Eugene Dunphy tells how a freedom fighter from the Premier County became immortalised in song


Back in 1983, the Tipperary town of Ballyporeen was visited by a number of tall, bronzed-looking American males. Not the usual tourist types, they were secret service agents on engaged in a reconnaissance mission; more specifically, they were acting as guards to twenty-five-year-old Ron Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States.

During their stay, they made some tape recordings of local people, a few of whom sang songs from the area. At exactly 2.45pm on the 3rd of June 1984, President Reagan delivered a long-awaited speech in Ballyporeen, during which he talked proudly of his Irish roots and of how much he enjoyed listening to the tapes back in Washington.
Singling out one particular ballad, he had this to say: ‘A few lines stuck in my mind … they went like this … “And I’ll never more roam from my own native home, in Tipperary so far away.”

The ballad in question was written by Padraig Breathnach, in commemoration of Seán Treacy, a member of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, later the Irish Republican Army, who died in a shoot-out in 1920.
Born on the 14th of February 1895, in Soloheadbeg, Tipperary, Seán Treacy left school at the age of fourteen, and became involved with the Gaelic League and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Incarcerated for two years after the Easter Rising, he was released from Mountjoy Jail in the summer of 1918.

In January 1919, he was one of four volunteers who took part in the ambush of two policemen at Soloheadbeg, the incident lighting the touch-paper to what became known as the Irish War of Independence.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own