Thomas ‘Baby’ Duggan

Thomas Duggan was popularly known as “Baby” because of the contrast to his considerable proportions. He was born in 1899. Although only a boy, he was one of the first to take up arms with Liam Mellows in the lead up to the Rising. When the Rising was quelled, he was arrested with many others and interned at Frongoch. He was kept there until Christmas, when he was released under a general amnesty.

When he came back to Galway, he was appointed as 1st Brigade Quartermaster with the IRA. His activities and reputation made him one of the most sought after men in Ireland by the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans. In the Hue and Cry, the police newspaper, a reward of £1,000 was offered for information which might lead to his capture, and this amount was later increased to £10,000, a vast amount of money at the time. He managed to avoid capture, often in sensational circumstances.

In January 1921, he presided over a meeting held in Castlegar Cemetery (for security reasons ) during which it was planned to ambush the Tans near Kilroe on the Galway-Headford road. “Baby” was to lead 40 to 45 men in the attack. At 9.40am a lorry approached carrying some 15 Tans, but unfortunately at the same time a man with a horse and cart arrived on the scene from the other direction and this caused some of the IRA men to hold their fire. “Baby” threw a bomb at the lorry which missed by inches but exploded. The lorry stopped and the Tans took cover under it. A 30 minute battle ensued during which eight Tans were wounded, some seriously, while one of the attackers, Charley Quinn, was wounded in the hand. As the Volunteers’ ammunition was being exhausted, they were forced to retire. Charley Quinn eventually received professional medical attention in Mrs Long’s in Kiniska, but it was not safe to keep him in one place for long, so he was moved to Michael Murphy’s in Gortaclera. From there he was moved secretly to Dr Michael O’Malley’s private nursing home, St Bride’s in Sea Road, for nine days. The Tans raided the home, but Charley made his escape though a back window with the assistance of members of staff. He was assisted to a county council van in Shantalla where he remained for two nights. Finally, he was secretly moved to the dugout in Cregboy, Claregalway, where he remained until the truce. “Baby” Duggan operated largely in County Galway, and occasionally in County Clare, as by now he was attached to the 2nd (South West Galway ) Brigade. He made regular visits to Dublin and he knew Michael Collins very well.

After the truce, he took the Republican side and was eventually arrested by Free State troops at Rockwood, taken to Galway Gaol, from there to Limerick and, ultimately, was detained at Newbridge. He went on hunger strike there and was released with a number of others in June 1924. He was in indifferent health and after a few months, went into St Bride’s Nursing Home where he died on February 12 1925. He was buried at Castlegar Cemetery.

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