Now more than ever is it possible for those with an interest and an internet connection to study family history. From the online availability of 1901/1911 Census’ and the Bureau of Military History’s Pensions and Witness Statements collections, to the Newspaper archives it takes time and unfortunately at times a little money to delve into the past. In investigating my own history, I came across two interesting associates of my Great-Uncle William Murray; James and Thomas Redican.
James and Thomas were born to Sligo parents, Thomas and Annie Redican. Thomas Snr. was a gardener by trade and an Irish musician by passion, and the boys along with their siblings Dorothy, Patrick and Lawrence attended school in Donnybrook. On finishing school, James became a bookmaker and was a Volunteer in E Company, 3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade. He was active in Boland’s Mills during the Easter Rising and would suffer injuries to a hand, an ankle and took a bullet to a thigh which would plague him for the rest of his life; he was imprisoned in Frongoch after the surrender. His younger brother Thomas also made an appearance during the Rising, showing up at his brother’s garrison but was turned away by DeValera for being too young.
Sometime after the general release of prisoners from Frongoch, James Redican makes an appearance in Mullingar, as can be read in the witness statements of Michael Murray, Capt. Ballinacarrigy Company IRA and Michael McCoy, Capt. Mullingar Company. Murray mentions raids for arms ‘under the command of James Redican,’ and a successful raid on the Hibernian Bank in Mullingar. His statement also speaks of Redican and a party of Volunteers, including William Murray holding up a mail train just outside of Mullingar, destroying communications and removing moneys from letters. Interestingly, the statement continues
It now transpired that Redican was not a member of the Volunteers at all. He was an ex-prisoner from Mountjoy Jail. Apparently while in Mountjoy he got acquainted with some Volunteer prisoners from the Mullingar area and convinced them he was up for political reasons while in reality he was doing time for some criminal offence. On his release, he came to the Mullingar area nosing as staff officer from G.H.Q. and soon was OK with the Battalion O/C and other officers. G.H.Q. now sent down instructions that he was to be put out of the area, much to our surprise… It was really a pity he was of that type because he had plenty of guts and courage and would be an asset to the Volunteers anywhere
The Hibernian wasn’t Redican’s only experience of bank raids. By late 1920, he was leading a gang of men (including his brother Thomas and several of those involved in the Hibernian raid) on a series of sorties against banks in Dublin, ostensibly under the orders of Brigadier T.J. Burke of Mullingar (Noel Redican’s ‘Shadows of Doubt.’)
In November 1920 and February 1921, the National Bank of Upper Baggot Street was raided, with sums of £2, 789 and £1, 237 being appropriated. The day after the February raid, the brothers, along with Thomas Weymes (another of the Mullingar men,) were picked up and brought to the local police barracks where they were paraded in front of witnesses, arrested and charged. According to ‘Shadows of Doubt,’
They (the IRA) had come to the conclusion that Redican (James) had pocketed the proceeds from the robberies, which were therefore of a criminal nature, and disowned the raiders.
As a result, their arrests may not have been wholly down to sleuth like police work. Michael McCoy’s witness statement would seem to corroborate and goes further to say
… a series of bank robberies occurred around Dublin. David Burke had a suspicion that Redigan (sic) and his party might be the culprits, and so informed Michael Collins. Collins passed on the information to some friends in the D.M.P., and Redigan and a man named Weymes were arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. It was suspected that Redigan then gave information to the British authorities as to the location of the arms in Mullingar. In February, 1921, after David Burke was arrested, an R.I.C. man told him that they had information that arms were stored in a disused oven in McDonnell’s bakery in Dominick St. Their information was perfectly correct. Burke got a message out to me and we had them removed shortly before the place was raided.
The three men still regarded the offences with which they were being charged as political, insisting the raids were ordered by superior officers and that the proceeds from same had been removed by another two of the Hibernian men, Tormey and Murray for return to their Brigadier for dispersal. Their trials were held separately and weren’t without controversy- witnesses seemed confused as to who they were meant to be pointing out, and Thomas Redican, though in prison in Arbour Hill for another offence at the time of the February raid, was charged with same. The three men were sentenced to penal servitude.
Their time in prison was to be cut short, with the signing of the treaty and the subsequent amnesty for republican prisoners in February 1922 only for them to be re-arrested within weeks for questioning regarding the monies raised through their bank raids and the whereabouts of same- upwards of £5, 000 was unaccounted for. They were tried by a Republican Court at the Court of Conscience on South William Street in what was widely regarded at the time by the papers ‘an amazing story.’ Several newspaper reports make the point that the money used from the raids was used to finance a bookmaking business.
In November, Tormey, James Redican and witness raided the Baggot Street branch of the National Bank. They got about £3, 000 there. They went to Tara Street after, taking the money from the bank. Tormey went away that evening. Witness handed over the stolen money to him and he took some of it with him. Witness was acting under Tormey at this time. Witness followed Tormey to Westmeath and there was a division of the money but Witness got none. Witness carried on the book in the meantime. In October, the book was making money. They called themselves the ‘Bolsheveki Bookmakers.’
(Cork County Eagle and Munster Advertiser, June 3rd 1922.)
Under the newly formed Free State, the men’s stay in prison was far from comfortable, with neither side willing to give concession to the other. Throughout the Civil War they remained guests of the State, who though petitioned, refused to sanction the release of Thomas even though it was proved could not have been present for the raid which he was serving time for. The men in turn didn’t make it easy for the prison services, and until their release in July 1924, frequently engaged in acts of disobedience, refusing to wear uniforms, attacking warders and undergoing several hunger strikes, one of which in particular almost cost James his life.
Their story does not end there. In 1928 Seán Harling, a brother-in-law to the Redican brothers (having married their sister Dorothy) shot and killed Timothy Coughlan, a 22-year-old IRA Volunteer outside the house he was sharing with the Redican family. Harling, a Republican interned during the Civil War had joined the Secret Services of the Free State in part due to economic reasons, and in part due to enormous pressure exerted by Free State agents. He alleged he was ambushed while returning home from work and retaliated in self-defence. However, medical evidence would suggest otherwise, Coughlan’s wound looking more like an execution rather than a shot fired in haste whilst fleeing. The Redican brothers would take the stand once more, this time for questioning in relation to Coughlan’s death having been present in the house during the shooting; a case that is almost as inconclusive today as it was at the time.