Photo Album: The Fight for Irish Freedom and the 2nd IRA Tipperary Brigade
Submitted by Sean Gaffey, Rockville Centre, NY
December / January 2017
This photograph, of the officers of the 2nd Tipperary Brigade, was taken in May 1920 by Ed McGrath, the brigade’s vice commandant. My maternal grandfather, Michael “Mike” Dwan, is pictured (back row, far left). All four of my grandparents were born and raised in Ireland, with the paternal side coming from Ballymoe, County Galway, and my mother’s parents coming from Drangan and Thurles, County Tipperary.
Mike Dwan proudly fought for the cause of Irish freedom during the War of Independence as the quartermaster of the brigade. In March 1921, he was ambushed, captured, and sentenced to die. He was interned in Spike Island Prison, County Cork, where he witnessed atrocities like the execution of his dear friend, James Casey, who was buried in a shallow grave outside Mike’s prison cell wall, as a reminder of what was to happen to him. Luckily, the truce was agreed upon before the execution order was carried out, and Mike was released.
When the Irish Civil War broke out, Mike left Ireland. He didn’t want to fight his own countrymen and women. He found peace and refuge in America, and a home in Throgs Neck – a section of the Bronx that was home to many Irish immigrants. On a boat ride back to Ireland, he met Nellie Strappe from Drangon. She was impressed with his clean fingernails. They struck up a romance and married shortly upon their return to America. They had four daughters, Estelle, Violet, Frances, and Patricia, and 16 grandchildren, of which I’m the last.
It was said that when people arrived from Ireland, their first stop was Nellie and Mike’s. My grandfather’s example of volunteerism and willingness to sacrifice his life for a cause greater than himself serves as my motivation to help others. I try to carry on his legacy by making a difference in America, the country that he loved, and with organizations such as Co-operation Ireland, the Children’s Medical Research Foundation, and the Irish International Business Network. I’m honored to be recognized on this year’s Business 100 list as a result of this work, but without his example, I don’t know that any of it would have been possible. As such, I dedicate this year’s award to him. I only wish he was alive to see it. ♦
Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Patricia Harty at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to [email protected]. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select.