George Gunn was born in December 1902 in Cork city and died in February 1996 in his 94th year, after dedicating most of his life to his family and to Ireland. He came from a family that, on his mother’s side, was closely connected with the Fenians. His maternal granduncle had to leave Cork city for disarming a police detective at a public meeting in St Patrick’s Street, and later had an involvement with the Manchester Martyrs. His father’s family, on the other hand, was very much on the Unionist side of the divide, and his grandfather John was a member of the Orange Lodge in Tuam where he served as a police constable. George’s father, also George, met his wife Mary on leaving the army when he came to live in Cork. Their sons George and John joined Sinn Féin and the IRA in 1917 — when John changed his name to Seán. They attended meetings in the Sinn Féin hall at 56 Grand Parade.
George served throughout the War of Independence in G Company 2nd Battalion 1st Cork Brigade or the Irish Republican Army. He went on to serve on the Anti-Treaty side as an active service unit leader during the Civil War. He remained as a member of the IRA until the formation of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and was a follower of de Valera from then on.
Pat Gunn, son of George Gunn
George’s son Pat interviewed George in April 1989 about his involvement in the early-20th-century Irish Volunteer campaigns in Munster, including the battle at the Finger Post in Douglas against the National Army troops in 1922. This 90-minute interview with the 86-year-old George gives many interesting insights to those turbulent times.
Press the Play icon above to hear the interview.
Cork City Libraries appreciates the generosity of Pat Gunn in making this recording available for this website, and to Paul O'Flynn for converting the recording from analogue to digital format.
“Yes, the City Hall was burned. There was a joke about that, because Lloyd George was asked in the House of Commons and he said it was a spark from Patrick Street that set fire to City Hall. They were terrible bluffers you know, the English, they got away with murder.” 21’18”
“The English had a kind of soft time up to 1921. They could do what they liked, to an extent, but our fellows were getting armed the whole time. There were young fellows like me coming on and we were bursting for a fight.”