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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Michael Purcell Papers

Pearson family 1921...

The Past is a Distant Country.

By kind permission of Michael Purcell  12/2009


Pearson family 1921...The Past is a Distant Country.

While not in the context of the present discussion on various religious movements on the IRL-CARLOW Mailing List, but I do agree with Peter that one should not loose sight of the brutal murder of the Pearson brothers but the whole country was in turmoil at this period and very many injustices were carried out on all sides.

While no one could condone murder or roadside executions one has to remember Hartleys words "the past is a distant country, they do things differently there".

But there is another side to the unfortunate and sad deaths of the Pearson brothers. Some years ago I interviewed a member of the IRA who had been involved in incidents leading up to the event. The following is a synopsis of what he told me.

"The Pearson family lived originally in Luggacurran in the Queens County, ( Laois). In 1912 they bought a 300 acre farm for 2,000 near Birr in the King's County (Offaly) . In 1920 they attempted to stop neighbours using a traditional "Mass Path" through their land, this was the start of bad relations with some of the locals. Shortly before the Truce was signed orders were issued to branches of the local branch of the IRA to block roads in the area in preparation for an attack on the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the regiment had been stationed in Birr since January and had mounted several raids on the local Nationalist population in the area.

One night while felling trees for a road block members of the IRA were shot at, three of them were wounded. It was known that the three Pearson brothers had been involved in this attack. In the following days many members of the IRA in Birr and Tullamore were rounded up by the RIC and the British Military. It was believed that this occurred because of information passed on by the Pearson's. Orders were issued from Dublin that in retaliation the three Pearson brothers were to be executed and the family home burnt down. Members of the IRA from the surrounding area assembled, raided the farm and burnt down the house and after reading the "Order of Execution" shot and wounded two of the brothers, the third brother along with his father was attending a religious service in the Queen's County. The Pearson family had been held in good regard before the "troubles" began and William had been elected to represent the area on the Farmers Association Committee for the King's County. They were members of a religion called White Mice that opposed Catholic and Protestant teaching, following their own version of the Bible.

It was a sad time all over the country but we had our orders. I believe that it was not intended to kill the brothers but to cause injury to serve as a warning. A week later a Truce was called and what followed was worse than the British ever inflicted on us. Then many of us who had taken part in that raid fought against each other and some were killed or executed . In 1925 The Pearson farm was purchased by the Land Commission for 4,000 and distributed among farmers in the locality. The whole thing was a terrible waste of life and all for what ?."

Posted to the IRL-CARLOW Mailing List by Michael Purcell on Mon, 21 Dec 2009


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