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Kildaremen in the South African War 1899-1902
Brian McCabe and Liam Kenny, Naas Local History Group,
12 November 2007.
On Monday night, 12 November 2007, Brian McCabe and Liam Kenny of the Naas Local History Group gave a presentation on Boer War 1899-1902 and its Kildare connections. The Boer War story in some ways is a story of lists: the four states - Cape Colony, Natal (both British), and the Orange Free State and the Transvaal ( both Boer); the three rivers which became battle lines -- the Tugelam, the Orange and the Modder; and the three siege towns -- Ladysmith, Kimberley and Mafeking. Brian McCabe traced the evolution of the conflict -- essentially a clash between two sets of acquisitive colonists - the Boers and the British -- with terrain bearing rich seams of diamond and gold forming the contested territory. The war was a manufactured one to a degree with both sides upping the stakes until a point of no return was reached. The initial British force sent to South Africa to contest the Boers was small and poorly equipped. It was hampered too by military doctrines developed on the training grounds of Aldershot and the Curragh -- an over reliance on outdated formation maneouvres which were easily outwitted by the mobile and tenacious Boers who had the added advantage of being equipped with the modern Mauser rifle. It was not until the British flooded south Africa with manpower and embarked on a contentious policy of rounding up and incarcerating the Boer civilian populations that they began to claim the upperhand. As in so many conflicts there were Irish involved on both sides. Leaders of Irish nationalism such as Major John McBride (later executed following the 1916 rising) and Arthur Griffith lent their support to the Boer cause and there were two Irish Brigades formed on the Boer side. Of course the biggest Irish representation was to be found among the ranks of the British army. Many of the British Generals were Irish born or had spent considerable time soldiering in depots in Ireland. Then in 1900 there was a call sent out for experienced horsemen to join as ad hoc mounted infantry. The hunting elite of Kildare took up the challenge and formed a squadron of Imperial Yeomanry. Col T J de Burgh of Oldtown House, Naas, went to South Africa in Spring 1900; he had two brothers -- one Hugo was killed near Jammersburgh Drift in January 1900. A feature of the night was a display of slides copied from photographs taken by Col de Burgh during his South African years. These were somewhat more personal than the usual military scenes and included a shot of a hospital with signs over the beds indicating the different Hunt Clubs in Ireland which had sponsored hospital beds -- the Listowel, Ormonde and Kildare Hunt signs being visible in the picture. Brian McCabe explained too that the memorial arch in St Stephen's Green facing Grafton Street was erected 100 years ago in 1907 to commemorate men who had fallen while serving with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the Boer War -- many of these would have passed through Naas Barracks which was the Regimental Depot on their way to the Cape Colony.

A note on a the highly successful talk by Brian McCabe and Liam Kenny on Kildare connections with the Boer War, 1899-1902.

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