Out in 1916 as a thirteen-year-old and a fighter in the War of Independence, Paddy Moore was captured at the Custom House. He stayed with Dublin Brigade when the IRA split in 1922. At the Battle of the Four Courts Moore was among the key defenders when the attacking Free State forces included many of his former comrades from the Burning. He later played professional soccer and was a widower twice. Here we take a look at his fascinating story.

Origin and Background

The son of a Postman named William Moore and his wife Elizabeth née Flood (both Dubliners), Patrick was born on 12 May 1902 at 16 Albion Terrace, off Inchicore Road in Kilmainham, Dublin. Paddy was the eldest and would end up having five younger sisters and one brother: Kathleen, Ellen, Sarah-Louisa, Maisie, Eileen and Billy. The family moved a short distance to Turvey Avenue, where they are recorded in the 1911 census. Amazingly both addresses mentioned are really close to Kilmainham Gaol in which Paddy would spend 6 months captivity at the age of nineteen.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Was Paddy Moore almost pre-destined for Kilmainham Gaol? (OSI Maps)

With the “Vols.” and IRA

Paddy’s Rebel outlook stemmed from his formative years. His granddaughter Mary Moore tells us that he wrote a lot and kept diaries of his experiences in 1916 and 1922 which are held by his daughter Barbara. Paddy recorded some of what he did, what he saw and how he felt during momentous events in his country’s history.

He had grown up in an Irish-Ireland environment. Attending Christian Brothers schools at Goldenbridge and later James’s Street, history lessons gave Paddy a huge admiration for the heroic failures of past revolutionary attempts – the United Irishmen in 1798, The Fenians in 1846 and Parnell’s political campaigns. He credited all that with his detestation and hatred of English rule in Ireland and a wish to see Ireland ruled by Irishmen.

Moore says he joined Na Fianna on 1 August 1915, the day of the massive staged funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. From then on he attended lectures at Emmet Hall, Inchicore, Dublin “with route-marches, parades, etc.”

The Rising – in his own words

He goes on to tell of Easter Monday, 1916 and the aftermath. Just a reminder – he was thirteen when the Rising broke out.

“With other companions playing at the ruins behind Kilmainham Gaol, we were alerted to the fact that ‘The Vols.’ had taken over the [South] Dublin Union and soldiers (British Royal Irish Regiment) from Richmond (later Kehoe) Barracks, were taking up positions at [South] Circular Road and Old Kilmainham, and firing at The Union. With a companion (R.I.P.) we made our way to the front of The Union, contacted Lieut. Holland and were told “Go home or you’ll be killed”. Three times during ‘The Week’, I carried messages from The Union to The Distillery at Marrowbone Lane.”

He recalled watching “The prisoners, heavily escorted, being brought to Richmond Barracks from the various garrisons in Dublin, following the surrender of Pearse & Co., at the GPO. Downhearted and dismayed as we watched them singing on route to Richmond Barracks and subsequently to Kilmainham Gaol and naturally expected brutal and repressive measures to be taken against ‘The Vols.’

Police and military later raided the houses of and arrested several sympathisers around Inchicore; but were all humanely treated, before being lodged in Kilmainham. The consensus of opinion was “They’ll all be shot”. At daybreak on 3rd May 1916, I was awakened by the volleys which killed Pearse, Clarke and McDonagh – and each morning up to the 12th May 1916 (my birthday) when the last two, James Connolly and Sean McDermott were executed.”

He was struck by how the executions suddenly changed the country’s mood from anger and disrespect for the Rebels to sympathy for their Cause – even from pro-British families with relatives and friends fighting with the crown forces in France.

Paddy also wrote that “Personally, I had no opinion as to the outcome of the Rising – my only worry was, would I be arrested.” Accepting 1916 as a military failure he felt “it undoubtedly roused a spirit of nationality among the people – and was responsible for the subsequent success of the IRA (1918/21) throughout the country. As James Connolly said to Padraig Pearse in the GPO, during “The Week” – “Thank God, Pearse, we lived to see this day”.”

War of Independence

Paddy Moore went on to join the Volunteers and subsequently the IRA. He is listed as a member of No. 3 Section, No. 4 Coy, 5th Battalion (Engineers) on both Critical Dates – 11 July 1921 and 1 July 1922. No military pension or medal records for him appear online. So, there are no details of his activities prior to the Custom House attack. But his granddaughter Mary was told one tale about a time Paddy had a close shave. “My Grandad was about to head up the canal, where it is now filled in at Rialto, when a large dog blocked him by snarling and Paddy had to turn back. It turned out that he was about to walk into an ambush and he credited that dog with saving his life. He used to say that the dog was a spirit.

The Burning and Kilmainham Gaol

On 25 May 1921 Paddy was arrested at the Custom House. Still a teenager, he was then living with his parents in Inchicore. He ended up with about 100 other prisoners in Arbour Hill before being transferred as an internee to Kilmainham Gaol. As he wrote later “I was born and reared within 150 yards of Kilmainham Gaol and naturally in my youth, heard my parents, relatives, friends and neighbours relate stories associated with that grim prison”. Yet it is unlikely he ever dreamt – or had a nightmare – that, one day, he himself would experience the place from within. Mary Moore was told by her grandaunts, Paddy’s younger sisters, that they would shout up to him in the prison from their nearby home on Turvey Avenue behind the institution.

The grim prison that loomed large – from the outside and within – in Paddy’s early life

While there in Cell 122, Section 2, Paddy wrote in comrade Billy Doyle‘s autograph book.

Paddy’s entry referring to Arbour Hill and Kilmainham, below that of Jim Conroy (using his alias). Courtesy of Winnie Doyle Dunne.

Civil War

When the IRA split over the Treaty, Paddy Moore remained with the Republican forces. On a list in Military Archives file WMSP34REF21416, he is shown as a member of the Four Courts Guards Company, No. 3 Section on 28 June 1922. His O.C. was Lieutenant Sean Burke (not the same man featured here). He fought there until the surrender.

The Mutineer

Paddy may have played a role in a famous episode during the heroic defence of the complex. Australia-based Conor McHenry, god son of Republican Joe McHenry, has been researching the Four Courts Garrison over many years. He has been studying and transcribing the Ernie O’Malley Notebooks collection in UCD Archives. Conor has found references to “Paddy O’Moore, his brother Tony and Dan Tracey were the crew of the Mutineer” (the armoured car used by the Republicans at the Four Courts). There is no contradiction in the use of the O’Moore surname – Paddy did use it himself at times as we will see.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Four Courts IRA men with The Mutineer. Is Paddy Moore included?

However, it turns out that Tony (Anthony) O’Moore from Drumcondra (MSP34REF10628) was not related to Paddy. So, possibly the second O’Moore on the crew was not the man we are discussing here; or perhaps O’Malley got some details wrong. As Paddy was with the Engineer’s Battalion, it is not at all beyond the bounds of possibility he was a crewman on the armoured car.

Whatever about that, Paddy did have one lucky escape, says Mary Moore: “[Grandunt] Nellie told me a story when I was very young about that day in the Four Courts – of how my Grandad was wearing a black coat. He was hit by shrapnel or something and a pocket watch he was wearing took the brunt. The coat ended up in a museum, I have no idea where. The watch was subsequently melted into a ring for my Dad which he lost in the sea when I was a child and we were at the beach.

Paddy was arrested after the surrender and taken to Mountjoy Prison as Prisoner No. 9808 per Conor McHenry. There, according to Moore family lore, he shared a cell with leading anti-Treaty man Rory O’Connor. A group of them, including Paddy, played chess the night before O’Connor’s execution on 8 December 1922. One chess set they used was handed by O’Connor to Custom House Republican Bill Gannon whose family still have it (Interesting article here). And Paddy Moore’s own set, which they also played with that night, is now with his daughter Barbara.

Moore survived internment and was released in 1923 to go back to normal life and peacetime for the first time in six years.

Private Life

Paddy was a good soccer player and turned out for two clubs across the water in Wales, Merthyr Town F.C. and Cardiff City who he signed for in 1926. Mary Moore says “There were two Paddy Moores playing football at the same time – they were known as big Paddy (my Grandad) and little Paddy (the more famous one, who also played for Ireland). I have my Grandads signing-on letter to Cardiff City in 1926“. 

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
The church where Paddy married Annie

He returned to Dublin the following year to get married. On St. Stephen’s Day 1927, Paddy tied the knot with Annie Byrne, a Railwayman’s daughter from Inchicore, in St. James’ Catholic Church, James’ Street.

He signed the register as Pádraig Ó Mórdha, home address 6 Turvey Avenue, occupation Clerk. The witnesses were his sister Ellen (‘Nellie’) and his bride’s brother Thomas.

Mary Moore adds “My aunt Carmel was born in Cardiff while Paddy was playing there and my aunt May and Dad [Bernard] were born after they returned to Dublin“. Not long after, in August 1933, however, the family suffered a massive blow when Mrs. Annie Moore died at the age of just thirty. Paddy’s mother and his unmarried sisters rallied round to rear his little girls and baby boy, allowing him to work as a clerk in Dublin Castle and also with the Stubbs debt/credit agency. In 1938, Paddy’s father William passed away.

During The Emergency, Paddy Moore volunteered again and in 1940 joined the Irish Army Reserve 26th Battalion for 1916-1921 Old IRA veterans.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Paddy in uniform, 1940s (courtesy of Mary Moore)

Mary Moore believes he left the Army after a stray bullet grazed his head during training in the Glen of Imaal. Paddy went back to civilian and family life.

His widowed mother Elizabeth died in 1957 and the record shows Paddy was then living at 3 Mourne Road, Drimnagh where he would remain for the rest of his life. He remarried, to Mary J. ‘Josie’ and they had one daughter together – Barbara already mentioned above. Sadly. Paddy’s second wife died in 1975.

Custom House Man Patrick Moore himself passed away in St. James’s Hospital on 27 November 1981. He was aged 80, a retired widower. His family death announcement mentioned his Old IRA links with the 5th Battalion and the Four Courts Garrison.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Irish Independent

Paddy was buried with his late wives in Bluebell Cemetery (plot 249, section C). He was given full military honours, as granddaughter Mary recalls “I remember the tricolour on the coffin and the armed salute – I remember the noise of the guns!”.

The Moore Family plot


Mary is rightfully proud of “my very brave Grandad who, by all accounts, was very bright and a great writer and poet. As a child, one thing stands out for me – he was a huge presence of a man to be in the room with.” At her father Bernard Moore’s recent 90th birthday party, Mary was delighted to hear from cousins that her granddad “was known as the most handsome man in Inchicore at the time!”. Mary also fondly remembers Paddy’s sisters who helped raised her own father and the stories they told. They are buried together in Palmerstown Cemetery.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
The grave of three of Paddy’s sisters and his brother-in-law.

This writer is very grateful to the Moore family for sharing memories which added so much to the story of their own Custom House Fire Brigade Man.

RIP Paddy Moore.

Des White