…we’re all off to Dublin in the green, in the green
Where the helmets glisten in the sun
Where the bayonets flash and the rifles crash
To the rattle of the Thompson Gun”
Famous lines from the ballad “Off to Dublin in the Green”, written by Dominic Behan.
Less famous perhaps, is the fact that Revolutionary Ireland was intimately involved in the early development of the Thompson Submachine Gun itself.
The Thompson submachine gun or ‘Tommy gun’ was designed by retired US Army Lieut. Col. Marcellus Thompson, who later founded the Auto Ordnance Corporation to oversee development of his new weapon.
Financier Thomas Fortune Ryan became Thompson’s partner and set about finding finance for the new weapon. By chance, Ryan was also a senior member of Clann na nGaedheal and he was perfectly placed to contact Michael Collins who agreed to finance the project with republican money using Ryan’s financial contacts.
Early 1921 saw the manufacture of the first Thompson guns. Two of these were tested out by Clann na nGaedheal members in New York.
The IRA completed an order for over 500 guns, magazines, spare parts and ammunition. The Thompson soon saw active service in June 1921 with an IRA attack on a train in Drumcondra. The IRA were the first to use the Thompson in combat, but plans for its widespread use were put on hold when most of the Irish consignment was impounded by the US Customs and Justice Department prior to its shipment. Later 168 of the weapons that escaped confiscation eventually made their way to Ireland, and more would later follow.
The Thompson would later famously be used in prohibition-era gang wars in Chicago, and later still saw service with the U.S. Army throughout the Second World War.
The example shown in this post is in the collection of the Defence Forces Military Museum in the Curragh who kindly allowed us to photograph.
Click HERE to see this and other items from our Revolutionary Collection on Source
Click HERE for more info on the Curragh Museum.