Funny how small the world can be. Details of life after the Burning and the ultimate fate of this Custom House Fire Brigade Man had proved elusive despite hints. His name was not unique and frustrating searches produced nothing for quite a while. Then something popped up in the same neck of the woods as the writer’s Rebel County (Cork) in-laws. Topping that, a descendant of the Harolds in Canada recently filled in gaps and added much more. So Paddy’s full story can now be told.


Patrick Harold was born in the townland of Aghavrin near Coachford on 29 September 1894 to Michael, a Shoe Maker and Honora née Corcoran who had 11 children. Times were tough yet all but one, the last little lad John, survived childhood. So Paddy’s siblings were all sisters.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Paddy Harold’s home area in Mid-Cork where he was born and grew up (

The family shifted within the locality to Rylane, then Tullig More where they settled. Sadly they lost their mother (aged 44) in 1910 – an all-too-familiar occurrence in our articles. The father Michael did not re-marry (and, on a happier note, lived in Tullig to the age of 81).

The 1911 census shows 16 year-old Paddy had followed his dad into the shoe-making trade. He moved to Dublin sometime after that.

Joins Dublin Brigade

Paddy Harold went on to become a member of the IRA – D Coy, 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade and when arrested at the Burning his address was 43 Eccles Street near the famous Mater Hospital. He spent most of 1921 in Kilmainham Gaol among his comrades from the Custom House operation.

What happened after his release was sketchy. He is not mentioned in online records from the Civil War era but he was included in Old IRA lists dated 1935 and 1941. By that time he had moved back to Co Cork and was working for Cork Harbour Board. However, beyond that and a blurry photo taken in Kilmainham, nothing more was known of his IRA activities.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
His entry in Cyril Daly’s autograph book (Kilmainham Gaol Museum)

A marriage and children’s birth records were found – in Co Clare. Otherwise, his later life remained unknown.

It seemed an article on Patrick would be pretty short. Then came a lucky find.

Old Neighbours

In 2018, a completely separate exercise by chance revealed where Paddy Harold’s life story ended. American cousins of the writer’s lovely mother-in-law originally from Co Cork, had popped up online. Wanted to visit the old farm, other haunts and burial place of their shared ancestors. After some research and with local guides, their pilgrimage worked out grand. They went home delighted – and left this writer happy too. It turned out Paddy Harold was buried in the same graveyard they had visited.

So a Custom House Man’s grave was found in the wilds of Cork (well, in a book really) – by a Dub. Thanks to a first meeting in two generations between folks unrelated to him but originating in the same locality. Sometimes you get a very lucky double jackpot in research (In fact there were a couple more bonuses, as will emerge below).

‘Jackeens’ and ‘Culchies’ United in Dublin Brigade

‘Discovering’ the grave of a mostly forgotten Corkman who returned home after fighting in Dublin felt like a good way for a Dub to pay him some bit of respect.

It will be obvious to most Readers and in particular, descendants of many Old Dublin Brigade men, that the capital’s IRA units contained many members who were not Dublin born.

The city has always been a destination for migrants from rural areas (and overseas). Obviously this is far from a recent phenomenon. Over the centuries countless people from other parts of Ireland have come to the city to work and live. Scratch most Dubs and you will find good culchie blood somewhere in their ancestry. Most stayed, some moved on. But they have left their mark and always played a part in making the capital a vibrant place of constant change.

Their contribution also counted in a big way during the War of Independence (We have already counted how many men arrested at the Burning were from the country). Some became famous, other like Paddy Harold are barely known at all. He, like Spivis Dwyer and a few more Custom House Men, had joined the city Brigade but was later to return to his native place. No matter if they did not stay, their activities and sacrifices for Independence on the streets of the capital while they fought there should never be forgotten.

Family Sources Emerge

Thanks to another lucky break – a recent online contact – further light has been shed on Paddy Harold’s experience and the man himself.

His grandniece Karen Schell of Ontario, Canada has been well aware of his IRA membership and part in the Burning for many years. She never met him or his sister, her Grandmother Mary, but did meet two of their siblings, Madge and Jane. They were advanced in age, their memory had fogged and they had few details to reveal. Karen did, however, glean some nuggets and has done excellent research. She also inherited some real family treasures – family correspondence including letters written home by Paddy from internment in 1921.

Those documents may be revealed some day – Karen’s choice. In the meantime she has very kindly shared some information and thoughts.

Tough Early Years

Karen says that after the death of Paddy’s mother Nora in 1910, the father Michael was forced to foster out his younger children. But, to his horror, he learned they were being exploited as servants and not getting educated. Acting decisively, he called on his eldest daughter Mary (Karen’s Grandmother) to return from her job to care for the kids and took them all back home. Mary was later fondly recalled by her younger siblings as a loving mother figure who was never cross with them!

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Mary Harold (later
Farrell), sister of Paddy

Mary Harold married in 1915 and moved to Dublin where she had two girls with fellow Donoughmore native Edmund Farrell (a brother of Denis, a member and at one time Captain of Courtbrack Company, 6th Battalion, Cork 1 Brigade, Old IRA). Then tragedy struck when Mary was widowed in 1918 while living at 43 Eccles Street.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
The Harolds’ house (on right) today (Google)

The family believes Paddy moved in to support her and her babies. But life dealt the poor woman a second hard blow when one little girl died in 1920. And of course the following year saw Paddy being interned. After his subsequent move back to Cork, it may come as no surprise to learn that Mary left for England in 1925, never to return. There she had a second family before her death in 1953. She was not the first Harold to leave Ireland and would not be the last.

Emigration Once Again

While Paddy was to remain in Ireland for life, all but two of his nine siblings had left these shores before the Free State was even ten years in existence.

We have seen that Karen’s grandma emigrated in the mid-twenties. But the first Harold girl had left nearly 10 years earlier. During World War 1, Kitty got war work in England where she met and married a Canadian soldier, Richard Thompson. As a war bride, after the conflict ended she was given free passage to join her husband in Canada.

In 1926, Madge and Jo followed their sister to the same country. The year after it was the turn of Annie and Nora; and in 1929 Jane completed the Harold ‘invasion’ of Canada. Madge and Jane later moved to the USA where Karen met them decades afterwards.

Just one family among thousands from Ireland scattered abroad in the saga of emigration from the Free State. In the Harolds’ case it was seven out of 10! All that talent and energy lost to this country. Which, as we all know, remains a continuing fact of life even now (covid-19 allowing).

Those staying behind were Bridie (who remained single), Sheila (who married and lived in Mallow) and of course their only brother, Paddy himself.

Paddy’s IRA Experiences

Karen’s sources say Paddy “was shot in the arm at the Customs House. Soon after, he was picked up and taken to Arbour Hill. He was transferred to Kilmainham and spent the remainder of his time there, under threat of transfer any day. My Great Aunt Madge, who I had the great honor to meet, said that it was the treaty that saved his life”. Karen interprets the word transfer as code for execution (It may have meant transfer to Mountjoy Jail on charges which could quite conceivably have resulted in execution). And the signing of the Treaty did mean release for Paddy and his fellow internees in Kilmainham and other camps.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Patrick Harold is seated on the left with some Kilmainham Gaol comrades.

It is easy to think that freedom should have removed any shadow of a noose over them all. But for many, including Harold, the stress and bad memories would be hard to erase. At least he was able to go back to his sister’s home in Eccles Street where they stayed for a few years.

Marriage, Family and Later Life

After that, there is a gap in the details of Paddy’s life until 1939. On 25 January that year he married Clarewoman Mary Ahern in her native Clarecastle. His address was Tullig, Coachford, Co Cork, occupation Clerk.

Early the following year twins Noreen and Michael (RIP) were born in Clarecastle. The family then settled on the south side of Cork City where he worked at the port for the Harbour Board. Karen’s grandaunt Madge said her brother Paddy was with Customs. He is shown in uniform and street clothes below.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Paddy in later life

On 12 July 1972 Patrick Harold aged 77 passed away at 18 Nicholas Street in the Ballintemple area of “da real capital”. He was married, occupation Ship Inspector, like Specky Griffin.

Patrick’s family death notices in Cork and Dublin newspapers mentioned his service with “3rd Dublin Brigade, Old IRA” (a small error, but the respect was genuinely well-meant).

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
South Chapel, Cork – the city’s oldest church still in use (images from southparishistoricalsociety & buildingsofireland)

Paddy’s funeral mass was held in St Finbarr’s (South) Church in Cork City and he was buried back in his home locality at Donoughmore Old Cemetery, Stuake.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Resting place of Paddy Harold
(via Helen Keeley Healy)

The handsome weathered Celtic cross for Custom House Fireman Patrick Harold proudly shows his membership of Dublin Brigade. Sadly it’s no longer easily legible but a transcription was thankfully made by the author of a local history book (credit at end):

In Loving Memory of my dear husband Patrick Harold who died 12 July 1972 – Late 2nd Batt., Dublin Old I.R.A.

In one way that inscription stands out among all the headstones in the two local graveyards either side of St. Lachteen’s Church.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Old IRA plot and Memorial at Stuake/Donoughmore Cross (

The other Old IRA Volunteers buried there were from local units, killed in Co Cork during the Tan and Civil Wars. They are commemorated within a Republican plot in the New Cemetery and on a roadside memorial. Paddy Harold is buried in a family plot in the Old Cemetery nearby with no visible note of his service, or annual commemoration.

Karen Schell says: “There is some family talk that [Paddy’s wife Mary] was the one that pulled him away from the Cause. However, I suspect it lost his full support some time before [1939, when they married]. Letters from the period seem to paint him as withdrawn after he returned to Tullig More….. I believe he never applied for his pension and didn’t talk about his service with direct family.” So true of many of his contemporaries who quietly did their service for Ireland and tried to resume a normal life afterwards.

Paddy’s grave happens to be in what was a mainly anti-Treaty locality. His own position on the Treaty or his involvement (if any) in the Civil War is not known. Nonetheless, he is in very good company among men who were once all comrades on the same side in the Anglo-Irish War. It simply reinforces the tragic nature of the war among brothers in 1922-23.

In any event Patrick Harold’s pre-Truce service and involvement in the Burning deserve full respect, as does the long life life he led with his family and in his working career.

Not forgotten in Dublin – or Ontario. RIP.

Des White


Thanks to Karen Schell for sharing her photos and fascinating inputs to her granduncle’s story. She has fantastic family stories and anecdotes (a tiny fraction included above) which deserve to be published someday.

Headstone transcriptions and map in “Donoughmore and All Around” (Donoughmore Historical Society, 2010) by Richard Henchion.

One Final Bonus

Side-information Karen supplied led to proof of family lore on my wife Louise’s Cork side. Her mother and four aunties have always claimed their father Cornelius O’Leary (1897-1984) of Gurrane, Donoughmore was active Old IRA. They are fuming his name was omitted from a recently erected local memorial.

I found him in the Roll and History of A Company (Courtbrack), 6th Battalion. Now the O’Leary women have real ammunition to battle for acknowledgement of their dad. Knowing their spirit I would not fancy opposing them! D.W.