Pierce McCann is Dead

From Irish Independent 7th March 1919



Mr. Pierce McCann, M.P. (East Tipperary) died yesterday from pneumonia in a nursing home in Gloucester, to which he had been removed from Gloucester Prison suffering from influenza.

He had been detained since last May without trial or charge of any kind. This is the third Sinn Fein prisoner who has died while in British custody, the other victims being Mr. Thomas Ashe and Mr. Richard Coleman. The Governor of Gloucester Prison, replying to a telegram from the Irish Independent says " No inquest necessary. Died in nursing home.’

It should be borne in mind, however, that the disease which proved fatal was contracted in prison, and that Mr. McCann was in custody at the time of his death. It is stated that the condition of Mr. R. Haskins, another prisoner at Gloucester, is causing anxiety.

The Irish Republican party have sent Mr. Sean Nunan to Gloucester as their representative. They hope to have the remains brought to Dublin tomorrow morning, and, after the Requiem Mass , will have them convoyed to Tipperary for burial on Sunday. The wish of the relatives is that the remains should be conveyed via Rosslare, but it is understood that they will consent to the change, and that a committee has been appointed to take charge of the arrangements.



Ireland was profoundly touched yesterday when the sad news was circulated that a third of the Sinn Fein prisoners had died while in British custody in the person of P. J, McCann, M.P., one of the most popular figures in the movement and one who had won the esteem of all classes in his native Co., Tipperary.

It will be remembered that on Friday, Arthur Griffith, telegraphed from Gloucester prison that the following internees who wore suffering from influenza had been removed to a nursing home.


The sad news reached a friend in Dublin yesterday from Mr. P. O'Keeffe, and was confirmed later by other friends who had gone to Gloucester owing to the serious condition of the prisoners.

A gentleman from Belfast also called at 6 Harcourt St. yesterday said he had just returned from a business call in Gloucester prison, and when he was leaving he did not think Mr. McCann could live more than a day.

The following telegram reached a friend in Dublin; P. McCann died 2.30 this morning. Father and mother here. - O’Keefe

The sender of the telegram is Mr. P. O’Keefe M.P for North Cork.

On Friday last the ‘Herald’ published a telegram received in Durham from Mr. Arthur Griffith, who is interned in Gloucester Jail, which was the first public intimation as to the condition of the Irish prisoners stationed there. The facts at the time of wiring (Friday) set out that the following internees were suffering from influenza, and were removed to a nursing home at Beaufort Buildings Spa, Gloucester;

Dr. T Dillon

Pierce McCann MP

F Drohan

J Minihan

R Haskins

Sean McEntee

T Hunter MP

JJ O’Connell

W Loughran

P. O’Keefe MP

The message also stated that D. Fitzgerald MP and Peter Hughes, Chairman of Dundalk Urban Council, were not well and were being treated in the prison hospital while Mr. Hunter was under medical treatment in the Royal Hospital.

Mr. Griffith stated in his message that relatives of the interned men had no cause for alarm.  He also added in his telegram;

The doctor has just informed me that all patients improved this (Friday) morning, except for Haskins, but his condition was not dangerous.

On Monday, Mr. Griffith wired a message in which he said ‘No further prisoners in Gloucester attacked by influenza. He also conveyed the message that Fitzgerald and Hughes were better. Dr. Dillon and Messrs. McCann, MacEntee, and O’Connell were recovering.

Drohan, Hunter, Minihan, and O’Keefe were improved and Haskins and Loughran and not considered dangerous.

Things clearly deteriorated drastically in the days that followed, especially for Pierce McCann.

Release of All Prisoners




“It has been decided to release the Irish political prisoners at present interned in England.”

This was the reply of Mr. MacPherson at Westminster yesterday when asked by Mr. MacVeagh, M.P., if he knew that the Lord Mayor of Dublin had been told by Lord French a month ago that these prisoners were to be released immediately, and also if their release had been recommended to the Government by Lord French, Mr. MacPherson, and Mr. Shortt, the previous Irish Chief Secretary.

The prisoners so affected, now numbering 58, have been for the most part in prison for the great part of 11 months, having been arrested in the general round-up in connection with the notorious "German Plot."


It will be noticed that only the prisoners interned in English jails are to be released, those in Irish prisons being left, presumably, to serve out their sentences, and Mr. MacPherson does not mention what will happen to them.

The following exchange took place in the Commons today;

Mr. MacVeigh asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he was aware that some weeks ago the Lord Mayor of Dublin was informed by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland that the Irish political prisoners would be released immediately and that their relatives might be so informed and whether he could state this pledge has not been redeemed.

Mr MacVeigh also asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the release of the Irish Political Prisoners had been commended by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland by the Chief Secretary for Ireland and by the Secretary of State for the Home Department who is Chief Secretary for Ireland, if so what stands in the way of their recommendation being acted upon and will they now be released.

Mr. MacPherson informed Mr. Mac Veagh that it had been decided to release the Irish prisoners interned in this country. 

From Irish Independent, 8th March 1919



The remains of Mr. P. J. McCann, M.P., on their arrival at Westland Row this morning, will be escorted to the Pro-Cathedral by Irish Volunteers and Sinn Féin bodies. ,The Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m and at 11 a.m the remains will be escorted to a public funeral in Thurles from Kingsbridge, where they will sit in the Cathedral.


Remains leave Pro-Cathedral at 11 a.m. to-day.

(1) Chief mourners' carriages.

(2) Members of Dail Eireann.

(3) Sinn Féin Executive.

(4) Irish Volunteers in Marlboro St.

(5) Cumann na mBan in Talbot St. (head of Marlboro St.)

(6) Trades bodies, Up. O'Connell St. (head on North Earl St.).

(7) General public, Lower Abbey St. (head on Lower O'Connell St.).

Note—The Volunteer stewards will be at various points to direct contingents.


A melancholy and touching procession passed through the Cathedral city of Gloucester yesterday, says the special correspondent of the Irish Independent. The rain poured down pitilessly as the little body of Irish mourners walked behind the hoarse in which lay the coffin containing the remains of Mr. P. J. McConn, M.P., enveloped in the republican colours.

The attention of. passers-by was arrested by the mournful spectacle, and groups at street corners raised their hats respectfully as the sad procession passed.

At the railway station the scene was very touching. The prominent mourners were the father and mother, who, notwithstanding their declining years, had travelled all the way from Tipperary to take on the last farewell of their boy.

Dublin friends on the platform included Mrs. O'Keffe, Mrs. Desmond Fitzgerald, and Mrs. Dillon (wives of internees), Miss Aherne and Mr. Sean Nunan, who travelled over specially to represent tho Sinn Fein headquarters.

The last moments of Mr. P. J McCann, M.P., were characteristic of the man whose name will go down in history as one of those who offered his young and promising life in the struggle, for Irish liberty.

From Evening Herald, 8th March 1919


This morning the remains of the late Mr. Pierce J. McCann, who died of pneumonia while a prisoner in Gloucester, were conveyed across the Channel, accompanied by those who had been the companions in exile of the young Irish patriot.

After Requiem Mass at the Pro-Cathedral , the body was borne across Dublin. The streets were lined with people, by whom every sign of sympathy was shown. An unpleasant incident happened at Grattan Bridge, where some military officers astride a motor bicycle and basket car tried to dash through the ranks of the processionists. They were threatened by the onlookers, and hastily decamped from the machine, which was flung over the Bridge parapet into the river.


The remains of Pierce McCann left Gloucester yesterday, amid manifold manifestations of sorrow from the small Irish community in the town, and the relatives of the internees in the prison and private nursing home attached. The local population had witnessed in the afternoon the spectacle of a body of an Irishman being passed through the streets of the town, the Republican flag spread over his coffin, and a wave of sympathy had wept over the people towards the bereaved mother and father who had come all the way from far distant Tipperary to see the last of their son.

At the evening train there was quite a gathering of Gloucester citizens on the platform, and many respectfully raised their hats as the train steamed out. The Irish representatives on the spot in the city wore mourning armlets with the Sinn Fein colours.

At Holyhead a surprise, painful but, at the same time, pleasing, awaited those travelling with the remains. On the platform there, and just as the coffin was being taken from the mortuary car, the burly form of John O'Mahony and accompanying him were close to a dozen Sinn Fein internees from other English jails, who had arrived by trains preceding. The meeting was saddening, if, in one way, an inspiring one. The released men expressed their condolences and sorrow to the bereaved father, who, with characteristic sturdiness, brushed away the emotion which came to his eyes


The assembly of friends and sympathisers waiting at Westland Row platform reverently uncovered when the train bearing the remains arrived at the station. Everything proceeded with the utmost orderliness and decorum.

Outside the station the crowd was parted by lines of Irish Volunteers, who stood and with linked hands and kept a passage clear for the hearse and cortege. Amongst those on the platform were Mr. and Mrs. Figgis, Miss Gavan Duffy and Miss McHugh (in charge of a contingent of Cumann na mBan), Rev. O’Dwyer, Thurles, Messrs James Kennedy, Thurles and Denis Morgan, Messrs. D. Mackey, Secretary and Councillors Morrissey and Power of Clonmel representing Sinn Féin East Tipperary Executive. Philip Shanahan M.P, Dublin, Deceased’s mother and father and Miss Ahearne, Thurlese, travelled with the funeral party.

The coffin, which was draped in the Irish republican colours, was borne to the hearse at the station and from the hearse to the Pro-Cathedral, by Harry Boland M.P, Sean O’Muirthuile, Cornelius Collins M.P, and Michael Collins M.P.

Preceding the hearse, which was guarded by Volunteers in Uniform, about 100 Volunteers marched in fours and following the hearse was another guard of about 50 Volunteers. Mr. and Mrs. McCann, and Miss Ahearne occupied the carriage immediately following the hearse.

The following people, who had been released from prison accompanied McCann’s remains to Kingstown aboard the mail boat, Ulster, from Holyhead;

Dr. Hayes M.P

Frank Fahy M.P

John O’Mahony

Patrick Cahill (Tralee)

E. McManus (Donegal)

Dan McCarthy (Dublin)

J. Lennon (Dublin)

Peter deLoughry (Lord Mayor of Kilkenny)

Frank McGuinness

When the funeral cortege was passing along Wellington quay, an unfortunate incident occurred which might have resulted in considerable trouble.

Two lieutenants and a sergeant of the Royal Air Force, Collinstown, seated in a motor bicycle with carriage attached attempted to cut through the procession of mourners at Parliament St. and Grattan Bridge. Some onlookers resented this indiscreet act, which they declared to be unwarrantable. They assumed a threatening attitude to the officers, who cleared off the bicycle and out of the carriage.

The excited people then seized the machine and the side-car and slung them over the quay and into the Liffey, where they remain under-water.

The extraordinary occurrence created great commotion in the neighbourhood of Grattan Bridge, but no attempt was made to molest the Officers.

During the afternoon crowds gathered on O’Connell Bridge, Grattan Bridge, and along the quay walls to discover what was in the Liffey, but as usual, not one in ten had the faintest idea what had taken place. 

The above images are all of Pierce McCann's funeral procession through the streets of Dublin published in the Irish Independent on 10th March 1919. The top image shows the hearse leaving the Pro Cathedral. The next three images show the impressive procession, which included a special section of members of Dáil Éireann (third image). The fifth image shows the chief mourners. The women at the front are Josephine Aherne, McCann's fiancé and McCann's mother. Aherne was an avid Gaelic League member and taught in Thurles Ursuline Convent. Behind them, with head bowed, is Joseph McCann, Pierce's father. 

From Irish Independent, 10th March 1919

Scenes in Thurles

Impressive scenes marked the arrival of the remains in Thurles on Saturday night. An immense concourse awaited the coming of the train. On arrival, the coffin was placed in the hearse, and a procession formed. The relatives, were met by the clergy, including the professional staff of the Diocesan College, were behind the hearse. The Thurles Brass Band played the Dead March. Slowly the cortege, in which there were 500 Volunteers, hundreds of members of the Gaelic League, Sinn Féin Clubs, Cumann na mBan, moved through the streets, where every shop was closed and blinds drawn. Many people were moved to tears, and the murmuring of prayers accompanied the measured tread of feet.

Two Miles of Carriages

Mourners Line 10 Mile Route

Every train on Saturday and Sunday brought big numbers of sympathisers from all parts of Ireland and streams of motorcars and other vehicles arrived during Saturday night and Sunday morning. On Saturday evening, up to 11pm, large numbers visited the cathedral to pray beside the draped coffin. While the remains were being borne to the cathedral, the nuns of the neighbouring Ursuline Convent, who were great personal friends of the deceased, viewed the processions from the windows. The schoolgirls lined the path from the gates to the cathedral steps and afterward took part in the funeral procession.

The entrance gates to the cathedral, the telegraph wires, and poles nearby, and nearly every house front in the town, were draped in the Sinn Féin colours, whilst almost every person seen in the streets wore Sinn Féin mourning badges and emblems.

The Cortege

The internment took place at the family burial ground in Dualla, a village about 10 miles from Thurles., and every step of the way was lined with mourning spectators.

The funeral reached the graveyard after a 3 hours journey. On the way the cortege was largely augmented by contingents and a long procession if cars and motors. The procession passed adjacent to Ballyowen House, the gate leading to which was covered with flags with mourning colours.

Several thousand persons assembled at the churchyard, which was lined bodies of Volunteers from Cashel, Dualla, Rosegreen, Boherlane, Fethard, and Killenaule.

Oration in Irish

Before the grave was closed in Father Matt Ryan, in introducing Cathal Brugha M.P, who delivered an oration in Irish, said McCann was a model Christian and Catholic. No purer souled patriot has ever died for Ireland.

*The above is based on transcriptions from newspaper reports. Transcriber bears no responsibility for any errors in transcription. Above may contain amendments for publication. As always, please refer to actual newspaper editions for academic purposes.

Ballyowen House, as it appeared in 1919, and as it appears today. This was where McCann was born and raised. His funeral cortege passed by the house en-route to Duala graveyard. 

The house is a mid 18th century house built by the Pennefather family and occupied by them until sold to the Davies family after the Famine (Bence Jones). In the mid 19th century the house was valued at almost £49 and held in fee by Captain M. Pennefather. It was advertised for sale by the Pennefathers in June 1852 and bought by the Davies who sold it to the McCans in 1864 (from http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/js...).

The house is still occupied and can be visited by contacting owners in advance. See http://www.ballyowenhouse.ie/ for more info.