Colonel Commandant Thomas (Tom) Keogh or Kehoe
National Army Soldier (Colonel Commandant) Thomas (Tom) Keogh or Kehoe (aged about 23) of Dublin and Rathnagrew Upper near Hacketstown, Co. Carlow (Carrigaphooca Bridge near Macroom)
Date of incident: 16 Sept. 1922
Sources: Death Certificate (Slieveragh District, Union of Macroom), 16 Sept. 1922; CE, 18, 22 Sept. 1922; FJ, 18, 19, 20, 21 Sept. 1922; Evening Herald, 18, 20 Sept. 1922; Belfast Newsletter, 18 Sept. 1922; Derry Journal, 20 Sept. 1922; II, 21 Sept. 1922; SS, 23 Sept. 1922; Kilkenny People, 23 Sept. 1922; Longford Leader, 23 Sept. 1922; Connaught Telegraph, 23 Sept. 1922; Connacht Tribune, 23 Sept. 1922; Ulster Herald, 23 Sept. 1922; Fermanagh Herald, 23 Sept. 1922; Strabane Chronicle, 23 Sept. 1922; MSPC/2D224 (Military Archives); O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 52, 200; Boyne (2015), 185-86; Keane (2017), 99-101, 306, 394; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 7 July 2017); Carrigaphooca Bridge Memorial.
Note: Colonel Commandant Thomas (Tom) Keogh or Kehoe was the only member of the party of National Army Soldiers who did not die at the scene of the mine explosion at Carrigaphooca Bridge near Macroom. But both of his legs were badly shattered by the explosion, and he had other serious wounds—one foot ‘had been blown away completely from the ankle’. He was taken to the Mercy Hospital in Cork city, but he died there ‘less than six hours after the explosion’. See CE, 18 Sept. 1922.
Mary Collins Powell, the sister of Michael Collins, ‘was with Keogh as he died in hospital. She took a lock of his hair and sent it with an eloquent letter of condolence to Keogh’s mother, Mrs Julia Keogh. The remains of Keogh and four of the other men killed were taken to Dublin aboard the Helga.’ Local people recalled that ‘human flesh hung from thorn trees in the vicinity and that body parts were being found up to two weeks after the massive explosion’. See Boyne (2015), 185.
Thomas Keogh or Kehoe was the son of the farmer Simon Kehoe (the 1911 census spelling) and his wife Julia, whose small holding was located in Upper Rathnagrew townland in the parish of Hacketstown in County Carlow. They raised their two sons Thomas (then aged 11) and James (aged 8) as well as their stepson and stepdaughter Daniel and Katie McDonald (aged 16 and 14 respectively). Simon Kehoe had married very young (at 19 according to census data) and had wed a woman fourteen years older than himself. She was 45 in 1911, but her husband was only 31. It appears that Julia Kehoe may have been a widow before her marriage to Simon Kehoe, and that the two ‘stepchildren’ were her own children from her first marriage. She was a County Carlow native, but he was born in County Wicklow.
A native of County Carlow, Tom Keogh had an illustrious record of service to the Irish national cause. He had joined the Irish Volunteers on their formation in 1913 and had taken part in the 1916 Rising, though only 17 years old. He became a confidant of Michael Collins and was reportedly ‘his most trusted friend’. He was one of the ‘Twelve Apostles’—the notorious assassination squad set up by Collins. Among the engagements or enterprises in which he had taken part during the War of Independence were ‘the Mount Street battle’ in Dublin on ‘Bloody Sunday’, 21 November 1920, when he shot two British Auxiliaries; the attempt to rescue Major-General Sean MacEoin from Mountjoy Prison; and the disastrous Custom House fight and burning on 25 May 1921, in which he and about a hundred other men of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA were captured. He was released after the Truce and later assumed high rank in the National Army. See CE, 18 Sept. 1922; O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 52.
Tom Keogh’s pension file indicates that his Volunteer service extended from April 1916 to 1922, that he had taken part in the Easter Rising, and that he had been on active service with ‘The Squad’ at IRA GHQ in Dublin up to the Truce of July 1921. In 1916 his post had been in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory on Bishop Street in Dublin. He was a member of E Company of the Second Battalion of the Dublin Brigade. His father Simon Keogh and his mother Julia made claims for dependants’ allowances. The Army Pensions Board agreed in 1924 to pay a dependant’s allowance of £1 per week to his mother Julia during her remaining lifetime. See MSPC/2D224 (Military Archives).
The victim’s pension file also contains the following significant statement about him and his family: ‘Previous to his joining the National Army, Colonel Comdt. . . . Kehoe was engaged at ammunition making for the I.R.A., and he also fought under General Michael Collins from 1918. His wages were stated to have been £4 0. 0. [per week], and his contributions to claimant [his mother] stated to have been £70 or £80 per annum. Father is a small farmer and is partly invalided. There is a step-brother, Daniel McDonald, who works the small holding, and a brother, Sergt. J. Kehoe, in the National Army.’ See MSPC/2D244.
Writing to Civic Guard Inspector Murphy on 31 March 1924, Garda Sergeant Joseph Hudson of Hacketstown declared that Thomas Keogh’s mother ‘is in very poor circumstances, being living in a little house in the centre of a bog on about 3 or 4 acres of land, the P.L.V. [Poor Law Valuation] of same being 10/-. She has no means of support and was totally dependent on her son’s help. I have been to this woman’s house. . . . I have also made very careful & discreet inquiries re her and [am] of opinion that she is wholly dependent on what support she got from the deceased. She has not at any time been in receipt of any income prior to or since the death of deceased and never held any employment, being invalided and medically unfit.’ See MSPC/2D224.
When Julia Keogh died in February 1932, her husband Simon incurred considerable funeral expenses that he itemised in detail (amounting to £43 9s.), and that he asked the Army Pensions Board to reimburse, but his request was denied as outside the terms of the applicable legislation. Under considerable political pressure the Minister for Defence, acting under the terms of the 1953 Army Pensions Act, finally agreed in 1954 to make an annual allowance of £180 to Simon Keogh, effective from August 1953. The late Colonel Commandant Keogh’s father was then about 74 years old. See MSPC/2D344.