One of the few Meathmen killed in the Easter Rising, Thomas Allen, was born in Longwood about 1885. While he was very young his mother died and both he and his sister were taken to their grandparent’s house at Ballasport, Hill of Down where Thomas attended the local school and was later apprenticed to bootmaker, Pat Halpin of Clondalee. Thomas appeared on the 1901 census as an apprentice to Halpin and was living with the Halpin family.
Having learned his trade Allen moved to Dublin and lived with his aunt, Kate Quinn, at 19 Monck Place, Phibsborough. He got a job asa boot and shoe operator in Winstanleys. A few years later Thomas married Margaret Anderson, who also worked at Winstanleys, and they had four children: Tommy, Jack, James and Eileen.
Inspired by the increasing nationalism Allen joined the Irish Volunteers and was attached to C Company of the Dublin Brigade. He was said to have been very enthusiastic and so in 1914 he was given the responsibility of organising and training volunteers in east and north Co. Westmeath. Every Saturday when he finished work at Winstanleys he took the train to the Hill of Down and spent the rest of the weekend training the Volunteers under his charge. Allen entrusted the mobilisation papers to his cousin, Miss Bee Quinn, who took them to the train to the Hill of Down on Good Friday 1916. Because of confusion within the leadership of the Volunteers the rising did not begin until Easter Monday. Allen joined his company at Parnell Square on Easter Monday where he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant with orders to assist in the occupation of the Four Courts. Commandant Ned Daly with the 1st Battalion seized the buildings at the Four Courts and the force managed to survive the bombardment by British artillery that destroyed large parts of the city centre. This was a strategic position as it controlled the main route between the military barracks to the west of the city and the centre of the rising at the GPO. Four days after the rising began Allen was shot by a British sniper on April 28th. Fellow Longwood native, Eamonn Duggan, attempted to obtain medical assistance from the Richmond Hospital but a British officer in charge of the telephone exchange refused to allow the message to go through. Medical assistance was eventually reached but it was too late for Allen. Aged twenty nine Thomas died in Richmond Hospital and his remains was interred in Glasnevin cemetery.
Early in 1917 his aunt sought permission from the British military authorities to exhume the body for re-burial in Longwood. She was required to sign an undertaking that there would be no military display. The body was taken to St. Joseph’s Church, Berkeley Road, and on 6th January the funeral left for the train journey home. It is said that his father who was in the USA paid for his body to be reburied in Longwood. Allen’s body was returned to Longwood in a lead casket for burial at Kilglass cemetery, just outside the village. Some reports say that there was a public display of anger at the re-burial while other reports say it passed off quietly.
Later a local committee was formed to erect a suitable marker for his grave. Tommy Kelly, an old IRA Volunteer, from Kilcock, Co, Kildare carved the magnificent Celtic cross which stands over the grave. Kelly was not a stone mason and this was the only headstone that he ever made. Jim Riley, a Longwood Volunteer in the old IRA, provided the transport, a horse and cart to bring the headstone to the grave.
An annual commemoration was at Kilglass on Easter Monday until 1934 and then there was a break until 1959. Members of the Old IRA, FCA and GAA took part in the ceremonies in the 1980s. In 1990 the Celtic cross was attacked by vandals and broken into pieces but the grave was refurbished in 2004 by Meath Commemoration Committee.
Thomas Allen was survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter. One of his sons, John, lived in Dublin where he worked as a chemist and another son emigrated to the US. Another son moved to Manchester. Allen’s uncle was James Quinn of Hill of Down while his aunt, Kate Allen, lived at Inan, Longwood. His wife, Margaret Allen, died in 1953 and is buried in Kilglass cemetery, having survived her husband by nearly fifty years.
In 1920 Mullingar Urban Council renamed Gas (or Spoutwell) Lane to Thomas Allen road in honour of the 1916 hero.