by jdurney on December 13, 2011

Peadar Clancy’s Naas connections

James Durney

As far back as anyone can remember Paddy ‘Sam’ Clancy, from St. Conleth’s Place, Naas, always wore a black beret. A black beret worn in the 1970s and 1980s usually meant you had republican sympathies. Frank Driver, from Ballymore-Eustace, always wore a black beret, but Frank was a lifelong republican, interned when he was only sixteen. Few if any knew the significance of Paddy Clancy’s headgear. However, recent family discoveries revealed the reason why Paddy wore a beret. He had an uncle, Peadar Clancy, who was killed in the War of Independence. Paddy’s uncle was killed when he was very young, so he never knew him. Like many people of his generation, Paddy did not talk about this event. Thousands of Irishmen had died in the Great War and in the revolutionary period from 1916 to 1923, but it was like a collective amnesia had befallen the country – nobody talked about it. As the northern Troubles ground violently on, it was not wise to say your relative had died serving in the British Army, or that he was even a republican. It seemed everyone was embarrassed about their past.
So life went on and nobody said anything about their past loyalties. It was only quite recently discovered by his grand-daughter, Chris Wilson, that Paddy Clancy, was the nephew of republican soldier, Peadar Clancy, killed by the Auxiliaries in Dublin Castle on Bloody Sunday 1920. Peadar Clancy was born on 9 November 1888. He was a native of Carrowreagh East, Cranny, Kilrush, Co. Clare. The 1901 Census shows Peadar, or Peter, aged ten, residing with his parents James and Mary, and his siblings, Thomas (27), James (25), Susan (20) Patrick (18), and Bartholomew (12) at No. 18 Carrowreagh East. Thomas Clancy was the father of Paddy Clancy, who moved to Naas to work in Cunninghams Bakery, taking up lodgings in Murtaghs boarding house. Paddy, known as Sam, married a local woman, Elizabeth Birchall. They had six children: Patricia, Joan, Olive, Tom, Geraldine, and Eugene. Elizabeth died on 5 November 1964, aged forty-two, while Paddy Clancy died on 8 August 1988 aged seventy-three.
Peadar Clancy moved to Dublin to work and involved himself in the nationalist cause by joining the Irish Volunteers on their formation in 1913. In 1916 he was in charge of the barricade at Church St. Bridge in the Four Courts area. For his part in the 1916 Rising Clancy was sentenced to death. This was later commuted to ten years penal servitude. After the Amnesty of 1917 Peadar helped reorganise the Volunteers.  He was chosen to contest the East-Clare by-election but GHQ ratified de Valera instead and Clancy returned to Clare to support the Sinn Fein candidate. On return to Dublin he was made Vice-Brigadier of the Dublin Brigade IRA. He was an active volunteer and when he was imprisoned in Mountjoy helped to organise a hunger strike, demanding release or trial. After ten days fasting the strikers were released.  The basis of resistance to British power in Ireland was the Dublin Brigade developed under Dick McKee as Brigadier, and Clancy, as his second-in-command.  If the British could not control the capital, they had no hope of controlling the rest of the country.
In late 1920 Michael Collins compiled a list of British Intelligence officers to be executed on Sunday 21 November 1920.  On Saturday 20 November Dick McKee, Peadar Clancy and other high-ranking officers met Michael Collins upstairs in Vaughan’s Hotel.  Collins, McKee and Clancy had just left the building when crown forces surrounded it.  McKee and Clancy went to their lodgings in Fitzpatrick’s, Gloucester Street, but were arrested shortly after on a tip-off.  McKee managed to burn all their papers, including the list of those officers to be executed that morning.  McKee, Clancy and Sean Fitzpatrick were arrested and taken to Dublin Castle guardroom.
A long with another volunteer, Conor Clune, McKee and Clancy were tortured in the guardroom in order to extort from them the names of the Volunteers who had earlier that morning shot the fourteen members of British Intelligence. Refusing to talk, they were “shot while trying to escape” on the evening of 21 November. Michael Collins, deeply moved by the deaths, demanded that the bodies, which had several bullet wounds and numerous bruises caused by batons, be dressed in Volunteer uniform and he took part in this dressing.  The funeral took place in Glasnevin Cemetery where the two were interned in the Republican Plot.  Collins riskily attended the funeral, and helped to carry the coffins. He penned on a message: ‘In memory of two good friends Dick and Peadar and two of Irelands best soldiers.’
Peadar Clancy was thirty-two years old at the time of his death. The Islandbridge Barracks was renamed Clancy Barracks and the former Marlborough Barracks was renamed McKee Barracks in their honour. A number of streets in Finglas were also named after Clancy, McKee and Clune. In 1939 a commemorative plaque was erected by the National Graves Association on the external wall of the guardroom of Dublin Castle in Exchange Court next to City Hall. A commemorative bust of Clancy, funded by the people of New York, is also displayed on top of a plinth in the main square in Kildysart, Co. Clare, while the local school in Cranny is named ‘Peadar Clancy Memorial N.S.’ in his honour and displays his picture. 
On 18 November 2000, a plaque was unveiled by the son of Sean Fitzpatrick, at 36 Lower Gloucester Street, Dublin, now Sean MacDermott Street, at the house in which Clancy and McKee were arrested on 20 November 1920. On Sunday 4 December 2011 the annual commemoration for McKee, Clancy and Clune – organised by the 1916-1921 Club, incorporating the Old Dublin Brigade IRA – took place at the Exchange Court plaque, and for the first time members of the extended Clancy family, from Naas, Co. Kildare, were present. Paddy Clancy’s daughter, Joan, grand-niece of Peadar Clancy, laid a wreath on behalf of the 1916-1921 Club. After a minutes silence a short address was given by Jim Maher, author of  ‘The oath is dead and gone.’ The large crowd then retired to the Coach House, Dublin Castle, for Mass, followed by refreshments.

An essay by James Durney on Naas man Paddy "Sam" Clancy’s uncle, republican soldier, Peadar Clancy who was killed in Dublin Castle on Bloody Sunday 1920.

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