Paddy Walsh Pádraig Breathnach Paddy Dwyer

Many Tipperary people and from further afield are familiar with that ballad about Sean Treacy 'Tipperary Far Away'. Some may be able to sing all its verses but more could without doubt join in the last one;

His comrades gathered around him

To bid him a last farewell

He was as true and as brave a lad

As ever in battle fell.

They dug a grave and beneath it laid

Sean Treacy so brave and gay,

Who will never more roam to his own native home

In Tipperary so far away.

Few, though, would be able to say who wrote it. That man was Paddy Walsh or Padraig Breathnach of Camas, Cashel. Fewer still would be able to relate anything about the man who started life as a civil servant, joined the British army at the outbreak of World War 1, deserted some years later, joined the 1.R.A., took part in the fight for independence, became a great Irish teacher, rejoined the Civil Service and eventually died at the young age of 49 a couple of months before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Born in Camas

Paddy Walsh was born in Camas on March 5, 1890. His father, John Walsh, came over from Boherlahan to marry Catherine Hayes. There is a song, The Camas Party, in which one of the Hayeses of Camas is celebrated:

And for the bread and tay, boys,

'Tis Maggie Hayes that we may thank,

For she was the dacent girl

And didn't belong to the hungry rank .

There were seven in family, three boys, Paddy, Jim and WillIe and four girls, Mary Nora, Katie and Bridget. Jim emigrated to America, as also did Mary. Willie remained in the home place. Nora married Stephen Ryan, a bootmaker who lived on the Camas Road. Katie married Tom Doherty of Boherclough Street. He was one of the famous Cashel 'tanglers'. Bridget became a nun in the Mercy Convent, Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim and was the last of the family to die.


Paddy went to school to Mr. Merrick at Ballinahinch. The famous Fr. Matt Ryan was P.P. of Knockavilla at the time and a great supporter of things Irish. There was an assistant to Mr. Merrick who used to give Irish classes for a half-hour after school and it was here that Paddy, who became a fluent speaker and was to change his name to Pádraig Breathnach, learned his first Irish.

At some stage he changed school to Ardmayle. This change may have been caused by a dislike for Mr. Merrick, who was regarded by some pupils as 'cross'. He was to continue teching at Ballinahinch until about 1920. Jack Breen of Camas recalls clearly, hearing about the Solohead ambush in January at school.

Paddy Walsh went to Cashel C.RS. after Ardmayle and was good enough at the completion of his studies there to be called to the Civil Service. During this period his knowledge and love of the Irish language increased. Not only did he learn Irish at school but from the men of the Decies, who worked on the building of the railway, Gooldscross to Cashel, which was opened in December 1904. Another influence at this time was Tommy Strappe of Camas, who was a native Irish speaker. About 1910 Paddy was to write down stories in Irish told to him by Tommy Strappe.

At a later stage in his career Paddy Walsh, writing under the pen name An Fanuidhe Aerach in the 'Nenagh Guardian', had this to say about his love of the Irish langauage: 'For many years I had yearned to spend a quiet holiday among one of the Gaelic-speaking communities of Munster. From earliest boyhood I had conceived an utter dislike for the tongue imposed upon us by the Sassanach and, reared in a district where the olden speech still lingered, I always fondly looked southward o'er the Galtees to where I was told the ancient civilisation still held sway. And so, when the harvest was beginning to assume its golden hue, I sped to the land of my early dreams and whiled away a pleasant month in the beautiful district of Ring where a syllable of the foreign speech never passed my lips.'

Pierce McCan

Later he discovered that Irish was still the living tongue of middle aged people in the Newcastle area. He visited the place with Pierce McCan in the latter's 'splendid two-seater'. He had this to say later: 'Had McCan lived an Irish college would be in Newcastle now. He spoke of it that day and often afterwards. His energy, his sterling worth as organiser, his influence among the people, high and low, would have ensured the success of the enterprise ... '

The English Years

Having been called to the Civil Service, Paddy Walsh was posted to London in 1906 and was to remain there until 1916. He spent much of his time in Whitehall. He became involved in Irish classes in London and was delighted to give voluntarily his services as an instructor. He was conscripted in 1916 and after training was sent to the Eastern theatre of war. He got malaria and was hospitalised for some time in Malta before being shipped home to England.

There are two different accounts of what happened after that. One states that while on furlough to Ireland he deserted. The second, by Ernie O'Malley, tells us that Walsh deserted from a garrison in Cahirciveen in 1917 and brought his rifle with him.

Whatever the version he went on the run and took the name, Paddy Dwyer, by which many people in the Upperchurch-Kilcommon area were to know him. It was in that area around Keeper Hill that Paddy was to find refuge and he was to use his army experience to teach some of the Upperchurch men the use of the rifle. He was to be involved in the movement until the Truce. Just before it he was arrested in the Rossmore area. On the occasion he failed to draw his revolver as it got stuck in the lining of his coat pocket. Paddy was to spend some time in jail as a guest of His Majesty's Government. Ernie O'Nalley recalls him: 'I had spent many an hour with him as he puzzled out the derivations of surrounding placenames, for that was his delight.'

Post Advertiser, August 1986, Vol. 2, No. 5