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Mike McGrath and his wife Jo, of Ballinahinch, Bodyke, with their grandchildren, Diarmuid, Oisin and Aodhan Collins, at the family grave in Tulla where his uncle Mattie McGrath who died on September 22 1922 is buried. Photograph by John Kelly

Major Clare War of Independence Battalion to be commemorated

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MONDAY, August 1, will see a gathering in East Clare to commemorate two Old IRA volunteers, who were involved in a number of ambushes at the height of the War of Independence.

Following extensive research, the family of Captain Mattie McGrath and his brother Dinny of Annaghneal, will remember their contribution to the fight for Irish freedom, and that of their comrades in the Sixth Battalion of the East Clare Brigade.

The brothers were involved in up to six ambushes on Crown forces in East and South East Clare, including attacks like the high-profile Glenwood Ambush.

“We knew a bit about Mattie and Dinny when we were growing up, but we’ve found out a lot more since then,” said Mike McGrath, a nephew of the men.

“The Sixth Battalion organised ambushes all over East Clare, during the War of Independence, with Mattie and Dinny involved in many of them.”

Research by Mike’s nephew, Seán, and his daughter Aoife, show that members of the McGrath family have lived in the Annaghneal area since pre-Famine times.

It also shows that they had a strong interest in social and political matters.

“Mattie and Dinny’s father before them, my own grandfather James McGrath, was sentenced to 13 years’ hard labour after the Bodyke Evictions.

“He went to America later in his life. He returned and married at the turn of the century and had a family of twelve, including Mattie and Dinny.”

Research by Dr Tomás Mac Conmara and Shane Walsh also highlights the contribution of the McGrath brothers in engagements including the Currakyle Ambush.

They have traced the history of the Sixth Battalion from its establishment at the end of 1918 and the development of active companies in Feakle, Annaghneal, Killanena, Flagmount, Caher and Dromindoora.

According to their studies, the Battalion had a number of leaders with Mattie becoming Officer Commanding at the end of the War, when membership reached more than 360.

All of the Sixth Battlion’s members and deeds will be remembered on Bank Holiday Monday.

“We will begin with a commemorative mass at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Tulla at midday,” explained Mike.

“Our chief celebrant will be Fr Damien Ryan, a great grandnephew of Mattie and Dinny.

“We will also have Tulla Parish Priest, Fr Brendan Quinlivan and the Parish Priest of Bodyke, Fr Dariusz Plasek.

“Afterwards, we’ll go up St Mochulla’s cemetery in Tulla for the blessing of a number of graves. Brian Torpey will sing ‘Clare, My Heart, My Home’ in the cemetery.

“We will have refreshments and go on to Fortane Cross to unveil a plaque and lay a wreath at 4pm.

“After that, we will return to Bodyke and The Cobbler’s Rest for some Irish music and dancing with a barbecue and music later from Michael O’Brien. We’ve made a lot of preparations and all we need now is a fine day.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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