The brave men of Sean Hogan's flying column.
Sean Hogan was born in 1901 and educated in his local national school in Co. Tipperary and as a teenager he became a leader of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the IRA. He and Dan Breen, Sean Treacy and Seamus Robinson would become the "Big Four" and became among the most wanted and most famous and the most feared of the fugitive IRA gunmen during the War of Independence.
Sean Hogan, Fr. Kelly and Dan Breen.
Hogan, Breen, Treacy, Robinson and others took part in the ambush at Soloheadbeg on 21st January 1919 in which two RIC constables, James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell, both of whom were Roman Catholics, sympathetic to Home Rule and Irish freedom but unfortunately wearing the uniforms of the Crown. According to some accounts the IRA set out to kill them in order to kick start the independence struggle but according to Breen, the two constables raised their guns giving the IRA no choice but to shoot them down. Whatever really happened two RIC lay dead and the explosives they were guarding fell into the hands of the IRA.
Before the arrival of the Black and Tans and Auxilliaries to Ireland and the beginning of indiscriminate terror against the Irish people, the killings at Soloheadbeg were reviled by most Irish nationalists, the Catholic Church and Irish newspapers. Hogan and his comrades were often forced to live rough and in sheds and remote locations because few members of Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteers wished to be associated with them as the RIC, mostly Irish born, was still widely respected.
On May 12th 1919, Hogan was captured at Meagher's of Annfield and taken to Thurles RIC station where he was held overnight. In the morning he was put aboard the train for Cork accompanied by armed RIC constables. His comrades were determined to rescue him as he was certain to hang.
One group of IRA men boarded the train at Emly and made sure that Hogan was aboard. When the train pulled into Knocklong the rescue operation sprang into action. Sean Treacy entered the carriage where Hogan was held prisoner and drew his revolver. One of the RIC used Hogan as a shield but was shot dead. A fierce hand to hand struggle and gunfight ensued. Another constable was shot and killed and the others were wounded. Treacy and Breen were also hit but not killed. The band of IRA escaped with Hogan and took refuge in a local Catholic priest's house where they were looked after by his housekeeper, Mary O'Reilly, a member of Cumman na mBan. Two of the rescuers were later arrested, convicted of murder and were hanged in Mountjoy.
Hogan went on the run again and commanded his flying column in Tipperary and also fought in Kilkenny and Dublin where he took part in the ill-fated ambush on Lord French in which an IRA man was killed and numerous other attacks. Two members of his column were members of the Tipperary Football team and one of them Michael Hogan, was killed along with 13 others at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday.
Hogan refused to take sides in the Civil War and returned to his farm in Tipperary. He later moved to Dublin, married and had one child. However he later fell on hard times and lived in a tenement in North Great George's Street, Dublin. He became disillusioned with the Ireland he had fought and sacrificed so much for and died in poverty in 1968. His body was buried in Tipperary Town.