1919 – Dan Breen, Seán Treacy and Séamus Robinson rescue their comrade Seán Hogan from a Dublin-Cork train at Knocklong, Co Limerick; two policemen guarding him are killed.

In one of the most dramatic events in the Irish War of Independence, a handcuffed young Tipperary volunteer, Seán Hogan, was rescued from a train while sat between four armed members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). Two RIC were killed in the attack and a number of the volunteers wounded. The rescue was undertaken by three of Hogan’s comrades from the Third Tipperary Brigade of the IRA and five members of the Galtee Battalion of the East Limerick Brigade. Hogan was one of the most wanted men in Ireland at the time of his rescue, due to his role in the Soloheadbeg Ambush and would almost certainly had been executed if he hadn’t been rescued. The rescue took place on Hogan’s 18th birthday, while the Cork bound train stopped at Knocklong station in Limerick. The rescue was a great boost for Republican morale in the early stages of the war.

Hogan was a wanted man after his participation in the Soloheadbeg Ambush earlier in the year. He was on the run with his comrades from the Third Tipperary Brigade, Séamus Robinson, Seán Treacy and Dan Breen, known as the “Big Four”. After Hogan was arrested on 12 May 1919, Dan Breen, Seán Treacy and Séamus Robinson, were joined by five men from the IRA East Limerick Brigade in order to organise Hogan’s rescue. The men, led by Treacy, boarded the train in Knocklong and a close-range shoot-out followed on the train. Treacy was seriously wounded with a gunshot through the neck and Breen was seriously wounded taking a bullet in the lung, two policemen died, but Hogan was rescued. He was spirited away to Knocklong village where his handcuffs were cleaved in the local butcher’s shop.

Hogan, Breen, Treacy and Robinson later travelled to Dublin where they participated with Dublin volunteers in a number of attacks on the British in the early part of the war. Robinson and Hogan returned to Tipperary to continue the fight with the 3rd Tipperary Brigade, Robinson in his role as Brigade O/C and Hogan initially as a Brigade Officer and then as O/C of the Brigade’s second flying column. Treacy and Breen alternated between Dublin and Tipperary throughout the war. Treacy was killed in action in Dublin in October 1920. JJ O’Brien and Sean Lynch went on the run and spent some time fighting with Dinny Lacey’s flying column in the 3rd Tipperary Brigade, before returning to the East Limerick Brigade. After a period on the run Ned O’Brien and Jim Scanlon met up with the Big four in Dublin before slipping out of Ireland to America, where they participated in activities to raise funds and support for the fight in Ireland.

Photo: Top Left: Dan Breen, Top Right: Seán Treacy, Lower Left: Séamus Robinson, Lower Right: Seán Hogan

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