The Avondhu - By The Fireside
COMPENSATION FOR ‘MOST NOTORIOUS REBEL IN THE GALTEES’?
He also attracted attention from the British after buying and also renting out a number of motor cars, which were being used to transport members of the I.R.A. After the British realised this, they decided to take action against the Crowleys, and, in early July, they planted a bomb outside of Crowley’s Drapery, which exploded, smashing all the windows. The constables responsible for it came from Kilmallock, with the officer in charge stealing a bicycle from the shop which he would later gift to his young son.
At 3am on the morning of July 16th, a shootout took place between the R.I.C. and Timothy’s sons, who were holed up in the drapery shop. Eventually, the Crowleys ran out of ammunition, with John, Michael and Peter being arrested, while the rest managed to escape to the mountains. As they were being driven away to jail, Timothy shouted after them, “No matter what happens, tell them nothing!”
After the initial attack, Timothy expected that there was more to come – he was right. He heard ahead of time that the Crown forces planned to attack the drapery once more on the morning of July 25th, and so he pre-emptively emptied his safe, taking with him a number of documents and photographs to the house of his brother-in-law, Denis O’Grady, across the street.
That night, he and his wife Ellen stayed there. With the building having been temporarily abandoned, British soldiers doused it with petrol and set it on fire, burning the drapery shop to the ground. The damage caused to the premises and stock amounted to £22,500, valued in excess of one million euro today!
While, at first, Timothy was left alone by the British authorities, police arrived in Ballylanders not long after to interrogate him. They asked him where the automobiles in his possession were, to which he reportedly replied, “If I knew, I would not tell you.” He was then arrested and thrown in Limerick Jail, where he was held without any charge whatsoever – at the time of his arrest, Timothy had just turned 73.
There was much discussion between various elements of the British army over what was to be done with him, and, specifically, over whether or not he should be compensated for the money he was owed after the destruction of his drapery.
The Major-General of the 6th Division wrote to General HQ in Dublin Castle saying, “Payment of such an amount to this man is most undesirable and is calculated to make us a laughing stock to the rebels.” In another letter, a lieutenant colonel of the 1st Division, said, referring to Timothy, “The man himself, though old, is the most notorious rebel in the Galtees.” He went on to declare that, “If he obtains the money allocated to him by the Crown, it will be used in all probability for the murder of the Crown forces.” While many within British intelligence wanted Timothy Crowley tried and convicted, it was eventually decided to release him in September 1920.
After his release, and due to the destruction of his home, Timothy and his wife moved in with her brotherin-law John Culhane, a draper in Glin. It was there that he passed away on October 19th, 1921, aged 74, from sudden heart failure. His funeral was widely reported upon, and was one of the largest ever seen in that part of Limerick. Thousands of people attended his burial in the Crowley family plot in St. John’s Graveyard, Knockainey, with hundreds of Volunteers from various companies marching behind the hearse to the graveside. After the grave was closed, volleys were fired and the Last Post sounded. Donnchadh O’Hannigan, Commandant of the East Limerick Brigade, gave the following speech in a combination of English and
‘Officers and men of the East Limerick Brigade, we are here today to do honour to a great Irishman. We have given him the greatest honour that a soldier could be given. Though he did not actually fight, he is worthy of the greatest honour a nation could give its dead. We shall miss his sound advice, freely given in our every need. To his sorrowing wife, to his scattered family, we extend our heartfelt sympathy. To those, especially of his sons who languish in English jails, we send our hearts’ sympathy – those splendid sons, whose lives and prospective happiness he gave unselfishly to the cause of nationhood. He rather encouraged than slowed the active part they were taking in the Volunteers. It was sad that he should not have lived to see his ideals realised, that he should not have lived to welcome home his sons, after the suffering and hardship they have cheerfully undergone for Ireland’s sake’.
All of Timothy’s children would go on to survive the war, though not without enduring a number of trying ordeals. John and Peter, after their arrest, went on hunger strike for 94 days in Cork Jail, which they survived, gaining the Guinness World Record for the longest hunger strike in history without any food whatsoever in the process. Tadhg and Michael also spent a good deal of time in prison, though they were released when the War of Independence came to an end.
One of the brothers, Joseph, served as an intelligence officer, and took part in many daring undercover missions in both Ireland and England. The brothers all fought on the AntiTreaty side during the Civil War, and, a few years after its end, Tadhg was elected as a Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick – he would go on to serve the better part of 35 years as a TD and later as a senator.