Seán Harris (b. 1937)
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Seán Harris (b. 1937)


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Tom Harris was the second eldest of seven children and he lived near Kilcock in Co. Kildare until he was 10 years old. His parents and grandmother died within six weeks of one another and his son Seán describes this tragic circumstance. Tom’s maternal Tierney relatives, brought the children to Prosperous, and Seán feels that this is where Tom picked up information about the Famine, particularly when working in Tierney’s public house. Tom Harris was a member of the IRB and the Irish Volunteers. At Easter Week 1916 Tom Byrne stayed with Tom Harris on the Saturday night and the plan was to meet up at Bodenstown. Their project entailed blowing up the bridge at Sallins and then proceeding to Dublin city centre. However, a man named Kelly called to let them know that the Countermanding Order had been issued. On the Sunday, Dick Stokes brought the order from Pearse that the Rising was to go ahead the following day. Seán describes the events which followed. Tom Harris, Tom Byrne and another man collected gelignite from the Dominican College and went to Bodenstown and on to Maynooth, where they met with twelve men and walked to Dublin. They slept for a few hours in Glasnevin Cemetery that night. On their arrival at the GPO, James Connolly shook hands with Tom Byrne, whom he knew well. They were then sent, with some others from Maynooth, to Parliament Street. Seán remembers that his father said that they would not have got out of Parliament Street were it not for Tom Byrne’s previous war experience (in South Africa). He also told his son that the Countermanding Order issued by Eoin MacNeill was a knock to their confidence. The group at Prosperous had several new guns which had been funded by a local seed merchant, but none of the men turned up at Bodenstown on the day. Seán describes the confusion that had arisen and the lack of confidence engendered. Tom Harris was wounded in the foot during the evacuation of the GPO. Jim O’Neill remained with him until he had to surrender, and Tom was picked up by an ambulance. He was treated at the hospital at the Castle and Cathal Brugha was in the bed beside him. Connolly was in the adjacent room. After treatment he was sent to Frongoch, and Seán recalls a letter Michael Collins sent to his father at this time. The effects of Tom Harris’s injury remained with him until his death. He felt that the signing of the Treaty divided the country. His son Seán explains that Tom Byrne was appointed by Collins as head of the guard at the Dáil. On his release Tom Harris went back home to work on the farm. He later took part in the War of Independence, and Seán thinks that he was commander for Co. Kildare. In about 1920 he was arrested in Athy and Tom Lawlor from Halvertstown was appointed commander. Lawlor later took the pro-Treaty side. Seán lists the safe houses pointed out to him by his father. While on the run during the Civil War, Tom met Hannah Sullivan whom he was to marry and whose brothers emigrated to America to avoid being shot. The executions of 19 December 1922 are discussed in detail. Seán explains that his father did not get a pension until de Valera got into government in 1932, and that he never received a disability pension. He remembers listening to his father and Bill Perkins conversing, and their internment in Newbridge Barracks (Kildare Barracks stated in recording) is recalled. The book The Civil War in Kildare is mentioned. Seán remembers what he heard from his father and Bill Perkins about the escape from the internment camp, and he feels that the executed men were almost all escapees. Jim O’Neill is recalled from Seán’s meeting with him in the 1950s. Tom Harris made a witness statement to the Bureau of Military History. He did not attend the commemoration in Naas in 1966. From 1919 to 1960 he was a member of the County Council, and he decided not to attend in case of argument or possibly cause offence to anyone, his son explains. The Fianna Fáil policy of the 1930s is considered and Tom Harris’s thoughts on the party are recalled. Seán explains that his father had no father to learn from and that many farmers at that time knew very little about agriculture. He recalls that Tom defended the Land Commission to the end, a stance with which his son did not agree. Tom attended agricultural college in about 1913 and was to become a good tillage farmer. The three farms and other businesses run by the Harris brothers are recalled. All of the brothers were out during the War of Independence. Mick and Jimmy Harris were younger and their older brother was a pharmacist who taught them how to make bombs. Seán’s grandaunt Annie Harris is recalled, and it was from her that Seán learned quite a lot about the times. She was involved in carrying messages from Cathal Brugha. Tom Harris’s grandmother was a member of one of four families, McCreevy, Byrnes, Mooney and Carey who came from Co. Down. Seán’s great-grandmother was a member of the Mooney family and she married a Tierney man. He discusses the swapping of land that had taken place between these four families and four families in Co. Down. Seán’s mother came from Co. Kerry, and he recalls her opinions of the Black and Tans and the Free State Army. Her two brothers, Denis and Jack Sullivan, were involved in the Civil War. Jack was in the IRA in Tralee and was shot by the Free State Army. Seán feels that the tragedy of the Civil War would not have occurred if the people had not split. He thinks that his father was not aware of the hatred others felt for him because of his role in the 1916 Rising. In the local area many people were employed by the British at that time.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

53.43 MB

Number of files:
Product ID:



Tom Harris (Interviewee’s father)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore