Niles man fights off robbers with an Irish fighting stick

Don’t mess with Dan Donovan or you might get the luck of the Irish upside your head.

When he and his wife found themselves under attack by home invaders last week, 81-year-old Donovan reached for a family heirloom -- his grandfather’s shillelagh.

Donovan and his wife Barbara were in their Niles home last week when a man in a utility vest came to the door saying he was from COM Ed and needed to check their electrical box for an emergency.

But as all three then gathered in the basement, someone was lurking upstairs.

“I hear the floor in the bedroom squeaking and I yelled Dan! Dan! Somebody’s in our bedroom!” Barbara said.

Dan ran upstairs and found two men with a flannel pillowcase ransacking the house.

“Well I couldn’t get to a phone, anything else. I had to go on office to get them out of the house,” Dan said.

That’s when Dan spotted a family heirloom in the dining room: His grandfather’s shillelagh from Ireland, which is a hand carved walking stick that can also double as a club.


“It’s 100 years old. So if I hit him with this, it’ll make a point,” Dan said.

Indeed, with Dan swinging the club at the robbers, the point was made.

“Yeah I hit the guy in the head. I’m certain I got him in the head good because he wouldn’t let go of the pillowcase,” he said.

“I’ve never heard him speak like that. He said I got the one guy, I got the one guy right in the head. I said good, good,” Barbara said.

With Dan still swinging, the robbers fled the house and jumped into their car.

“It was the only place I could get a clear swing was in the driveway. Back window, front window, hood of their car. But I’m chasing them barefoot and swinging the stick like a madman,” Dan said.

Niles Police are still looking for the men and say there have been a large number of so-called ruse entry robberies recently in Niles and throughout Chicago’s suburbs, usually preying on seniors.

“I absolutely would recommend calling the mainline of the utility service, or you can go ahead and call the front desk here at the police department and we can verify that,” said Kevin Regal of the Niles Police Department.

“You have to be alert because people will take advantage of you right, and they’re super sharp,” Dan said.

Call it the luck of the Irish.

“Grandpa is watching over us,” Barbara said.