Volunteer Lieutenant Patrick O’Sullivan

Volunteer Lieutenant Patrick O’Sullivan (aged about 37) of Raheen near Upton (Upton train ambush)

Date of incident: 15 Feb. 1921

Sources: Military Inquests, WO 35/159B/12 (TNA); O’Donoghue Papers, MS 31,301/1, 3 (NLI); MSPC/1D152 and MSP34/REF29651 (Military Archives); Frank Neville’s WS 443, 12-14 (BMH); Patrick Cronin’s WS 710, 2 (BMH); Charles O’Donoghue’s WS 1607, 10 (BMH); Rebel Cork’s FS, 207-8; Deasy (1973), 222-23; Last Post (1976), 80; http://www.theirishstory.com/2011/02/15/today-in-irish-history-–-the-upton-ambush-february-15-1921/#.U-2IrBbOTHg (accessed 14 Aug. 2014); Upton Station IRA Memorial. 


Note: Three members of the Flying Column of the West Cork Brigade were killed or mortally wounded when they attacked the train carrying British soldiers at Upton Junction on 15 February 1921. In Towards Ireland Free, Liam Deasy listed the three dead IRA men as Pat O’Sullivan, Seán Phelan (a primary-school teacher), and Batt Falvey. See Deasy (1973), 222-23. 

O’Sullivan did not die at Upton. A futile effort was made to save his life: ‘There was a wounded man brought from the Upton ambush early in 1921 into “D” Company area [Aherla Company, Third Battalion, Cork No. 1 Brigade] to get him to hospital, and we got him there quite safely. It was to the Mercy Hospital in Cork he was brought, but he died there. His name was Sullivan.’ See Patrick Cronin’s WS 710, 2 (BMH). At one of the military inquiries that followed the Upton train ambush, Volunteer Patrick O’Sullivan was incorrectly identified (perhaps because of intended IRA deception) as a civilian named ‘William O’Donoghue’. See the previous entry for Volunteer Lieutenant Seán Phelan.

A later pension claim made by Volunteer O’Sullivan’s brother John revealed that after Patrick O’Sullivan had been wounded in the Upton train ambush, he had been taken to the North Infirmary on 16 February 1921 and died there the next day. A Mass card in the pension file confirms the date of death as 17 February and indicates that Patrick O’Sullivan had served as an engineering officer in the First Battalion of the Cork No. 3 Brigade. He had been a member of H Company of the First Battalion. His address at the time of his death was St Patrick’s Quay in Bandon; his family residence was at Raheen near Upton. By occupation he was a coachbuilder. His older brothers John and Charles O’Sullivan both failed in their subsequent applications for a gratuity under the Army Pensions Acts. See MSPC/1D152 and MSP34/REF29651 (Military Archives). 

Patrick O’Sullivan was in 1901 one of the four co-resident sons of the Raheen (Knockavilly) farmer Michael O’Sullivan and his wife Mary. They also had a daughter named Kattie living with them as the youngest member of the family (then aged 10). Her four brothers ranged in age from 17 to 22 in 1901; Patrick was then 17 years old. By 1911, however, the family living at home had been reduced to four. Patrick O’Sullivan no longer resided on the farm at Raheen. His father (aged 67 in 1901) had died, and his mother had thus become a widowed farmer, with the resident assistance of her sons John and Charles (the two eldest at 30 and 29 years old) and of her daughter Kattie—all three still unmarried. By 1911 Patrick O’Sullivan, it seems, had become a coachbuilder in Bandon. On his gravestone in the Republican Plot in St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork city his age was inscribed as 31, but if he had been 17 at the time of the 1901 census, his age at death within two days of the Upton train ambush was about 37.   

The Irish Revolution Project

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