A native of Drogheda, Frank Thornton emigrated to Liverpool in 1912, where he joined the Gaelic League, the GAA, the IRB and the Irish Volunteers. He was part of a group that escorted the body of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa from Liverpool to Dublin in 1915. After adopting the name Proinsias Ua Droighneain in an attempt to avoid conscription, he moved to Dublin in advance of the Easter Rising, accompanied by his brothers Hugh and Patrick, as well as his sister Nora. He joined the Kimmage Garrison along with his brothers and was initially stationed at Liberty Hall on Easter Monday. He was later detailed to City Hall, the GPO and, finally, the Imperial Hotel, where he tunnelled through to Allen’s stores before being captured. Identifying himself as Proinsias Ua Droighneain in Richmond Barracks, he recalled later that the “officer wrote it down as Frank Drennan” and he was “thereafter known by friend and foe under my new cognomen.” He was court-martialled and sentenced to death, but this was commuted to ten years penal servitude and he served time in Dartmoor, Lewes and Portland prisons before his release in 1917. After further periods of imprisonment, parts of which were spent on hunger-strike, he was appointed to Michael Collins’ intelligence staff during the War of Independence and later served as a Colonel in the National Army during the Civil War. Despite being seriously wounded in August 1922, he continued his role with the army until March 1924.
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