Joseph McGarrity  (1874 - 1940)

Joseph McGarrity was born in Carrickmore, County Tyrone, Ireland of farming stock with strong republican and nationalist leanings.  The Ireland of McGarrity's youth was asserting its national aspirations in a number of ways including demands for agrarian reform, agitation for home rule and Fenian revolutionary fervor.  In addition to these forces another sinister force that was working for the division of Ireland was taking shape in Ulster.  All of these competing forces and the consequences for Irish unity and independence influenced his actions for the rest of his life.

He immigrated to the USA in 1892 at the age of sixteen and settled with relatives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He would later become a successful business man who dedicated much of his time and money towards the cause of Irish independence.  He helped fund pro-independence movements back in Ireland including the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Dungannon Clubs.

At age nineteen he joined Clan na Gael, where he remained a leading light in the organization until his death. He was involved in Clan activities that provided direct support for the 1916 rising via arms and funding for the Irish volunteers.

Worthy of special mention are the following historic events where his patriotism and money played a significant role;

  • in response to a request by Padraic Pearse when he visited the United States  in 1914, McGarrity provided  financial support to the Irish volunteers. He also provided  financial support to keep Pearse's St. Enda's School open.

  • in the purchase and delivery of 1,500 Mauser rifles and 49,000 rounds of ammunition used by the Irish volunteers in the Easter 1916 uprising.  (The rifles and ammunition were brought into Howth Harbor in Dublin from Germany in July of 1914 by Erskine Childers and his wife aboard their yacht, Asgard)

  • in response to a request by Michael Collins in January of 1921 for  500 Thompson submachine guns,  McGarrity arranged for the purchase and delivery of the guns, along with ammunition. (Most of the guns were confiscated by U.S. agents in Hoboken. A few years later, the government returned the guns to Clan na Gael after payment of a fine. McGarrity arranged to have the guns shipped to the IRA in the 1930’s).

From 1918 through 1922, McGarrity published a newspaper called the Irish Press that supported the War of Independence. He counted among his close friends Sean MacDermott, John McBride, Michael Collins, Harry Boland, Sean T. O'Kelly, Sean Russell and many other leaders of the War of Independence. Padraig Pearse and Roger Casement stayed at his home while visiting Philadelphia and Eamonn De Valera stayed in close contact with him while on his tour of America.

In response to newspapers reports  in 1921 in which he was named a plotter in a British government 'white paper',  McGarrity issued the following statement;

"I have not read this latest English 'white book' and do not know its contents, but if the newspapers states that I plotted or attempted to secure aid for Ireland to drive out England's army of occupation, I assure you I would consider it an honor to be of the slightest service in securing such aid, and I would gladly accept it from Germany or any other power".

He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which among other concessions facilitated the partition of Ireland. He traveled to Dublin in 1922 to assist in mediating a pact involving Collins and De Valera to prevent war. Despite his best efforts at mediation the negotiations failed signaling the onset of the war between pro-treaty and anti-treaty forces. 

Following the victory of the British supported pro-treaty forces and the subsequent partition of Ireland, McGarrity continued the struggle for a free and united 32-county Irish Republic. Again, he used his own money and his newspaper the 'Irish Press' in his campaign to achieve the Irish Republic that so many of his friends died for.

He did not support the founding of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and opposed the party’s entry into the Dáil in 1927, and though having christened his child De Valera McGarrity, he irrevocably broke with De Valera in 1936.

In 1939, McGarrity supported the demand from Sean Russell for a bombing campaign in Britain. The Irish Republican Army declared war on England and launched what becomes known as the Sabotage Campaign, bombing targets throughout the country. The declaration, posted throughout Ireland, reportedly was written by Joseph McGarrity.

The flag  given by Captain George S. Anthony of the Catalpa to John Devoy of the Clan na Geal in 1896 at a gathering of 10,000 people in Rising Sun Park in Philadelphia, PA., was later given to Joseph McGarrity by John Devoy. The flag was kept at the Irish-American Club at 1428 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Later on it was moved to the MacSwiney Club, 510 Greenwood Avenue, Jenkintown, PA,

The flag was donated by the Clan na Geal to the National Museum of Ireland  in 1992.

Upon his death on August 5, 1940 in Philadelphia, a mass was held in the pro-cathedral in Dublin. McGarrity remained an unrepentant physical force republican all his life.

Contributed by: Josh Jacobs

cemetery AND grave location

Name:        Holy Cross Cemetery                                       PHONE NO.      (610) 626-2206

ADDRESS:    626 Baily Rd, Yeadon, PA 19050



Back to Biographies                                                                                                                                                                           Posted 02/15/09