Fred Allan, as he was always called, was born in Dublin in 1861, and always lived in the Greater Dublin area. As a young man he attended a debating society in the Clonliffe Methodist church on Jones's Road, and there developed a strong interest in socialism. He absorbed the ideas of radical republicanism from the writings of John Mitchel, joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and was soon elected to important offices in its Leinster branch.
In the late 1880s he became manager of the Dublin newspaper The Freeman's Journal and during this time was associated with Parnell and John Redmond in Irish political life. For seven years he was Secretary of the IRB Executive, a post of considerable influence. After 1900 he held a succession of important appointments in Dublin Corporation, being influential in the establishment of the city's first major electric power station at the Pigeon House, and the development of Fairview Park.
He did not approve of the Easter rising in 1916, but in the following years became the Sinn Fein director of elections in South Dublin. On the establishment of the Irish Free State he was appointed to influential positions in its Department of Industry and Commerce.
In 1885 at Clonliffe Methodist church he married Clara Neale. She later converted to Roman Catholicism. Tolerant of all religious and political views, Allan took care that their son Eugene was brought up in the Methodist tradition. His socialism and republicanism alienated him from his Methodist friends, and his rejection of armed conflict as a means of political change alienated the rank and file of Sinn Fein. He remained a man with a mind of his own. He died in 1937.