FRANK BUSTEED IRA Vice-Commandant, 6th Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade

The account below is by Brian O’ Donchu, Frank Busteeds grandson,  can anyone ,especially our North American members, tell us more about Frank Busteeds time in North America?? or give a point in the direction of where this information may be obtained. We await your replies, thanks for you time.
FRANK  BUSTEED(1898-1974)
Vice-Commandant, 6th Battalion, 1st Cork Brigade
(Commandant -Flying Column)
Frank Busteed was born at Kilmuraheen, Doughcloyne, Cork on 23rd Sept , 1898, but grew up in Blarney.
He was somewhat unusual for a Flying Column Commandant in that  his backround was not typical, being of mixed faith.His father Sam was Church of Ireland and of strong Unionist backround, while  his mother Norah(Condon-Maher) was Catholic and of a strong Nationalist backround.
Sam died in 1900 when Frank was two years, and so he grew up in the Nationalist tradition of his mother.
However he maintained close family ties with Protestant relations throughout the War of Independence , and afterwards.
Two of his four brothers were brought up in  the Unionist tradition at Kilmuraheen by his paternal grandmother -Margaret Busteed, and joined the British Army, were mentioned in dispatches during World War 1, and one(Jack) later was stationed in Blarney during the period 1919-22.
He himself claimed to be Atheist.
He joined the Fianna Eireann, and later The Irish Volunteers, joining thee Blarney Company(in 1919 the company was into the 6th Battallion, 1st Cork Brigade), and in 1920 was appointed Vice Commandant of the 6th(and Commandant of the Flying Column ,attached) with Jackie O ‘ Leary as Commandant of battalion.
He was involved in many a maneuvre with the battallion , and flying-column in the period 1920-22–including the blowing-up of Blarney Barracks , the capture of Major Geoffrey Compton Smith, Dripsey Ambush as well as countless more.He was also involved in Intelligence gathering, and served as a judge in the Republican Courts from 1920-923.
He was the first volunteer in Blarney to own a Lee Enfield riffle(see framed photo in exhibition)., in 1919.
He was a well read man, and learnt Irish during the war period (regretting that it was not on the school curiculum when he attended).
He refused to accept the Treaty, and continued fighting in Cork, Waterford & Limerick, eventually leaving Ireland for 1924-first to Boston, and later settling in New York.
Here he trained in the Ice-Cutting business, starting a company with three partners (who had also arrived in America after the Civil War.
He met his future wife in New York -Anne Marren, an English lady , whose father came from Mayo .
They had seven children in all, 6 surviving (1 died an infant)–three born in USA, one in England , and 3 later , in Ireland
In 1935 Frank returned to Ireland , starting his own family business, and among other things became involved in the developement of the Fianna Fail cumans in Cork City.
In 1941 he was commissioned to the Irish Army as a Lieutenant. He remained in the army until 1946, and though recommended by his commanding officer for the rank Captain, he left to deal with family business committments.
He remained involved in  politics, canvassing in local , and national elections(see photo with Pres DeValera in exhibit )
He and his wife attended the reopening of Cork City Hall , in Sept 1936(burnt in 1920 during the burning of Cork City by the Auxilliaries & Black &Tans)
In the 1950’s he  was appointed Manager of the Passage West Labour Exchange-retiring from this position (ironically this is where his father’d ancestors first settled in Ireland in the mid 17th century) .
In 1974 (just before his death)…the book EXECUTION (based on events around The Dripsey Ambush) was published.
He featured in a number of other books on the period 1919-24.
Brian O’ Donoghue(Grandson)

Tom Barry, West Cork Flying Column commander

Tom Barry was born in Killorglin, County Kerry, the son of a former RIC officer who had become a shopkeeper. His family moved to County Cork in his youth, and he was educated for a period at Mungret College, County Limerick from 25 August 1911 to 12 September 1912. The reason for his short stay is indicated by a reference from the school register of the Apostolic School, Mungret College, ‘Went – Home (ran away) without knowledge of superiors – no vocation’.

“           In June, in my seventeenth year, I had decided to see what this Great War was like. I cannot plead I went on the advice of John Redmond or any other politician, that if we fought for the British we would secure Home Rule for Ireland, nor can I say I understood what Home Rule meant. I was not influenced by the lurid appeal to fight to save Belgium or small nations. I knew nothing about nations, large or small. I went to the war for no other reason than that I wanted to see what war was like, to get a gun, to see new countries and to feel a grown man.        ”

In 1915, during World War I, he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery at Cork and became a soldier in the British Army. He fought in Mesopotamia (then part of the Ottoman Empire, present day Iraq).[3] He rose to the rank of sergeant. Barry was offered a commission in the Munster Fusiliers but refused it. While outside Kut-el-Amara Barry first heard of the Easter Rising..

War of Independence

War of Independence

On his return to Cork he was involved with ex-servicemen’s organisations. In 1920, Barry joined the 3rd (West) Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which was then engaged in the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). He was involved in brigade council meetings, was brigade-training officer, flying column commander, was consulted by IRA General Headquarters Staff (GHQ), and also participated in the formation of the IRA First Southern Division. The West Cork Brigade became famous for its discipline, efficiency and bravery, and Barry garnered a reputation as the most brilliant field commander of the war.

The Kilmichael Ambush on November 28, 1920 was, a turning point of the war as the Auxiliaries, previously thought “invincible”, were defeated by an IRA column – a fact which had a very negative impact on British morale


On 28 November 1920, Barry’s unit ambushed and killed almost a whole platoon of British Auxiliaries at Kilmichael, County Cork. In March 1921 at Crossbarry in the same county, Barry and 104 men, divided into seven sections, broke out of an encirclement of 1,200 strong British force from the Essex Regiment. In total, the British Army stationed over 12,500 troops in County Cork during the conflict, while Barry’s men numbered no more than 310. Eventually, Barry’s tactics made West Cork ungovernable for the British authorities.

Tom Barry & Comrades

They said I was ruthless, daring, savage, blood thirsty, even heartless. The clergy called me and my comrades murderers; but the British were met with their own weapons. They had gone in the mire to destroy us and our nation and down after them we had to go.”

kilmichael ambush site Memorial

The kilmichael Ambush on November 28, 1920 was, a turning point of the war  as the auxilaries, previously thought “invincible”, were defeated by an IRA column – a fact which had a very negative impact on British morale.

Crossbarry Memorial, Crossbarry, County Cork. In March 1921, 104 Irish Republican Army volunteers under the command of Tom Barry attacked and later escaped from an encircling manoeuvre by 1,200 British soldiers and Black and Tans.

Civil War


During the negotiations that preceded the Truce that ended the war, the British had demanded that Barry be handed over to them before progress could be made on other matters. Michael Collins refused, although he afterwards jokingly told his fellow Cork men that he had been sorely tempted. Barry opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, because, according to him, it betrayed the Irish Republic and partitioned Ireland. He fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War (1922–1923) and was imprisoned by the Irish Free State after the Battle of Dublin in July 1922. Barry had voiced the opinion that, at the start of the Civil War, while the Republican side was stronger, they should have taken over Dublin and the major cities and forced a new confrontation with the British.


In September of that year, however, he escaped from an internment camp at Gormanston in north County Dublin and travelled south, to take command of the anti-Treaty IRA Second Southern Division. In November 1922, he led his men in the capture of a string of towns across the south midlands, including Carrick on Suir, Thomastown and Mullinavat, taking the Free State garrison there prisoner. However, due to a shortage of men and equipment, he was unable to hold these places, evacuating them before National Army reinforcements arrived. After this point, Barry increasingly argued with Liam Lynch, the Republican commander in chief, that the Civil War should be brought to an end, as there was no hope of victory. In March, Barry proposed to the IRA Army executive that a ceasefire should be called, but he was defeated by 6 votes to 5. The anti-treaty campaign was belatedly called off by Frank Aiken in May, after Liam Lynch had been killed in a skirmish with Free State troops. Barry was arrested shortly before Aiken’s order to “dump arms”, on 24 May 1923.

After the defeat of the Anti-Treaty IRA in the Civil War, Barry was released in 1924. He served as general superintendent of Cork Harbour Commission from 1927 to 1965. In 1937, he succeeded Seán MacBride as chief of staff. Barry claimed that they had sabotaged a planned IRA offensive in Northern Ireland. Barry would assert in later life that he opposed both the 1930s bombing campaign in England and IRA contacts with Nazi Germany. In fact in January 1937 he had taken a trip to Germany seeking Nazi support, which was assured to him subject to the condition that the IRA limit its actions to British military installations once war was declared. Financing was to be arranged through the Clann na Gael in the USA. The Army Convention in April 1938 adopted Seán Russells S-Plan instead. Barry resigned as chief of staff as a result, but remained in contact with German agents at least to February 1939.

In 1940, Barry was made responsible for Intelligence in the Irish Army’s Southern Command, a position he held for the duration of World War II (see The Emergency). In 1941 he was denounced by the IRA for writing for the Irish Army’s journal. He was an unsuccessful candidate at the 1946 Cork Borough by-election. In 1949, Barry published his memoirs of the Irish War of Independence, Guerilla Days in Ireland, which became a classic account of the war and an influential guide on guerrilla warfare.

Tom Barrys Typewriter

Above: The typewriter with which Tom Barry wrote Guerilla days In Ireland , now on display in Cork city museum.

Barry was supportive of the Provisional IRA  campaign but expressed reservations about some of their tactics. It is said he did not agree with car bombings and the attacks on the UK cities.

In particular bombings of bars and restaurants he felt had no place in an armed struggle.

In later life Tom Barry worked for the Cork Harbour Commissioners , He lived in Daunts square ,Cork city, in a small flat overhead Woodford Bourne wine merchants.

1916 armband

Tom Barrys wife Leslies 1916 armband. Note the date, 17 years after the Rising.

Tom Barry and his wife Leslie did not have any children , Leslie was President Of The Irish Red Cross , she was also a participant in the 1916 Rising. It is said that Tom Barry  was offered a 1916 rising medal but refused it on the grounds that he did not participate in the 1916 Rising.

He was often to be seen walking the mardyke on his way to Fitzjeralds park where he spent a lot of time. Tom died in 1980.

Tom Barry