Thomas J. Brennan (1899 – 1992)
Thomas J. Brennan was born in Bunnacranagh, Curry, Co. Sligo, in 1899. He has led a life of dedication and sacrifice for a free and sovereign 32-county Irish Republic fought for by patriots down through the centuries and declared in the Easter Proclamation of 1916; a Proclamation sanctified by the blood of its signatories and defenders.
Tom became involved in Ireland's fight for freedom in 1914 at the tender age of 16 when he joined the Sinn Fein movement established in 1905 by Arthur Griffith and other Irish nationalists.
Shortly after the collapse of the Easter Rising and the execution of its leaders, Tom joined the Flying Column L, "C" Company, 1st. Battalion, East Mayo Brigade, and 3rd Western Division of the Irish Republican Army.
Tom and his Brigade compatriots was active during the War of Independence ambushing Black and Tans (Tans) convoys, attacking Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks, hijacking military supply trains and engaging in other guerrilla type actions.
During his War of Independence service Tom was arrested on two occasions by RIC / Tan raiding parties. The first arrest came as a result of an IRA volunteers meeting in Charlestown, Co. Mayo where he was assigned guard duty. After spotting an approaching convoy of Tans he alerted his fellow volunteers who made good their escape. In order to ensure that the others had gotten away safely he was the last to leave. By then the Tans had blocked his escape route resulting in his arrest and imprisonment in the Charlestown jail. Shortly after his arrest and before the customary beating he escaped through a bathroom window and returned to duty.
Following a second arrest in 1920 he was held in Renmore Barracks on the outskirts of Galway City. From there he was brought to his home in Bunnacranagh where the Tans intended to burn his family's home as a lesson to other potential volunteers. Only intervention by a member of the RIC averted this tragedy. Tom was then brought back to Remmore before being transferred to the Curragh Military Camp in Kildare where he remained for the duration of the war.
During the Civil War, Tom fought with the Republican forces. He was involved in a number of skirmishes against pro-Treaty Free State forces that were armed and assisted by the departing British army. Towards the end of the war he was captured by agents of the Free State and imprisoned in the Curragh military camp vacated by the departing British army. While there he went on a hunger strike that lasted for 21 days. Towards the end of the hunger strike his condition had deteriorated to the point where he was given the last rites in anticipation of his impending death. His indomitable spirit helped him survive.
After the Civil War ended Tom departed for England, as there was no work in Ireland for Republican volunteers. After a few years working in the coal mines, Tom came to the United Stated, settling in Kearny, New Jersey.
Here in America, Tom continued to keep the spirit of a United Ireland alive. Not forgetting the Irish martyrs of 1916, he helped to organize a Commemorative Mass held at St. Patrick's Pro Cathedral in Newark, New Jersey, each Easter Sunday to the present time.
His work in many Irish organizations including the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Giblin and McGovern Associations, and the Irish Cultural Institute, also contributed to the cause of Irish Freedom.
Tom has also been an active member of the Knights of Columbus and the Holy Name Society. In 1978 he was selected by the United Irish Association of Hudson County to serve as Grand Marshal of their St. Patrick's Day Parade. The Irish Cultural Institute awarded him with a plaque that reads,
"Presented to Thomas J. Brennan for his efforts in the cause of Irish Freedom