Free State Murder of Jeremiah O’Leary to be Marked in Castleisland and Scartaglen

A scene from the unveiling of the monument to the murdered Irish Volunteers soldier and local man, Jeremiah O’Leary in Scartaglen in 1946. Photograph Courtesy of Séamus Fleming.

Irish Volunteers member, Jeremiah ‘Jerh’ O’Leary’s murder at the hands of the ‘Free State’ garrison at Hartnett’s Corner on May 29th 1923 is to be commemorated at the Republican Graves in Kilbannivane and at the monument to his deeds and memory in Scartaglen.

The events will be held on Monday, May 29th at 8pm at Kilbannivane Cemetery and on Saturday, June 3rd at 8pm. in Scartaglen.

Jeremiah O’Leary (1895-1923) or Jerh Leary as he was better known – was born in 1895 at Mount Scartaglen to parents James Jeremiah O’Leary ‘Jim Leary’ and Hanna Scanlon, Knockafrechane, Brosna. Hanna’s parents were Edmond Scanlon and Catherine Horan, Knochafrechane.

Jerh was the eldest child, an only boy with four sisters: Ellie ‘Nell’ O’Loughlin, Cordal; Kate O’Connor, Mount, Scartaglin; Maggie Brosnan, Castleisland and and Nora, Sister Kevin, FCJ;

Plans for the Farm

Jerh was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps into farming. He had plans for the family farm at Mount and he was an avid reader of science books and political literature.

His books remained at the homestead at Mount Scartaglin. Jerh loved nature and talked about planting rows of indigenous trees on all boundary ditches on ‘his’ farm. He joined the Irish Volunteers the night of the rising in 1916, and in July 1921 he became Vice

OC to Humphrey Murphy.

He was captured and surrendered without a shot on May 28th 1923 at Kilmurry House in Cordal, and brought to the Free State HQ at Hartnett’s Corner, Castleisland.

Shut the Gate Ploy

The following morning, May 29th at 11.30am he was ordered outside to ‘shut the gate’ and he was fatally shot from behind.

Jerh was killed a month after April 30th 1923 when Frank Aiken had called an end to IRA military operations, following the death of Liam Lynch, and five days following the May 24th ceasefire ordered by Frank Aiken, an order Éamon de Valera supported.

Jerh was wearing a scarf around his neck on that fateful morning that he was murdered.

A Sister’s Fond and Poignant Remembrance

As a result of Jerh’s death, his sister Kate Leary inherited the family farm. For years afterwards, on the anniversary of her brother’s death on May 29th she would retire quietly to her bedroom.

From a high press, she would take down the scarf and the tricolour that draped his coffin at his funeral.

Kate would hold the scarf, which still bore the bullet holes and blood stains from the day he was shot. She would unfurl the flag and quietly shed a tear in his memory.

Correspondence with Dev in Vain

Jerh’s father, Jim Leary met Dev in 1926 in Castleisland. Dev promised to look after ‘his likes.’

By 1939, Jim Leary was still in correspondence with Dev, endeavoring to secure compensation and a pension for the loss of his only son.

In his letter in 1939, Jim wrote: ‘’I may as well tell you about himself, in 1914 he was young then, had he lived today he’d be 44 years. He joined the volunteers and in 1916, the night of the rising he called at my room door and he asked: “Dad, are you asleep? “No Son, I said. What’s up?

“I can’t tell you Dad, he said, but I’m called away – and I said good luck to you boy!

“He turned up some time later the following day, and that was, very nearly, the last of his work, for me in the farm.

He did all he could for his country from that out….’’

Monument from Proud Scart Community

Jim Leary died two years later in 1941. Hanna Scanlon passed away in 1934. Both are buried in the O’Leary, Mount, Scartaglin plot beside their only boy Jerh at Kilbanivane Cemetery.

In 1946, the proud community of Scartaglin and its hinterlands unveiled a grand monument in honour of Jeremiah O’Leary.

A committee was formed for the purpose of funding and erecting the monument. The Kerin family donated a plot of land and funds were raised from home and abroad with the help of Cumann Na mBan, through public subscriptions to fund and erect the large Celtic Cross.

Jerh’s name is etched on the monument in the Republican plot at Kilbannivane.

O’Leary Family Headstone

Alongside this is the O’Leary family headstone, where Jerh’s name is inscribed along with his parents Jim Leary and Hanna Scanlon.

A plaque is also mounted on the wall at Hartnett’s Corner, Castleisland where he was shot dead at 11.30am on May 29th. 1923.

A community commemoration to mark the 100th anniversary of Jeremiah O’Leary’s death will take place in his memory at Castleisland on Monday May 29th at 8pm in Kilbannivane Cemetery.

Dr. Tim Horgan to Speak

“We are honoured to have historian Dr. Tim Horgan to give the oration at Jerh’s graveside,” said commemoration organising group member, Séamus Fleming.

“A family wreath will be laid by Jerh’s two nieces, Hannah Brosnan O’Callaghan who will travel from LA especially, and Nuala Brosnan O’Connor and Bill O’Leary, Washington DC will recite a poem representing the O’Leary family relations spanning the globe who are unable to attend.

“A follow on commemoration event will take place in Scartaglen Village Culture and Heritage Centre the following Saturday, June 3rd at 8pm.

Gratitude to Centre Committee

“We thank the committee of the centre for facilitating our plans.

“Again Dr. Tim Horgan will speak and we will have a more in-depth examination of the life and times and death of Jeremiah O’Leary, Mount, Scartaglen, with ancestral detail and background on the Scart monument also.

“Masses will be offered in his memory,” said Mr. Fleming and he concludes with a thought provoking, memorable quote from the event speeches and writings of Dr. Tim Horgan:

The Greatest Honour We Can Bestow Is Remembrance.

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