The Patriotic Traynors & the War of Independence by Maura Murphy Gibson

Memorial of John Traynor died 1916, who is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Photo: Maura Gibson
Joseph Patrick Traynor 1900-1920
Photo: Maura Gibson from her book 'Who was Granny?’ featuring Joseph’s life and times.
Luke O'Toole of Tinahely, County Wicklow - General Secretary of the G.A.A. at the time of Bloody Sunday 21st November 1920
Photo: Maura Gibson
Boot & Shoemakers Union card of Thomas Traynor.
Photo: Maura Gibson
Thomas Traynor 1882-1921
Image courtesy of Tullow Museum
Joseph Patrick Traynor 1900-1920
Photo: Maura Gibson

The year 1920, the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday 21st November 1920, was to be a big year of commemoration in my family.  My uncle Joseph Traynor was one of the fourteen victims who were shot that day.  Due to the arrival of Covid19 which has changed many aspects of life, the commemorations will now be rather low-key affairs in comparison to the events we had planned.  A couple of weeks ago I stood in Croke Park with my first cousin Micheál Nelson and an R.T.E. crew making a documentary.  It was so moving to stand there and bring myself back in time to that fateful day.


The year 1798 marks a troubled time in Irish history.  It was the year my ancestor Michael (Tranery) Traynor was born at Carnew, County Wicklow, Ireland.  I now know, thanks to DNA that his ancestors were originally from County Monaghan. What is not clear is when my line of Traynors came south from Monaghan settling in South Wicklow and  Wexford in the 1600s.  In the early records in Wicklow, you will see many variants of the name.

By 1845, and the arrival of the famine in Ireland, Michael (Tranery) Traynor was a tenant farmer on the Fitzwilliam Coollattin Estate in County Wicklow.  The estate was made up of 85,000 acres covering some of the most fertile lands in Ireland. The estate was owned by the Fitzwilliam family.  Earl  Fitzwilliam was a good and generous landlord.  Michael Traynor held his farm directly from the estate.  The size of the farms held by tenant farmers varied in sizes from large to just enough to survive on.  Several of the tenant farmers were wealthy or so-called upper-class tenants. Some of them, to bring in more income, sublet to other tenants who were deemed lower-class or labouring class. There was very little if any profit for the landlord from the deemed lower-class tenants, there was none at all by the time of the famine. Wicklow was decimated by the famine.  Due to the overpopulation of the Coollattin Estate, Earl  Fitzwilliam had no option but to get rid of some of his lower-class and labouring class tenants either by eviction or emigration. While the lower-class farmer had some rights the labouring class had none.  Fitzwilliam’s agent Robert Chaloner took the names of those willing to leave on arranged paid passage to start new lives in Canada. They had the option Canada or the workhouse. Most choose Canada. They had to agree to pull down their huts and cottages before they left.  Amongst the many who left for Canada were a couple of Traynor families.  Several more Traynors left for the U.S.  In the 1850s members of my Traynor family left Wicklow for Australia where their descendants today are known as Trainors.

Forbidden union

By the late 1870s, my ancestor Michael Traynor had died. His son Thomas, my great grandfather, was farming on Fitzwilliam land at Aughrim, Co. Wicklow with his wife Bridget, daughter Maria, sons Luke and Michael.  By 1894 Thomas and Bridget’s son Michael (grandson of Michael, 1798) had fallen hopelessly in love and proposed marriage to a local girl, Kate Langrell.  Kate was the daughter of a local Protestant farmer.  Because of social and religious differences, this union was forbidden and very much frowned upon even to the point where Michael Traynor was threatened at gunpoint by Kate’s brothers.  The young couple decided to elope.

Dublin 1895 was a city very much divided by class. It was a city experiencing extreme poverty where disease was rife. It was in Dublin in 1895 that Kate and Michael married in a civil ceremony.  They then took up residence at Drimnagh Castle, Dublin where three of their six children were born. Their son Thomas died in Drimnagh Castle, Dublin on New Year’s Eve 1903. He was six years old. Joseph Patrick, their second son, was born on Saint Patrick’s Day 1900. He was to die twenty years later during The War of Independence.


Sean Seosamh Mac Tréinfhir: John Joseph Traynor. 1899-1916 -F. Company, 4th Battalion Dublin Brigade. (Irish Volunteers).

John Joseph Traynor was born in Dublin in 1898.  His father was James Traynor, a Wicklow Traynor his mother Sarah Brien.  John Joseph’s father James  Traynor was born in Wicklow in 1874 and baptised in Killavaney, Tinahely,  his father also James Traynor.   John was nearing his 18th birthday in 1916.  He was working as a clerk in  Guinness Brewery, having started in Guinness at the age of thirteen years as a messenger. His father James also worked in Guinness as an engine driver.

On the first day of the Easter Rising 1916, John Joseph told his mother he was going to play a football match.  John Joseph went to Dolphins Barn, Dublin where the I.R.A. were mustering. He was put on active service.  He was in a group of volunteers who were ordered to take over the 50-acre site of the workhouse, which housed 3,200 inmates, known as The South Dublin Union, now St. James Hospital.  The group took up their positions in tin sheds on the south side of the Union.  Realizing the huts did not provide adequate cover, they were about to move when they saw a large column of British troops from Richmond Barracks approaching. The small group of volunteers opened fire on the large body of British soldiers.  John was killed when he received a bullet through his eye.  His mother was in her home nearby and heard the shots during the battle.  John Traynor is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.

Croke Park Dublin – Bloody Sunday 21st Nov. 1920

Seosamh Padraigh MacTréinfhir :Joseph Patrick Traynor 1900 – 1920 – F. Company 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade.

My uncle Joseph Patrick Traynor was the second son born to Michael Traynor and Kate Langrell.  His father’s family members were Fenian supporters whose vision was for Independence for Ireland.   His mother’s family was always loyal to the British Crown.  Joseph was the second eldest of six children. My mother Catherine Traynor the second youngest.  Joseph was three years old when his older brother Thomas died at Drimnagh Castle in 1903 my mother not yet born.

Following the Easter Rising in 1916 many of the Irish Volunteers were imprisoned in camps in England and Wales.  However, following their release they regrouped with new members joining up.  The regrouping took place in 1917.  Joseph was seventeen years old in 1917 when he joined F. Company, 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade serving under Christopher Byrne and Padraig O’Connor.  His record shows he was quite active, taking part in parades, and raids for arms etc.  He was active until the morning of November 21st 1920

Bloody Sunday occurred shortly after the hunger strike and subsequent death of Terrance McSweeney, Lord Mayor of Cork, and the execution of 18-year-old medical student and Irish volunteer, Kevin Barry, in Dublin.

On 16th November 1920, the papers of the IRA chief of staff were captured by the British, resulting in the commandant and vice commandant of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade being seized in a raid.  In response, on Sunday morning, November 21st. Irish revolutionary and politician, Michael Collin’s hit squad, known as the Twelve Apostles, carried out a series of raids on British intelligence officers in Dublin known as the Cairo Gang.  Most of the victims were dragged from their beds and shot.  Those assassinated included British Army Officers, Royal Irish Constabulary members and a civilian informant.  As well as those killed, six were severely wounded.  The British Army considered retaliation.  Their thoughts turned to Croke Park where a crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 was expected to attend a football match.  Because of the unease in Dublin, the crowd was nearer 10,000.  The raid in retaliation was a combined exercise between the R.I.C. Auxiliaries and Black and Tans. The Black and Tans were feared by the Irish people.  They had been drafted into Ireland in March 1920 to boost policing.  Amongst their ranks were world war one veterans and ex-prisoners. Because of the lack of uniforms, they were given a mixture of clothing resulting in their becoming known as the Black and Tans.  They struck fear into the Irish population.

Match started late

On the morning of Bloody Sunday, Joseph Traynor told his mother he was going to play a football match in Crumlin, Dublin.  Where he went is not known. Although we do know where his commanding officer went that day.  Christopher Byrne and Padraig O’Connor with a select group went to the Eastwood Hotel on Leeson Street, Dublin to assassinate a Colonel Jennings. Unable to locate Jennings their mission was aborted.

Joseph who was football crazy and captain of his local football club Young Emmets at Fox & Geese, Clondalkin, arrived back home shortly before noon.  He had his lunch then set off with pals to enjoy the football match between Tipperary and Dublin taking place in Croke Park.

Following the events in Dublin on the morning of the 21st, the  G.A.A. officials were in dispute as to whether the match should go ahead or not. The match started 30 minutes late after Tinahely born Luke O’Toole, general secretary of the G.A.A.  gave the go-ahead to play and Mick Salmon the referee from Kildare threw in the ball.

Sheer panic

Just as the match started a plane flew overhead and set off a flare.  Five minutes later as a free-kick was about to be taken by Tipperary, the football ground was raided by security forces.  Sheer panic was caused by the appearance of Black and Tans on the pitch, the sound of shots ringing out in people’s ears as they scrambled to flee.  Michael Hogan one of the football players lay dead on the pitch.  A young woman, Jane Boyle, who was to be married that same week also lay dead.  Three young boys were shot, including one who was viewing the match from his perch in a tree.  Joseph Traynor was shot twice in the back. Despite his injuries, he was helped by the Ring brothers who lived nearby.  They carried him into their family home at Sackville Gardens where they placed him on the kitchen table.  The Ring house was then surrounded by the Black and Tans.  The Ring brothers carried Joseph out through the rear of their house to Love Lane where he was picked up by an ambulance.  He was taken to Jervis Street hospital but died one hour after admission from his injuries.  In total 14 people were killed and several injured.

Internment camps

Following Bloody Sunday, the police were aware the Ring brothers, Christopher, Patrick, Joseph and Liam (who were I.R.A. volunteers and the sons of a policeman) had helped Joseph.  They were picked up and sent to Ballykinler Internment Camp in Co. Down. They were then sent to Frongoch Prison Camp in Wales.  Peadar Kearney who was born in Dublin in 1883 and Liam Ring were close friends. Peadar (like the Ring brothers) was also active during the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. He too was a prisoner in Frongoch. Peadar wrote ‘The Soldier’s Song’ which was sung in the General Post Office, Dublin in 1916 and by the prisoners in Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales.  While in prison Liam Ring translated Peadar’s ‘The Soldier’s Song’ from English to the Irish version Amhrán na bhFiann, our National Anthem. Liam Ring (Liam O’Rinn) later became a translator in Dáil Éireann.

For the 2020 – 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Dublin City Council has honoured Joseph Traynor by naming Love Lane, at Sackville Avenue beside Croke Park, Joseph Traynor Way in his honour.

Joseph is buried in Bluebell Cemetery, Naas Road, Dublin.  A large Celtic cross by the headstone maker Leo Broe was erected by his comrades.

Thomas MacTréinfhir: Thomas Traynor 1882 – 1921

Thomas Traynor was born in Tullow, Co. Carlow, in 1882.  His father Patrick Traynor worked as a  Miller. He was born in Wexford.  Thomas Traynor was a shoemaker by trade.  After his father Patrick died in 1891 Thomas’s mother Mary with her large family moved to Dublin. When Thomas was 20 years old, he married Elizabeth Davis in Dublin.  During the Easter Rising of 1916, Thomas served under Éamon de Valera in the Bolands Mills Garrison.  Following the Easter, Rising Thomas was one of the prisoners sent to Wakefield Prison, in England.  He was later transferred to Frongoch internment camp in Wales.  After his release in 1917, he returned to his family and shop at Merchants Arch, Dublin.  Thomas led a quiet life, working hard in his shop while rearing a large family at Mount Brown, Kilmainham.

By 1921 Thomas was serving in Military Intelligence in the I.R.A.  On the morning of 14th March 1921 six Republicans were executed in Mountjoy Prison resulting on one of the most significant battles following the Rebellion. The battle took place in North Brunswick Street, Dublin. Thomas was arrested for possession of a gun.  In City Hall, Dublin on 5th April 1921, Thomas was charged with killing a cadet.  He was sentenced to death and was executed on 25th April 1921.  He asked that his watch and chain be given to his son, his bible to his wife. He walked the 15 yards to the scaffold unaided. His wife collapsed into supporters’ arms outside the gate of the prison, while his young son cried uncontrollably.

Thomas was buried with nine other patriots, including Kevin Barry, inside the wall of Mountjoy Prison.  They became known as the forgotten ten.  In 2000 the Irish government announced that the ‘forgotten ten’ would be exhumed and given the honour of a state funeral.  On the 14th of October 2001, the bodies were exhumed.  Their coffins, draped in tricolours, drew large crowds.

Nine of the forgotten ten, including Thomas, are buried in an elaborate plot in Glasnevin Cemetery Dublin.  Thomas left a wife and 10 children.  His wife did a fantastic job of educating and bringing up their children.  There is a song, the Ballad of Thomas Traynor, which was written to commemorate his life.  In addition to a Thomas Traynor museum in Tullow, Co. Carlow, a monument to Thomas stands in the centre of the town.  Some of Thomas’ artefacts including a letter to his wife which he wrote the night before his execution, his shirt and cigarettes are in the Kilmainham Goal Museum., Dublin.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha


Bloody Sunday

A poem by Maura Gibson

A plane in the sky, the throw-in at three,

‘Tans on the pitch a stampede to flee,

Shots rang out: Jenny fell to the ground,

No wedding bouquet a grave to be found.

Hogan would never another goal save,

Too young to die, his young life he gave.

A young boy was shot from his perch in a tree,

Two other boys fell, the total was three.

Sunday best dressed, football his life,

He would never see twenty-one or take a wife,

Green grass to red, another round fired,

Two in the back the target was found.

He ran to the wall is freedom in sight,

Grasping hands helping, Ring gave it his might.

In a strange house, he tried to hold on,

The word reached his home: her son he was gone.

In black, she stood – tall by his grave,

Her head bowed in sorrow – a salute comrades gave.

She walked away her son covered with sod,

A mother’s heart-breaking -Why? She asked God.

I dedicate my poem Bloody Sunday to Jane Boyle, my uncle Joseph,  the three little boys, William, Jerome and John, to Michael Hogan and the other nine men killed that day.

Details of my book Who was Granny? can be accessed on this site here

See document below for more information on Bloody Sunday:


Comments about this page

  • My great grandfather was Patrick Ring mentioned in this story. Thanks for keeping the Ring legacy alive.

    By Declan Ring (14/10/2023)
  • Very Interesting. John Joseph Traynor was my great uncle. According to our records, his father was baptized in Carnew.

    Ina Travers — I was interested to see that you say James Traynor and Kathleen (his 3rd wife) were buried in Clonalvy — we didn’t know where he was buried.

    By Kelly Mayer (22/03/2021)
  • Hi Maura.
    Enjoyed your information on the history of the traynor family.
    My gran aunt was married to James Traynor Johns father.
    It was James Traynors second marriage.
    He is buried in Clonalvy graveyard in Co Meath.

    By Ina Travers (11/01/2021)
  • Maura. Really interesting . John Josephs Father James Traynor married Kathleen Boylan . Kathleen was my gran-aunt. This was James Traynor; second marriage. They are both buried in Clonalvy Co Meath.

    By Ina Travers (09/01/2021)
  • Hi Maura,
    Thanks for this, a very informative read, enjoyed your book also, regards, John.

    By John Murphy (28/11/2020)
  • Fantastic read ! Really interesting, think they are also my past relatives !

    By Lisa Traynor (21/11/2020)
  • Great article Maura.

    By Paddy Lynch (18/11/2020)

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