JJ "Ginger" O'Connell

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J. J. O'Connell
Born Jeremiah Joseph O'Connell
21 December 1887
Ballina, County Mayo
Died 19 February 1944
Nationality Irish
Other names Ginger O'Connell
Occupation Officer in the Irish Volunteers and Irish Defence Forces

Jeremiah Joseph "Ginger" O'Connell (1887–1944) was a general (later demoted to colonel) in the Irish Defence Forces.[1]

Early life

O'Connell was born on the 21st December 1887 in Ballina, County Mayo, to Jeremiah Ambrose and Winifred O'Connell. He was nicknamed "Ginger" because of his red hair. His father was a national school inspector, so the family lived in Sligo, Derry, Longford and Belfast, and Ginger attended a succession of primary schools. He studied in University College Dublin where he received a BA and a first class MA. He was a member of the Literary and Historical Society, and had an interest in boxing.[1]

He was living in Cavan with his father, his sister Mary Margaret, his brother John Aloysius and two servants, Mary Burke and Rose Anne O'Reilly, at the time of the 1911 census, when he was 23. He was working as a Solicitor's Apprentice, could read and write as well as speak both English and Irish, and was single. His mother was not living as it is recorded that his father was a widower.[2]

Irish Volunteers

O'Connell spent some time in the U.S. Army. He returned to Ireland in 1914 and joined the Irish Volunteers, becoming Chief of Inspection in 1915.[1] He travelled the country organising volunteer corps, as well as contributing to the Irish Volunteer's journal and delivering lectures on military tactics to both the Volunteers and Fianna Éireann. He also delivered a series of lectures about the famous Irish battles to the Gaelic League in Dublin. He was not a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood as he believed that soldiers should not be a part of secret societies.

At the time the 1916 Easter Rising, O'Connell was operating in Dublin under instruction from Joseph Plunkett.[3] He was dispatched to Cork by Eoin MacNeill to try to prevent the Rising. Following the Rising, he was arrested and held in Frongoch internment camp from April to July 1916.[1] In 1918 he was again arrested and interned, spending time in Wandsworth Prison with Arthur Griffith for the alleged involvement in the fabricated German Plot.[4]

During the Irish War of Independence, he was a member of the Irish Republican Army headquarters staff, as Assistant Director of Training and, after the killing of Dick McKee, as Director of Training.[1]

Irish Defence Forces

In the IRA split after Dáil Éireann ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty, O'Connell took the pro-Treaty side. He was made Deputy Chief of Staff in the National Army.[1] On 26 June 1922, he was kidnapped by anti-treaty forces in reprisal for the arrest of an anti-treaty officer; his kidnapping was a precipitating factor in the formal outbreak of the Irish Civil War, when government pro-treaty forces two days later attacked anti-treaty forces occupying the Four Courts.[1] O'Connell survived the fighting and spent the rest of the civil war as General Officer Commanding the Curragh Command.[1]

Following the Civil War, O’Connell continued his work in the national army holding a variety of positions: chief lecturer in the army school of instruction (1924–1929); director of no. 2 (intelligence) bureau (1929–1932); OC Equitation School (March–June 1932); quartermaster-general (1932–1935) and director of the military archives (1935–1444). He also published articles on Irish and foreign military history and tactics in his time as a military historian. He married Gertrude McGilligan, and they had two children together - one son and one daughter.[1]

O'Connell died on February 19, 1944, of a heart attack.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Coleman, Marie. "O'Connell, Jeremiah Joseph ('J. J.', 'Ginger')". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 23 November 2016. (Subscription required (help)). . Copy at UCD website
  2. ^ "1911 Census". National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
  3. ^ www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie WS Ref #: 751 , Witness: Colm O'Lochlainn, Captain IV, Dublin, 1916; Printer and Publisher
  4. ^ WS Ref #: 637 , Witness: Muriel McSwiney, Widow of Terence McSwiney
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