Death of Jim Collins, ‘the miller’ – Kilcullen, 1983

by mariocorrigan on December 23, 2008



 Death of

 Jim Collins

One of Kilcullen’s strongest links with the past was severed with the recent death of Jim Collins (84), the popular figure known locally as ‘the miller’.  Jim ran the corn mill at the bridge in Kilcullen for many years, retiring only in 1972.

Like many of his generation, he had a chequered history born out of turbulent times.  He was a member of the Old IRA and remained staunchly anti-partitionist throughout the Civil War, undergoing imprisonment in a grand total of seven prisons including Kilmainham, Dundalk, the Curragh and Mountjoy.

One of his own favourite stories was of his escape from Dundalk prison in the company of Frank Aiken during the Civil War.  Jim was recaptured in Meath and, after serving his final term of imprisonment (in Newbridge), was released on Christmas Eve, 1924.

Walking from Newbridge to Kilcullen that night and seeing no lights in the town on his arrival was an experience often described by Jim as one of the darkest and most lonely of his life.  He had not been home for a number of years and he discovered, after his time ‘on the run’, that many of his friends had left the area, some to go to America.  Jim’s family had kept the corn mill at Kilcullen since 1880 and his father had earned most of his living through providing feed for British Army horses on the Curragh.  Hence the surprise that Jim, an only child, should grow to be so proud of being a member of the 6th Battalion of the Carlow Brigade, Old IRA.

Jim took over the mill on his father’s death.  Throughout the 30’s and 40’s he continued to participate in the anti-partition movement as strongly as ever.  He took on other issues, too.  In 1945 he successfully sued the ESB, after flood waters originating from Poulaphouca caused his weir o burst.  The result was that the ESB, not only paid him £1,000 compensation, but the board also converted his mill to electricity, a development which enabled it to run well up to 1972.

Jim’s wife, Mary Ellen (Helen) who died in 1959, tended to have many similar idea to her husband.  Acting as a messenger during the 1916 Rising caused her to lose her job in Dublin but she came to Naas, met Jim and eventually settled in Kilcullen.  They are survived by their only sons John and Jim and their families.

The burial, after Requiem Mass at the Church of the Sacred Heart and St. Brigid, was with full military honours.  Members of the local Fianna Fail Cumann, of which Jim was the founder, formed the guard of honour.  Among those at the funeral were Fianna Fail Deputies Charlie McCreevy and Paddy Power

Leinster Leader report on the passing of Jim Collins, Kilcullen who had been active during the Civil War.

[typed and edited by Mary O’Hara]

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