Art O’Donnell (1890 –
Art O’Donnell was born in 1890 at Tullycrine, he received his primary education at Tullycrine N.S. and Cooraclare
N.S. He trained as a teacher at St. Patrick’s Drumcondra, Dublin. He has a most distinguished career during the War
of Independence when he served terms of imprisonment in Belfast’s Crumlin Road, Mountjoy, Cork and Dundalk prisons as
well as several English jails. He was Commandant of the 7th Clare Battalion of the Irish Volunteers
one of fifteen children born to Simon and Mary O’Donnell she was an aunt of Con Colbert who was executed
in 1916. Art was a popular figure in Ennis where he resided for a long number of years during which he was employed on the
clerical staff of Clare County Council. Art married Hannah O’Keeffe and had five sons in family; Colm, Hugh, Simon,
Sean and Fr. Con.
In the second week of July 1913 Art O’Donnell of Tullycrine became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood,
while attending St. Patrick’s Training College, Dublin. When the College broke up for the holidays Art returned home
to Tullycrine with anti-enlisting leaflets which he was to distribute in West Clare. The Leaflet read: WAR IRELAND-GERMANY-ENGLAND. War is imminent between England and Germany. England’s
cowardly and degenerate population won’t make soldiers. Not so the Germans. They are trained and ready What will England
do. She will recruit Irishmen to fight Germany for her. She will then, when finished with them fling them back to the workhouses
of Ireland reeking with foul filthy diseases. The above was distributed after mass the following Sunday for those attending
had something else to talk about other than the weather. In 1914 Art took up a teaching post in Low Island near Kildysart
He retained a great interest in national matters. In August 1914 the Ulster Volunteers, who were founded in 1913 were split
into two groups. One followed John Redmond and the other taking their stand on national matters alone. Art founded a small
group of his own in Kildysart in 1914 together with Sean McNamara, Martin Griffin and Frank McMahon and each were sworn into
the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Their aim was to push the anti-war propaganda. Eventually this circle became attached to
National Headquarters. Art was a first cousin of Con Colbert from Athea and through his contact with him, he became convinced
that a nation- wide rebellion was inevitable. He organized a battalion in Kilmurry McMahon in 1915, which had 40 members.
They trained regularly. Peadar Clancy (a native of Cranny who resided in Dublin ) was contacted and the company was affiliated
with Irish Volunteer Headquarters. Clare County Board of the Irish Volunteers was formed by Rev. C. Culligan C.C. Carrigaholt,
he was elected chairman, Jeremiah O’Brien was vice-chair and Michael Brennan was secretary. Meetings were held on a
regular basis to keep members familiar with local and national events. Commandant Colivet of Limerick had jurisdiction over
the Clare Brigades and he divided Clare into 4 battalions (1) Meelick to Killaloe with M. Brennan in charge. (2) Crusheen,
Inch, Ennis and District – S. Mac Conmara in charge. (3) North Clare, Corofin, Ennistymon with H.J. Hunt in charge.
(4) West Clare – Lissycasey to Loop with Eamonn Fennell as Commandant and Art O’Donnell as Vice Commandant. There
was great activity in the West Clare Brigade during Holy Week 1916 – all empty cartridge cases were collected and sent
to Limerick. They were also informed that a General Rising was to take place on Easter Sunday. But because no arms had arrived
and Casement was captured there was confusion as to whether or not the Easter Rising would take place. When no orders had
been received by Easter Saturday it was decided to call off all immediate operations but to keep the Battalion mobilized.
Eoin McNeill’s notice in the National papers calling off all parades for the Easter Sunday convinced everybody that
no Rising was going to take place. Consequently while the Easter Rising was taking place in Dublin, Clare was relatively peaceful
except for the extra surveillance by the local R.I.C. on known Volunteers. By Saturday the news had spread from Dublin and
known Volunteers were given a fairly hostile reception by the public. Well known volunteers were rounded up and put in prison
in London. Later they were put into Frongoch Interment Camp, amongst them was Art O’Donnell. He was released at the
end of July 1916 and immediately brought the local battalion together and started to train them. All available arms and ammunition
were conserved and stored safely. By Christmas 1916 an Independent Clare Brigade was formed. The county was divided into eight
battalion areas. Art O’Donnell was Commandant of the local brigade. An election took place on July 11, 1917 because
Major Redmond died. Eamonn de Valera was selected to fight the seat for Sinn Fein. The results were as follows; De Valera
– 5,010 Sinn Fein, Lynch – 2,035 Irish Parliament Party. This run away victory caused great excitement and rejoicing
throughout the county. The volunteers paraded and drilled publicly and once again were rounded up and most sent to Mountjoy
Jail Dublin. Art O’Donnell’s sentence was two years hard labour. He was later transferred to Dundalk Jail where
all prisoners went on a general hunger strike. After a few days of this the prisoners were released in groups over 3 or 4
days under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ act. The death of Tom Ashe swept over the countryside like wildfire and volunteer
activities were renewed more vigorously. Numbers doubled and a public drill campaign was continued – local captains
and commanders were all on the run and the R.I.C. were kept busy raiding houses in the locality for them. Art O’Donnell,
because he didn’t return to prison on the date specified on the ‘Cat and Mouse’ order was captured during
one of these raids and sent to Derry jail. In November 1918 World War 1 ended and the prisoners were released in December.
West Clare Brigade Elections were held in January 1919. The results were as follows: Brigade Comdt. – Art O’Donnell,
Vice Comdt. – Sean Liddy, Adjutant – Jack O’Dwyer, Quartermaster – Paddy Tubridy. COMMANDANTS: Clare
!st Battalion – Cranny, Coolmeen Kildysart, Labasheeda – Paddy Clancy
2nd Battalion – Kilmurry, Kilmihil, Kilrush, Killimer – John Flanagan
3rd Battalion – Cooraclare, Cree, Doonbeg, Cahermurphy – Dan Sheedy
4th Battalion – Coore, Mullagh, Quilty, Kilmurry Ibrickane – Christy McCarthy
4th Battalion – Kilkee to Doonaha – Eamonn Fennell
Connections with West Limerick companies were maintained by means of boats manned by Volunteers from the Labasheeda
and killofin Companies. By mid 1919 orders were received from G.H.O. (General Headquarters) that all members of the enemy
forces both police and military were to be shot on sight. At this stage the law and order had completely broken down and there
were lots of disputes over land which was affecting the morale and discipline of local battalions. At a meeting on November
1st 1919 in Cree the first Sinn Fein Circuit court in the country was established. President was Fr. C. Culligan
C.C. Kilmihil, B. Higgins Carrigaholt, J. McInerney, Doonbeg, B. Crowley Tullagower and P. Kelly, Cree were other members.
Art O’Donnell was Secretary and Registrar. The first court with the above members was held soon after at O’Donnells
Tullycrine. All people concerned had to sign documents beforehand consenting to abide the decision of the court. A set of
rules were drawn up and submitted to Austin Stack, Minister of Defence, Dail Eireann for sanctioning. In 1920 ambushes were
undertaken to comply with 1919 G.H.Q.orders. For details of ambushes on the Black and Tans at Tullycrine, Drumdigus, Burrane
etc! click on the page ‘Wars of the West’in this website.
In November of 1920 Art O’Donnell again was arrested and interned at Ballykinlan Camp near Belfast. He was held
there until 1921. The local company under Jack Coghlan and Commandant Willie Shannon remained actively involved in all West
Clare activities right up to the truce.
Tullycrine House is a large two-storey building situated in a picturesque area overlooking the renowned hills of Tullycrine.
A late nineteenth century building on the site of an older house, which was a Brew homestead in older days. The O’Donnells
of Tullycrine were of the same family who resided at Derrynalicka and West Clare. In 1825 Arthur O’Donnell of Tulllycrine
paid tithes on 46 acres and in 1855 Willliam O’Donnell and his wife (nee Brew) were occupiers of 109 acres. Both were
Church of Ireland members. Simon and Mary O’Donnell were strong supporters of the Catholic religion and had a total
of fifteen children. Tullycrine House had a turbulent history during the Vandeleur days. The following two references from
the Saturday Record may give you a greater view. Clare Saturday Record – 1st June 1889: THE VANDELEUR ESTATE,
The agent, Mr. Hallam Studdert, has been very busy in Kilrush, receiving rents from the Vandeleur tenants. The agent refused
to accept a year’s rent from Mr. Simon O’Donnell of Tullycrine, evicted four or five years ago, on the grounds
that he had long ceased to be a tenant. The amount of arrears wiped out by Captain Vandeleur’s settlement is indeed
enormous. There is a curious, but yet thrifty old woman on the estate, who says “tis a quare thing to ask me for rent
after 17 years”. She holds a few acres and says she won’t pay a penny to Colonel Vandeleur”. Saturday Record,
November 3rd, 1900: EVICTION AT TULLYCRINE, An eviction which excited much local comment was carried out at Tullycrine
last week, when Mr. Simon O’Donnell and a young and helpless family of fourteen were ejected from their home. Mr. O’Donnell
is one of the most respected families in West Clare, but he has had to leave the homestead which has sheltered him and his
ancestors for generations. There was a heavy force of police present to preserve order and after possession had been taken
over, a caretaker was put in possession. The holding is on the Vandeleur property. Frank and Mary O’Donnell were the
last members of that family to reside at Tullycrine House – 1975.
information on the O’Donnell Family.
Simon (father) married Mary (nee McDermott) Cooraclare. She was an aunt of Con Colbert (executed 1916)
Jim: emigrated to Canada. His career was in Hotel Management. He returned to Ireland on retirement and died in the
Simon: He also emigrated to Canada. He became a Railway Executive with the Canadian Pacific and later became President
of same. For a term he wrote speeches for President MacKensey. He also returned to Ireland and died in the early 1960’s.
Nora: Joined the Christian Retreat Sisters in Belgium, died September 1973.
Frank: was last of the O’Donnells to reside in Tulycrine House. He married Mary (nee Howard) a native of Knockerra.
Frank farmed at Tullycrine. His death took place in 1975.
Mary: became a nun in France and died at the early age of 25 years. She was attached to the F.C.J. Order and had their
home base in Newtownbarry, Co. Wexford.
Jack: Known as the violinist and dancer; he achieved a gold medal at the World Fair Dancing Championships in America.
He was author of many songs. Jack married a local girl, Rennie Brennan in 1942. They resided in London. He died in 1953 at
the early age of 53 years.
Susan: Married Michael O’Dea of Tullabrack, Cooraclare. When her husband died she went to reside in Ennis where
she died around 1975. She was in her 80’s.
Con: Emigrated to the U.S.A. Most of his descendants are now in Chicago.
Dick: Farmer and Postman, he married Elizabeth O’Gorman, Tullycrine. They had a large family. Dick was the last
of the O’Donnells to operate the Old Corn Mill.
Tom: Emigrated to America and was employed in Chicago as Accountant. He died in 1982.
Lizzie: resided in Trim, Co. Meath until 1965, then she and her husband returned to Co. Clare. She died in 1972 aged
Alice: Died in 1989. She was Matron of Our Lady’s Hospital, Ennis for about 20 years prior to her retirement
Willie: Was elected as a Fianna Fail County Councillor in 1934. He was the eldest of the O’Donnell family. Willie
died in 1942.
Kathleen: Went to Sri Lanka in 1906 and joined the Good Shepherd Sisters (Sr. M. Gerard)
The following letter was written in 1923 by Tom O’Donnell who was imprisoned in Harepark, Interment Camp, Kildare.
This letter to his sister Lizzie was one of many written by Tom.
Dear Lizzie, I received your letter a few weeks ago and was very glad to know you and all are going on well. I hope
my father is going on well and over the cold he got. I also got the stamps you sent and eggs for which I am ever so grateful.
I would have written sooner but as you said you were going to write soon I was putting it off thinking I would hear from you
every day. Well I expect Jack is going on alright since he went away, I had a letter from Alice and she said she had a letter
from him and that he was not starting work until April. M. Falahee had a letter last week from you he is going on splendid
also Steve and J. Clune are in great form Thadg will be a great footballer when he gets out. Humphery Murphy from Kerry arrived
here a few days ago. I suppose you heard of his arrest. I wonder how is Delia Irvin going on did she come back from Dublin
yet, remember me to her when you see her and tell her that M. Shannon sends his best love to her. I am getting very good health
since I came back from hospital and also very strong. Tell Frank that Sino McInerney and Brody Lilllis enquire for him very
often. Do you ever hear from any of the Clearys or how are they going on. I suppose they are not released yet. I haven’t
any more to say this time so I must finish with best love and good wishes from your loving bro. Tom.
Tom O’Donnell No 2744 Hut 3 D Line, Harepark Int. Camp.
From his letters to Lizzie we learn of other locals who were imprisoned during the troubles; Jack Cleary, Paddy Browne,
M. Melican, J. Conway, M. Blake, J. Behan, Frank O’Donnell, Ml Falahee, Sino McInerney, Brody Lillis, Steve Madigan,
J. Clune, M. Shannon.
Con Colbert was a first cousin of Art O’Donnell of Tullycrine House and indeed was a frequent visitor. This brave
and patriotic Irishman who took part in the 1916 Irish rebellion was executed by the British Government at Kilmainham Jail
on May 8th 1916. The day before his execution he wrote a letter to his aunt Mary O’Donnell at Tullycrine..
My dear Aunt Mary,
Just a line to ask you to pray for my soul and do get your family and friends to do so, also.
I am to be shot to-morrow at 3.45am and then God have mercy on me. I’ll remember you all in my prayers too
And we’ll all with God’s grace, meet in Heaven.
Your loving nephew,
The following letter was written on the same date as the previous letter and forwarded to Con’s cousin, Sr. Mary
O’Donnell; a nun in France.
My dear Maire,
Just a line to ask your prayers for the repose of my soul, which is to depart at 3.45 to-morrow morning.
Get the Nuns and all to pray for me and you know what a sinner I have been. May God bless you and all.
I am your loving cos.
21 – 1 –24
I am going on the morrow
To the land beyond the sea
And where ever that I wander
I will ever think of thee
As an out-cast Irish Soldier
I must my fortune seek
But the burning love for the friends
At home I will forever keep
The battle is all over
But the fight will still go on
And if ever I am needed
I’ll come back and join the throng
I will my rifle shoulder
To revenge my friends laid low
And will fight against the robbers cause
No matter where I go
Your affectionate Bro
The above poem or lament was written
by Jack O’Donnell before departing for America
The following was written by Mick Falahee
before departing for America. (Lizzie of course is Elizabeth O’Donnell of Tullycrine)
Green leaves may wither
And fond memories decay
But fond thoughts of
My dear Lizzie
Will never fade away