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Search teams mobilise in missing boy episode

Leinster Leader 26 June 2008 
Front page drama as search teams mobilise in missing boy episode
The weekly publishing schedules of a local paper mean inevitably that the paper tends to be a journal of record rather than a news paper in the sense of reporting breaking news. However even the relatively regular schedule of a provincial newsroom can become animated when a story is breaking as the weekly deadline approaches. This was the case in the last week in June 1958 when the Leader brought an exciting account of the search mission for a local boy who had gone missing. Not alone was the story breaking at the right time for the paper’s weekly schedule but in this case the Leader reporter became part of the action himself so it is not surprising if there is a certain excited breathlessness in the paragraphs penned as the story unfolded.
 The front page story headed ‘All-Night Search for Missing Boy’ centred on the disappearance on the Monday afternoon of fourteen year-old Kevin O’Kelly. We are told that about 2.45pm that afternoon he had told his mother ‘the proprietress of a well-known ladies hair-dressing establishment at North Main St., Naas’, that he was going for a spin on his bicycle. When he failed to return  later that evening the alarm was raised and Naas town mobilised all its resources. Search parties set out to scour the local haunts where, as was the pastime of the era, young fellows went fishing, snaring or foraging in the woods. There was no result to the first night of searching ‘ Although many of the searchers stayed out all night no trace of him or his cycle was found.’
The Leader report gives a blow-by-blow account of how the search escalated: ‘ Then the searchers multiplying as the news that he was missing circulated began to widen the extent of the hunt. Car loads of people travelled many of the outlets from the town going as far as Prosperous, Clane and Millicent.’ There is an interesting reference to a major building project in the Naas area at the time: ‘ The line of search then took a new direction to Caragh, where further questions to men working on the construction of the new Church proved fruitless’ (this is a reference to Caragh church which was to be completed in 1960).
As always the rumour machine added to the confusion – even the rumours were reported in the paper: ‘ One report said he was seen on the canal banks, while another had him cycling out at the Newbridge road both at practically the same time.’
 His worried mother told the Leader reported on the Tuesday morning that she had been unable to sleep the previous night and ‘ once morning came she searched every bit of De Burgh’s wood.’ Her worry was that as Kevin had a pellet gun with him he may have been climbing trees to take a shot at birds and could have suffered a fall.
More manpower for the search came by way of the recently established Army Apprentice School in Naas from where the young recruits were mobilised to search in the Beggar’s End-Tipper district . The whole search effort for Kevin was now concentrated on the eastern hinterland of the town – the woods in the Tipper area being a favourite haunt of young lads from the town in pursuit of wildlife. According to the Leader report: ‘ Parties travelled by car and bicycle to the ‘likely’ places and then spread out scouring the thick woods at Tipper and Rathmore, one party actually making inquiries and searching as far as Glending (near Blessington).’
The concentration on the woods and hills to the east of Naas began to yield clues by Tuesday night. A bunch of keys belonging to Kevin was found in a barn at Tipper. His brother Seamus provided a vital lead by showing the search party the location where Kevin normally hid his bicycle when exploring the extensive woods of the Wolfe estate to the east of Naas racecourse. At this point his knapsack was found and then the Leader reporter had his moment of glory becoming part of the story: ‘ … after a search his bicycle was found hidden well into the wood by a ‘ Leinster Leader reporter …’
However the find was to prove superfluous as news came through that Kevin had been found safe and well if somewhat shaken. After resting on Tuesday night he was able to give the Leader a first-hand account of the incident that had befallen him: ‘ Kevin told our reporter that he had been going after a green budgie for a good while. He followed it up a tree and slipped down into a cup between boughs.’ That had been about seven o’clock on the Monday evening and he remained there stuck in the v-of the tree until 9.30pm on Tuesday night when through a stroke of luck he was spotted by two boys who were out in Wolfe’s wood. Asked by the Leader reporter if he had thought of shouting for help Kevin replied ‘ I didn’t know what to do.’
So all was well that ended well in a drama that electrified the county town and provided Leader readers of the last week in June with a real-life human interest story.
Series No. 73

Liam Kenny in his regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' examines the front page coverage of the search for a missing Naas boy and the involvement of a Leader reporter in the drama. 

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