El Capitán Irlandés


My book is a true story about the life and times of an ordinary Belfast man. He fought in two world wars with an impeccable record, reaching the rank of Captain. His life however was punctuated by self-inflicted complexities, like his decision to fight on the side of fascism in the Spain Civil War (1936).

Surviving friends and acquaintances spoke highly of a gifted individual, talented in field of firearms and ballistics as well as his love and devotion for his only child. In later life, he rarely revealed his Belfast origins and spoke with an “indistinct accent” confusing all who knew him. Thomas Frederick Smith was my grandmother’s eldest brother who left the family home the same year she was born. She never met him.

After leaving Belfast, and in between wars, Tom Smith worked for the Government in British Guyana and Marconi’s in Canada before settling in Dublin where he spent the remainder of his days as a Director at Garnett and Keegans (a renowned firearms and fishing tackle establishment) in Dublin’s Parliament Street. Until this publication, Tom’s extraordinary life was a mystery to his eight brothers and sisters and their families.

I would like to thank all the wonderful people I interviewed and contributed to my 7 years of research. Meeting you, listening to your stories, your enthusiasm to help a stranger is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Chapter Selection

Chapter Selection

Chapter One Searching for Tom
Chapter Two The Trouble with Belfast
Chapter Three Those Trenches “What a Bloody Nightmare”
Chapter Four The Spanish Civil War
Chapter Five Garnetts and Keegans
Chapter Six Early Firearms and Methods of Ignition

References Consulted

  1. AM Arnold, “The Great Northern Railway”, p1976
  2. Andrew Forrest, “The Spanish Civil War”, p2000
  3. Company Registration Office, “Electra Company Ltd” – CRO/1/D7976
  4. D.J. Owen, “The History of Belfast”, p1921
  5. Darrell Figgis, “Recollections of the Irish War” p1924
  6. Dublin National Archives, “Irish Brigade for Spain – Eoin O’Duffy Press Cuttings”, JUS/8/308 81/36A
  7. Éamon de Buitléar, “ A Life in the Wild”, p 2004
  8. Eoin O’Duffy, “Crusade in Spain”, p.1938
  9. Fearghal McGarry, “Eoin O’Duffy – Self Made Hero”, p2005
  10. Fearghal McGarry, “Irish Politics and the Spanish Civil War”, p 1999
  11. Francis McCullagh, “In Franco’s Spain”, p1938
  12. Irish Newspaper Archives, (Online)
  13. RTE Documentary, “Even the Olive’s are Bleeding”, Instituto Cervantes, 1976
  14. Irish Times Archives, “New Rifle will be Kinder to Animals” – 29th November 1952, p9
  15. Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann, “Eoin O’Duffy Papers”, (Collection List No. 166)
  16. Leabharlann Náisiúnta na hÉireann, “Garnett and Keegans Catalogue”,: 3B173
  17. Maryann Gialanella Valiulis, ”Almost a Rebellion – The Irish Army Mutiny of 1924”, p1985
  18. Ministry of Defence, “Tom Smith’s World War 2 Records”, -P173942
  19. Norman Baillie Stewart, “The Officer in the Tower.”p1967
  20. Passenger Lists, Ancestry.com
  21. Public Records Office Northern Ireland, “Arthur Hendry 1924 – Bigamy Bill No.45”, -Belf/1/12/73/61
  22. Public Records Office Northern Ireland, “Sean Cunningham Papers” – D1625/2-3
  23. Rachel Coyle, “Grangegorman Military Cemetery/Commonwealth War Graves Commission”
  24. Richard S Grayson, “Belfast Boys-How Unionists and Nationalists Fought and Died Together in WW1” p2009
  25. Robert A. Stradling, “The Irish and the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939”,
  26. University of Limerick – “Stradling Papers” – Special Collections

Acknowledgement and Special Thanks

  1. Barry Mason, (Skerries, Dublin) – For sharing the history of the great shooting and fishing institution that was Garnett and Keegans
  2. Ciaran Crossey (Belfast) – For you knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and pointing me in the right direction.
  3. Éamon de Buitléar (Wicklow) – For your recollections and funny stories when working with Tom
  4. Éamon McEnery (Portumna, Galway) – For the 2 days I spent with you reminiscing about your good friend Tom
  5. Kieran Thompson (Newport, Co Mayo) – For recalling and sharing your stories about Tom.
  6. Ken Anderson (Ulster Folk and Transport Museum) – For sharing your wealth of knowledge about the Great Northern Railway.
  7. Nuala and Brian Ramsey (Sutton, Dublin) – For sending Christmas cards to the Allens every year.
  8. Olive Strickland (Lucan, County Dublin) – For giving me a great character reference about your boss, Tom Smith
  9. Pat Barrett (Loughrea, Galway) – For more tales and photographs about Garnett and Keegans
  10. Phil Batt (Belfast) – For finding and sharing Tom’s World War 1 records
  11. Ronnie Craig (Stranmillis, Belfast) – This would not have been possible without that rusty old biscuit tin of photos.
  12. Tony Curran (Raheny, Dublin) – My first Garnett and Keegans contact who put me touch with the others

In some corner of your life, you know more about something than anyone else on earth. The true measure of your education is not what you know, but how you share what you know with others.Ken Nerburn

Profile image of Author

Contact Form

If you have any questions, comment or feedback about this site here are all the ways you can get in touch with me

My Contact Details
Stephen Myall
46 Daleview Road Swords County Dublin Ireland K67 V2F6

(0) 87 738 4018

Share this: