Who was Brendan Kielty?

Among the various names of volunteers in the Irish Brigade, led by General Eoin O'Duffy, appears that of Brendan Kielty, but the details are confusing to say the least.

Was he from Tyrone or Belfast? Is there one man or two?

Francis McCullough mentions a Tyrone man, a Sergeant Kility, the only volunteer from Tyrone. He was 'the politest and the most pain staking NCO I ever met in the army.' McCullough states that he was in charge of the HQ mess and was about 20 years old.

The Irish Independent of November 21st 1936 lists, among others, a Brendan Kielty, from Cranagh, Plumbridge, Co. Tyrone. His father was principal of Greencastle School and he is a nephew of Mr J F Stewart MP of Dungannon. Kielty had been in the Fianna and was an IRA engineer.

Based on these reports the book by McGarry lists Kielty as being from Plumbridge while Stradling bases him in Belfast. Which location is right?

In correspondence with Ciaran Crossey Sean Kielty, the son of Brendan was able to provide the following details. Brendan's father was Henry, a teacher from the Glens of Antrim; his mother was Margaret Stewart from Dungannon whose brother was Joe F Stewart, a Nationalist Party MP at differing periods in Westminster or Stormont from the 1930's to 1964. There is Greencastle outside of Omagh, as well as one on the outskirts of North Belfast. Where is our man from?

Henry Kielty was listed in the Belfast and Ulster Directory between 1910 and 1927 (the range of years checked) and throughout that period he worked as either schoolmaster or principal of Greencastle National School, Whitewell Road, Belfast. He lived near by at 1 Ben Eden Villas, where he was succeeded by a Mrs Kielty up to 1937.

Sean's letter said that his father had memories (dubious to me) of seeing the Titanic launched in 1912, aged 5, and that he was in the Fianna before 1920.

It is my opinion that Brendan Kielty was from North Belfast, with a mother from the Dungannon area, and that the Irish Independent and McCullough reports serve to confuse the case. I think that the confusion emerges form his Dungannon family links, and the co-incidence of the 2 places called Greencastle. His father lived in north Belfast. The first independent evidence to date places BK as in North Belfast. See below for further, GAA, evidence of his Belfast base.

On November 5th 1933 he was arrested for 'conducting likely to cause a breach of the peace' after addressing a 600 strong crowd in Smithfield Square, Belfast, over the detention of over 30 republicans by the police. He called upon the people to support 'our fellow republicans' and for them to vote republican in the forthcoming elections. The address given in the court reports is Whitewell Road, Belfast. He was fined 40 shillings (2), as was Harry Diamond a Nationalist official, but both refused to pay and were sent to gaol for a month.

In 1932 the South Antrim Committee of the GAA held a fund-raising social [Seanchtas] with the proceedings going to Kielty who'd been seriously injured in 1931. By 1934 he was a delegate of the McKelvey GAC to various GAA meetings. Kielty had been in the Fianna as a youth of 12 in Belfast. As another indicator of his activities he was he was arrested on November 5th 1933 after speaking at a republican protest rally in Smithfield, Belfast. It was attended by 600 people, and he was sentenced to one month in jail. Also sentenced was Harry Diamond.

A further reflection of Kielty's politics was a meeting he attended on behalf of the Blueshirts in April 1935. Along with someone called Captain The O'Donvan, he met with a Job Stott, a leader of the Ulster Fascists, to discuss the establishment locally of a joint venture, the 32 Club, which had had been initiated by O'Duffy. Whatever happened at the meeting, Kielty, despite being a Blueshirt representative, voted against the motion, causing it to fall. Another no voter was John Hewitt, another local Blueshirt.

He sailed with Cunningham and 40 others from Liverpool on board the SS Avoceta on November 21st 1936. At one point he owned an autographed copy of O'Duffy's book, Crusade in Spain, but it has been lost through various family moves. He was a Sgt. in the Bandera.

After the SCW he was under RUC attention in 1940 forcing him to move South. He moved to the Leitrim area where he worked as a chemist and was also involved in republican activity. That year "he was again arrested, this time south of the Border, brought before a Military Tribunal in Dublin and sentenced to five years imprisonment, being released in 1943." That report went onto say that while in prison he took part in a 36-day hunger strike "which, in later years, affected his health in various ways."

In the early 1970's he went with the Provisionals in the split in the republican movement, helping to organise the Fianna in Country Leitrim. He was accorded a guard of honour at his funeral. The funeral oration was given by Charlie McGlade, a long term activist in Belfast.

McCullough has introduced a second query, one man or two? It would be my view that I have sorted the question of where Kielty was from, but the remaining problem is his age. There is evidence that BK was born around 1907, but McCullough describes his man as being in his 20's. It is likely that he was mistaken. It is more likely that there was only one man of this surname in Spain.
Hopefully this resolves the matter.
Ciaran Crossey
Belfast, 4th August 2004


Sean Kielty, letter to C Crossey, 18.9.00
Cunningham Papers, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland - D.1625/19
An Phoblacht, 19.10.77, an obituary

MacEoin, The IRA in the Twilight Years, p261
McGarry, Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War, 21, 254
Stradling, The Irish and the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39, p258
McCullough, In Franco's Spain, 32-3

For an index of articles on the Bandera