Letter from Australia

The late Peadar Joseph McDonnell, son of Petie Joe McDonnell, Leenane, who led the Western Connemara Brigade 1920-1922.

The late Peadar Joseph McDonnell, son of Petie Joe McDonnell, Leenane, who led the Western Connemara Brigade 1920-1922.

I was interested in the following letter from Leonard McDonnell, about his father and grandfather. His grandfather, Petie Joe McDonnell, born in Leenane, worked as a coach builder with Kilroys of Newport, before joining the Irish Volunteers in 1914. He had good military instincts, and was well regarded by the Dublin IRA. In March 1921 he was appointed OC Western Connemara Brigade. Pádraic Ó Máille served under him. While on the run he married Matilda (Tilly ) Kilroy. They had eight children. He took the anti Treaty side during the Civil War. During World War II he served as a captain in the Irish Army. Afterwards he worked in the insurance business in Galway, and died in the city in 1967.

One of his children, Peadar Joe McDonnell, was born in Leenane in October 1930. He later moved as a boy with his family into Galway city, attended local school, and qualified as a engineer from NUIG. He married Nadia Cooperman in 1954, worked for a time in Nigeria, before emigrating permanently to Pearcedale, Australia, where he lived a busy and full life, much loved by his children and grandchildren. He died in 2010.

His son, Leonard McDonnell sent me the following:

I can’t tell you how much I loved the article you wrote about my grandfather, Petie McDonnell in the Galway Advertiser (Connemara becomes battlefield in Tan war March 28 ). A cousin in Ireland emailed me a PDF of Week III and I learned so much about my grandfather that I didn’t know. As a result I bought the book (The Men Will Talk to Me - Galway Interviews, by Ernie O’Malley ). If there were any other articles in your Galway Advertiser series about him that I could read I would really appreciate a copy or a link to them on your website.

My father, who was named after my grandfather, was one of eight children. He migrated to Australia with my mum, Nadia. I have six sisters and three brothers. I’m the second eldest. He, of course had lots of grandchildren.

(Leonard enclosed a picture of the grandchildren. I counted 30 of them! ).

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