Derravane: a safe house in the bog at Lemanaghan during the War of Independence and the Civil War. By Angela Kelly

The name comes from the Irish Daire which means an oak grove on an island that is surrounded by peat or bog land

Lemanaghan and Derrravane

Derravane House is situated on a little bog island on Lemanaghan bog, in the townland of Thumbeagh.  The house was owned by the Connor family. 

John Connor and Ellen Costello

John Connor, Thumbeagh (1838-1921) married Ellen Costello, Kilgarvin (1863-1939) on September 11, 1886 in Ballinahown church. The couple had six children. Their house in Derravane, was made of mud with a thatched roof.  It had two rooms with three windows at the front. It was described in the 1901 Census as a 3rd class house. They also had a cow house, a piggery and a hen-house.

Ann Connor

One of their daughters, Anne born in 1893, left home around 1915 and operated her own dressmaking business in Athlone. She joined Cumann na mBan, which was the women’s arm of the recently formed Irish Volunteers and served in the Athlone Brigade.  In the early days, she was involved in first-aid training, drilling, fund-raising and political activities for Sinn Féin.  In April 1919, she was sent to Galway to form a new branch of Cumann na mBan and became its first president. From October that year, she became more involved in the campaign in the Athlone area, carrying dispatches and doing Intelligence work as well as rendering first-aid to wounded Active Service Unit men.  At one point, she took two wounded ASU men to her family home in Derravane and arranged medical help for them.  Dr William Meagher, Ferbane, attended the wounded. Her mother, Ellen Costello Connor was also a bonesetter. These skills were also useful.

Anne (Nan) became a full-time IRA member in 1921 and was appointed special courier for the Brigade area. Amongst her activities was the buying of a rifle and ammunition from the enemy (British) soldier and carrying them through Athlone to be handed over to Brigade headquarters.

The safe house on the bog of Lemanaghan at Derravane

During the War of Independence (1919-1921), the house at Derravane was used extensively as an unofficial field hospital (safe house) by the IRA.  Because of its location in the middle of a bog, it was fairly inaccessible for the Black and Tans in their motor vehicles, as there was only a narrow lane to the island.  Brigadier General George Adamson, from Moate, was cared for in Derravane, following an ambush at Carricknaughton, Athlone in 1921. There is a story that Dan Breen, the famous IRA volunteer, spent time in Derravane also. Nan Connor remained active to the end of hostilities and then returned to her dress-making business. She was also Director of Communications during the Civil War (1922-1923) in the Athlone and Galway areas.

Anne married Edward (Ned) Dowling, from Carricknaughton, in 1927 and moved to Dublin.

Sadly, the little house on the island in Lemanaghan bog is in ruins today, but what stories it could tell.

Thanks to Angela Kelly who is a new contributor and a long standing committee member of Offaly History. If you have a history or archaeology story to tell, get in touch with us by email to info@offalyhistory.com. We publish twice a week and have reached 56,000 since 1 January. These articles give enjoyment and do good service in spreading an appreciation of human endeavour over centuries. We are currently working on a new 1912-23 platform as part of the Decade of Centenaries and expect to unveil phase 1 in June on www.offalyhistory.com.

For guidelines for contributors to the blog articles email us info@offalyhistory.com. You have almost 300 articles waiting to review in the meantime.

Forthcoming blogs:

Wednesday 2 June, Offaly’s Grand Jury records: recovering local archives in a national context. By Lisa Shortall

Saturday 5 June, Colum Cille or Columba – the founder of Durrow. By Brian Lacey

And after that: Kinnittty in 1821, the Moving Bog of Clara and Placenames in Ballinagar to name a few delights in store.