The Jackie Clarke Collection | Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am - 5pm | Free Admission

Tonight, for National Heritage Week, we look at two local men of the War of Independence, who went on to have long political careers at a national level, Phelim Calleary and PJ Ruttledge. We extend huge thanks to JCC Education Coordinator Sinead Brennan for her in depth research and wonderful written words.
Patrick Joseph Ruttledge was born in Ardagh, Ballina, on New Year’s Day,1892. The only child of a farming family, he attended Ardagh National School and St. Muredach’s College, Ballina and was a student of law at Trinity College Dublin. He joined the Irish Volunteers as a young man in Dublin.
In 1918, Ruttledge returned to Ballina and opened a solicitor’s firm on Knox Street. He was at the centre of local military and political activities in the area. He was instrumental in establishing the ‘Dáil Courts’ across the county. Ruttledge’s legal expertise, combined with his commitment to social justice made him the perfect ‘man for the job’. These arbitration Courts were given the power to deal with civil and criminal offences, with the right to administer law in place of British courts- a peaceful yet powerful challenge to British authority.
The success of the Dáil Courts was as much a blow to the British rule as the ruthless War which raged throughout the country. Ruttledge recruited for the Volunteers and was an Intelligence Officer in the North Mayo Brigade and the 4th Western Command. In 1919, he became chairman of Ballina Urban District Council, a role he occupied until 1932. He also served as chairman of Mayo County Council form 1922-1926.
His intelligence work during the War of Independence provided information, reports and communiqué for the key operations of the local Brigade and the 4th Western Command. Operating from his offices in the heart of Ballina, his activities including sourcing arms and ammunition and planning ambushes – most notably the Moy Lane Ambush of July 1920 which resulted in the fatal shooting of RIC Sgt. Armstrong.
In 1921, he was arrested, court-martialed and detailed in Galway Jail for six months. He was so badly beaten at the time of his arrest that he was left deaf in one ear for some time afterwards. While imprisoned in Galway, he was elected TD for Mayo North. He retained his seat in thirteen general elections, spanning a thirty-one-year period until his death in 1952.
Ruttledge strongly opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 and took the Republican side in the subsequent Irish Civil War of 1922-23. He was appointed Director of Administration of the IRA by General Liam Lynch. In September 1922, he was heavily involved in of the Republican capture of Ballina, which saw approx. 150 Anti-Treaty IRA swoop into the town, led by General Michael Kilroy and the armored vehicle ‘The Ballinalee’ (renamed the ‘Rose of Lough Gill’).
As one of the most high-profile anti-Treaty figures of the day, Ruttledge spent much time ‘on the run’ until late 1924. He was present at the engagement with Free State soldiers which resulted in the death of General Liam Lynch on the slopes of Knockmealdown Mountains, Tipperary, in April 1923. He was appointed IRA Adjutant General following the capture of the previous incumbent, Thomas Derrig.
He served as Vice-President of Sinn Féin from 1923 until 1926 and took the reigns as ‘President of the Republic’ for a time in 1923/4 when De Valera was imprisoned in Arbour Hill.
In 1926, Ruttledge was a founding member of Fianna Fáil, alongside Eamon De Valera and Gerry Boland, Countess Markievicz, Frank Aiken, and Sean Lemass. In 1932, he joined De Valera’s cabinet for the first time as Minister for Land and Fisheries. From 1933 to 1939 he served as Minister for Justice. His third and final ministerial portfolio was Local Government and Public Health, which he held from 1939 to 1941. Continued ill-health forced him to relinquish his duties as Minister.
Ruttledge continued to serve as TD until his death in May 1952, aged 60. A quietly dignified and humble public servant, he was held in high regard by colleagues of all political persuasions. Speaking in the Dáil after his passing, Taoiseach Eamon De Valera described Rutledge as “a brave soldier, able administrator and capable lawyer…a gentle, kind and ever-faithful friend”. Ruttledge’s funeral in Foxrock, Dublin was attended by large numbers which included President Sean T. O’ Kelly.
A guard of honour was formed by Ruttledge’s comrades and friends of old from his home county of Mayo. PJ Ruttledge was laid to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery, where he rests among the greatest patriots of our land.

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Specialist tours can be booked in advance by emailing or by phoning (096) 73508.


The Jackie Clarke Collection
Pearse Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo, Ireland

T: + 353 (0)96 73508

Opening Times

Tuesday to Saturday: 10am to 5pm
Entrance is located at the side of the building on Walsh Street.