Interview notes about Peter Fanning
a Belfast volunteer for O'Duffy
These notes are based on a conversation between Ciaran Crossey with John Quinn and Brian Fanning, a nephew of Peter Fanning, Belfast, 17th January 2001, along with some earlier information gathered by CC/JQ. Notes in [ ] are editorial inserts by CC/JQ.
Peter Fanning was born in Belfast around 1905 and died in Dublin, 1979-1980. Peter's involvement in Spain had never really been talked about in the family but they knew that he had been out in Spain, presumably for O'Duffy and Franco because Peter had been a devout Catholic.
Peter was very caught up in the Republican Movement and was involved with the arms raid on Methodist College. [That raid was really on Campbell College, Belfast in 1936. Fanning's name had not previously come up in published accounts of this raid. He was arrested in early 1936 for possession of a copy of the 1916 Proclamation. The arresting RUC officer, a DI Hamilton, said the document had been seized during a raid on the Wolfe Tone Republican Club and it was 'likely to cause disaffection.' U MacEoin, The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-1948
PF lived in the terrace house opposite Mackies on the Springfield Road and then in Oranmore Street, in the Kashmir area.
Brian expresses surprise at our news that PF was a member of two GAA clubs, he was Secretary of the James F Lawlor, GAC in 1933 and then a member of the O'Donavan Rossa club in 1934. Brian said the family did have a long association with the Association, but it was with a different club, St. Gauls. Pat Fanning, a brother of Peter, was one of the founding members of St. Gaul's in March 1910. Brian had no memory of any GAA activity by Peter Fanning.
Peter was a single man, active in the GAA, a Gaelic speaker and an active republican. One story Brian recounted was that when Peter went shopping with remembers of his family he refused to buy the Peter England brand of shirts because of its name, preferring Irish products. When PF enquired about where the shirts were made, he was told 'Londonderry', to which he replied 'You mean Derry!'
Brian recounted the detail that Peter had been responsible for recruiting people into the Republican Movement in the 1930's. These included Sean Steenson, later a furniture shop owner in Divis Street (and later again the owner of the Crosskeys pub in Broughshane). Another recruit was Sean Carmichael. Fanning took them for training in McKensies Glen, off the Glen Road, on the outskirts of West Belfast.
He also ran Irish classes in Willowbank, opposite Beechmount, on the Falls Road. [Drilling had been held in Willowbank Hall since at least 1916. That detail comes from Monthly Bulletin
the newsletter of the Greater Clonard Ex-Prisoners Association, April 2001, which talks of local republicans organising training in the Hall prior to the 1916 rebellion.]
Very little has been found about his time in Spain except that he was a member of Company D, the machine gun company, led by Captain J Cunningham of Belfast. In his list of members of that company, Cunningham listed Fanning's next of kin as being his sister, Mrs R Curran, his sister, at 5 Madison Gardens, Belfast.
After his return he rejoined the republican movement. Along with John Jones, of the St James district in West Belfast, and he faced a three man IRA court martial board which was instigated on their return. Willie John McCurry, one of the Board members, said "he would have left them off, had they fought on the Republican side." [Rebel Voice, p33]
A family friend recounts that Peter had been active in the republican movement in the 1940's and 1950's, that he had in fact been o/c of some unit in one of the border counties. While this may not be connected he would suddenly just briefly appear at an aunt's house in Monaghan.
Request for help
Would anyone with further information on this man please get in touch.
Interview with Brian Fanning, nephew, by Ciaran Crossey and John Quinn
U MacEoin, The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-1948
Quinn, Rebel Voice
More articles on the Bandera