3rd Tipperary Brigade

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Seán Hogan's (No.2) Flying Column, 3rd Tipperary Brigade, during the Irish War of Independence.

The 3rd Tipperary Brigade was one of approximately 80 such units that constituted the Irish Republican Army since the time of their formation from the Irish Volunteers, until after the Civil War. The Brigade was based in southern Tipperary and conducted its activities mainly in mid-Munster. Three of the four historical figures in the popular Irish republican song The Galtee Mountain Boy were members of the Third Tipperary Brigade, Flying Column leaders Dinny Lacey & Seán Hogan as well as the Brigade's Quartermaster Dan Breen.


The Brigade was originally called the South Tipperary Brigade and was established in 1918. In October 1918 Seamus Robinson was elected O/C with Seán Treacy vice O/C. The Brigade originally had 6 Battalions with this later being extended to 8. These were Rosegreen, Cashel, Dundrum, Tipperary, Clonmel, Cahir, Drangan and Carrick-on-Suir.[1]

The core of the unit from its earliest existence was the group known as 'The Big Four'. These were Seán Treacy, Dan Breen, Séamus Robinson and Seán Hogan.

War of Independence[edit]

Reward poster for Breen following imposition of martial law
Dinny Lacey, commander of the No. 1 Flying Column

The 3rd Tipperary Brigade was one of the most active during the War of Independence. The ambush led by Treacy, Robinson, Breen and Hogan at Soloheadbeg is generally acknowledged as the opening engagement of that war. Two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, James McDonnell and Patrick O'Connell were killed in the attack. Breen has left apparently conflicting accounts of their intentions that day. One implies that the purpose of the confrontation was merely to capture explosives and detonators being escorted to a nearby quarry.[2] The other, that the group intended killing the police escort to provoke a military response.

"Treacy had stated to me that the only way of starting a war was to kill someone, and we wanted to start a war, so we intended to kill some of the police whom we looked upon as the foremost and most important branch of the enemy forces ... The only regret that we had following the ambush was that there were only two policemen in it, instead of the six we had expected."[3]

As a result of the action, martial law was declared in County Tipperary. Treacy, Breen and Hogan took the cart and hid the explosives and immediately 'went on the run'. The met up again with Robinson a few weeks later and the "big four" as they were locally called, remained in hiding over the coming months, moving from house to house of sympathisers or sleeping in the rough in the countryside. Treacy and Robinson traveled to Dublin and met with Michael Collins who offered to arrange for them and Breen and Hogan to escape to America. They rejected the offer and told Collins they would remain in Ireland and continue the fight. Hogan was captured by the RIC in May 1919, his capture would lead to one of the dramatic events of the war. Treacy, Breen and Robinson supported by men from the East Limerick Brigade rescued a handcuffed Hogan from a train under the guard of four RIC officers at Knocklong station in Limerick. Hogan would have almost certainly been executed if he wasn't rescued. Two of the RIC were killed in the fight and Breen and Treacy seriously injured.

Treacy, Hogan, Robinson and Breen relocated to Dublin and undertook a range of missions under the direction of the Dublin leadership, some of these missions were in association with a unit known as The Squad. Robinson initially and Hogan later returned to Tipperary to continue the fight against the British and the RIC in Tipperary and surrounding counties. Treacy was eventually killed in an exchange of fire with a British secret service agent in Talbot Street, while Breen alternated between Tipperary and Dublin as the conflict continued.

Aside from the RIC hunt for 'the big four' the remainder of 1919 was reasonably quiet in South Tipperary. This changed in early to mid 1920 as the battalions of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade mounted a series of raids on RIC barracks, including attacks on the barracks at Hollyford, Drangan,Cappawhite, Rear Cross and Clerihan.[4]

Robinson continued to command the brigade through the rest of the war of independence. In September 1920 he appointed Dinny Lacey as O/C of the brigade's first flying column and later that year a second flying column was established with Seán Hogan as O/C.[5]

Civil War[edit]

Dan Breen's appeal to free state troops

Reservations about the Treaty caused division within the Brigade. Some members sided with the Provisional Government, (later the Irish Free State), while others remained neutral during the ensuing Civil War. The majority, including Brigade Officers Séamus Robinson, Dan Breen, Seán Hogan and Dinny Lacey, took the Republican side. Lacey was killed in action against Free State troops in 1923 in the Glen of Aherlow while Robinson was a General throughout the civil war, Breen and Hogan were both interned by the Free State army during the Civil War.

On-line sources[edit]

Tipperary Historical Society : The Third Tipperary Brigade a Photographic Record - Neil Sharkey 1994
Bureau of Irish Military History- Seamus Robinson's witness statement http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1721.pdf#page=113

Ó Duibhir  : The Tipperary Volunteers in 1916: A Personal Account 75 Years On : from County Tipperary Historical Society :THJ : 1991
Aengus O Snodaigh (21 January 1999). "Gearing up for war: Soloheadbeg 1919". An Phoblacht. 
Brendan A. Creaner : The Rescue at Knocklong (8 December 2003)
Colmcille : (a) : The Third Tipperary Brigade (1921–1923); Part I- From Truce to Civil War  : THJ : 1990
Colmcille : (b) : The Third Tipperary Brigade (1921–1923); Part II- From Ambushes to Executions  : THJ : 1991
Colmcille : (c) : The Third Tipperary Brigade (1921–1923); Part III- The End of the Civil War: THJ : 1992
All preceding accessed on or after 2 Nov 2008



  1. ^ Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 1433
  2. ^ Peter Berresford Ellis (2007). Eyewitness to Irish History. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 231–232. ISBN 978-0-470-05312-6. 
  3. ^ History Ireland, May 2007, p.56.
  4. ^ A short History of the Third Tipperary Brigade - John R Shelley - Phoenix Publishing 1996
  5. ^ Irish Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 1433