by ehistoryadmin on June 29, 2017

Leinster Leader 17 July 2003


Kitty Henderson

Naas woman Kathleen Henderson was named Person of the Year at the Kildareman’s Association dinner in New York recently.

This is the first time that a woman from Naas has been honoured in this way. On receiving the guest of honour award at the Kildareman’s annual dinner in April, Kitty made a beautiful speech about her times in Naas point out that she “will always be a Kildare woman” and concluded with “Up the Lily Whites”.

It was truly appropriate that at the gathering that night was fellow Naas person Jim Higgins, formerly of Millbank, son of the great Jack Higgins, Kildare footballer. Perhaps a lucky omen for the coming championship.

Kitty (Kathleen) Henderson, formerly Carroll was born in Naas on St. Brigid’s Day (1 February) 1912, and spent her youth living on the Sallins Road.

Her house was situated where the old car park was and where the new town centre is presently. She has many fond memories of her days in Naas and indeed keeps constant contact with her relatives in Naas, Newbridge, Portlaoise and the Curragh.

One of her earliest memories as a child is of watching John Devoy being received at a reception at the Town Hall in Naas on his return from the USA.

In her earlier years in Naas she lived through the turbulent times of the 1916 rising and the civil war. She remembers clearly a photograph of Thomas Ashe, draped in black and hanging from the Town Hall in Naas on September 25 1917 after he died.

Her brother Pat Carroll was interned in the Curragh and later imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol for his activities in the War of Independence. Pat was officer commanding of the south Dublin, Saggart unit, of the old IRA.

As a young child Kitty served as a secret message carrier for the IRA. She delivered notes pinned to her jacket to many IRA leaders in Dublin, including Countess Markiervicz, pretending to be a sick child going to Dublin in the belief that no one would ever suspect her.

Kitty reckons she saved her brother’s life by running home from outside Thomas Whelan’s grocery, now Fletchers, South Main Street, to tell her mother that she saw Pat go through Naas en route for Kilmainham, in the back of a military vehicle.

It was probably the intent of the British forces to execute him in Dublin. Her mother rallied a number of women into action and they cycled immediately to Dublin to create a protest outside the jail. This ensured her brother’s safety.

Kitty left Naas for New York in September 1929, to join her sister May who had left the previous year. A month after arriving in New York City the Wall Street crash occurred and Kitty and her sister May together with thousands of other Kildare people in New York had to make do with very little in the following years.

Kitty married Dan Henderson, a native of Kildare town, in 1933 and they have four sons. She now has a large family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have inherited her strong sense of faith and Irishness together with her deep love of County Kildare.

One of her final memories before leaving Kildare in September 1929 was seeing the Sam Maguire Cup in Joe McDonald’s shop window, now Prouts, after Kildare had won the double. She must surely be one of a very elite group of people with this memory.

She believes that this year she will see the return of Sam to the county town. Throughout her years abroad she has followed Kildare’s progress each year in the All-Ireland championship with great zeal.

This year as Kildare line out against Laois, she has one particular interest. One of Kildare’s star performers is Killian Brennan, her grand-nephew, Killian’s grandmother, Frances Carroll (now deceased), is Kitty’s sister.

Some of her grandchildren and sons will watch the Leinster final next Sunday, live in a pub in Queens.

Many of her grandchildren have kept links with their Kildare cousins and are now active in the Kildareman’s Association.

Kitty did not return to Ireland until 1964, 35 years after leaving, but has been a regular visitor since.


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