Leitrim men convicted for the English bombing campaign in World War II

Echoes of their Footsteps: Look back to the 1940s

Leitrim Observer Reporter


Leitrim Observer Reporter

Leitrim men convicted for the English bombing campaign in World War II

IRA attack on Coventry 1939

Following the release of the Echoes of their Footsteps history book joint author Patrick Flanagan has provided the details of Leitrim men who were convicted and imprisoned for illegal activities in the UK during the World War II years.

Hailing from Unshinagh, Kinlough, James Patrick Connolly was born in 1915 in Leclasser, Ballintrillick, just inside the Sligo border.
His father died when he was very young, and he was reared by an uncle in Kinlough. He joined the IRA at the age of 16 and went to England in 1936. Connolly was arrested in January 1939 and sentenced to six and a half years at the Old Bailey in March 1939 on charges of conspiracy to cause an explosion. He spent his years in Brixton, Maidstone, and Albany prisons.
Upon his release in 1946, he was deported to Ireland. He eventually married and reared a family at Castlegal. He died in January 1993.

 James Patrick Connolly

John Leo Duignan of Moher Gregg, Aghacashel came from a strong Republican family.
He arrived in London in January 1938 and worked for a contractor timbering tubes. He was attached to an IRA Company in North Acton, where he remained “quiet” until the autumn of 1938, when he was ordered to conduct training classes one night a week in bomb construction. He was arrested at age 29, having just transported a suitcase of explosives between two safe houses. He was sentenced in May 1939 to 10 years for his part in the English bombing campaign. After the riot at Easter 1940, all the Republican inmates were shuttled off to various prisons. Duignan was sent to Leicester, where he remained on his own to continue the naked protest. He was put in a boilersuit-type straight jacket (somewhat to protect him from other inmates).
A friendly warder suggested he work in the kitchen, which he did, learning the baking trade. He was also held in Wandsworth, Winchester, Dorchester, and finally Parkhurst prison.
In 1948 he was released, given a ticket to London, and warned to leave the country within 48 hours. After he returned to civilian life, Duignan was soon promoted to the General Staff in Dublin.
He settled in the capital and became a building contractor. A lifelong Republican, he split from the Provisional IRA policies and joined Republican Sinn Féin. He died 20 March 1990 and is buried in Shanganagh Cemetery.

 John Leo Duignan

Mick Ferguson who had an alias name of James Michael Lyons was originally from Kiltygerry, Ballinamore.
During the bombing campaign in England, Ferguson was “responsible for coordinating the movement of materials around London and England.” He was picked up in London in late summer 1938 in a van with Sean McNeela. Potassium chlorate was their cargo. At that time he was brought in for questioning and released on bail.
He “skipped town” and returned to Ireland. He was ordered back to London by Sean Russell, and, because he was now a marked man, was arrested shortly afterward on 18 January 1939.
Police discovered four drums of aluminum powder in his lodgings. He was tried at the Old Bailey and received a 10 year sentence in March 1939. He was sent to Dartmoor prison, where he served as Quartermaster to the prisoners.
Ferguson served seven of his 10 year sentence and was released from Dartmoor in early 1946. In July 1946, he attended the first meeting of Clann na Poblachta, was appointed an organiser, and was elected onto the National Executive. Ferguson worked in a pub on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin, using their van to sell fruit and vegetables. He eventually owned his own greengrocers in Rathfarnham. He died in 1974.

Mick Ferguson

Beirne from Dromod-Moran, Drumcong was an internee in the Curragh in June 1940. He learned Irish in the Curragh, where he worked as a cook.
He was released on 5 September 1944 and returned home to Leitrim to farm the land near Liscarbon. He died in 1992.

 Frank Berine

Dolan from Largan, Drumshanbo was involved in the efforts in preparation for the bombing campaign in England in 1939, particularly in fundraising and transportation of materials.
He was arrested 2 June 1940, taken to Drumshanbo, then Carrick-on-Shannon and finally to the Curragh, where he resided in Hut 4 with other Leitrim lads.
Dolan was released on 17 October 1943. After a few months, he went to work in the Arigna mines, where he laboured for 38 years.
“At first, it was entirely with hand picks, in near darkness and with the floors and walls flooding water.” Packy remained a fervent supporter of the Republican Movement until his death in December 1997 at the age of 82.

 Pack Joe Dolan

Less well known men includes: Cormac McGarrigle from Tullaghan who was sentenced to 15 months at Glasgow in May 1939 for unlawful possession of explosives. He was found with a stash of weaponry, including four sticks of gelignite, 17 rounds of ball ammunition, eight blank rounds of ammunition, fifty-two loaded cartridges, a log signal, a box of percussion caps, a double barreled gun, a single barreled gun, and booklets relating to the Irish Citizens Army.

Francis McGowan from Unshinagh, Kinlough, aged 24 was sentenced to seven years at the Old Bailey in March 1939 on explosives charges. He married and reared a family at Gubacreeny, Kinlough, Leitrim.
He died in 1979, and the oration at his funeral was given by John Joe McGirl .

Also read: Band of brothers from Drumshanbo feature in new Irish history book