The extraordinary life and death of Tadhg Barry from Blarney Street.
Cover image of Donal O Drisceóil’s pamphlet on Tadhg Barry
Tadhg Barry Remembered produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions.
The film of Tadhg Barry was first shown in Cork in 2013 and was also shown at the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. The film has provoked a huge reaction from many people, based not least as to how an extraordinary Irishman could be nearly forgotten. However that is now changing and the film has been shown in Cork, Dublin, and Belfast and also in England and there are plans to show it on TG4, Ireland’s Irish language television station. Recently a new road on the north side of Cork City near Apple Computers has been named the Tadhg Barry Road.
This film will be introduced by Trevor Quinn of SIPTU and Jack O’Sullivan of the Cork Council of Trade Unions and will be shown on Friday morning 1st August 2014 at 11am at the Firkin Crane as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
Ann Piggott, President of Cork Council of Trade Unions, speaking at the naming ceremony for Tadhg Barry Road, Cork.
Tadhg Barry was born in Cork in 1880. He lived on Blarney Street, went to school in the North Monastery and commenced work at Our Lady’s Asylum in 1899 as an attendant and after a period in England, came back to work as a public servant in the Pensions Board.
From the turn of the century, he became immersed in the growing national, cultural literary and political revival and moved in these circles which were led by Tomás Mac Curtain, Sean O’Hegarty and Terence MacSwiney. Tadhg was a brilliant organiser, keeper of notes and minutes, fine writer, quietly efficient and had wide interests.
Barry was an active member of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) but he and some others grew impatient with an inefficient Cork GAA Board and re organised it over a period of years. He had been involved with a number of GAA Clubs including Eire Og, Sundays Well Hurling Club and Fainne an Lae Camogie Club on Blarney Street. He played hurling, refereed, coached hurling and camogie, and wrote as the columnist Ciotog in the Cork Free Press. He even found time to write a book “Hurling and How to Play it” in 1916 especially for the boys of the North Mon.
He became more active with the Irish Volunteers and organised meetings for Larkin and James Connolly. Following the period of confusion in Cork which accompanied the 1916 Rising, Barry was active in re-establishing the Irish Transport & General Workers Union in the city, following its virtual demise locally after the 1909 Cork Lockout. As he became more prominent, due to mass imprisonments of leaders after 1916, he attracted attention from the authorities and spent much of 1917 in prison.
Barry threw himself into union activities during 1918 onwards as well as being very active in Sinn Fein and the Volunteers. He began to write for the Southern Star, under the heading “Neath Shandon’s Steeple” and contributed articles to various trade union publications.
Following a further period of imprisonment in 1918, he emerged to become a full-time organiser and secretary of the ITGWU No 1 (James Connolly Memorial) Branch. Never one to stay still for very long, Barry led strikes, pursued demands for wages increases and made the branch a model unit. He was selected as a candidate in the local elections of 1920 and Alderman Barry romped home.
He then combined his union activities with his public duties, which was very difficult at a time when two Lord Mayors of Cork died, one murdered and one on hunger strike. With virtual war taking place on the City streets, he managed to organise the Irish Trade Union Congress AGM in the old Connolly Hall in August 1920.
Finally in early February 1921, he was arrested and sent to Ballykinlar Camp in Co. Down, where he organised the camp activities and recreation, many socialist in nature, to keep the hundreds of volunteers active in those months. As the Treaty talks progressed after the Truce, some of the volunteers were being released.
On 15th November 1921, as he joined many others to say goodbye to a departing group, he was suddenly shot dead by a young sentry named Barrett. The cover up started immediately and the inquest was inconclusive as the British military authorities refused to cooperate.
His remains were returned to Cork; thousands of people marched in his funeral procession in Dublin or attended the passing of his remains through various towns.
On arrival in Cork, the body of Tadhg Barry was met by tens of thousands of people representing all shades of union, labour, nationalist and republican opinion as his remains were taken to the North Chapel. Sunday 20th November 1921 saw a huge turnout of people again on the route to his final resting place at St Finbarr’s cemetery.
Tadhg Barry represented a proud socialist republican tradition in the Connolly mould. The British forces regarded him as a serious troublemaker; however his active involvement in trade union, community, sporting and social organisations made him widely respected throughout the city. He operated quietly, had a reputation of a man who got things done effectively. His relatively short lifetime of service in the GAA, trade unions, and politically, so much of it behind the scenes out of the limelight in key pivotal positions, deserves to be more permanently commemorated in his native city.
We wish to thank Dr. Donal O’Drisceoil of U.C.C for his research from which the above account is drawn and which is contained in his pamphlet Tadhg Barry (1880-1921) The Story of an Irish Revolutionary.