I first remember meeting my grandfather Richard (Dick) Lanigan in the winter of 1962, I was a young boy, my parents had decided to split up and men sister Eleanor and I were sent to live with my fathers parents who I hardly knew. He was taller than everyone and seemed a very serious man of few words, his wife Bride seemed to do all the talking.
For some reason he took a shine to the red headed English boy and took me everywhere with him.
An innovative farmer, I was there when the milking of his cows was automated, I remember him putting the sucker thing on my hand and laughing at my reaction. He had a tractor before most farmers and his son James was the first in the region with a combine harvester.
My adventure started with all the snow in the winter of 62, the farm animals needed extra caring. I was feeding calves, spring lambs, watching pigs being born. I was fascinated by the way he communicated with his dog “Shep, who would not listen to me. We went training his greyhounds and even went to watch them race which he loved. He taught me to ride a horse, swim in the Lingaun river than ran through the farm. It was an amazing time for a young boy. We traveled all over the place in his light blue VW Beetle.
One story sticks out, that shows how different the times were. Grandad was bringing in bales of hay with his employee Timmy Bulger, they piled the bales 15 feet high, on the trailer and made a little compartment for me on top with four bales for me to sit in on the drive home. Timmy was sitting on one of the bales chatting to me and never saw the branch sticking out which swept him off the top.
Standing up in my compartment I could see Timmy laying on the road, I crawled out of the compartment and crawled to the edge of the bales and called out at grandad he could not hear me over the noise of the tractor, the structure was very wobbly and I decided to return to the safety of my compartment. The tractor stopped Grandad shouted “TImmy” and his face when I popped up and told him, Timmy had fallen off.
Granny was there, furious with Grandad for putting me in such danger, it was the only time I ever saw him sheepish. He went and found Timmy unconscious on the road and took him to hospital, which meant Timmy could not play for Grangemocker in a match that weekend. Thats when Grandad told me about his love of football.
I had heard people talking about Football and “Bloody Sunday”,when I first arrived, presumably because it was November, and the graveyard in the local church is where Mick Hogan is buried.
I had no idea what it all meant, an event which put the village of Grangemockler on the map and created an Irish martyr in Mick Hogan and made celebrities of the footballers who were there that day, something grandad never felt comfortable with as it was a period of his life, with so many sad memories.
Grandads Father Valentine was born in 1842, just before the Irish Famine he would spend a month in Jail in 1860 for poaching a rabbit from the landlords estate. Grandad had 6 sisters and three brothers who all played football, but grandad was the one with the talent. His football development coincided with the revival of Tipperary football, in 1918 when they got to the All Ireland Final for the first time in 15 years.
The Spanish flu interrupted grandads progress, the entire Lanigan family was infected. Grandads oldest brother James and his second youngest sister Bridget died in 1919. This also coincided with the Irish “war of independence” from January 1919 until July 1921. The “Irish Republican Army” was most active in Cork and Tipperary, so most of the region was under “British Martial Law”, which banned public gatherings, so the Gaelic Football championship was suspended, however it was still possible to play games in Dublin. So having recovered from the Spanish flu, grandad was delighted to be selected as a substitute for a “friendly” game to be played in Croke Park in Dublin on November 21 1920.
Grandad had never spoken to me or my father about “Bloody Sunday“. In 1970 my father and I accompanied Grandad, to the unveiling of a plaque on the Hogan stand to commemorate the 50th anniversary in Croke Park. With us was Grandads best friend Mickey Tobin, one of the best footballers from the era, who had been picked to play, but did not travel because his father was taken seriously ill. As we sat at a few tables in Croke park after the ceremony. I asked the question only child would ask. What happened on “Bloody Sunday” grandad. Perhaps because I was the only child in a room full of old people he answered.
Grandad had traveled to Dublin with Mick Hogan who was “political, in an area where Dan Breen was one of the most effective IRA commanders in Ireland. On the train a fight broke out with a group of British Soldiers, who were no match for the Tipperary football team. The soldiers left the train before Dublin and the players were anxious that they might be arrested on arrival in Dublin, but nothing happened and the bulk of the players headed for Barrys Hotel near Croke Park, where they were to spend the night.
Mick Hogan had some “business” to attend to, Grandad did not ask and returned to Barrys late in the evening. Originally the four Grangmockler players on the team men were to share a room. It two bunk beds, as Mickey Tobin had not traveled Jerry Shelly paired up with someone else. Grandad and Mick Hogan shared the room with two old men, who came to watch the match. During the night cracks of gunfire could be heard from the city, which made the two old boys jump. The two young men in the two top bunks decided to have some fun. Mick Hogan had a packet of bullseye sweets, every time they heard a shot, he would throw one at the window or wall, which terrified the two men in the bunks below. As Grandad told us the story he laughed and thats how he wanted to remember Mick Hogan. He hesitated before continuing
Around midday the players headed off to Croke Park, as they waited on the sideline. Young Mick Aragan came over to see if he was needed ( he had brought his boots to Dublin, in case they were short of players). He chatted with Grandad for a while, telling him about the troop presence on the streets, they were unaware, Michael Collins had ordered the assassination of a number of British spies during the night. The British security forces had been put on high alert. They knew something had happened and thought it may have been some of Dan Breens men, who had come up from Tipperary, under cover of the match. The Black and Tans an undisciplined paramilitary force, created to serve in Ireland were known for reprisals.
By the time the players posed for the team photograph, the players were worried and were not sure why the start of the game had been delayed. Grandad is center back row, To his right is Mick Hogan. Once the game started they all relaxed. There was a big crowd and did not expect anything to happen, as there was no sign of soldiers.
A few minutes into the game everyones attention was drawn as a low flying plane which flew overhead. Grandad had never seen a plane before he was marvelling at this sight and had not noticed the Black and Tans appear on top of the high wall, just before the shooting starting.
There was pandemonium people running in all directions. For a few seconds Grandad stood still not know which direction to run in. Then he saw Frank Butler the Tipperary Goalkeeper, a British Army veteran who had fought in the Somme, he hit the ground, while Mick Hogan and two Dublin players close to him ran away from the goal. Grandad did what Butler did and hit the ground. After a few minutes the shooting stopped an eerie silence fell on the place, interrupted by the groans of the wounded spectators and shouting of the Black and Tans. Thirteen were dead the youngest 11 years of age, 60 people wounded. Grandad could see there were three Tipperary players still laying on the field. The Tipperary players were being corralled near the spot where Grandad lay and were being separated from the Dublin players and accused of being involved in the assasinations during the night and early morning.
They saw a soldier running over to threaten Frank Butler as he got up in the goal mouth near where Mick Hogan lay, Butler showed the soldier his regimental tattoo, which may have calmed the soldier and he escorted him back to the group and made them stand against a wall. Grandad looked back at the two other Tipperary players laying face down on the ground, only one got up, Jim Eagan, he was covered in blood, it was Hogan’s blood, shot twice in the side and once in the head, his shirt is on display in Croke Park museum.
Eagan told them Hogan was dead. There was little reaction from the players, they were being lined up against a wall and were certain they were about to be shot, by The Black and Tans.
It was then a British officer appeared, he was horrified by what he had witnessed and did not want anymore bloodshed. He told the players that the Tans wanted to shoot them and not to do anything stupid. He told the Tans he was taking charge of the players for “interrogation”. With a few soldiers they escorted the players back to the changing room, talked about football for a while and told them to get home and away from Dublin as quickly as possible.
Grandad and three other players spent the night with one of the Dublin players and headed home the next morning. Hogans death did not really hit him until he saw him in the open coffin in Grangemockler church a few days later Grandad was one of the pall bearers. Bloody Sunday “radicalized’ the players and if they were not interested in politics or the war of independence, they were now and Tipperary flying columns were notorious, within 6 months, almost 900 years of occupation was almost over.
At Mike Hogans funeral Grandad got chatting to a young women from “Cuman na Mabann” ( The original feminists and provider of the first woman elected to the British Parliament Constance Markievicz) she was there to lay a wreath on Hogan’s grave, Bridget Walsh was her name. Grandads father Valentine died, two months after bloody Sunday.
In December 1921 the treaty was signed and going into 1922, the future looked good, Grandad married Bridged Walsh and took over her family farm. Football resumed ( the 1920 championship had to be finished). Grandad, Mikey Tobin and Jerry Shelly (Captain) were playing for the best team in the country, they beat Kerry in the Munster Final in April. With the cup, they brought home a pig and painted “Up Tipp” on his back.
On June 11 they beat Dublin in the All Ireland final in Croke park. Sitting in the centre of the team before the match was played is Dan Breen, once the British governments “most wanted”. To his left are the three Grangemockler men, Jerry Shelly, Grandad and Mickey Tobin.
As delighted as the players were after they won, it was not a time for celebration, they went to the spot on the pitch at Croke Park where Mick Hogan had fallen and said a prayer.
One week after winning the championship, the players would meet in the Grangemockler church hall. The civil war had begun, between those that accepted the treaty with the Northern Ireland partition and those against. A line was drawn on the floor and the players had to take sides. Grandad wanted the fighting to end, accepted the treaty and sided with Michael Collins, his best friend Mikey Tobin sided with DeVelera. Grandad was angry about the civil war and did not fight in it. Nevertheless Mikey Tobin, Jerry Shelly and himself were able to put aside their political differences and won the 1922 munster championship played in 1923. However at election time, they went their separate ways, grandad always voted Fina Gael and Tobin Finna Fail, but they remained best friends.
Grandad and “Bride” were married for 48 years had 6 children and many granchildren, who brought him much happiness towards the end of his life. His heath deteriorated after Bridie died in 1968, a stroke paralysed one side of his face and then cancer finally took him in 1971.
I wonder what he would have made of the amount of interest in Bloody Sunday this weekend, fifty years ago the commemoration barely got a mention on the evening news.
Sad that it took the controversy of the England Rugby team playing in Croke Park in 2007 to create all this interest. How ironic then that Tipperary will play Cork in The Munster final this Sunday. Now that would have pleased Grandad as Tipperary have only won the Munster final once since he last did it and no doubt the Tipperary players wearing the style of shirt Grandad wore 100 years ago today, would have brought a smile to his face.
Below is a Sonnet written by my cousin Frank Gallagher some years ago, about our Grandad and Bloody Sunday.
On Bloody Sunday, as the Irish grew
To nationhood, my grandad played for Tipp.
The Black and Tans accused and pistol-whipped
Him till he thought they’d even kill him, too.
He saw them shoot Mick Hogan, saw them do
Things on that day that rendered fellowship
With England difficult, that almost ripped
His tapestry of brotherhood in two.
He was an old but sprightly farmer when
I knew him in the ‘sixties, kicking ball
With me behind the haggard fence, and then
Discussing Galway’s chances. Broken walls
He never mentioned, nor the spade I bent
In play – forgetting much, forgiving all.