The mystery pipers of Clare.

irish post 16.2.1016Can anyone help us discover more about the pipers in this picture of de Valera’s 1917 election campaign in East Clare? We believe one of the pipers might be our relative, Liam Parr, who  travelled  from England to fight in the Easter Rising. We know that Liam was playing the pipes in Clare during the campaign and would be very grateful to anyone who could help us come closer to solving this puzzle.  Perhaps someone  can tell us more about the photo, or even recognise someone on it?

Liam was  one of the small group  of  Volunteers  from Manchester who  decided to  go to Dublin in early 1916 when they heard that an insurrection  was being planned.  He was a Dubliner by birth who had moved to England in about 1910 in order to find work. He was from a nationalist background, the children of the family all being brought up to spit on the statue of “King Billy” every Saturday. Liam himself learnt to play the Irish war pipes in Dublin, and was probably associated with the Camden Street slaugh of the Fianna Éireann, this being the branch with which Constance Markievics was most involved.

Liam, with other Manchester Volunteers spent spring 1916 in Kimmage Mill, before serving in the GPO through Easter Week. At the surrender he was arrested and imprisoned in England and Wales before returning to Dublin on his release. In July 1917 Liam Parr went to Clare, with  fellow Mancunian Volunteer, Gilbert Lynch, as well as other members of the Dublin 4th battalion, to help with de Valera’s election campaign.

Here, the volunteers  had been warned that intimidation was likely, so they were divided into groups of 30 men at each ballot station with 50 at the Town Hall and another 50 at the headquarters in the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis. The orders posted on Monday listed the numbers to be stationed at each locality and added: “ Communications will be maintained directly between the court house, the town hall and head quarters….The men will as far as possible be armed with sticks or hurleys.” Another order shows the importance of cyclists. “9’7’17 to despatch 10 cyclists to HQ at 7:30.”[i]

Liam would have been taking part in these guard duties, canvasing, and defending de Valera and voters from intimidation.  We know that he did more than this as he was remembered for playing the pipes as part of the campaign.

When Liam’s widow was applying for a pension twenty years later, she wrote to de Valera, ”After the general release at Christmas 1916 he continued to work for the cause, and here is the time you might remember him . When you went down to Clare on your first election, he was the man in your car with yourself and Larry Ginnell who played the pipes as you went in. He remembered that day with pride although there was another side as well. He was a great favourite of Larry Ginnell who used to call him the ‘Minstrel Boy’ and ‘The Bard of Armagh’ as he used to sing these songs.” [ii]

The photo  from the National Library shows  three pipers leading Constance Markievicz and a demonstration, during this election celebrations. On the wall behind the crowd we can make out part of the words ‘vote de Valera’ but we cannot positively identify whether Liam is one of the pipers.[iii] The archives have no further information about the picture except that it included Markievicz and was taken at the 1917 East Clare Election.  Information from the museum at Ennis tells us that local historians believe it was shows College Road, Ennis. However, no one has yet been able to identify the pipers. Yet I think that it is probable that there will be people living today with relatives included on this picture, and perhaps  they could recognise them and tell us more. Members of Liam’s family have pored over the picture and tried comparing it with other photos of Liam, but  they cannot decide whether a resemblance with the piper in the centre, with the trilby hat and a smart white collar, is more than wishful thinking. Perhaps someone reading this can see (or not), a resemblance.

Liam for front cover as good as I can get himThis is Liam in pipers’ uniform. The sporran is characteristic of the James Connolly Pipe Band with which we think he played during the war of Independence. The  picture was probably taken when Liam was in his thirties, but sadly he  had suffered deeply in those times and has aged prematurely.

2. Liam Parr. (Bernadette Wall) This is Liam, photographed during the years before the Rising.

When Liam died, family members tell that de Valera had some involvement with his funeral, and that there was a funeral card from him bearing the words “may the angels play you into heaven as you played us into Clare.” (…or similar words.) A number of his relatives have said that they remembered seeing the card, but it now seems to be lost.

We know that Liam Parr played a significant part as a piper  in the 1917 East Clare election so it is quite likely that he is one of the pipers on the photo,  but we cannot  be certain.  Has anyone any information or advice?  Has anyone made a study of the first East Clare Election?

We would be most grateful for any suggestions anyone could give us. Could you forward this query to others you think might be interested?

We are trying to learn more about the East Clare election as part of a project to research the four Volunteers from Manchester who served in the Rising, as well as their close friend, Sheila O’Hanlon, from Dublin who was a member of Cumann na mBan. We have produced a website at

and have  published a book called Hidden Heroes of Easter Week-Memories of volunteers from England who joined the Easter Rising. By Robin Stocks. The book concentrates on the backgrounds of the Volunteers and their experiences during the Rising, but we would also like to be able to also tell of their activities during the subsequent independence struggle. We know that  two of the  Manchester men took part in de Valera’s East Clare election campaign, so would like to discover more information if it is available.  We have read  the standard biographies of de Valera and consulted his files at University College Dublin, witness statements and pension files, but hope that there are stories still waiting to be told.

We would love to hear from anyone who could help us solve this mystery and tell this long forgotten story.

Thanks. Robin Stocks




[i] De Valera archive. East Clare election.  P150/549 and misc paper UCD archive Dublin

[ii] Pension app, Pension administration section. Department of defence . Ireland. Documents re Parr  DP9542 letter to deValera

[iii] Photo of Markievicz and  pipers at East Clare Election. KE 130 Keogh collection.. Nat library of Ireland, national photographic archive,