4th March 1899 – 14th September 1971
Captain Lehenagh Cumann na mBan
1917 ~ 1921 Service Medal with Bar
Growing Up in
Nan Hegarty (Johanna) was the youngest of the Hegarty siblings and was known for her kindness and gentle ways.
Nan worked in the family’s market gardens and was no stranger to hard work. She had an affinity with animals and loved the many dogs that the Hegarty family owned.
As someone who was shy and very unassuming the stories of her courage and bravery during the War of Independence are even more remarkable. Nan was quick to acknowledge the roles played by others but she never spoke of her own exploits and many of her acts of bravery have yet to be uncovered or may never be known.
Johanna (Nan) Hegarty
War of Independence
Just like her parents and her siblings, Nan wanted to play her part in the struggle for Irish Freedom and joined Cumann na mBan and eventually became a Captain in the Lehenagh Branch.
Nan attended meetings and received trained in First Aid, Weapons handling and helped to organise military parades. In 1918 she campaigned on behalf of Sinn Fein candidates standing in the General Election.
Throughout the War of Independence she worked tirelessly secreting intelligence, arms and ammunition for the Volunteers.
Nan also cared for the families of Volunteers who were in prison or on the run. The Mitchell family in Kerrypike were one such family. Food parcels, money and clothes were delivered by Nan to the family as they had no means of support while Sean Mitchell was on operations throughout Munster.
Accurate intelligence was crucial to the Volunteers and Nan regularly met with Herbert (Sean) Mitchell to deliver arms and messages. She also travelled to Tipperary and beyond to deliver dispatches and arms to Commandant James Leahy.
Assisting Nan with her Cumann na mBan activities were the Sarsfield and Manning familes. Captain Sarsfield was sympathetic to the Irish cause and as a British Army Officer he was never stopped and questioned. Thanks to the Sarsfield family Nan travelled to Tipperary under their protection and as their travel companion, she avoided suspicion and made her deliveries undetected.
The Sarsfields also allowed Nan to store arms and ammunition on their property and as they were seen by the RIC and the British Army as being above suspicion. This arms dump was an invaluable resource for the Volunteers.
Cumann na mBan members looked after the many prisoners and it known that Nan attended to hunger striker and friend Joe Murphy while he was in Cork Gaol. He died after 76 days on hunger strike just hours after the Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney died while also on hunger strike.
Trained in First Aid, Nan took care of wounded Volunteers that sought refuge in The Laurels. She also travelled around Cork to provide medical assistance to the injured.
Nan Hegarty worked on a full-time basis with Cumann na mBan throughout this period supported by her parents Patrick & Elizabeth.
When Nan finally applied for a military pension in 1945, the many letters of support from she received bear testament to her remarkable courage and bravery.
Life after the Wars
Following the wars, Nan met John James Fennell and in 1934 they were married.
John was a fitter by trade and his family owned a merchandising business on Kyle’s Quay.
After their wedding they moved to Inniscarra where they purchased land and opened a shop and their field is still known locally as “Fennell’s Field”. They had two sons, John and Gus but sadly John Snr. passed away unexpectedly aged 51.
Nan was a regular visitor to The Laurels and her nephews and nieces always looked forward to her visits especially as she usually arrived with presents and was very generous with sixpenny pieces.
The Fennells continued to live in Inniscarra and run the shop which closed following Nan’s death in 1971.
Their son Gus established Fennell’s Garage on French’s Quay in a building that had formerly been a barracks that his Uncles had raided during the War of Independence. The Garage adjoins the Funeral Home owned by his cousin Dee Forde.