THE GLYNN FAMILY
The Glynn/Glenn/McGlynn family originating in Culkeen, Co. Roscommon 1825 - 2015
Biography - B24 John (Sean) M Glynn.
John Glynn was born in Williamstown, County
Galway, the fifth child of John Glynn and Mary Ann Coyne. He was known
by the family as Johnny and probably decided to use the Irish version of
his name (Sean)out of nationalistic fervour.
By 1918 the older Glynn brothers, Joe, Paddy and Hubert were “drilling in the National Volunteers”, as mentioned in a letter to Patrick and his family in Kansas. Sometime after that Sean Glynn went to Dublin and established a business selling eggs and milk. He became very active in the independence movement. In the photo, he is shown (on the right) with Eamon De Valera (middle) on a visit to Williamstown.
Background to the story:
The Easter Rising took place in 1916. In May 1916, fifteen of the leaders were executed and many others interned, including Eamon De Valera. The War of Independence against Britain followed the first meeting of Dail Eireann in January 1919. In 1921 a truce was agreed and peace talks began. The resulting Irish Free State, being less than full independence, was not to the liking of many of the main leaders. The Civil War followed. The Anti-Treaty forces occupied the Four Courts and other prominent buildings in Dublin in 1922. Sean Glynn took the Anti-Treaty side.
The following is his own account of his involvement in June 1922. He refers to himself in the 3rd person.
At the commencement of the Civil War in Ireland in June 1922, two positions were occupied by the anti-treaty forces, the Four Courts on the quays and an area within a triangle formed by Moran’s Hotel, Talbot St., Nelson Pillar and Barry’s Hotel, Parnell Square. Streets approaching these positions were mined. Amongst the buildings occupied along the east side of O’Connell St. were the Gresham and Hammam Hotels with openings broken through the dividing walls of the buildings to enable messengers and soldiers to pass from one building to the next under cover.
Brigade Headquarters for the Dublin Brigade were established in the Hammam Hotel and were manned by Brigade O.C. Oscar Traynor, his adjutant, Austin Stack and about 200 men under Cathal Brugha. Eamon De Valera, Commander of the 3rd Battalion of the Dublin Brigade, was at this time attached to the H.Q. staff in the Hamman Hotel, O’Connell St. On Friday 30th of June Oscar Traynor issued orders to the Four Courts garrison to surrender to the Free State forces as their position was no longer tenable.
On the following day, 1st July, the Free State forces tightened their cordons around the anti-treaty forces in the City centre. At this time, Sean Glynn was an intelligence officer attached to the 3rd Battalion and was with De Valera, temporarily seconded to Brigade H.Q. in the Hammam Hotel. The Free State forces, having spent the weekend strengthening their cordons around the anti-treaty positions had, by Monday July 3rd nearly all escape routes sealed off and it appeared that there would soon be no alternative left to the Dublin Brigade except to fight its way out or surrender.
On July 4th, Sean Glynn recommended that the Hammam Hotel which was manned by 200 officers and men be evacuated and that a small force be left behind as a rearguard while the evacuation was taking place. Oscar Traynor, his adjutant, Austin Stack and De Valera agreed to this recommendation but Cathal Brugha was opposed to it and insisted that he would remain with his men. The necessary orders having been issued, the men who were to leave were filtered out in small groups and most made their escape without being captured. When all these had left, Sean Glynn wanted to lead his Battalion C.O., De Valera out but he refused saying that the Brigadier, Oscar Traynor, must go first. After some argument it was agreed that they would go out together and Sean Glynn, having first made them divest themselves of arms and any possessions that would identify them as anti-treaty forces would lead them through back streets and lanes to his flat in Mount Street.
On their way to Mount St they were stopped by a patrol on Butt Bridge and would have been searched by the soldiers but Glynn banteringly explained that they were up from the country and had no interest in the fighting but were on their way to a party. Having been passed through the patrol without being searched, a shaken Oscar Traynor told them that while talking to the soldiers he had put his fingers into his waistcoat pocket and discovered to his horror that he had several grenade rings therein. These grenades rings were made of brass and were expensive so that soldiers were taught when throwing grenades to retain the rings so that they could be re-used. If discovered, they would have been a complete give-away that the three men had been involved in the fighting.
Having successfully delivered Traynor and De Valera to the safety of his flat at 11 Mount Street, Glynn made his way back on foot with orders to bring out Austin Stack and Cathal Brugha. When he arrived at the Hammam Hotel, Brugha resolutely refused to leave and in the ensuing argument, he threatened to shoot Glynn who was eventually obliged to leave Brugha behind and walked Stack safely back to Mount Street. On reaching the flat, where De Valera was to remain safely hidden for the next twelve months, the four men had a meal and afterwards held a meeting to discuss if anything further could be done to persuade Brugha to abandon his post. It was decided that Sean Glynn should go back again the following morning and Oscar Traynor as Brigadier wrote an order commanding Brugha to evacuate the Hammam Hotel while De Valera wrote a note requesting him to do as Traynor ordered and pleading with him that his services to Ireland would be needed in times to come.
The following day Sean Glynn set out again for the Hammam Hotel, accompanied this time by Kathleen O’Connell who was dressed as a nurse. When they came under fire in a street near the back of the Pro-Cathedral, Glynn sent Kathleen O’Connell back with instructions to wait for him in shelter while he sought a way to get through. On this occasion, however, the buildings were tightly surrounded and when climbing over one of the barricades Glynn was shot in the knee and severely wounded by a rooftop sniper. He lay there for several hours unable to move and occasionally shouting for help. A priest from the Pro-Cathedral came to his assistance and brought him to the Mater Hospital. Here he was treated but as he was too ill to be sent home and would have been arrested if admitted as a patient, he was hidden in the attic of the hospital for several months under the care of the Matron and a Dr. Farnon.
Postscript to the above:
For the rest of his life Sean Glynn suffered some pain from his injury and was also left with a slight limp. Cathal Brugha stayed in the Hammam Hotel long after the cause was lost. He eventually came out firing at his opponents and was shot as he emerged.
Sean Glynn came back to Williamstown around 1924. He went back into the family business for some years which by then included a hackney car service and a haulage service. He married Ann Finnegan who had returned from the USA and was originally from Williamstown and with her financial help opened a business across the street from Corner House. The business never really thrived. He was active in Fianna Fail politics and was a member of Galway County Council between 1945 and 1967. He was a Dail candidate without success in the 1954 General Election. He was also for many years a director of Bord Failte – the Irish Tourism Board.
In 1964, he published a 50 page booklet –“Williamstown, Co. Galway - Historical Sketch and Records” in which he makes no mention of his own family other than as residents of the town. He was a modest, unassuming man who preferred being in the background and quiet conversation and would often slip away to avoid the noisy conversation of his sisters. In fact, he would not speak of his days in the Hamman Hotel or his early life and only late in life was he persuaded to write the above account.
He was also most generous to children, being ever ready to part with half a crown each – a large sum in those days.
He had no children and died in 1974. He is buried in Williamstown.