by mariocorrigan on July 11, 2009



Larry Breen


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Naas Public Library presented a unique opportunity in recent times (March 2009) for a captivated audience to see in public for the first time in many years the “arm” of the famed Irish Boxing Champion, Dan Donnelly, hero of the epic battle with English Champion George Cooper in the cauldron of “Donnelly’s Hollow”. The arm had been made available through Nessa Dunlea of Kilcullen Heritage Centre and by courtesy of Josephine Byrne, the owner of the arm and formerly of the “Hideout Pub” where Dan’s arm had rested for forty years or more.

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Nessa Dunlea, Ger McCarthy, Josephine Byrne, Larry Breen, Brendan Cullen

Naas Local History Group member, Larry Breen, who had taken a personal interest in this remarkable man gave a fascinating talk on Dan’s life, loves and final demise. The talk was dedicated by the speaker to two of his late friends, Bob and Wanda Spencer, from Bangor in County Down. Larry told the story of how his great friend Bob had became infatuated with Donnelly’s life after making visits to Donnelly’s Hollow and the Hideout and had passed that interest on to him. Dan’s story was tailor made for the “Silver Screen” as it embodied all the ingredients of life, poverty, success, fame, alcohol, sex and the eventual demise of a people’s champion. “Sir Daniel” as he was affectionately known was a man of his time, a larger than life character, a product of the Regency era.  It is to our great shame that outside of Donnelly’s Hollow in the Curragh and in particular in his native Dublin that no public memorial bears testimony to this great Irishman.

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A description of Dan reads as follows:  Donnelly was a creature of the moment, creating mirth and laughter all around him. His sayings were droll in the extreme and his behaviour was always decorous. He was generous, good natured and grateful. Tomorrow might, or might not, be provided for and it never created any uneasiness in his mind. He would say, “Devil may care”. He was an Irishman, every inch of him.  

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Nessa Dunlea, Larry Breen and Paddy Behan

Naas Local History Group have printed the talk given on the night by Larry Breen in booklet form, a great idea for all Local History Groups to capture the wonderful knowledge on display annually throughout the county. 

The arm of famous boxer Dan Donnelly was on show at Naas Local History Group in March for a talk by Larry Breen. The photographs of the arm offer us a unique insight into the strange and wonderful tale of one of the most remarkable ‘Kildare’ figures of the 19th Century. Our thanks as always to Larry Breen.

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