Found in an old jam jar hidden in a shed wall, a poem written by an uncle mourning his nephew is a poignant War of Independence artefact
One of the leading figures of the West Mayo Flying Column was Captain Jim Moran. A native of Carrowsallagh, a townland between Mulranny and Newport. He was a nephew of Tom Mulchrone, and he joined the Tiernaur Company of the IRA in 1917.
He was later asked by Newport man Michael Kilroy to join the local Flying Column. He was among the men photographed in the famous Men of the West photo that was taken on June 21, 1921, on the slopes of Nephin Beg, while they were on the run after the Carrowkennedy ambush.
Like his uncle and Michael Kilroy, Jim (pictured) joined the anti-Treaty side of the IRA. He was killed in March 1923 during a skirmish with Free State soldiers in Skirdagh near Glenhest. He was just 24 years old.
Some of the most poignant items that were recently discovered hidden in a jam jar in the shed of Tom Mulchrone are the letters between Tom and his brother John, in which they lament Jim’s passing.
From the letters, it is clear that there was a close bond between Tom and his nephew. His diary illustrates that further, with a number of songs and poems written in honour of young Jim Moran.
Although the diary is difficult to read, with nearly 100 years taking their toll on its pages, the team from the Michael Davitt Museum have been able to make out one of the poems. It is called ‘In Memory of Jim Moran’, and written by his uncle Tom Mulchrone.
What matters now the death you died
Your blood was shed for Ireland
And we who wait for freedom’s tide
Recall with mingled grief and pride
Your sacrifice for Ireland
We love you as a comrade true
Who pledged your soul to Ireland
When traitors spurned our Róisín Dubh
She still had friends to dare and do
As you have done for Ireland
When timid souls in silence wept
Unceasingly for Ireland
When cowards in their fetters slept
T’was men like you the vigil kept for persecuted Ireland
Then rest in peace, oh, darling soul
Upon the breast of Ireland
And when we march to freedom’s goal
Your name will shine on glory’s wall
And those who died for Ireland
Civil War divisions
Many families were split down political lines following the Civil War, and Phil Brady, a niece of Tom’s wife Mary, recalls how her own family were no different.
“It caused divisions. My father had no time for Michael Kilroy, but Tom and Mary were the very opposite. To them Michael Kilroy was a hero,” she explained.
She recalls how whenever her aunt Mary would bake a cake to bring to her mother, Tom Mulchrone would wrap it in the Irish Press newspaper just to get a rise from her father.
“It caused division… you have no idea what it was like in my time when we started having elections. Neighbours would be best of friends all year long but come election time they were enemies. They would argue and argue.
“I remember seeing fights in Newport after Mass on Sunday.
The Fianna Fáil candidate was there, and all the people were around listening to him, and the Fine Gael people would be arguing and shouting him down, and the next thing they would be fighting.
Tempers were running very high politically in those times.”