Stan O’Brien (b. 1936)
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Stan O’Brien (b. 1936)


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Stan O’Brien discusses the origins of the O’Brien family in Ballygiblin, near Mitchelstown in north Cork. The family moved to Galbally in Co. Limerick. Ned O’Brien was the eldest in his family, and he and his brother John Joe joined the Irish Volunteers when the organisation was formed. John Joe was working in Mitchelstown in 1916 and saw The O’Rahilly when he brought Eoin MacNeill’s Countermanding Order to the town. In Galbally the 6th Galtee Battalion of the Volunteers remained on alert during the Rising. Willie Pa O’Brien, a brother of Ned and John Joe O’Brien, had been a student at Queen’s College Cork and an apprentice in Cobh prior to joining the Irish Volunteers. He was arrested after the Rising and imprisoned in Wakefield Prison before he was transferred to Frongoch. He was released due to a deterioration in his health and he died not long afterwards. There was a very large attendance at his funeral in Galbally which included Volunteers from Cork and Limerick. Stan explains that when news of the Rising reached Tipperary town, Volunteer Mick O’Callaghan fired a warning shot. He escaped to the home of the Hennessy family near Galbally where he was discovered by the RIC. Two policemen were killed during the ensuing raid, and O’Callaghan escaped to America where he was later to become one of Harry Boland’s team. Ned O’Brien and Jimmy Scanlon also went to America during the War of Independence and became Harry Boland’s agents there. The O’Brien connection with the IRB is described. In Galbally Ned and John Joe O’Brien were members of the organisation, along with Jimmy Scanlon, Seán Lynch and Dan O’Brien. Stan recalls the split in the East Limerick Volunteers and its effects on the Galtee Battalion. He explains the reasons why just a random number of people from the area were arrested in 1916. Neither his father nor his uncle was among them. Bill Quirke was Captain of the Galbally Company before the Rising and later Ned O’Brien took over this position. The Mitchelstown group was well armed, Stan says, and he mentions Captain O’Neill who travelled to Birmingham to buy 50 Enfield rifles and ammunition for his Company. Stan describes the strong Fenian following in the Galtee Mountains area and explains that the Galtee Company opposed Redmond’s stance. Stan’s grandfather was a strong supporter of Sinn Féin, and in his youth he had been arrested for his activities with the Land League. His grand-uncle, John O’Brien, was a Fenian who was jailed for a week in Limerick. He later emigrated to Australia. Stan’s grandmother was a Kelly from Comoge in Co. Tipperary whose first cousin, William Crowe, headed the IRB in Munster. Stan mentions Crowe’s work in the railways which would provide cover for his activities. The friendship between John Joe O’Brien and Ernie O’Malley is recalled. During the War of Independence O’Brien served with the East Limerick flying column. At the request of the South Tipperary column he and Seán Lynch were sent to assist with training, and during this time he got to know O’Malley. Ernie O’Malley’s character and personality are described. The O’Brien brothers and others from Galbally Company took part in the rescue of Seán Hogan at Knocklong railway station in May 1919, and Stan describes those events in detail, and the outcome. Paddy Maher, an innocent man, was executed. He discusses the genesis of the idea of the flying column in Limerick, and further attacks in which his father took part and the formation of the East Limerick flying column are recalled. John Joe O’Brien was appointed second in command of the 6th (Galtee) Battalion of the East Limerick Brigade with Seán Lynch as his commander.-in-chief. At this time he also rejoined the East Limerick flying column and Stan details his engagements with this group. He explains the reason why the flying column was disbanded, and the weaponry held by John Joe O’Brien and Seán Lynch at this time is described. Stan recalls the British Army requisition, at 24 hours notice, of the O’Brien home and business establishment in Galbally during the War of Independence. The property was immediately adjacent to the RIC barracks and was occupied by a company of the Green Howards. His father’s final action was an attack on his own home. Stan mentions the dugouts and other structures built by the IRA men from which to operate in the Galtee Mountains. He considers the reasons why the Irish won the War of Independence, and says that Michael Collins was an important factor due to the game of bluff which he succeeded in playing. John Joe O’Brien joined the Free State Army, and his feelings about the atrocities and executions that took place during the Civil War are remembered. He considered the Civil War a disaster, and it was his belief that everybody should have refused to take part. He was a friend of Dick Mulcahy but Stan explains that his father could not equate the man with his actions, and was becoming more and more disillusioned. He believed that the death of Michael Collins was a disaster for Ireland because the country had been robbed of his great abilities. The reasons for his decision to withdraw during the Civil War are described in detail. He left the Free State Army on health grounds and returned to Galbally. Stan discusses attitudes towards his father at this time and a meeting with Dinny Lacey at the Glen of Aherlow is recalled. Stan recalls his father as an athletic man who had a kind and unassuming character. His wide circle of friends and acquaintances are recalled, as is his relocation from Limerick to Cork and Tipperary, and finally to Dublin. He loved to attend any occasion where he would meet his old pals, though he never wore his medals. He died at the age of 71. The plan for the gun-running to Banna Strand in 1916 is discussed. Stan says that his father knew nothing about this as he was not a member of the IRB at that time, and Dublin did not keep them informed. He has written a history of his family which he hopes to publish, explaining that at his urging, his father kept notes about his activities. In turn, Stan’s son urged him to set the details down. He discusses a photograph of a group at the unveiling of the Galbally IRA memorial in the late 1940s, and he names the men in the photograph. Tom Malone’s story is considered in some detail. Ned O’Brien went to America during the War of Indpendence and began a lifelong friendship with Éamon de Valera while there. His wife, Margaret Fraser of Galbally, was a member of Cumann na mBan as were Ned’s two sisters, Alice and Emily. He enlisted in the Irish Army and was stationed at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick. Stan discusses the Fianna Fáil policy of recruiting anti-Treaty men to the officer corps in order to bring stability to the Army. He explains that his father and his brother were next-door neighbours after Independence, and he discusses the political differences between the two men. John Joe O’Brien’s detention at Cork Prison and some events which occurred at that time are recalled, as is the release of the Free State prisoners from Cork and their journey by train to Kilmallock. Dan Breen’s efforts to negotiate a peace deal, and the visit paid to Breen near Mallow by John Joe O’Brien and Liam Hayes is recalled. John Joe’s journey with Liam Hayes to Limerick and their meeting with Michael Collins at Cruise’s Hotel is remembered, and Stan remarks on the possible importance of Collins’s presence in Limerick 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):

56.43 MB, 20.55 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



John Joe O’Brien (Interviewee’s father), Willie Pa O’Brien and Ned O’Brien (Interviewee’s uncles)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore