta, and his son recalls other party members, such as Seán MacBride, Mick Kelly and Charlie Murphy. He says that Dan Breen would visit the McCartan family home. Pádraig’s mother was Elizabeth Kearney who came from near Ballydesmond. Her father, Tom Kearney, was one of Seán Moylan’s men. Elizabeth and Patrick met in New York and their son tells the story of their meeting. Elizabeth became a teacher with the Gaelic League and Patrick was one of her students. Pádraig does not remember Irish being spoken much at home, though his sister Deirdre was fluent when very young. Patrick McCartan’s candidacy for the Presidency in 1944 is recalled, and the involvement of Pete Kearney and Tom Barry in getting County Council nominations is discussed. The aim of that election was to identify the strength of the republican vote in the country, Pádraig says. His father did not consider running again until he had a conversation with de Valera in the late 1950s, and the details are provided. Pádraig describes his father and his radical nationalism which lasted to his death. He had tremendous regard for life in the North and believed that the Republic needed the northern counties more than the northern counties needed the Republic. He liked Unionists personally but did not like their politics. He was keen on the arts and was friendly with literary men such as Yeats, whom he helped in America. Pádraig remarks that his father was generous in funding individuals and institutions. Tom Clarke’s role in bringing Patrick McCartan from his position as a Parnell supporter to that of a strong republican is described, and Pádraig discusses incidents which occurred around Easter 1916, and the Countermanding Order. Patrick was disappointed that Clarke had not confided in him personally about events at this time. The sparse ammunition at the disposal of Patrick McCartan and Denis McCullough, and the geographical difficulties in the Carrickmore location, are further topics discussed. The support of Randolph Hearst and others in America for the nationalist cause is mentioned. Pádraig recalls meeting the children of his father’s patients many years later, and he feels that his father made many of his contacts through his patients. In as much as Pádraig knows, his father did not attend republican commemorations but he was very active in theatre circles. The McCartan family would attend féiseanna and every production at the Abbey Theatre. Patrick McCartan’s 1916 medal is in the possession of the family. In conclusion, Pádraig considers his own and his father’s attitudes to the twenty-six county Ireland.

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Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

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48 hours

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43.25 MB

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Patrick McCartan (Interviewee’s father)

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