Fenian patriot has his tombstone inscribed - ninety years after his death

Members of the Third Tipperary Brigade Old IRA Commemoration Committee standing at the grave of Ballydoyle farmer and Fenian Thomas O'Dea at Rosegreen Cemetery are from left: Mick Dolan, Gerry Long, Committee Chairman Michael Maguire  and Jimmy Doyle.
A promise made by neighbours to an elderly Fenian patriot to inscribe the date of his death on his tombstone at Rosegreen Cemetery has been fulfilled 90 years after his passing during the Civil War.

A promise made by neighbours to an elderly Fenian patriot to inscribe the date of his death on his tombstone at Rosegreen Cemetery has been fulfilled 90 years after his passing during the Civil War.

The Third Tipperary Brigade old IRA Commemoration Committee has in the past few weeks cleaned and stabilised the Celtic cross monument at the grave of Thomas O’Dea and inscribed it with the date of his death .

His gravestone now reads: “Died 9th June 1923, aged 84. Fenian and Patriot”.

Gerry Long of the old IRA Commemoration Committee said a small group of locals approached the committee last year about fulfilling the promise made to the dying farmer.

Part of the Committee’s work involves looking after monuments connected with the old IRA around the county and it decided to take on the project because Thomas O’Dea had been a prominent local Fenian, who was active in the Land League in the 1880s.

Mr O’Dea had owned an extensive farm in Ballydoyle and died at the grand old age of 84 during the closing months of the bitter Civil War.

Gerry Long believes the political and military turmoil in the country at the time of his death was why the inscription was never put on the gravestone after his death.

Prior to his death, Thomas spent some time in what is now St Patrick’s Hospital in Cashel, Gerry outlined.

“Before giving up his farm and entering the hospital in Cashel he had taken possession from a stonemason of the

monument, which now stands above his final resting-place in Rosegreen.

“Tom had erected the Celtic style cross at his grave site some years earlier himself, in preparation

for his eventual interment.

“In 1923, sensing that the end was fast approaching, he asked his neighbours in Ballydoyle to inscribe the date

of his death on his stone.

Gerry said Tipperary was one of the most fervent centres of Republican activity in the Civil War during the previous year and prior to that it was the centre for the liberation campaign of the previous three years.

“Rosegreen and district had been the scene of several incidents during the War of Independence. The headquarters of the Third Tipperary Brigade was just over a mile from the village, and most of the population were active in the Republican cause.

“Although Tom had a large funeral, it was no surprise that in this fraught political period the promise made to Thomas O`Dea was not kept.”

Gerry outlined that Thomas O`Dea was a fervent nationalist and patriot throughout his life.

A glowing tribute of his involvement in the nationalist movement was given in his obituary in The Nationalist headed “Cashel Fenian’s death”, which was published on June 27, 1923,

“He was recorded as having at great personal risk transported rifles from Cahir to Rosegreen to help to arm local Fenians,” Gerry recounted.

“He was a lifelong member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and had participated in many

nationalist causes and protests.

“During the 1880s he had been an active member of the Land League and an important witness in the Milltownmore outrage case of 1881/2.”

According to Gerry, Thomas was overjoyed at the foundation of the Volunteers in Co. Tipperary in 1913. Like many

IRB men, he helped to support the movement even though his advancing age prevented him from any active

involvement in the movement.

“Tom like many others was disappointed by the rebellion of 1916, but overjoyed with the active Independence struggle in his own district from 1918 to 1921.

“The Civil War must have been a great blow to many of his generation and the sadness associated with it may

have hastened his end.”