Nora O'Keeffe
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Nora O'Keeffe (1885 - 1961)

Nora O'Keeffe
Born in Glenough Lower, Tipperary, Irelandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died at about age 76 in Dublin, Irelandmap
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Profile last modified | Created 31 Dec 2014
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Nora migrated to America in about 1906 and returned to Ireland in about 1919. She lived in Dublin and worked as a typist and stenographer.

Nora was very active in the Irish republican movement, as were several members of her family - see attached story and transcripts of letters below.

Irish academic, Dr Mary McAuliffe, contends that Nora was in a same sex relationship with radical feminist, militant nationalist and trade union activist, Margaret Skinnider, for more than four decades until Nora's death.

See article at

Mary McAuliffe's book on the subject is available through

Irish historian, Claire Guerin, has also written an article about Nora on her Irish history blog, The Irish Bulletin. The article is available at

There is also a Wikipedia page about Nora -

The O’Keeffe Family and the Irish War of Independence

The old O’Keeffe home at Lower Glenough in County Tipperary was a place of refuge or “safe house” for young men on the run from the Crown Forces and the “Black and Tans” during the independence war in Ireland from 1919 to 1921. The “Black and Tans” were a force of Temporary Constables recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence and were largely made up of British World War 1 veterans. They became infamous for their brutal attacks on civilians and civilian property.

Mention is made of the O’Keeffe home and Dan O’Keeffe’s children Bridget, Norah and Con, in the book “Sean Treacy and the Third Tipperary Brigade IRA” by Desmond Ryan. Such notable patriots as Sean Treacy, Dan Breen and Seamus Robinson were given shelter. Sean Treacy was later shot dead by a British Secret Service Surveillance Officer in Dublin, who also died in the melee. Sean Treacy's body was identified by Norah O'Keeffe, who was given his ring and a lock of his hair by a kindly British soldier. Con O’Keeffe and another brother, Dan O’Keeffe, are also mentioned in a witness statement on the activities of the 3rd Battalion of the South Tipperary Brigade during the war of independence, available at

On the 14th of May 1921, the O’Keeffe family home was blown up by the “Black and Tans”. Following are transcripts of several letters about these tragic events written to Michael O’Keeffe in Australia by his brothers Dan and Denis (Fr Benedict) and his niece Maggie O’Keeffe (Sr Margaret Mary) in Ireland:

Denis O’Keeffe (Fr Benedict) writes to brother Michael with the news that the old family home had been blown up.

Mount Melleray Abbey Cappoquin Co.Waterford July 25th 1921

My dear Brother

I have been waiting a long time for a letter from you. I wrote some months ago, but silence seems to be the only reply.

I am sure all news of Ireland reaches you through the papers. The most heartrending news of course is what happened to our old home on the 14th of last May. In the morning of that day it was visited by the Crown forces and blown to atoms by them. There was no one in the house when the Military Lorries arrived but the youngest girl and her mother. Dan was up waking poor Pat Heffernan who died that same morning. They were allowed to remove to a safe place, clothes and foodstuffs, but no furniture was allowed to be removed all was destroyed. The neighbours assembled the following days and rebuilt or repaired the kitchen and bedrooms where they sleep and cook their meals. The parlour with all in it was totally destroyed. It seems Dan and Mrs Dan kept up their courage. They are hoping for better times. Patriotism was the only charge against them. The enemy believed they loved their country too much. Peace negotiations are on at present and people are very hopeful and may it please God to give peace at last to our persecuted little country. Well at any rate Dan has met enough of troubles in his old age. His son Patrick was home from America on a visit. He was arrested and kept in prison in Liverpool for about eight months and then deported to New York. Young Dan was arrested early this year and without a charge has been held a prisoner in the camps of Kildare ever since. W. Dwyer’s creamery was burned up and his dwelling house set on fire, but Willie had his dwelling consecrated to the S. Heart and he thanks the divine Heart that the fire did not take effect and his home completely escaped. Let us trust in God. He only can save and deliver us from our cruel enemy.

Your affectionate brother B. Benedict

Maggie O’Keeffe (Sr Margaret Mary) writes to her uncle Michael while she was at home in Glenough supporting her parents





Aug 8th 1921

My dear, dear Uncle,

I think I had better begin by introducing myself, for as a just recompense for my negligence in not writing to you, you will have forgotten me.

I suppose you have heard a great deal about the recent troubles in Ireland. Well we were raided frequently here, and the boys have not slept at home for more than a year. In March last however Dan was captured and is interned ever since. Joe and Con have been arrested twice but are safe. T.G. and since the Truce are working and sleeping at home.

At home alas! We have no home now, for in May 14th several lorries filled with machine guns and armed men arrived here and announced their intention of blowing down the house. One of the girls, who acted as a scout, gave the alarm and Con escaped by the back. Joe was not in, but heard all and saw all from Carhue. Dada was up at Pat Tom’s - poor Pat had died that morning, mother was ill in bed, and may God be ever blessed for it! Aunt Ellen Ahern was here. One of the girls ran for father and the other ran away for fear of the brutal soldiery. They read a proclamation and then gave them an hour to clear out food stuffs and clothes, but not a single article of furniture nor bedding. At the end of the hour they forced mother to leave her bed. One of the soldiers gave her a drink of water and Jer Martin and Aunt Ellen led her to the well gate and there, before father and mother’s eyes, the dear old home, where you and all my dear uncles and aunts and my revered father and fifteen of us first saw the light, was blown to atoms.

I cannot describe it well uncle for I was not here, and I am begging some of the others to write to you or Dear Fr Denis M. Next day the neighbour came and examined the ruins, the two small rooms and the loft were still standing but in a most shattered condition, no plaster, glass or anything. The old kitchen chimney was also standing. Willing and devoted hands set to work to remove the debris and put a temporary roof on the old kitchen, and so the S. Heart in whom they had trusted so much have not left them without a shelter. They had a Mass in the house in Feb and had the house consecrated to the S.H. The old walls are pitiable to behold, but God is good and they are far better off than so many who were not left a stone upon a stone and had their dear boys dragged from their beds and shot before their eyes. There can be no question of rebuilding for the present until peace is really established, for one never knows when the friends would turn up again and perform another of their feats of strange Empire building.

Now I had better proceed with the introduction. I am Sr. Margaret Mary (Maggie). When I heard of the trouble at home I applied to the Superior General for permission to visit my dear parents and console them in their distress. I got permission for a fortnight. I return next Friday. I was left home just 17 years last March. I don’t find very much change in father and mother; they are wonderful, but the young ones grown up puzzle me…

Dan O’Keeffe writes to his brother Michael in 1921 in reply to a letter of sympathy from Michael.

Glenough Goldcross Co. Tipperary September 26th ‘21

My Dear Brother

I received your kind letter of sympathy about two weeks ago. I would reply to it sooner but there was a strike or threatened strike on the railway. I wrote to you about a year ago and was expecting a reply from you ever since. I also wrote to John’s daughter at the same time but got no reply. If I knew Fr Denis’ address I would have written to him. I asked his address when I wrote to you but perhaps you never got my letter. Kindly remember me to him. I needn’t tell you it was a great shock to us to see our fine old home blown in the elements by the savage crown forces. We put up some old timber and thatch on the old wrecked walls and managed to cook and sleep there during the Summer but it is a cold looking abode for the Winter. Of course we cannot venture to build or do anything until there is an Irish settlement. An army of military came and blew up my place reprisal for a D.I. that was kidnapped or killed eighteen miles from my place. Of course it was a great consolation to us that they didn’t catch any of the young fellows about the place. They would shoot them like dogs. They beat Con unconscious before at a big “roundup” they had in Hollyford. They have Dan in prison for the last six months without charge or trial. They arrested Patk for deportation to America and kept him four months in solitary confinement in an English prison. They wouldn’t leave him at home or they wouldn’t let him over to America fearing he would tell too much. Patk also got a month in Limerick prison for telling his name in Irish. My daughter Maggie the nun was home on a visit during the Summer after seventeen years absence in England. I think she wrote to you while she was home. I had letters of sympathy the same day as yours from Joe Ryan & Mary O’Keeffe (I forget her name in religion). I never heard a line from Jim O’Keeffe I think he hardly asks for me. Tell the Rev Denis I am expecting a letter from him for a long time I am hoping I will live to see him sometime also yourself. Pat Heffernan died the morning my place was blown up. I was in Melleray this Summer & last. I think Fr Ben complained he wasn’t getting any letter from Australia. He is very strong & healthy. Excuse this old scribble. I find it very hard to write with cramps & a shake in my hand. Write to me occasionally my dear brother.

Your fond brother Dan

P.S. My dear brother we are not fretting over what happened us. There is many a poor father and mother had to make greater sacrifices when they had to look on when their sons were shot in their beds or taken out of their beds naked and shot on the road like dogs. There was a fine young man named Ryan from near Upperchurch who was stricken with influenza and was anointed and the black & tans & military headed by an Irish police man came the same night and shot him in his bed in presence of his widowed mother & sister. There were several cases like it in Upperchurch some of them young Gleesons near cousins to my family. As you say it was the greatest fight in Ireland’s history and why shouldn’t we share in it as well as another but I can tell you there is lots of people who want to keep out of the fight but who would try and grab the gains when the time would come. I would like to write away but can’t with my cramped hands.

Denis O’Keeffe (Fr Benedict) writes again to Michael

Mount Melleray Abbey Cappoquin Co. Waterford 4.1.’22

My very dear Brother

You are I am afraid thinking my friendship is waning but I can assure you it is not. It is the distracted state of our country that is chiefly to be blamed. Postal arrangements are now and nearly all last year so doubtful that one feels disinclined to write anywhere. To give you an idea of how the matter stands I will tell you that it takes from 8 to 12 days for letters to come from Glenough to Mt Mellery. Roads are trenched in many places, trees are felled and thrown across roads, bridges are blown up, railway bridges and railway tracks are destroyed in many places, and no one yet knows when or how the awful happenings will end. Let us continue to ask God to show His mercy, and give us deliverance. Here we have peace, no one interferes with us T.G.

I have just heard that Dan and family are living in their new house since the beginning of last month. Although it is a large house it took a rather short time to build it.

Tim, Dan & Ellen are keeping well, and the youngest of the old family is A1 Thank God.

I hope you are in the best of health and like living in Brisbane. You may not feel the air is as pure or wholesome as in Blenheim, but you will find exercise in the way of a fairly long walk every day a remedy for & a preserver of health.

It gave me great pleasure to learn from your last letter that you were assisting at Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion every morning and I hope you will persevere in this estimable practice always.

You see we have a great many things to be grateful to God for, and not the least is the long time He is giving us to prepare for death & judgement.

Remember me affectionately to all my Brisbane relations, or better say all my Queensland relatives.

Your ever fond brother B.Benedict O’Keeffe

Other Sources

  • Family knowledge;
  • Family Letters;
  • Ireland Census, 1901, Glenough Lower, Clonoulty West, Tipperary;
  • Irish Bureau of Military History, 1913-1921;
  • Headstone, Kilpatrick cemetery, near Annacarty, Tipperary.

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