Charles P. Dolan, Sinn Fein MP for North Leitrim

Sinn Fein is Gaelic for "Ourselves Alone"

Charles P. Dolan was a very interesting character. He was the boyhood school mate of my Grandmother Anne McTiernan, nee McGreal. My Sainted grandmother never liked him as when they were kids and she was walking to school, Charles would never give her a ride in his dog cart. They both went to the same school but were never close friends.

Charles was always interested in shoes. He tried to start a boot manufacturing plant in North Leitrim but it never got off the ground. He was a contemporary of P.A McHugh, the publisher of the Sligo Champion newspaper. Bernard McTiernan, The Champion of Sligo worked for McHugh as sub editor. Both McHugh and his sub editor Bernard McTiernan were against Sinn Fein and for the U.I.L. Charles was also a contemporary of Rev. Stephen McTiernan, my third cousin. Rev. Stephen was a very powerful voice in Leitrim during these Land War years when Sinn Fein was starting up. At the time the common people and the leaders around North Leitrim did not like Sinn Fein or what it stood for. Since Charles Dolan was the Sinn Fein candidate for the British Parliament from North Leitrim they voted him out of office...sort of knocked him off his dog cart as they say. Charles' uncle was the Vicar General of the Diocese and conspicuous by his silence on his nephews campaign for office as MP.

In 1983 while we were in the deeds office in Carrick-on-the Shannon, on a visit with my dad to Leitrim, after learning that we were from St. Louis, a clerk in the Carrick-on-the-Shannon deeds office asked me if I had ever heard of Charles Dolan. At the time I had not but the clerk proceeded to tell me all about him.

Later on in history, after Charles had resigned his MPship by taking the Chiltern Hundreds* he immigrated to St. Louis, MO USA right after the turn of the century. St. Louis had a majority of all the shoe manufacturing plants in the country early in the 20th century. Charles tried unsuccessfully to transport the shoe technology of the time back to Leitrim to set up manufacturing plants. St. Louis since that time has gone out of the shoe business.

While in St. Louis, he joined the MASONs which at the time was hated more by the Catholic Church than Communism ever was. He also married a non Catholic, which was regarded as only just below the sin of joining the MASONs. Because of this Hugh McTiernan VI, my grandfather and the other St. Louis Irish immigrants would never talk to him.

Strange how these events lead up to my poor old dad, John Francis McTiernan, who about the mid 1930's is attending law school at Washington University. Who should turn up to be my dad's major law professor, none other than Charles P. Dolan. I wonder what difficulty my dad had to even get a passing grade in Dolan's class.

My dad, at the time was trying to stay in college to keep playing baseball and Law school gave him several more seasons of playing time.

* Chiltern Hundreds is a legal device used to resign from the British Parliament as it is by law illegal for an MP to resign. The Chiltern Hills are in the counties of Oxford, Buckingham and Bedford. The area was once infested with robbers on account of which an official named the Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds was appointed by James I to protect the people (and his tax base). It is held to be an office of profit under the crown and any member of Parliament accepting an office of profit under the crown must vacate his seat, subject to re-election. The custom dates from 1750.

The below supplied by Martin Doherty

Charles Dolan  was the first person to run for Parliament under the Sinn Fein banner.  Charles lost, but ten years later Sinn Fein won in a landslide at the 1918 election.


            Fellow-Countrymen, Two years ago you sent me to be your representative in the British House of Commons. You sent me to voice your demand for Self Government, and you also gave me a mandate to strive for whatever remedial measures lay within our reach, and I went to the House of Commons determined to serve your interests and the interests of our country to the best of my ability.

   But I was not long there before I realized the truth of Michael Davitt's statement – that no Irish grievance, however genuine would ever be remedied in that Assembly unless the Government had to choose between reform and martial law in Ireland

   The day of Parnell, Davitt, and the Land League is over, and the voice of Ireland is drowned amidst contending English factions.  Although I felt that the Irish members were wasting their time in the British House of Commons, I waited to see what the Liberals would do to redeem their pledges regarding Home Rule. These pledges had raised high hopes in the breasts of Irishmen and many looked forward with confidence to the Council Bill. ...

   The publication of the Bill destroyed whatever lingering belief I had in the sincerity of the Liberals. Henceforth I felt that if I continued to attend Westminster I would be deceiving my constituents and betraying the cause of Irish Nationalism. I have come home to tell you the truth, and to abide by the consequences; I have come home to tell you that the Irish Members are helpless in the House of Commons, where they are outnumbered six to one, and their speeches unheeded; that the proper place for the representatives of Ireland to meet is Dublin, not London; that the true field of action is Ireland, not England; that it is only by our efforts that Ireland can be raised to a position of prosperity and started on the path of national development; and that in appealing to  Englishmen we are wasting our energies and demoralizing our people ....

   I stand for Ireland, Free, Self-reliant, and Prosperous...... Sinn Féin means the end of empty talk and humbug, and the beginning of genuine National work; it means more wealth, more employment, and better wages for the people; it heralds the dawn of a new era rich with promise for our long-suffering country, and as a believer in the policy of Sinn Fein, a believer in a self-reliant, self-supporting Ireland, I confidently solicit your support.


Source:  C.J. Dolan’s by-election address, Sinn Féin, 22 February 1908


          The result of the polling, which took place on Friday, to fill the Parliamentary vacancy in this division caused by the appointment of Mr. C. J. Dolan to be steward and bailiff of the manor of Northstead was declared on Saturday as follows:-

          Mr. Francis Meehnan (N.)                    …         …         3,103

          Mr. C.J. Dolan (Sinn Fein)                   …         …         1,157


      Nationalist majority                               …        …         1,946 

          When the result was declared in Manorhamilton by Mr. Wilton Vaugh, sub-sheriff, some cheers were given by a crowd which had assembled outside the Court-house, but there was no excitement of any kind. In the course of a conversation afterwards, Mr. Meehan said that he attributed his success to the intelligence of the people of the constituency, and to their determination to support a pledge bound party in Parliament. Mr. Dolan in seconding a vote of thanks to the sub-sheriff said that this was the first time when the issue of Sinn Fein versus Parliamentarianism was put clearly before an Irish electorate, and the fact that on the first occasion 1,157 votes had been recorded in favour of the policy of abstention from the Parliament  of England was something to give hope. Forty years ago, when Home Rule was put before an Irish constituency in Longford, only 400 votes were recorded in favour of John Martin, the Home Rule candidate; a few years afterwards Home Rule was the policy of the Irish nation.  So would it be with Sinn Fein. The policy that was best for the interests of the country and most in keeping with the country’s traditions and honour was bound sooner or later to prevail.

   The large abstention from voting showed that nearly 2,000 people in North Leitrim were still undecided as to which was the best policy for the country, and that they preferred to take no part whatever in deciding the issue.

   The result of the election was received in Dublin without surprise, for Mr. Dolan's candidature was, from the first, regarded as hopeless. The fact that he polled over a thousand votes is regarded, however, as a serious blow to the prestige of the Parliamentary party. The nucleus of a Sinn Fein party exists in nearly every country town in Ireland, and it is believed that Mr. Dolan's comparative success will encourage the extremists to give the official Nationalists a great deal of  trouble at future elections. It may he noted that a considerable sum was subscribed by Sinn Feiners throughout Ireland for the expenses of Mr. Dolan's candidature. According to Mr. Dolan   himself, the Unionist electors in North Leitrim as a body, abstained from voting. He seems to have expected a certain amount of support from this quarter.

 Source: The Times, 24 February 1908

Dr M.A. Doherty
Principal Lecturer in History

School of Humanities
University of Westminster
309 Regent Street
London W1B 2UW
020 350 69042

Michael McTiernan

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Last updated Jan 1, 2000

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