Frank Flood – UCD’s forgotten volunteer
The republican history of UCD runs deep. Today, sovaldi our campus boasts a building named in honour of feminist and republican Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, hospital as well as a plaque in the Newman Building to the young poet Charlie Donnelly, drugstore who gave his life in defence of the Spanish Republic with the International Brigades. Our list of celebrated republican graduates crosses the Treaty divide, with men like Kevin O’Higgins and Richard Mulcahy on the side of the Treaty, and men like Rory O’Connor and the great character that was Ernie O’Malley on the other. Michael Hayes, a founding member of the Irish Volunteers who was at Jacob’s Factory during the 1916 rebellion, even went on to become a Professor with the Irish Department of UCD. Perhaps our most celebrated revolutionary, however, is Kevin Barry, immortalised by The Ballad of Kevin Barry, which has been recorded and performed by singers as diverse as Paul Robeson and Leonard Cohen. The song is even referenced by Dexy’s Midnight Runners in their My Life In England, capturing its importance to the second-generation Irish in the United Kingdom:
I can remember St Theresa’s social where “Kevin Barry” rang out,
My mum whispered to me “Kevin, In England that song is not allowed”.
Frank Flood is a name which may not be instantly recognisable to some in the way the name Kevin Barry is, yet he is another young UCD student who gave his life during the War of Independence, executed at only nineteen years old. One of the ‘Forgotten Ten’, Flood not alone studied at UCD, but was active within its society life. Todd Andrews, another UCD student active in the republican movement, perhaps put it best when he wrote in his memoirs that “as Kevin Barry passed into the nation’s mythology, Frank Flood’s name is scarcely remembered.”
Francis Xavier Flood, the son of a policeman, was born in 1901. His siblings republican and of the eight Flood boys, most were active within the Volunteers. Sean Flood, the eldest of the boys, had served five years in a Scottish jail for his republican activities and died soon after his release. Young Frank Flood was educated at O’Connell Schools, run by the Christian Brothers and located on the North Circular Road. It was here he first met Kevin Barry, with whom he formed a friendship . Flood ended up winning a university scholarship in 1918 which saw him enter the Engineering School of UCD, while Barry was a medical student. While at the college Frank became active within the Literary and Historical Society. There was a strong republican presence in UCD at the time, though as Todd Andrews noted, “there were a number of students who were known to be IRA men, but unless they were in the same Company or Battalion, they never spoke or associated with one another on the basis of their common allegiance.”
Flood was captured while attacking the Dublin Metropolitan Police at Drumcondra on January 21 1921. The event is popularly known as the ‘Drumcondra Ambush’ today. At only nineteen years of age, Flood held the role of First Lieutenant ASU (Active Service Unit) of the Dublin Brigade. He had led an assault which saw three Volunteers lose their lives (two on the scene), and five others sentenced to death for their role in the attack. Flood himself was found with a grenade in his pocket. He was charged with High Treason, found guilty, and executed by hanging in March 14th 1921 at Mountjoy Prison. Kevin Barry had gone to his death in much the same way in 1920, and it is said Flood requested to be buried as close as possible to his former friend and comrade.
On the 40th anniversary of the death of Kevin Barry, six members of the Students’ Representative Council of UCD laid wreaths upon the graves of Frank Flood and Kevin Barry, inside the grounds of Mountjoy Prison.
Hundreds of students marched from the college at Earlsfort Terrace to the General Post Office on November 1st 1960 to pay their respects, before heading onwards to the final resting place of the two UCD students. This tradition continued in the years afterwards, for example in 1963 when 500 students joined the procession.
There were questions around whether the students would be allowed continue with their march in the years following the 40th anniversary, however the matter was settled following meetings between the Students’ Council and the then Minister for Justice. The Minister was a certain Mr. Haughey, a graduate of UCD who had been among those Earlsfort Terrace students who burned a Union Jack outside Trinity College Dublin on Victory in Europe Day, 1945. On that day, Trinity students raised the flags of some of the victorious nations over the front of the college, with an Irish tricolour at the bottom of the mast.
The Kevin Barry window stands on campus today as a memorial in honour of that young republican, but it was first unveiled at Earlsfort Terrace. At the time of its unveiling, Frank Ryan, another UCD student of old, wrote in the pages of the left-wing Republican Congress that: “At last, a Kevin Barry memorial has been unveiled at University College Dublin.
The present committee were people who had no connection with the War of Independence nor with the organisaitons which participated in it.
It is understandable therefore- though inexcusable- that few of Kevin Barry’s comrades were invited by the committee and that, instead, a Blueshirt presided and the anti-Republican President of UCD was given an opportunity to shed tears for the Boy-Martyr of 1920.” Ryan commented that he was glad at least Frank Flood was mentioned by one speaker. Ryan himself had graduated from UCD in 1925 with a second class honours BA in Celtic Studies. Interestingly, while a student at UCD, it is said that Ryan fell for Elgin Barry, the sister of Kevin.
On March 3rd 1967, UCD Professor Michael Hogan, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, made it into the Irish Independent for refusing to chair a student debate around the motion that “God is dead”. The motion had been chosen by the Mechanical and Engineering Socieities for discussion at the final of the Frank Flood Shield debating competition. Hogan objected primarily on the grounds that Flood held strong religious convictions and would have disapproved. Hogan had been a friend of Flood during his time in college.
Today, Flood is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, as is Kevin Barry. Their bodies were removed from Mountjoy Prison in October 2001. Full State Funerals were awarded to the ‘Forgotten Ten’ buried in the prison. One of the Volunteers was buried in Limerick, the rest are side by side in Glasnevin Cemetery.
Donal Fallon is a current history student at UCD undertaking a Masters in Modern Irish History. He is co-founder of the Dublin culture and history website ‘Come Here To Me’.