Patrick O’Brien was born in Waterdale, Claregalway in 1895. He joined the volunteers in 1914 and did drilling and training in arms for active operations.
In 1916, he saw active service at Carnmore Cross, at the Agricultural Station, Athenry; Moyode, and Limepark. He was with the Claregalway Company (The Galway Brigade ) under the command of Nicholas Kyne. He was involved in a shooting engagement, firing at a party of RIC during an attack in Carnmore on the Tuesday and at another party of RIC at Athenry on the Wednesday.
He was captured by the RIC in a potato field in Mullacutra, Claregalway, and subsequently interned at Galway, Richmond, Wandsworth, Wormwood Scrubs, and Frongoch from May 10 to August 9. Frongoch was an internment camp in Wales that became known as ‘the University of Revolution’.
After his release, he saw service from 1917 to 1920, mostly resisting conscription and collecting funds, opposing British rule, drilling and training in arms mainly in the Claregalway Bog area.
From April 1 1920 to September 30 1923 he was in the Irish Republican Army, Claregalway Company, under the command (at different times ) of M Grealish, John Lally, Pádraic Feeney, and Thomas Ryan. He was blockading roads, evading capture, carrying despatches, shifting arms, sometimes guarding the column, and once involved in a raid for mails. In 1922, he joined the Flying Column.
He also served as battalion quartermaster of the 3rd Battalion, Tuam Brigade, under the command of Pádraic Feeney.
During this time, he was on the run and was involved in the attacks on the Headford, Lough George, and Killeen RIC Barracks and at the Kilroe attack on a lorry carrying a party of RIC and Black and Tans.
“From 1914-1923, I was practically all the time engaged in duties for the organisation through which I lost my means of livelihood.”
During the Civil War he took part in fighting against the National Army at Lisavalley and at Brownsgrove, an attack on Tuam Town Hall and another at Mount Talbot, as well as serving as IRA battalion quartermaster. After the truce, he lived in St Bridget’s Place where he and his wife Winifred (née Lenihan ) reared their three children, Kathleen, Denis, and Marie. He worked for 32 years as caretaker in Galway County Council, a job he loved. When he retired, he moved to Mervue where he died peacefully at the age of 95 in 1990.
His life during the Rising and the War of Independence was probably much the same as for many other volunteers in the Galway area. He always carried the trauma of that period with him and would occasionally become agitated in his sleep. When he was close to death and sleeping most of the time, he woke up suddenly once and asked the woman who was minding him “Were those despatches delivered to Regans?” ‘They were,’ she replied, and he went back to sleep. He was reliving his War of Independence days.