Belfast Telegraph

Boy George tells of 'pride and sorrow' as IRA ties revealed on Who Do You Think You Are?

By Jonathan Bell

Eighties pop icon Boy George has spoken of his pride but also his sorrow as it was revealed he has family connections to the IRA in early 20th century in Dublin.

The Culture Club singer is appearing on the BBC documentary Who Do You Think You Are?, which traces the family trees of the famous.

During the programme his family history reveals tragedy closely interwoven with Irish history.

Ahead of discovering his family ties he suspected a lot of sadness would dominate.... "A lot of mascara running, even though I’m not wearing any make-up," he said.

Born George Alan O'Dowd he grew up in south London and was always aware of his Irish roots in a home which had a "Freedom Fighters" album featuring Irish rebel songs which he had played.

“Growing up in the Seventies, being Irish, you were really aware of the IRA bombings, and innocent people were being killed, and they were such big news, you were made aware of the fact that your family were Irish,” he said.

For the programme he travelled to Dublin to trace his green roots on his mother Dinah's side.

His grandmother Bridget was found wandering the streets of Dublin at just six years old and put into a children's home. During the programme George makes a vow to his mother he will travel to Dublin to find out more about Bridget's story.

And he unearths his family ties to the republican movement.

His great-grandfather Richard Glynn fought for the British Army - which wasn't unusual at the time in Dublin for the working classes. His wife Molly had been married to his brother prior to their marriage and her daughter Annie married republican Thomas Bryan.

And Thomas was executed at Mountjoy prison and buried alongside Kevin Barry - an IRA man who was hung for his role in the killing of three soldiers.

Prison records reveal that Thomas was arrested in 1917, three years before marrying Annie, for taking part in a drill of the Irish Volunteers, a precursor to the IRA.

Only a few months after marrying Annie, Thomas was arrested again during a raid in Drumcondra. This was during the Irish War of Independence. British officials had imposed martial law and being arrested had serious consequences for an IRA volunteer like Thomas Bryan. He was sent to Kilmainham Gaol.

At the time Annie was pregnant.

"What a thing," said George. "To find out that they’ve been married four months, he was now facing the hangman and he was having a kid … how human do you want to get? You know, it’s just the most awful thing to find out.

George later discovers the child died at just one day old, four days before his father was executed.

Thomas Bryan and five other IRA men were executed in 1921. They along with four others and Kevin Barry - who the family long thought they had ties to - were buried in unmarked graves within the prison walls.

They became known as the Forgotten Ten. In 2001, however, that changed when their bodies were exhumed and taken to Glasnevin Cemetery, where they were reburied with state honours.

In the documentary George travels to the cemetery to pay his respects.

“I’m proud and I’m sad,” he adds.

"My family’s association to really important parts of Irish history is a revelation.”

The episode airs on BBC on Monday, July 23.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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