Tyrone’s unsung Easter Rising hero finally remembered

Joseph McGarrity
Joseph McGarrity

Commemorations of the Easter Rising have shone a spotlight on the largely forgotten role played by a Tyrone man in arming the rebels.

Joseph McGarrity, who was born near Carrickmore in 1874, was not in Dublin in 1916, but without him there might not have been an insurrection at all because he helped to fund and arm the rebels.

Exhibitions on the April rising and media articles have revived an interest in his role, including a letter from him to Padraig Pearse, which is being displayed in an exhibition to commemorate the centenary.

In the letter, he told Pearse that the volunteer movement was sweeping the US like ‘a whirlwind’.

At the age of 18, McGarrity emigrated to America and settled in Philadelphia, where he prospered as a businessman. In 1893 he joined Clan na Gael, the American sister organisation to the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and breathed new life into Clan na Gael, remaining its leading figure for the rest of his life.

As an Irish-American republican he played a key role in the days before Easter 1916.

He provided the finance for Roger Casement’s shipment of arms ahead of the Easter Rising, as well as other shipments.

In the years after that he continued to fund and organise the shipment of guns to Irish republicans and he is especially remembered for his role before and during the Second World War. To recognise his contribution, in 2010 the Sinn Fein branch in Carrickmore was renamed and became the Frank Ward/Joseph McGarrity Cumann.