William Geary (1899-2004), part 4
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William Geary (1899-2004), part 4


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In June 2004, I was invited by the Irish American Historical Society in New York to come to the city to address them on my work involving the recording and archiving of local history and folklore. The Society also suggested that I record the memories of William Geary from Ballyagran, Co. Limerick who lived in New York. I was very pleased to be afforded the opportunity to meet this fascinating man, who had lived in three centuries – his young manhood lived in an Ireland in the grip of appalling turmoil. I made my way to Bayside, New York and met William Geary, and his story held such fascination for me, I returned to record him a second time during that week. At that time he was 105 years old, and was to die peacefully less than six months later. William began his life in Ballyagran. He was born in 1899, into a strong farming family. Following schooling locally he travelled to Caherciveen, Co. Kerry in 1918 to train as a wireless operator at the Atlantic Wireless School. Principal Maurice Fitzgerald awarded him a First Class Honour on his graduation. For a year he travelled the world as a ship’s wireless operator, and then decided to return home, where he became involved in drilling the local Volunteers in Co. Limerick. In May 1922 he joined the new Garda Siochána and served initially in Newbridge, Co Kildare. He was on duty in Dublin Castle along with many colleagues from Kildare on the day the British flag was lowered and “… the British marched out and we marched in.” Later he was on sentry duty by night at the Castle and remembers rifle fire “… all over the city.” He was promoted to Acting Inspector and transferred to Clones, Co Monaghan, and later Templemore, Co Tipperary where two Gardaí were dismissed for their failure to arrest an armed IRA man as the standard of discipline within the Garda force was extremely rigid. On 10th June 1926 he was transferred to Kilrush, Co Clare as Superintendent. The IRA was active in the area, being involved in general harassment such as the burning of farmers’ hay, though William contended that compensation was sometimes sought from the Government for hay which was otherwise set alight! On 14th June 1928 he was summoned to the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, in uniform, to meet Commissioner Eoin O’Duffy and Chief Superintendent of Detectives David Neligan. He was accused of accepting a £100 bribe from the IRA and was dismissed from the GardaSiochána on 25th June 1928. He was devastated at this turn of events and returned home to Limerick. He made the decision to emigrate to New York, as he now had no prospects in Ireland, so shortly thereafter he booked his passage and sailed to New York, where he boarded for some time with his former nanny from Ballyagran, Miss Mary Ellen Keane. He took various employments over the years and during the Second World War he joined the US Air Force. He married and reared a family, but always endeavoured to clear his name by writing to consecutive Ministers for Justice in Ireland. For all of seventy years he and his friends at home in Ireland never faltered in their efforts to get justice for him, and to have him fully exonerated. Finally, in 2002 John O’Donoghue, Minister for Justice, restored his honour and travelled to New York to meet William Geary personally. After all the long and bitter years of battling for exoneration Mr Geary was elated and relieved and he lived out his final days in peace until his death in late 2004

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Audio series:

Witnesses to Independence


128 kbps

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48 hours

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An early member of the Garda Siochána and his battle for justice

Recorded by:

Dominic Kiernan