Seán Egan (b. 1935)
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Seán Egan (b. 1935)


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The Kellys were a Dublin family, and Seán Egan’s grandfather, Joseph Kelly, was a co-founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Seán recalls the history of the ITGWU Band, and the activities of the Kelly family during the revolutionary period are described. Thomas Kelly was in Boland’s Mills during the 1916 Rising. His brother Frank was a member of Fianna Éireann and his brother Joseph later became involved in the War of Independence. Their sisters Ellen, and Mary who was Seán’s mother, were members of Cumann na mBan, attached to the brigade commanded by Miss Ryan (later Mrs Seán T. O’Kelly). Seán explains that their activism was motivated by patriotism and a love of country. He tells us that his uncle, Thomas Kelly, was a member of B Company IRA in Boland’s Mills under Commandant Éamon de Valera in 1916. The original document signed by the members of the Garrison at the Mills is now at the Military Archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks. Following Thomas Kelly’s arrest he was imprisoned at Wakefield Prison. He was later to become active during the War of Independence. Seán explains that his mother often spoke to him and his siblings about her family and about others who were active in the struggle. He also recalls a neighbour, Statia Twomey (née Byrne), who would talk about the role she played. He remembers neighbours wearing their medals and travelling to the GPO for the annual commemorations of the Rising. He knows that guns and ammunition were hidden in his grandfather’s stables, and he describes finding Mauser guns in the rafters when the premises was being demolished after his grandmother’s death. He examines some photographs of the ITGWU band and members of the union. He attended the Golden Jubilee celebration of the foundation of the band in 1969. Ellen Kelly’s role as a member of Cumann na mBan is remembered and Seán explains that she was held for a period in Mountjoy Prison for membership of the organisation. The Kelly family did not take sides during the Civil War, and he recalls his mother discussing people who had been active in the 1916 Rising, then went on to fight in the War of Independence, went Pro-Treaty and later turned Anti-Treaty. He recalls some of Ellen Egan’s friends, including Lily Maclean, Statia Twomey and Mrs Seán T. O’Kelly. Thomas Kelly was again active during the War of Independence. Seán describes the raid by the Black and Tans on Professor Chapman’s house in Drumcondra, during which Dan Breen escaped. One of the men sent to rescue him was Thomas Kelly. Seán describes the circumstances relating to Breen’s medical treatment in the Twomey household, details of which he heard from his mother. His grandmother also told him about such events and she would appear to have been a driving force behind the family’s nationalism. Seán recalls seeing his uncle Frank’s Fianna Éireann uniform which he wore when involved in Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s funeral procession. Seán is proud of his family’s part in the struggle for Irish freedom. Brothers Thomas, Joseph and Frank Kelly are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, and their sister Ellen is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery. Seán feels that Thomas was a follower of de Valera, and he mentions Jim Egan (no relation) who, though at one time a member of the Free State Army, took the anti-Treaty side. Seán mentions the war in German East Africa between the Imperial German and the British armies, and explains that though the British censored information about the war, information got through to Ireland through Irish missionaries. Some artefacts previously owned by General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck were bought by the Kelly family. Seán believes that the people involved in the 1916 Rising had a mandate from those who had stood up for Irish freedom in the previous 700 years. Margaret Kavanagh from Wicklow was Seán Egan’s maternal grandmother. He describes her as a hard-working women who had known difficult times. The Kelly house, with stables at the rear, was not far from the Dublin docks and the family business was carting and drays. Seán is eagerly anticipating the centenary commemorations of the Rising in 2016, and says that he would like the location of the grave of every person who took part in the Rising to be recorded for posterity.

Additional information



Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

34.74 MB

Number of files:
Product ID:



Thomas Kelly (Interviewee’s uncle)

Recorded by:

Maurice O'Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore