This will be a short article as there are two excellent sources already in existence and linked to below.

Jeremiah ‘Sam’ Robinson was an inner-city Dub accepted into the Squad as a teenager. He spent six months in Kilmainham Gaol after the Custom House attack.

Already a good soccer player from his early years, he showed more sporting prowess while interned. Himself and John Muldowney reached the final of a prisoners’ handball tournament on 24 August 1921. Unfortunately they were runners-up to Tom Kehoe and Frank Brennan.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Civil War times. Sam, back left, with Tom Kehoe, Specky Griffin and seated, Jim Slattery, Pat Moynihan and Joe Dolan (Military Archives IE-MA-ACPS-GPN-042).

He was later a Captain in the National Army and worked in civilian life as a Plasterer and Building Contractor. He was also an excellent soccer player, a skillful and hard-to-beat defender who played for the all-amateur Bohs in League of Ireland and earned two caps for the Ireland international team. He went on to play professionally in south Dublin for a time. During World War 2 Sam re-joined the Defence Forces for the duration of The Emergency. He had married Kate Glynn while they were both minors and they raised a family of six.

Sam is 5th from left with old comrades at Kilmainham, 22 March 1971 (courtesy of Des Flynn whose father Tony is 4th from left)

Sam was active in the Association of Old Dublin Brigade Old IRA and the Plasterer’s Operative Society. After being widowed in 1971, he lived with a daughter on the Swords Road. Sadly he died suddenly in 1985 while on a holiday in Scotland. Jeremiah ‘Sam’ Robinson’s remains were repatriated and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Plot VH112.5, Glasnevin Cemetery

Origin and Background

Where Sam was born (OSI Maps)

The youngest of three surviving children of Charles (a Van driver) and Elizabeth nee Kennedy, Jeremiah was born on 11 June 1904 at 28 Arran Street East (His nickname Sam would come later on). The young Robinsons – mam Lizzy, daughter Molly and sons Christy and Jerry – suffered a huge loss in 1905 when their father (aged only 24) died from enteric fever. Little Jerry was still just a baby, 14 months old. Lizzy had to return to work in the Fish Market, a long-time Kennedy family trade; her sister Dinah lived with them to help look after the home; and her brother Jerry and cousins lived next door. At least there was plenty of family support.

The Brothers Join Up

Jerry aka Sam and Christy were close, played football together and also volunteered for the IRA. During the Tan War they lost two cousins shot dead in October and November 1920. Christy became a Section Leader with H Coy, 1st Battalion. Young Sam was only fifteen when he joined up. He was a well-built lad, big for his age, so he claimed he was seventeen and was accepted.

The Second Squad

He showed his youthful mettle on one occasion in the presence of no less than Michael Collins. There are a few versions of the tale. From an interview in the 1970s, our California-based contact James McCormick recalls: “He [Sam] told me one story about how when the second squad was being formed, Michael Collins came to give them a look-over.  When he saw Sam, who was a baby-faced 17-year-old, Collins snorted “I didn’t know we were robbing the cradle.” To which Sam, who had the spirit of a fighting bantam gamecock, responded “I was out with the Fianna in 1916 – and I’ve been fighting ever since!”  According to Sam, Collins was suitably impressed by his bellicosity”.  He was also backed-up by his superior Paddy O’Daly and by his pal Vinny Byrne. The mention of 1916 may be stretching things a bit but Sam could truthfully have claimed being out on Bloody Sunday as a fifteen-year-old!

Hectic Times

The year of 1921 was surely the most momentous in Sam’s young life. After being drafted into the Squad, he became on full-time soldier and quit his job. On 18 April he married Kate Glynn from Dominick Street. Having participated in the armoured car capture on 14 May, he was arrested at the Custom House later that month. He spent his 17th birthday in Kilmainham Gaol and he was still there when Betty, his first child was born to Kate on 29 July. In December Sam was finally released in time to spend a first Christmas with his young wife and daughter and enjoy a short spell of peace during the Truce.

Then it was back to the IRA in the Celbridge camp and enlistment in the National Army. Robinson was one of the first contingent who marched to take over Beggars Bush Barracks on 1 February 1922. He was included in the famous photo taken a few days later.

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Sam in the back row behind Billy Doyle. Isaiah Conroy, Ned Breslin and Joe Leonard are also shown (via Gary Deering).

Sam became a First Lieutenant and served in Co. Kerry during the Civil War. Then he was made acting Captain in Sligo with the Special Infantry Corps. He – and his brother Christy – became disillusioned with the Army afterwards and both resigned on 29 March 1924 to go back to civilian life.

Other Voices on Sam

We will leave it at that to avoid too many spoilers. The rest of Sam and Christy’s fascinating story is best left to one writer who previously told it online; and Sam’s youngest son who has just had a book published.

On the great blog site A Bohemian Sporting Life is an excellent piece, including more photos, on the Robinson brothers. Among many other things, it explains how Jeremiah Robinson became known as Sam. A hint is shown to the right; Readers of a certain vintage will probably remember it from their youth…

Now, from a Robinson family angle, comes the recently released ‘The Seed of Freedom’, written by Sam’s son and Group member Eamonn Robinson. For a first-time author, Eamonn has done a brilliant job. In his historical novel based on fact, he makes his Da the main narrator of the Robinson story in two parts – up to 1924, the end of his first spell in the Army; and then his football career, up to 1939.

From the publisher:

“A true story of two brothers living in the heart of Dublin, caught up in the cauldron that was the 1916 Rising. Drawn into the fight for Irish freedom as volunteers, this book tells the story of their experiences of the carnage that was the War of Independence and the Civil War through the eyes of Sam as he becomes member of “the squad” and then the National Army. A love forged in uncertain times.”

And, the Introduction to the book itself:

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921 The Seed of Freedom

An enjoyable and excellent book well worth a read, covering social history, family ups and downs, military action and football. Eamonn tells it naturally in his own words, there’s great family dialogues any reader would identify with. ‘The Seed of Freedom’ is available from Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Rathmines and also amazon (paperback and Kindle).

Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921 The Seed of Freedom
Cover of Eamonn’s book
Burning of Dublin Custom House 1921
Florence and Eamonn with Sam’s photo at a past Custom House commemoration (Gerry Cassidy).

Eamonn and his wife Florence are regular attendees at the annual Commemoration. They recently celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary. We wish them congratulations and many more years together as well as every success with the book. And we pay our respects to Sam Robinson, a Custom House Fire Brigade Man.

Des White