An ordinary soldier of the fight for freedom

By Mairead O'Brien

JOHN Dunleavy was born into a family that was steeped in Republicanism and anti-landlord sentiment. He was eager to play his part in throwing off the shackles of British rule during the War of Independence (1919 – 1921).

Whereas it is usually the high-profile leaders who make the headlines, it was the ordinary foot-soldiers like John who made the dream of a Republic become a reality. When the Civil War broke out in June 1922, he took the anti-Treaty side and served as an Irregular until he was arrested by the Free State Army in October 1922.

John was born in Blindwell, Kilconly, in 1892, the seventh of the nine children of Patrick Dunleavy from Tavanagh, Co Mayo and Mary Keaveney from Blindwell. His early school years were spent in Cloghans Hill where Tom Hynes was the schoolmaster.

In 1914 John left home to go to England and found work as a tram conductor in Manchester. As World War I progressed, conscription was introduced in England and he was faced with the prospect of having to join the British Army, so he went home for Christmas in 1917 and did not return.

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