"The Blacksmith of Ballinalee"
General Seán Mac Eoin
Lieutenant General Seán Mac Eoin, a hero of the Irish war of Independence, was the leader of the North Longford Flying Column and participated in many actions against the British during the war, the most notable of which was the Clonfin ambush. Seán Mac Eoin was widely known as "The Blacksmith of Ballinalee" as a result of his early years in the family business and indeed, the forge in which he worked is still preserved today near Ballinalee, Co. Longford.
Seán was hotly pursued by the British forces and was eventually captured and subsequently shot during an attempted escape in Mullingar Co. Westmeath. Such was his value to the struggle for freedom, that Michael Collins organised several attempts to break him out of Mountjoy prison which were unfortunately unsuccessful. He was eventually tried and sentenced to death by hanging, a fate which was only prevented at the last minute by the truce. Indeed, Michael Collins insisted that without his release, there could be no meeting of Dail Eireann, of which Seán was an elected member, to agree the terms of the truce.
After the war of independence, Seán served in the Irish Army and eventually became Chief of Staff for a short period before entering political life. He later served as a minister in two Irish governments and contested two presidential elections.
General Sean Mac Eoin The Blacksmith of Ballinalee