Thomas Whelan

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Thomas Whelan
Born5 October 1898
Died14 March 1921(1921-03-14) (aged 22)
at Mountjoy Jail, Dublin
Nationality Irish
OccupationRailway worker
Known forExecuted IRA volunteer  : One of The Forgotten Ten

Thomas Whelan ( /ˈhwlən/ ; 5 October 1898 14 March 1921) was one of six men executed in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin on 14 March 1921. He was 22 years old at the time of his death.

Mountjoy Prison prison

Mountjoy Prison, founded as Mountjoy Gaol and nicknamed The Joy, is a medium security prison located in Phibsborough in the centre of Dublin, Ireland. It has the largest prison population in Ireland. The current prison warden is Brian Murphy.



Whelan was born in Gortrummagh [1] near Clifden, Co Galway to John and Bridget Whelan on 5 October 1898, the sixth child of thirteen. [2] He attended national school at Beleek and Clifden, before leaving school at 15 to work on his father's farm. [2] He moved to Dublin at the age of 18, where he found work as a railwayman, and joined the Irish Volunteers as a member of 'A' Company, 3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade. [3] [4] He lived at Barrow Street, Ringsend, Dublin and worked at a train depot. [3]

Clifden Town in Connacht, Ireland

Clifden is a coastal town in County Galway, Ireland, in the region of Connemara, located on the Owenglin River where it flows into Clifden Bay. As the largest town in the region, it is often referred to as "the Capital of Connemara". Frequented by tourists, Clifden is linked to Galway city by the N59.

County Galway County in the Republic of Ireland

County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West of Ireland, part of the province of Connacht.

In the Republic of Ireland, a National school is a type of primary school that is financed directly by the State, but administered jointly by the State, a patron body, and local representatives. There are other forms of primary school, often private denominational schools attached to secondary schools – unlike their second level counterparts, these primary level private schools receive no support from the state.

Arrest and execution

He was arrested on 23 November 1920 and, on 1 February 1921, he was charged with the death by shooting of Captain GT Baggallay, an army prosecutor who had been a member of courts that sentenced Volunteers to death under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations [5] on Bloody Sunday (1920). [2]

Bloody Sunday (1920) Dublin, 21 November 1920

Bloody Sunday was a day of violence in Dublin on 21 November 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. Thirty-two people were killed or fatally wounded: thirteen British soldiers and police, sixteen Irish civilians, and three Irish republican prisoners.

Whelan was defended at his court martial by Michael Noyk, through whom he protested his innocence of the charges. As in the case of Patrick Moran, there was eyewitness evidence that Whelan had been at Mass at the time the shooting took place. [4] The prosecution cast doubt on the reliability of the eyewitnesses, arguing that as Catholics they were not neutral. The defence complained that it was unfair to suggest the witnesses "were prepared to come up and perjure themselves on behalf of the prisoner" because "they belonged to a certain class and might hold certain political opinions". [6] The court did, however, trust the evidence of an army officer who lived in the same house as Baggallay and who had identified Whelan as the man covering him with a revolver during the raid. There was also testimony by a soldier who had passed by the house when he heard shots fired. This witness said he saw Whelan outside, attempting to start his motorcycle. Whelan was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death.

Michael Noyk was a solicitor and Irish republican politician. Noyk was born in Telšiai, Lithuania, the son of a Jewish couple, Isaac Noyk and Esther Chana Raivid. The family emigrated when Michael was one year old. He was educated at the The High School, Dublin and entered Trinity College Dublin as a sizar in Hebrew before winning a classics scholarship and graduating in 1907. Shortly afterwards he worked as a solicitor. Noyk befriended Arthur Griffith and through him, he became highly sympathetic to the cause of Irish republicanism. He was Griffith's personal solicitor until his death. He joined Sinn Féin shortly after the Easter Rising and was responsible for defending a number of Irish Republican Army prisoners including Sean MacEoin, Thomas Whelan, Patrick Moran,James Boyce and Frank Teeling. In the 1917 Clare East by-election he was a prominent worker for Éamon de Valera, and in the 1918 general election he was the election agent for Constance Markievicz and Seán T. O'Kelly. During the Irish War of Independence Noyk was a high-level official and adviser with the Department of Finance which was then headed by Michael Collins. Noyk also participated in Dáil Courts held in Dublin. He was responsible for the procurement of offices at 22 Mary Street in Dublin where the First Dáil's Department of Finance was located during the war.

Mass (liturgy) type of worship service within many Christian denomination

Mass is the main eucharistic liturgical service in many forms of Western Christianity. The term Mass is commonly used in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, as well as in some Lutheran, Methodist, Western Rite Orthodox, and Old Catholic churches.

In Mountjoy Gaol, he was imprisoned with the writer and activist Ernie O'Malley, who described him:

Ernie OMalley Irish republican, politician and writer

Ernie O'Malley was an Irish Republican Army (IRA) officer during the Irish War of Independence and a commander of the anti-Treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. He wrote three books, On Another Man's Wound, The Singing Flame, and Raids and Rallies. The first describes his early life and role in the War of Independence, while the second covers the Civil War.

"... smooth-faced, quiet and brown eyed with wavy hair; he smiled quietly and steadily. His voice was soft and when he laughed with the others one knew that the fibre was not as hard and that there was a shade of wistfulness about him."

Another IRA man had named him under torture – possibly thinking that he had an unbreakable alibi – and when Whelan was executed this man lost his wits and remained hopelessly insane.[ who? ]

He was hanged at 6.00 am along with Patrick Moran, the first of six men to be executed that day – the six were executed in twos. A crowd estimated at 40,000 gathered outside the prison to pray as the executions took place. His mother, Bridget, saw him before his execution, and waited outside with the praying crowd holding candles. She told a reporter that she had left her son "so happy and cheerful you would almost imagine he was going to see a football match".


He was one of a group of men hanged in Mountjoy Prison in the period 1920-1921 who are commonly referred to as The Forgotten Ten. In 2001 he and the other nine, including Kevin Barry, were exhumed from their graves in the prison and given a full state funeral. He is now buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin. An annual commemoration is still held in Clifden for him.

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  2. 1 2 3 Tim Carey (2001). Hanged for Ireland 'The Forgotten Ten' Executed 1920-21: A Documentary History. Dublin: Blackwater Press. ISBN   1-84131-547-8.
  3. 1 2
  4. 1 2
  5. Richard Bennett, page 106 The Black and Tans, ISBN   978-1-86227-098-5
  6. Villiers-Tuthill, Kathleen (2006). Beyond the Twelve Bens - a history of Clifden and district 1860-1923. Connemara Girl Publications. pp. 202–204. ISBN   978-0-9530455-1-8.