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JOHN DEVOY - MEMORIAL PLANS PAST AND PRESENT

Leinster Leader 18th March 2010
 
 
John Devoy – memorial plans past and present
 
A campaign to erect a memorial in Naas to the long-lived Fenian activist John Devoy has published a booklet which is a fine reminder of the activities of the original Devoy memorial committee in 1964. First a word about the subject of this project: John Devoy was born at Greenhills between Kill and Johnstown in 1842. He was to become the marathon man of the Irish republican cause in a life of complicated political manoeuvrings which spanned the Atlantic. Devoy had an involvement to one degree or another with all of the landmarks of Irish nationalism from the 1867 Fenian rising to 1916 Easter rebellion. His persistence, energy and longevity saw him to the forefront of agitation for over fifty years, most of them spent in America in the role of an influential journalist and campaigner in America rallying support from Irish-Americans for the Irish cause.
The recently published booklet ‘ A forgotten hero – John Devoy’  is introduced by Naas man, Seamus Curran, well known in the tonsorial trade in the town, whose aim is to be have a memorial erected to Devoy in a central location in Naas. The current campaign has a good precedent to follow: in the 1960s a committee was formed of Kildare based councillors and retired army officers to commemorate Devoy in a number of ways in advance of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 rising. A booklet published by the committee in 1964 is reproduced in the text of Seamus Curran’s recent publication. The Chair of the 1960s committee was Cllr. Michael Smyth PC; other public representatives involved were Cllrs. Thomas Dunne and Michael St. Leger who were joined by James Dunne and Thomas O’Connell. Army officers involved were Capt. Tadhg MacLoinsigh and Capt. Tadhg O’Cathain while Lt.Col. William Rea and Col. Eamonn Broy (famous as Michael Collins’ agent in Dublin castle) were trustees for the project. The Hon. Secretary to the group was Stephen Rynne of Downings House, Prosperous, a master of the written word, campaigning author and broadcaster in the 1960s. In a forward to the their 1964 booklet,  committee chairman Michael Smyth outlined their plans to mark Devoy’s local origins by erecting what he described as ‘a simple memorial’ at the site of the long disappeared Devoy home near Kill. He was perhaps understating their potential – the monument  which the committee commissioned from sculptor  Christopher Ryan is a fine example, modern and balanced in composition. It has worn its four decades very well and was properly looked after by the motorway builders at the time of the widening of the dual carriageway some years ago, being carefully relocated to a position on the side of the Kill-Johnstown link road. The monument consists of a bright granite wall with a bronze relief image of Devoy and a metal representation of a tree branch, reflecting the slow but tenacious nature of the growth of Irish nationalism. The monument was unveiled in 1966 with some ceremony, an officer guard-of-honour rendering the salute. For some years after the popular hotel at Johnstown was named Osta John Devoy. A more formal recollection of Devoy had been in place since 1956 when the Naas military barracks was named Devoy barracks on the opening of the Army Apprentice School. When the barracks closed in 1998 the torch was handed on to Naas Town Council:  Lt. Col Des Donagh, last Officer Commanding of Devoy barracks, presented a portrait  of  Devoy which had been exhibited in the officer’s mass for many years. The portrait is now displayed in the council chamber in the Town Hall. The naming link is echoed in the name ‘Devoy quarter’, a name given by council planners to the lands once occupied by the barracks and now home to Kildare County Council’s Aras Chill Dara headquarters. There is also a Devoy terrace in Naas and another in the Curragh camp. However Seamus Curran and his committee feel that more needs to be done to recall one of Kildare’s most famous sons and are pressing to have a memorial to him in a prominent location in Naas. Returning to the 1960s committee an original idea of theirs was the creation of a ‘John Devoy scholarship’ to be awarded to a student intending to study modern Irish history at third-level. A revival of such a scholarship plan would have much to recommend it in the modern era. Any student benefiting might be encouraged to undertake a study and evaluation of Devoy’s influential and controversial career at the heart of Irish and Irish-American nationalism for over five decades. No. 169.  
 
 

In his regular feature 'Nothing New Under thre Sun' in the Leinster Leader  Liam Kenny reports on a recently published booklet 'A forgotton hero - John Devoy' ....Our thanks to Liam


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