Saturday, 2 August 2014

A Mother’s Surprise!

Sarah Jane Teeling (1861-1927), Upper Jane Place, Dublin
Sarah Jane Teeling (1861-1927),
Upper Jane Place, Dublin

This lady was born Sarah Jane McGrane on 19 August 1861, at 41 Mecklenburgh Street, Dublin. Her parents were Myles McGrane and Margaret Doyle. She was a younger sister of my maternal great-great-grandmother, Margaret (McGrane) Byrne. However, she will always be better known in our immediate family as Frank Teeling’s mother.

On 30 July 1879, when Sarah was still only seventeen years old, she married Richard Daly, a man over forty years her senior. Richard lived in Upper Jane Place, off Oriel Street, in Dublin, where Sarah would spend the remainder of her days. Richard died on 24 October 1888 and within two years Sarah married Christopher Teeling, who was more her own age.

Sarah gave birth to fifteen children in her time, five with Richard and ten with Christopher, but sadly, most of them died young.

One of her surviving sons, Frank Teeling, became a sniper in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. He was captured, beaten and imprisoned on Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920.

He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Frank’s daring escape from Kilmainham Gaol, along with Ernie O’Malley and Simon Donnelly, on 14 February 1921, caused so much excitement in Ireland. News of the escape even made page 3 of the New York Times, where they deemed  it ‘almost incredible’ that Frank could elude justice, when under military supervision in Kilmainham, especially with it's 40-foot walls. It was the source of huge embarrassment for the Crown's forces in Ireland.

The day after the prison-break, when Frank was in hiding, Sarah Teeling was interviewed by the Irish Independent. She told of her frequent visits to the prison, bringing food parcels for her son. She said she got very excited when, on the previous day, her parcel was refused and the soldiers told her 'HE WAS GONE'. 

Frank Teeling escapes from Kilmainham
Irish Independent, 16 February 1921, p. 5.

What must it have been like for a mother to see her beloved son tried for murder, locked up and sentenced to death? How relieved Sarah must have felt on his timely escape from Gaol.

Sarah Teeling died on 5 June 1927, aged sixty-seven years, and was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.  As for Frank, they never did catch him. When he died, aged 76, on 25 January 1976, he too was buried in Glasnevin, with his wife Lily, and his younger brother, Joseph.

Irish Independent, 16 February 1921, p. 5; New York Times, 16 February 1921, p. 3; other sources available on request. 
Photograph of Sarah Teeling, courtesy of Michael Meehan, In the front gate – and out the back: the story of Frank Teeling (Dublin, 2007).


  1. What a dramatic story! Did anyone ever figure out how he accomplished such a stunning escape?

  2. There are varying accounts of the escape, Jacqi, mostly involving the help of sympathetic soldiers on the inside and the old IRA on the outside. They got out the back gate, probably with the help of some bolt cutters.

  3. Not just a surprise but a very pleasant surprise! It would have been awful to have a son in jail sentenced to death for standing up for what he believed in. Was her son ever caught or did he get away for good?

  4. Thanks Nancy, luckily he was not recaptured and the Irish Free State was established within the year.

  5. Hello Dara, what a fascinating account. I'm so pleased he escaped!

    Thank you very much for coming to visit my blog. I have a lot to learn about this side of blogging. I sell vintage books and write a blog about that, but this is more personal and somehow more daunting. Your comment was really welcome. Barbara.

  6. Thank you Barbara. Best of luck with your new blog!

  7. Dara, you have such amazing family stories! I love them.

  8. Thanks Ellie, I love them too! Your own are pretty interesting also.

  9. Hi Dara, I presume you are aware of this website which I came across while researching Frank Teeling?

    1. Yes thanks Michael, the author and I have previously collaborated in the search for our mutual ancestors. Are you related to Frank too? I've done a bit of research on him already, so if you've any questions, I'd be happy to help.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!