Thomas J. Rudden (1901-1983)
Thomas Joseph Rudden was born in Stradone, County Cavan in 1901. Thomas Rudden was the S" child of seven born to Bernard and Mary Anne Rudden. Based on census records as of age 9 years he was still described as a "scholar" or student in U.S. terms. The family demographic for the time would have been average for education, above average for land wealth and slightly above average for monetary wealth. The home he was raised in was situated in the Parish of Kill. The property was rugged but not hilly; it was fed well with two separate brooks for fresh water and fish. His Father and older brothers had been involved in the republican cause for some years prior to Thomas turning 14, and his entry into the cause. The Rudden families were members of the Laragh Volunteers primarily and records furnished for this biography also indicate that Thomas's older brother Matthew was Staff Captain of the small group, however they are also found to be on the rolls of the Castletara Volunteers. (1) It is not known if the Laragh volunteers were absorbed into the larger force, later identified as the 3rd Battalion of the Irish Republican Army. While Thomas worked two jobs, one working on the family owned dairy farm that at the time consisted the most heads at the time, they also had chickens, pigs and harvested jack rabbits on the expansive property. He had also worked the afternoons and early mornings covering a small delivery route for McGonigal's Creamery.
In regards to his service before March 1920, it is expected he was involved with the occasional skirmishes with the RIC in guerrilla style tactics, none of which would have brought much attention to him or the service organization since more substantial interruptions were being caused in Dublin.
With the arrival of the Black and Tan's (B&Tís) in Ireland march 1920, tensions soared and skirmishes and retaliations became more frequent. The attitude and outright criminal actions of the Black and Tan's are now well known. Right from the start the let the people know they were not restricted by common law nor were they subject to orders of the RIC or the British Army. They went about their way creating hell on earth for all the supporters of Republicanism. In many instances they attacked men, woman and children for merely having their hands in the their pockets, they on numerous times forced families into the curb to use their homes as a temporary patrol base, often ransacking the contents and taking anything of worth. Another way they enjoyed making life a miserable hell was destroying mills and creameries to hurt trade:
When the B&T 's came to Stradone, Thomas was still dong his early morning deliveries, for the creamery. Because of his short slight stature, he was soon accepted as a non-threat to the B & Tís at this roadhouse barracks they took over for a few weeks. It had a sturdy padlocked front gate and side gate entry, since the deliveries from the creamery came at an extremely early time, it was decided that hiding a key for Thomas to let himself in and make his delivery would be easier than someone having to come out to let him in. One night, that key was used to let a member of the local volunteers to enter the compound and set it ablaze while 9 B&T's were asleep upstairs. When they tried to escape the flames they were met with an ambush from several members shooting over the walls. While the action was praised as "most successful", it was not noted how many KIA or WIA's were involved.
Thomas was never fingered for the job, since the key was placed into the wall in the regular hiding spot. But he had earned the nickname of Tom the Torch. While the B&T 's did pull out, they were soon to return and many service actions took place over the next year but nothing significant beyond a single line entry. There was one incident that did involve Tom when a troupe of RIC came across him North of Stradone, he was found to be in possession of a Wembly Revolver, and he was taken into custody and without trial was faced with internment at Mount Joy Jail. Once again because of his size and stature he was overlooked quite easily, while the length of his imprisonment was never ordered, due to the lack of a trial; he found himself in a position to walk away from jail, since he was often mistaken as one of the young locals used to keep the grounds. So this Oglach just simply walked out with the local help at the end of the workday. The official records indicate escape; he had told his son and nephews years later, that he thought they left the door open for him.
Shortly after returning home
and playing it safe and out of site, there was more than one
incident when the RIC and the B & Tís did come out to the
farm to try to collect Tom to no avail. One time was a very
close call as family lore has it since he was hard of
hearing he went out the backdoor when the front door was
kicked in. Since he was shedding a very dangerous light on
his family and feared for their safety as well as the house
and farm he hid out in the local hills since it was spring
and warm enough to remain at large. Finally he made the
decision along with the input from his brothers that his
time has come to either go down South or go up North to
avoid capture. Prior to leaving, he decided to pay a visit
to the former home of Major Thomas Burrows of the SA"
Regiment of the Foot Light Horses of the British Army. The
house had been just vacated by the former tenant farmer
family, and the Manor Horne/ Castle was being turned over as
a permanent garrison of the B& 1 's or RIC or combination of
both. On the evening of 29 June 1921, Tom the Torch
committed his last act of Republican Activity on Irish Soil;
he burned the entire house down to the ground. The only
things left standing was the stone facade and foundation. He
left his calling card for the family to know his work,
several McGonigal butter tubs were found amongst the ruins.
He started his travel to the port to hire on as a crewman to
go to Canada, prior to the boat pulling out he was taken off
the wharf and put in shackles and transported to Curragh
Prison, aka, the Race Track. It is not known for sure but
has been spoken quietly that a cousin may have turned him in
to save his own neck or was simply a tote. This could not be
corroborated with anyone or any records to discount or add
credence, but it has been spoken about enough and denied
enough that it should be noted with the hope of it being
once and all dispelled or authenticated. His stay at Curragh
is one that was never spoken of, by him or anyone in the
family, his internment was scheduled to be long, that much
was authenticated by an individual in Belfast that is alive
and well as of this writing yet must remain anonymous. In
time his memoirs and the history of the IRA will be
published and hope the actions of Thomas Rudden as well as
his brothers are recorded for historical value. Thomas once
again availed himself of his inability to remain behind bars
and did successfully escape and this time remained free for
the rest of his
life. He fled to Canada and entered the United States, settled in Newark, NJ. Met and Married Roe Ann O'Reilly, formerly of Virginia, Cavan. They were married October 10, 1926 and had 3 children Alice, Maureen and Robert Emmet and became foster parents of Margaret. Thomas and his family lived in Vailsburg prior to moving to Short Hills in 1970 he worked as a Union
Carpenter earning his 30 year Service Pin before retiring. Once retired, he found he couldn't sit still so he took a job at 70 years old for Tropicana Orange Juice as a night watchman until he was 79 years old. He never forgot his roots, our his support of one Ireland, he was involved in many Irish Organizations particularly Northern Aide, and to continue the tradition of Irish Pride he marched each year in the Newark Parade along with several organizations, but none as important as the Ruane association. This introduction of Thomas Rudden to the Fenian Brotherhood has been prepared with family lore and exploits that could not be corroborated by published articles, personal journals of family members, ledger accounts still classified and in the hands of the Irish Republican Army, Articles, papers and reports of Public Record maintained by Trinity College, Dublin or multiple sites found on the world wide web (WWW).
Because of the times and the lack of records, there are possible other service records that could be included possibly at a later date but this is too important for my family to publish anything that may call into question the authentic of his service to a free Ireland. As of this writing communications have begun to get official recognition from the Dail. Thomas Rudden is eligible to receive the three following Medals, while they are not being issued any longer; we hope to obtain authenticated certificates of his awards.
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Irish War of Independence Black and Tan Medal 1971-1921 w/
Curac Bar (Service/Action)
Irish War of Independence Survivors Medal 1921-1971
Irish 1916 Rising Survivors Medal 1916-1977