#OTD in 1921 – Three IRA prisoners Ernie O’Malley, Frank Teeling and Simon Donnelly escape from Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Ernie O’Malley, Frank Teeling and Simon Donnelly escaped from Kilmainham Gaol. The escape was carried out under the orders of Michael Collins, and he had specific reasons for arranging the escape of each of the men.

Simon Donnelly had only been in the prison for four days, but he was well-known to the authorities and was on a list of persons suspected of murdering police and was sure to be convicted, so it was deemed necessary to get him out of Gaol quickly.

Ernie O’Malley was incarcerated under the name Bernard Stewart, and though that name meant nothing to the authorities, O’Malley was such an important IRA organiser that Collins wanted him out before his true identity was discovered.

Frank Teeling was captured on 21 November 1920, Bloody Sunday, when he tried to scale a wall at the back of 22 Mount Street. He had been part of the Squad which was sent there to kill Lt H.R. Angliss (generally known as, and referred to in most books as, ‘Patrick McMahon’). Angliss was one of the men recalled from Russia to organise the intelligence group in Dublin.

Patrick (Paddy) Moran was also in the prison, and on Collins’ list of men to escape, but he did not take the opportunity. Moran, a draper, was arrested in the shop in Blackrock where he worked on 26 November, just 5 days after Bloody Sunday. He was first taken to Arbour Hill prison where he was identified by Major Carew who lived at 28 Upper Mount Street. Two other soldiers, Private Snelling and Private Lawrence also identified Moran as having been in the party that raided 38 Upper Mount Street on Bloody Sunday.

Moran’s solicitor, Michael Noyk, challenged the identification, but Moran was sent to Kilmainham to await trial, which was held on 15 February 1921. Five witnesses testified against Moran, and he and Noyk pointed out the inconsistencies in all their testimony. Moran also presented alibi testimony indicating he was in Blackrock at 8.00 am Mass, and several witnesses indicated they saw him there and talking to others after Mass. Moran was so convinced that his witnesses, his alibi, and the inconsistencies in the testimony of the identifying British soldiers would exonerate him that he chose not to escape with the others earlier in February.

That escape was very well planned, and the three men got away cleanly. Some claim a rope ladder was smuggled to the men, but it was a bolt cutter smuggled into the Gaol that ultimately released the escapees. Two British soldiers, Privates Holland and Roper smuggled the cutter into the Gaol, and the three men walked out through a disused side gate, with tram money in their pockets that had been smuggled into them by Desmond Fitzgerald and Sean Keating the previous weekend.

Moran, so confident in his defence, and trusting ‘in English justice’ as he wrote, did not want to jeopardise his witnesses and stayed behind. The others pleaded for him to escape, but he said he would not because he would not betray those who placed him in Blackrock, at his home or at Mass that morning. But Moran’s defence, and his witnesses, were a sham. Though Moran was not at 38 Upper Mount Street that morning, he was the leader of the squad in the Gresham Hotel. In the Gresham Cpt. Patrick MacCormack in Room 22 (the IRA/Volunteers had asked for Room 24) was killed by mistake. Hugh Callaghan was the doorman who led the IRA to the rooms, and he mistakenly took them to Room 22 instead of Room 24. MacCormack was really a member of the Royal Medical (Veterinary) Corps. Also killed was L.E. Wilde (Room 14) who had no connection with the Army or Intelligence.

Moran was convicted at his trial, was transferred to Mountjoy Prison and was hanged on 14 March 1921 for his ‘participation’ in the Bloody Sunday killings. He was buried in the Prison yard in an unmarked grave in unconsecrated ground. He had been tried, convicted and hanged for the wrong crime.

On 14 October 2001, Moran and nine others executed during the War of Independence were disinterred, afforded full state honours with a private service at Mountjoy for their families and, after a requiem Mass at the Pro Cathedral and a procession through Dublin, were re-interred in a special ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Photo: Ernie O’Malley, credit: 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour

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