Pearson brothers were killed a week after their siblings attacked an IRA roadblock

THERE has been a great deal of unfounded and ill-informed speculation resulting from the recent RTÉ Hidden History documentary on the Pearsons of Coolacrease.

The basic facts are as follows. About a week before the Pearsons were executed, an IRA roadblock at Cadamstown was attacked by the three elder Pearson brothers at about 11.30pm. They shot three people: my third cousin, Mick Heaney, Tom Donnelly (both of these on guard duty while the roadblock was being constructed) and ex-RIC man Bert Hogg who had been arrested by Mick Heaney after leaving the Pearsons’ house about 10 minutes earlier on his way home to Lackaroe via Cadamstown village. Mick Heaney was seriously wounded in the stomach and, though his life was saved in the short term, he never recovered and died of his wounds about five years later. Tom Donnelly was slightly wounded in the head by further Pearson volleys when he came to Mick Heaney’s assistance. Bert Hogg was shot in the leg and back as he ran towards Cadamstown from the Pearson attack. He made it home through Cadamstown village, but lost a lung as a result of the attack.

Apart from Mick Heaney, who was spirited to hospital after getting first aid from Dr Brown in Kilcormac, all of the men on duty that night were arrested in their homes the following day by a party of RIC and British troops who took over the whole of Cadamstown.

In the village, a British officer was heard ticking off one group of the RIC: “Did it take 10 RIC to arrest two men?” This party was heavily ambushed at Eglish, but succeeded in getting through to their base in Tullamore.

There is no mystery about any of this. I described it in detail in my book, At the Foot of Slieve Bloom (2002). Bill Glynn, the last surviving member of the roadblock party, died just a few years ago.

The resulting execution of two of the Pearson brothers had nothing to do with sectarianism or land-grabbing. In the Cadamstown area, most Protestants and most Catholics recognised the democratic mandate which had been won by the independence movement. The most prominent Protestants involved in the local IRA at the time were the Mitchells of Rahan.

The most prominent local opponents of the independence movement were Fr Holohan, parish priest of Kinnitty, and the Pearsons. As to land-grabbing, when William Pearson sold Coolacrease to the Land Commission, the first to obtain land there, under the direction of Fr Holohan, were people with no IRA connections. These are the main facts which I made available to the recent documentary.

What was actually broadcast was entirely the responsibility of the programme-makers.

Paddy Heaney

Cadamstown

Birr

Co Offaly

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