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July 31, 2009


Leinster Leader, October 14th 1950
Tommy Conneff of Clane
 Pride of Kildare
Dave Guiney
The shades of evening were lengthening across the green turf at the historic athletic grounds of Ballsbridge, when Tommy Conneff and Edward Carter, of the United States came to the mark for the four miles race in August of 1887. The huge crowd, which had gathered for the famous race, grew silent as the runners posed, waiting for the starting gun. Then as the shot echoed over the grounds, the two runners started on what must surely be classified as one of the greatest races in the whole history of Irish athletics. Lap after lap, they sped around the track, never more than a few yards between them, each watching the other as a cat watches a mouse.
For fifteen laps they ran together and even the crowd sensed that the finish would be sensational. As they entered the final lap, Carter was running in front with the Kildare man trailing about five yards behind. Then as the crowd commenced to urge him on, Conneff made his effort. Piling on speed he overtook Carter, passed him, and then with a superlative burst of speed, he raced away to the tape in 19 minutes 44 2/5 seconds, a new Irish record and only a few seconds outside the world’s record.
How great this performance was can be judged from the fact that it was not until 1947, that it was broken by an Irishman, and since then only two of the finest runners in the world have succeeded in doing better in this country. One was the amazing Dutchman Win Slyjkuis and the other Dr. Aaron, of Great Britain. No other record survived for so long on the Irish books, or even to-day, when some of out finest runners have tackled the four mile distance, they have found that Conneff’s time was far greater than they realised. Barry, one of the finest runners ever produced in this land of ours, made a few unsuccessful efforts to erase Conneff’s figures, but failed badly. Even this year, it was announced that Win Slyjkuis and Barry would try and break the world’s record for the four miles, but not only did they fail to do this, but neither of them was able to better the Kildare man’s time.
Conneff emigrated to the United States in 1888, and was soon figuring prominently, so much so that in the summer of that year, he was back in England with an American group of athletes and where he won the British mile championship.
Back in America, in the autumn, Conneff raced away with the American title for the five miles, and retained it for the following three years as well as taking two mile titles and one over the ten mile distance. In 1891 he reduced the American mile record to 4 minutes 21 seconds and two years later, took nearly four seconds off this time when he did 4 minutes 17.8 seconds.
The first international match ever between America and England was fixed for 1895, and Conneff who had by that time hung up his shoes, was persuaded to make a come back.In his preparatory training period he had a race over the three-quarter mile distance, and set a new world mark of 3 minutes, 2.8 seconds, a time which defied the efforts of the world’s greatest runners right down to 1931, when Jules Laloumegene the famous French miler, succeeded in breaking it. After this record breaking run, a mile race was arranged to give the Kildare man an opportunity of attacking the world’s record, and Conneff duly obliged by clocking 4 minutes 15. 6 seconds.
On the day of the Internal match, Conneff was opposed by the reigning American champion, George Orton, who had taken the American title in the very slow time of four minutes thirty-six seconds. Irish hearts had already been cheered by the gigantic effort of Mike Sweeney, who had broken the world’s record in the high jump, and Conneff’s appearance was greeted on all sides.
Running easily, and without apparent effort, he took the lead from the very beginning, and seeing that the opposition was negligible he eased up in the last lap. Even at that, his time was 4 minutes 18.2 seconds, and the nearest finisher, Orton, was nearly 50 yards behind. Not content with this victory, Conneff also took part in the three mile event, which he won in effortless fashion.
Although he decided to retire after this time, Conneff was persuaded to turn professional, and in the summer of 1897, took on another great Irish runner, George Blennerhasset Tincler, affectionately known as the “Gander.” Tincler was at the height of his fame at this period, whereas Conneff had definitely reached the end of his great running days, so it came as no surprise that he was unable to beat Tincler.
Fifteen years later, Tommy Conneff was found drowned in the Phillipine Islands, where he was a sergeant in the American Army.
Ireland has won great renown in all parts of the world with her weight men, and only on very rare occasions have we had great runners, fit to take the lead with the best in the world, which should make us remember the greatness of Tommy Conneff, the man from Clane, who carried our flag to success far from his native county.

Dave Guiney recalls the great internationl success  attained by Tommy Conneff from Clane in the sport of running. He emigrated to the United States in 1888. The article appeared in the Leinster Leader of October 1950. Our thanks to Roy O'Brien

July 30, 2009


Leinster Leader 17 September 1921
Sensation at Curragh Camp.
Prisoners escape from Hare Park.
The Signal “All clear”
It is scarcely necessary to say that excitement was at its height in the Curragh Camp and in the adjoining centres on Friday morning when it was known that a great number of the boys who were being interned at the Curragh had succeeded in an attempt to break camp. It was evident that the spirit of the men soared some little bit over the height of the entanglements and in this instance, at all events, the iron bars were not sufficiently moulded to complete the cage which their captors had hoped for. When I was first told of the escapes of some prisoners I was rather inclined to think there was no foundation, but soon it was ascertained at the Curragh Camp that something had occurred very much out of the ordinary, and the military police, as well as the Constabulary, were busy. Reticence was observed to a very great degree and it indeed sensed to be the wish of the military and the government forces generally, not to give any information even of the slightest kind, which would tend to throw any light on the situation which was being so keenly discussed. It was, indeed, with much difficulty that the following facts were gathered from some reliable sources:-
            There are 70 men missing from the Rath internment camp at the Curragh and it is considered that the manner of their escape was effected through the boring of a tunnel at which the men must have been secretly engaged for over a month before the attempt to burst outside in the greenlands of the Curragh and make the final attempt for liberty which was made on Friday morning. The burst for freedom was indeed most successful and all who were concerned got away with the exception, it is said of one young man who got caught in the wire entanglement and who lost an amount of blood. When he found that he would be but hampering the cause of his comrades he with a spirit of self-sacrifice quietly crept back to his hut again where he was found in the early hours of the morning badly wounded in the foot. It is said on the other hand that at that moment when he was entangled in the meshes of the barbed wire that the sentry hearing a noise fired in the direction and the young man who has been recaptured, is said to be rather badly wounded.
            The huts in the Rath Camp in which the men have been interned for such a long time, are raised a few feet from the ground, and in this instance we are informed from a very reliable authority that they are not even a little bit of an improvement from the huts which were placed on the Curragh plain at the early portion of the European war when the Dead March was being heard as a result of the insanitary foundations and surroundings through the streets of Droichead Nua and Kildare evening after evening, while the coffin loads were being brought over to England. At that time reports on such matters were banned and the real truth never caught the ears of the public here or across the Channel.
            All around the Rath Camp there are strong block houses and it would appear to the average person that there was not the remote possibility of escape from the place, which is so strongly barricaded with a remarkable series of barbed wire entanglement, while patrols are always on the move outside as well as in the interior of the camp.
            The escape of the prisoners was through a tunnel from the huts in the grounds of the camp. The huts are raised up on a foundation extending somewhat over the ground, and it would appear that underneath the foundation the men burrowed down some ten or twelve feet, their sole implements being knives and spoons, which they had been using in the ordinary way, while at their meals. With these the men patiently burrowed time after time when they got the opportunity until they had the necessary tunnel prepared out in the open air overhead. The digging must have been under the control of someone experienced, as it is said that the tunnel was planned and carried out in a most scientific manner. It was merely run some eight feet down into the earth while there was the necessary allowance made for the falling of matter, etc. At this point the huts were surrounded by guards. The tunnel having been completed it was but necessary to await the most favourable opportunity to commence the escape, and it is said a concert was being proceeded with in the huts when the boys crawled into the tunnel and afterwards when they felt the Curragh breeze in the open they made a dash for freedom. It is said that there were entirely 1,500 men in the camp, and that of these there were over 60 less when roll was called. On the first section getting out they had to remain in quietness immediately outside until they were joined by their comrades and then they quietly cut the barbed wire at a point already agreed on but during this operation a number of men got rather badly cut about the hands, while their clothing was badly torn. The men on getting into the open distributed themselves, taking different directions, but all got away safely.
            The military and police have been busy in their searches which included the Newbridge and Kildare railway stations, but up to the present there has been no arrests.
            With the Rath Camp, from which the men escaped, and the French Furze camp now in progress of construction there are nearly two miles of a stretch covered round with barbed wire entanglements, while the Hare Park internment camp, about a quarter of a mile distant, contains 400 prisoners. There was a rumour that one elderly man was captured in the neighbourhood of the Curragh during the morning and taken to the Camp, but this was afterwards verified. The men on leaving the camp are said when getting into the open to have first struck over by the Stone Barracks by the main road round by the Y.M.C.A. huts and on to the borders of the Curragh where they distributed themselves. It is stated that a number of the men went in the Hill of Allen, Droichead Nua, Kilcullen and Rathangan direction. Some of them were during the day in the interplace until motors arrived and conveyed them to their destinations. Some of the men were in their bare heads when seen. The majority of the men who escaped are said to be from Dublin, Tullamore, Mayo and Galway district, and it is said that only one of the Kildare men is included amongst the number who escaped, Kildare men been in different huts. The Rath Camp for a considerable time back has been completely cut off from all connection with the main road, and even the roadway passing by to the main military camp at the Curragh has for a long time back been closed up and barred to the public. From a reliable source the writer was informed that on Wednesday night at 12 o’clock it was found that two tunnels having been completed the signal “all clear” was given, and the men went out of the prison huts into the tunnels two at a time. At first, it is said one man got out and returned to make a report that all was right, and then he was followed by another man, both getting safely through the wires into the open. Two by two their comrades went down into the tunnel and getting out passed through the barbed wire on to the open greenlands of the Curragh until 70 men were breathing the air of freedom, and immediately afterwards were striking out for the hilly country in the distance having first broken up into little batches. It is said that a number of men not knowing the lie of the country and rushing in the darkness must have run in somewhat of a circle as dawn found them again back on the verge of the camp. Happily they discovered their mistake in time, and they wearily pursued their way this time striking out for the friendly hills. From this and other incidents of which I have learned it would appear that there was no real alarm given until morning, and, indeed, it is stated by a reliable authority that the actual state of affairs did not penetrate the minds of the military authorities until roll call in the morning. The night was a very foggy one, and this very much facilitated the men in their escape. There was much danger at one moment and a false step would have brought the din of bugles in their ears and the noise of an aroused camp. One of the prisoners afterwards said that at one point there was a crucial moment as out of the fog only four yards away they perceived a sentry standing, and, indeed, only saw him just in time, after which they slightly altered the direction of travel, and in a little time were entirely outside the outskirts of the camp, and the greenlands of the Curragh were soon left far behind.

The Leinster Leader of September 17th 1921 reports on the excitement caused by the escape of prisoners who were being interned at the Curragh Camp.

July 28, 2009


Leinster Leader 6th June 1963

Memorial in Naas cemetery unveiled

A ten feet high Celtic cross, erected by a joint committee of Sinn Fein and Naas Athletic Club, over the grave of Conleth Martin O’Brien, patriot and athlete, was unveiled in St. Corban’s Cemetery, Naas, on Sunday.
The unveiling was performed by Mr. Joseph McDonald, Chairman of the Committee, after a parade from Market Square, led by St. Mary’s Brass and Reed Band, Maynooth.
After the unveiling an oration was delivered by Mr. Martin Shannon, Sinn Fein.  Mr. Jack Hartigan, Naas A.C. also spoke.
A bugler from Fianna Eireann sounded the last post and the proceedings ended with the National anthem.


Relatives of Mr. O’Brien at the unveiling included Mr. Joseph O’Brien 18 Seapark Drive, Clontarf, (brother); Miss Mary O’Brien, 27 Eaton Square, Terenure;
Mrs Phyllis Kelly, 29 Rathmore Park, Raheny (sisters); Mrs. Patricia O’Brien (sister-in-law); Mr. Sean Kelly (brother-in-law).
Mr. O’Brien is also survived by brothers Patrick and Terence and sisters Kathleen and Agnes, all of whom live in England.
In his oration, Mr. Shannon said that Martin O’Brien joined the Republican Army in his early youth and played a man’s part during the heroic revolt against the British in Ireland in 1920 and ’21.  Afterwards he stood in consistency with the soldiers of the republic.  He remained staunch in the belief that the Treaty of 1921 was not the final solution tot the problem of British domination in Ireland, that the resulting situation was not political, economic or financial freedom.
Martin O’Brien was not a man given to rest.  When the sabotage campaign was launched in England in 1939 he worked with supporters of the movement at home.  When the Irish Government interned hundreds of republicans in the Curragh in 1940, though not then a young man, he helped organise a secret communications system with the prisoners and often cycled 20 or more miles a day collecting and delivering messages.
During the closing years of his life he contributed many poems and ballads to the “United Irishman”.
All were aware, Mr. Shannon added, that Martin O’Brien had been a leader in athletics in Kildare in his youth and brought honour to his country in this field.  His attitude to athletics was the same as that of Michael Cusack and Archbishop Croke; he saw that through the national pass-times the moral and physical fibre of the younger generation could be strengthened, that love of country could be instilled in them in such a way that it would become a living and inspiring flame to guide them into the path of unselfish service to their motherland.


Mr. Jack Hartigan, on behalf of the Athletic Club, said they were commemorating a man who was one of the greatest athletes in the country for many years.  He had been a founder member of Naas Club and the Club was proud to be associated in the erection of the memorial.
The monument was executed by Peter Walshe and Sons, Carlow.



A ten feet high Celtic cross, erected by a joint committee of Sinn Fein and Naas Athletic Club over the grave of Conleth Martin O’Brien, patriot and athlete, was unveiled in St. Corban’s Cemetery, Naas.

July 25, 2009


Leinster Leader, February 2nd 1907
Ancient Customs in Co. Kildare
Interesting Paper by Lord Walter Fitzgerald
Some Curious Historical Finds
At the annual meeting of the County Kildare Archaeological Society held in Naas on Friday last the Earl of Mayo presiding, an interesting paper was read by Lord Walter Fitzgerald entitled “Customs peculiar to certain days formerly observed in the County Kildare.” The paper amongst other entries contained - “It was customary on New Year’s Eve to take a large barm-brack, which the man of the house, after taking three bites out of it dashed against the principal door of his dwelling in the name of the Trinity, at the same time expressing the hope that starvation might be banished from Ireland and go to the King of the Turks. The fragments of the cake were then gathered up and eaten by all the members of the household. Before retiring to rest twelve candles were lit in honour of the Twelve Apostles and the family prayers were said.
St. Brigid’s Day (1st February), formerly observed as a holy day, and called the “Feil Brighde” in Irish and reckoned as the first day of spring in old times. On St. Brigid’s Day the “Breedhogo” was carried round by the young people from house to house at which collections of food and money were made “in honour of Miss Biddy.” This custom was probably a survival of a religious ceremony in which a statue of St.Brigid was carried at the head of a procession. The “Breedhogo” consisted of churn dash round which whisps of hay or cocks of straw were tied to resemble a human figure. A ball of hay served as a head and was covered with a white muslin cap such as worn by old women; the figure was clad in a woman’s dress and a shawl completed the costume. What was known as Brigid’s cross was woven out of straw and stuck up inside the house until replaced by another that night twelve months.
 Lent and Easter - Easter Sunday is a moveable Feast as it falls on the first Sunday which follows the first full moon that occurs on or after the 21st March. Hence Lent commences forty days previously, that is on Shrove Tuesday or Shraft, on which day feasting is carried on preparatory to fasting and at night time the great dish is pancakes in one of which is placed a ring fortelling a marriage within a year to the bachelor or spinster in whose help it is discovered on the following day.
 May Day - On May Eve it was customary to light bonfires similar to those lighted on St. John’s Eve (23rd June). May morn appears to have been the principal occasion when witch women were able to rob their neighbours of the butter in their unchurned milk; this they did by entering the fields where cows were feeding, between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m., on this particular morning in the year and with cloths wiped up the dew and wrung them into a wooden or tin gallon, which if undisturbed they carried back to their own cabins. If they succeeded in this no amount of churning would during a twelve month bring butter to the cow owner’s churn. Another method of stealing the butter was for a witch woman at the time her neighbour was churning to stir round and round the water in a gallon with a dead woman’s hand. If on May Day’s churning it was discovered that the butter has been already robbed by a witch woman, a plough chain should be looped round the churn, which should be placed on three stones and the colter of the plough should be heated and placed over the churn; it will then be found on commencing to churn again that the butter will come; but during the operation no one on any pretext should be admitted into the house. During the heating of the colter the witch woman will suffer torture, and it is she who will come and endeavour to gain admittance into the house. When the churning is in full swing if anyone thoughtlessly let her in the butter would again disappear to the witch woman’s house. The May bush was cut the day previous and stuck in the ground in front of the house. It was decorated with all the egg shells which had been saved up since Easter Sunday along with ribbons, wild flowers and bits of candles. On May night the latter were lit and dancing took place around the May bush. This custom is of Pagan origin, though at the present time it is thought by people that it is carried out in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Whom the month of May is dedicated. During the whole month of May no fire was allowed to leave the house under any pretext not even a live coal could be handed over the half-door to light a passer’s by pipe, nor could anything be lent or given away out of the house, even if a neighbour or a stranger called for a drink of water, he or she would have to enter the house, help themselves and then replace the vessel on the dresser. On St. John’s Day it was customary for every district to light a bonfire. When the fire burned itself out the cattle were driven through the ashes, this was to prevent them from being over-looked by the evil eye. As some people imagined it was not at all necessary to get drunk to drown the Shamrock. The sprig was in olden times removed from the hat, placed in a glass of grog, then a toast was drunk and the Shamrock was taken out and thrown over the left shoulder.
The Chairman said he brought some old articles of antiquarian interest with him to show them. The first was a badge from the cross belt of he North Naas cavalry in 1796.Another was the Repeal button dated 1844.Early that year Daniel O’Connell was tried with his son and five chief supporters and found guilty of inciting to rebellion and sentenced on May 30th to twelve months’ imprisonment and a fine of £2,000, and ordered to find securities in £5,000 for his good behaviour for seven years. On September 4th of the same year the House of Lords set aside the verdict as erroneous, and on its being made known bonfires blazed all over Ireland, stretching from sea to sea. Another was a button which was struck on the arrival of George 4th in Dublin on August 17th 1821. The King eleven days after his Coronation left London while his Queen was lying on her deathbed, “speeding to the long cherished isle which he loved like his bride.” This, his lordship added, was supposed to be sarcastic. Another he produced was a tenpenny bit, which was given to Mr. Arthur Newing while playing at the Kildare Street Club as part of the stakes. He had also there a bank token for 30 pence Irish. The next was an old Irish Rosary of which he didn’t know the history. He bought it from an old pedlar, who used to go round to the country houses. Fr. O’Leary having examined the rosary, said the pattern certainly was very old-probably 300 or 400 years. The chain, he thought, was modern. The ancient beads were strung on either a cord or leather.
The diary of Sir John Moore, the hero of Corunna, was next mentioned by the Chairman. It was published about four years ago. It gave one of the very few impartial accounts of the Rebellion of ’98, and he would recommend them to read it.
Sir Arthur Vicars then produced two tea caddies of paper work, which were made by ladies chiefly in the early part of the 19th century and the end of the 18th. They were made in Kent of paper work. The edges of the paper were coloured and the interstices filled up. The Chairman so produced a picture of the arrival of George 4th in Sackville Street.
On the motion of Lord Mayo, a vote of thanks was passed to the readers of the papers, and also to the High Sheriff.

The Leinster Leader of February 1907 reports on an interesting paper delivered by Lord Walter Fitzergerald to the County Kildare Archaeological Society on the subject of "Customs peculiar to certain days formerly observed in County Kildare".Our thanks to Roy O'Brien.


Leinster Leader, December 31st 1927
The Escape from Newbridge Barracks
The National movement from 1916 up to the Anglo-Irish agreement provided many instances of escape from prison, and left the general public fairly conversant with the many stratagems and devices adopted by the imprisoned prisoners, to secure their liberty, but in many respects the escape of a large number from Newbridge Military Barracks during the civil war was unique in the history of such happenings. The inner history of that escape has not been told before and it is now, without any indication to the identity of individuals.
 The escapes from Newbridge were remarkable for the fact that there was no outside co-operation. The plan originated and was carried through by certain of the prison leaders who had served long apprenticeships in prison under the British regime and were by way of being experts in such matters-and the further remarkable feature that the escapes constituted the longest subterranean effort ever made by Irish prisoners in search of liberty. Another remarkable feature of the escapes was that a large number of prisoners got away the first night and their absence was successfully covered up throughout the following day and a further batch of prisoners escaped the second night. This achievement was all the more remarkable when it is considered that the prison authorities had adopted the usual precaution of placing touts amongst the prisoners in order that “inside information” might be available to them.
 There were over a thousand prisoners in Newbridge Barracks, many having arrived there from the prison ship “Arvonia” which was at anchor a few miles off Dun Laoghaire Harbour. There over 700 prisoners were confined in half the steerage portion of the vessel. Food was lacking, one meal in twenty-four hours being a lucky chance even though the meal consisted of a small quantity of tea and dry bread. Sanitary accommodation was nil, prisoners slept where they could and altogether the experience was one which will not be easily erased from the memory of those who experienced it. Danger of an epidemic brought a transfer, some of the prisoners going to Gormanstown and some to Newbridge, and in both cases the change was a welcome one. The diet in Newbridge left much to be desired, but there was at least an absence of the rolling and tossing of the “Arvonia” the luxury of a good wash and a bed to lie upon.
 It was not long until the active minds amongst the leaders were busy with plans of escape. Many plans were discussed and rejected. It was noticed that the sewer traps ran in a line across the quadrangle by the married quarters in the direction of the Liffey which flows near the barrack. Thus, argued some of the conspirators, there must be an outlet for the river therefore if we get to the sewer we have a chance of escape. A contra argument was that the end of the sewer would be under water, but this was countered by the argument than an exit could be made earlier and an old building on the bank of the Liffey in a direct line with the sewer traps was pointed to as likely to afford cover. Of course the possibility of escape by this means might have been foreseen and precautions taken by the prison authorities, but it was decided to take the gamble in the absence of a better plan. The prisoners were housed in the buildings beneath the clock tower, a distance of about five hundred yards, from the river, and thus the magnitude of the task undertaken can well be realised.
 A start was made by the group in the ground floor of a block near the tower. Direct descent into the sewer was not possible and it was found that a tunnel of approximately 30 feet in length would have to be cut in order to connect with the sewer. The line of the sewer in the vicinity of the buildings could only be guessed at. Nothing daunted the chosen few commenced the formidable task. With a saw manufactured from a dinner knife a square of flooring was cut from beneath one of the trestle beds. Carefully trimmed and with the marks of cutting erased, the square fitted into place and defied detection. With a pointed porker as a pick and a fire shovel the work was quickly underway, a careful watch being kept on the movements of the guards. The loose earth was disposed of beneath the floor of the room. As the work progressed it was rendered less liable to detection as the loose flooring was replaced during operations. Day after day progress was made, with many narrow escapes from discovery as frequently some of the guards were in the room, whilst the “miners” were at work beneath the floor. The task was a well nigh super-human one; but nevertheless the day came when it was successfully achieved and the sewer was located and penetrated.
Troubles were far from ended, however, with the penetration of the sewer. The air was so foul that it was found impossible to explore for about a week. One hardy adventurer who entered the sewer was violently ill for some days. Then there arose the difficulty of finding the correct route in a network of sewers. One of the explorers was lost for the best part of a day in his attempt to find his way back. Difficulty after difficulty was overcome in the most marvellous way. Not alone was the correct route discovered but deep in the earth, five hundred yards from the only exit, a way out was cut from the sewer through the floor of the building on the banks of the Liffey. The National movement has been responsible for many remarkable achievements, but none more remarkable for tenacity of purpose and determination to succeed than the achievement of the men who opened the way for the escapes from Newbridge.
   One fine night there was a swift exodus and a large number of the prisoners made a successful get away. The day following was one of high tension as those in the know endeavoured to cover the absence of their comrades. Many inquiries had been made for prisoners who were amongst the absentees and towards evening it was obvious that vague suspicions were aroused. With dark it was decided to rush another batch for freedom and at this period a search party of military had actually entered the square. Soon a further batch of prisoners were on the way.
 The lifting of the flooring revealed a dark pit into which one dropped, “Feet first”, a voice whispered and guided ones foot to a hole in the side of the pit. Feet first and face upwards one wriggled along until his feet found an opening in the floor of the tunnel. “Drop your feet and turn them backwards” whispered the same voice, and one found that the feet rested in about twelve inches of water, and having successfully wriggled the rest of the body through, found that further progress had to be made on hands and knees and that broken bottles, tins etc. did not tend to make the journey easier. Holding the heel of the man in front and similarly held by the man following progress was made was slow in the pitch darkness and the journey appeared well night interminable. The “swish swish” of the water and the heavy breathing of the men broke the silence which was enjoined on all, save when some unlucky one made unexpected contact with some sharp obstacle.
   “Talk about Lough Derg,” muttered a disgruntled voice in the rear, and a titter of laughter was sharply suppressed. And so on and on. “Pass back word for silence. Passing under the grating” came from in front and was duly passed on. At last came an order, “Up here,” and one found the ground rising and the water was left behind. “Through here,” and still a further opening-this time through a floor. Then quickly came the orders-“You are in the house on the bank of the river. There is an armed guard on the bridge. When the door is opened don’t walk but roll down the slope to the river and across. Don’t make noise or you’ll be under machine gun fire. Good luck. Make your way as best you can.” The door is opened. The lights from the bridge shine faintly on the river and one catches a fleeting glimpse of figures moving about there. Behind, the barracks we have left is outlined in electric lights. A quick roll down the slope and into the water which feels very cold. Dim figures are beside you, but no one speaks. To be caught in the river would be fatal. The opposite bank at last. Quickly way is made up the slope to a fence which you grasp and pull yourself over. The fence is barbed wire, but one does not discover the fact until later the condition of your hands reminds you of it. At last-filthy from contact with the sewer-wet from the immersion in the river, bleeding from hands and knees, but free, we make our way across the fields determined to increase the distance between ourselves and our late domicile. It is about half an hour later when an outburst of gun-fire tells us the escapes have been discovered and that soon the searchers will be on our track. But at last we are free and determined to remain so.

The Leinster Leader of December 1927 recalls how a large number of Republican prisoners escaped from Newbridge Barracks during the civil war. Our thanks to Roy O'Brien

July 17, 2009


Kildare Collections and Research Services

in association with

The County Kildare Federation
of Local History Groups

would like to invite


to the Launch


County Kildare Heritage Officer

Brigid Loughlin

of the

County Kildare Folklore Project

‘Living Memories’

 8 p. m.


Kilcullen Heritage Centre

Thursday 23 July 2009

All welcome

Over a period of 3 months in early 2009 the project was devised and undertaken as a means of recording the living heritage and history of Co. Kildare. Some 30 people were interviewed from all walks of life and their memories of growing up in Kildare, of working and of participating at local level in their communities will now provide us with an invaluable archive for future generations.

Initially the plan was to identify the main themes that identify Kildare as a unique county such as the horse industry, canals, bogs etc. but this broadened in scope in an attempt to target the unique individuals that can be recognised throughout the county and preserve their memories and experience. The Library Service contacted Larry Breen of the County Kildare Federation of Local History Groups and the rest as they say is history.

The Federation is uniquely placed to identify those particular individuals that exist in each local community and retain an understanding of their area and the changes that have taken place over the years. Each Local History Group provided a person from their area and this forms the backbone of the present project. The County Kildare Archaeological Society also provided a representative and representatives of Kildare Co. Council, Bord Na Mona and the Turf Club helped to develop the collection into a truly important and unique archive.

The recording and collecting of material was undertaken by Maurice of Keeffe of 'Irish Life and Lore' and copies will be available in the near future for borrowing from the Kildare branch library network. Individual copies (and indeed the complete collection) can be purchased directly from Irish Life and Lore. Our thanks to Maurice and Jane O'Keeffe. Kildare Co. Council and Irish Life and Lore share ownership of the material and copies of the original disclaimer forms have been lodged with the Library.

Already the collection has been bought by other major repositories such as Trinity College and the strength of the work lies in the actual preservation of the memories of the interviewees in the various archives.

Kildare Library and Arts Services is grateful to all who helped make this project possible, especially the Co. Manager of Kildare Co. Council, Michael Malone, Co. Librarian, Breda Gleeson, the interviewees, Larry Breen and the Kildare Federation. As a way of saying thanks to the people who gave up their time and who have allowed us into their lives the Library Service will present the interviewees with a copy of their interview on CD.

So don't miss an opportunity to hear all about the project and experience the development of Co. Kildare from the 1920's through the eyes of its inhabitants.


Leinster Leader 21st May 1977.
Horse Museum 1st in World
The museum was the first of its kind in the world and it was particularly appropriate that it should be located in the National Stud which had achieved fame throughout the world said the Taoiseach, Mr. Liam Cosgrave, officially opening the new Horse Museum at the National Stud, Tully, Kildare, on Monday.
Thanking the many generous benefactors who had given a variety of mementos to the Museum, Mr. Cosgrave paid particular tribute to the Duchess of Westminster and congratulated all concerned, particularly the Directors of the Stud and the Manager, Mr. Michael Osborne, and paid special tribute to Curator Miss Mary McGrath who had contributed so much to the establishment of the Museum.
Mr Michael Curran, Chairman, National Stud, welcoming the Taoiseach and guests, said the occasion was unique and on behalf of the Directors he would like to express appreciation of the support given to the Stud by the Oireachtas in the past five years during which the grant had been increased from £2 million to £5 million. There were at present nine stallions at the Stud and they were fully booked, reflecting the great confidence breeders had in the Stud; the Directors were     examining the possibility of standing National Stud stallions elsewhere throughout the country.
In a tribute to Miss Mary McGrath, the Chairman said she had done a marvellous job in just twelve months and they of the Stud and the people of the nation as a whole owed her their best thanks. Mr. Curran also paid tribute to the builder, Mr. John Heffernan, Architect, Mr. Frank Harte, and Manager, Mr. Michael Osborne.

The Leinster Leader of 21st May 1977 reports on the first horse museum in the world located in the National Stud in Kildare

July 16, 2009


Leinster Leader, September 30th 1905
Col. Thomas Dongan of Castletown, Kildrought, Solider and Statesman
 John Sheil O’Grady
The subject of the Dongan administration of the Province of New York, in the latter half of the seventeenth century, is one whose adequate treatment would much more than fill an entire issue of the “Leinster Leader” and I have attempted here nothing more, than an outline.
Irishmen nowadays naturally look with pride to the American Commonwealth in the founding of whose greatness their countrymen played so prominent a part. Why, then, should not Kildare men be interested in the fact that one born in their native county did much to make the present state a possibility by his courage and ability, and by his loyal efforts to thwart the schemes of the French King, Louis XIV. Yet it is to be regretted that so little seems to be known of the private life of Dongan, that we have few of those glimpses that are afforded us of the lives of our other and much less illustrious colonial governors. Facts are better than logic to exhibit the elements of personal character; therefore, let the following incidents tell the story of his life:-
 Thomas Dongan was born at Castletown Kildrought (now Celbridge) in 1634, and was the third son of Sir John Dongan, Bart and Mary, daughter of Sir. William Talbot, Bart. of Carton. His eldest brother, Walter, died without issue, and was succeeded in the title by the second Sir William, who was created Viscount Dongan, of Clane, in 1661: and Earl of Limerick in 1685. His uncle-Richard Talbot, was afterwards created Duke of Tyrconnell; and another, Sir Robert: married Grace, daughter of Lord Calvert, Baron of Baltimore.
Dongan’s boyhood was passed in the stirring days of the Rebellion of 1641; and as he passed from youth to manhood, he witnessed the success of Cromwell, which was sealed by the blood of Charles I, in 1643. In company with his brother he followed the Stuarts into exile, and entered the French army at once. He participated in all Turenne’s campaigns under the name of D’Unguent; and it is likely that during his period of foreign service he became acquainted with the Duke of York, and that the Prince learned to appreciate the ability and worth of the man. He appears to have distinguished himself as a soldier, as he was promoted to the coloneley of an Irish regiment in the service of France in 1674. While serving at Nancy, in 1678, news reached him of the command of Charles II now firmly seated on the throne, that all English subjects should leave France within forty-eight hours and notwithstanding the fact that flattering offers were made to him by the French, he quitted his command, and sailed for England. It is stated that in doing this he sacrificed much, as he failed to collect a debt of 65,000 lives; but Charles, as a recompense, rewarded him with the commission as General Officer in the army then destined for Flanders, and a pension of £500 for life. There is no record of his having served in the Low Countries: and it is improbable, as at the end of the same year we find him serving under Lord Inchquin as Lieutenant-Governor of Tangiers-a colony that became part of the British Dominions in 1662, as portion of the dowry of Catherine of Bruganza, on her marriage with Charles II; here he remained for two years, after which he seems to have passed his time between Ireland the English Court.
In 1663, being then in his forty-eight year, he was appointed “Governor General of the Duke of York’s Province of New York,” and Vice Admiral. He left for America on board the old Parliamentarian frigate, “Constant Warwick,” accompanied by his chaplain, Father Thomas Harvey, and his nephew, Mark Talbot. On his arrival at Nantucket, he was received by the representatives of the Government and a troop of the Boston Militia, who escorted him to Dedham, and from thence he crossed to New York by boat. It will be hard to realise that the great metropolis of to-day was at that time no larger than Irish village, yet such was the case. In 1683 it consisted of 207 houses with a population of 2,000 people, in addition to the slaves. The Province of New York, and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard-a region as yet little known and thinly populated, but destined in the years to come to be looked on by many an Irish emigrant as the promised land.
In order to thoroughly understand the political situation in America at this period, one must bear in mind that the greed for territory did not exist alone between France and England, but also between the rival States of New England. The most important of these States were-Virginia, established 1607; New Amsterdam, by the Dutch in 1614 (the name afterwards changed to New York by the English, who obtained possession of it in 1664); Massachusetts and Boston in 1620-30; Maryland in 1632, by Dongan’s relation, Lord Baltimore; and Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in 1681-1682, by Quakers under the celebrated William Penn. The French in the north claimed as their frontier the region as far as south Albany; while the English contended in favour of the St. Lawrence River and the Lakes as their boundary on the south. Penn was conniving to deprive New York of the beautiful valley of Susquehanna ; but one of Dongan’s earliest acts was to frustrate the Quaker’s little scheme. Above all, it must be remembered that French agents were doing all in their power to bring the five nations of the Iroquois Indians under French domination. At the time of Dongan’s arrival, the Providence of New York was in a state of universal disturbance, and from every settlement arose a cry for a popular Assembly. He proceeded to issue warrants for a General Assembly, consisting of a governor, ten councillors and seventeen representatives, elected by the people which met October 17th, 1683. The first act of this body was the framing a Charter of Liberties-the first guarantee of popular government in the Province. His negotiations with the Iroquois ended in a triumph for diplomacy; and he had the satisfaction, to the discomfiture of the French, of making a covenant with the five nations in August, 1684. During the next few years many wise laws were enacted under his guidance, but when James II ascended the throne in 1685, he abolished the Assembly, and Dongan became Governor Royal.
In 1686 he granted to New York City the celebrated Dongan Charter which is still the basis and foundation of Municipal Law. The city at this time was almost divided into Wards, and the Province into Counties. In this year also a Charter was given to Albany and he suggested to the home Government the establishment of Post Houses along the coast from Maine to the Carolinas while his report on the condition of the Colony is regarded as a model of its kind. In his desire to secure for the Crown the vast Mississippi Valley, he applied to the King or authority to equip an expedition to that region in order to anticipate Le Salle. He borrowed £2,000 on his estate of Castletown, on Staten Island, to defray the expense of troops to defend the northern frontier; but on the eve of his triumph, when about to deliver an ultimatum to Governor Denoville to evacuate French forts in New York territory, he received a command from the King to surrender his Governorship in April, 1688. This act can be traced to one source, and one source alone-French influence, at the time all too powerful in Whitehall. The King offered him the rank of Major General and the command of a regiment; but he refused them, doubtless stung by the ingratitude of one for whose family he had suffered much. He retired to private life, passing his days between the domain of Castletown and his farm on the shore of Lake Success. American historians bear high testimony to his legislative ability; and Booth, in the “History of the City of New York,” says-“His form and judicial policy, his steadfast integrity, and his pleasing and courteous address won the affections of the people”; while in Fiske’s “Dutch and Quaker colonies” we read:-“ With all his faults, and in spite of his moroseness, this Stuart Prince, James II had many excellent men attacked to him; and the new Governor of New York was the best of them-Colonel Thomas Dongan-an Irishman of broad, statemanlike mind, and the personal magnetism that the Blarney stone is said to import. His blithe humour veiled a deep earnestness of purpose; long experience with Frenchmen had fitted him to deal with the dangers that were threatened with Canada”. He returned to England in 1691, and became a frequenter of the English Court and was granted by the Government the sum of £2,500 in part payment for advances made by him for public purposes while Governor Royal. His brother William, Earl of Limerick, died in 1698; and as his only son had been killed in 1690, at the Battle of the Boyne, he was succeeded in the title by ex-Governor Dongan.
He appears to have taken no further part in public affairs, and resided almost entirely during the remaining years of his life in England. The close of his career, which at one time gave great promise was, indeed, melancholy though not inglorious; yet when we remember the rapidity and violence with which change followed change toward the end of the seventeenth century, it can scarcely be wondered at if one who stood high to-day sank into oblivion the next. He died in London, December 17th 1715, aged eighty-one years, and was interred in St. Pancras Churchyard, Middlesex.

The life and times of  Kildare man, Thomas Dongan, Soldier and Statesman, is recounted in the Leinster Leader of September 1905 by John Sheil O'Grady. Our thanks to Roy O'Brien

July 15, 2009


Leinster Leader 10/12/1938 
          Very Rev. Father Doyle, P.P. strongly urged the Naas Urban Council at their meeting on Tuesday night to amalgamate the Naas Library with the County Library.
He referred to the great facilities which the County Library offered to the reading public in comparison with the local one, and added if the Council decided upon amalgamation 3,000 books would be immediately placed at their disposal.
There would be no displacement of the local Librarian, whose services would still be controlled by the Naas Library Committee, so that there was nothing really to prevent the Council from amalgamating with the County service.
Mr. J. A. Cunningham said he had always advocated what Father Doyle had spoken of, because he thought it a shame to have the Naas people deprived of a library. What passed under that name in the town at present was a complete misnomer. It was an utter waste of money.
Mr. Murphy said they were all grateful to Father Doyle for putting the matter so lucidly before them.
Father Doyle said that from the Catholic point of view there was nothing more essential than having an abundant supply of Catholic literature, which would be a feature of the amalgamated branch. He paid a tribute to Mr. John Connolly, the County Librarian for the marvellous manner in which he had organised and operated the entire scheme. It reflected great credit on him.
It was decided to put the matter formally on the agenda for the next meeting and invite Father Doyle to attend.
Father Doyle said he was there on behalf of the Library Committee to make a recommendation that the Naas Library should be amalgamated with the County Library. He was aware that this had been before the Council at least several times and he thought there had been a considerable amount of mis-apprehension on those occasions as to the relationships pervading between the Naas Library and the County Library, and also the conditions under which the transfer would take place and would ultimately work.
With regard to the local Librarian, this was a point which naturally would exercise the consideration of the Council. The local Librarian would be absolutely under the control of the Naas Committee, which meant under the Council’s control. His appointment, terms of appointment and salary would be absolutely under the control of the existing sub-committee. The County Committee had stated that in a dated and signed document-so from that point of view there need be no change of any kind.
As to the advantages to be derived from amalgamation Father Doyle emphasised that they were putting at the service of the people of Naas a library at present containing 24,000 books. Over 115,000 exchanges took place in the County Kildare last year. He had seen the library at Newbridge himself and it came to him as an exceedingly great surprise to see how magnificently stocked it was in all departments. Every possible department of literature was catered for there, and one thing he would like to underline above all was that the religious section was magnificent. All the best and most modern books were stocked, some of them very expensive, and it was to the credit of the County Kildare public that the fullest use was being made of those books. He had need of a Catholic Library in the town and a group of people feeling that need were contemplating starting it at their own expence. If this amalgamation with the County Library materialised the need for a purely Catholic Library would not arise. He had no hesitation in saying that it would be worth amalgamating alone for the sake of the splendid religious section.
As regards the other documents there was a particularly strong section of Irish history, Topography and Archaeology. Some of these volumes ran almost into three figures. Again, he would like to stress that the County Library had a tremendous use in providing students studying for public examinations with books beyond their means to obtain. It would even provide books for professional men. He had heard one case of a doctor who wanted a very rare publication dealing with some obscure disease. It was not to be had from the National Library; the medical library could not supply it, but the County Library, through the Central Library, were able to get this on loan. That was a revelation of the tremendous value of this County Service. Every class of the community stood to benefit and every class could be served. Moreover they had made a special offer to schools by which it would be possible for children attending primary, secondary and vocational schools to have a special section provided for their own exclusive use. Children, in this way, could obtain books they would find considerable difficulty in purchasing themselves. Any reader, in fact, on application, could get practically any book he asked for. Again, in the report submitted at the last monthly meeting it was stated that 80 persons from Naas town had gone to Newbridge last month for books. They could realise the expense of going to Newbridge to borrow these books, and realise the advantages of having the same service at their own doors. What was the County Library prepared to do at the moment? The administration of things would be left to their own sub-committee at Naas, and they undertook to put in at once a minimum of 3,000 books, leaving them with their old section. Moreover that stock of books would be increased and changed at will. As regards the expense of dealing with such an enormous number of books-there would be a need for extra shelving, etc.-but at the present time there was some money standing to the credit of the Library Committee which would meet that. Another very important point was that all the books going through the Co. Library were censored and that didn’t apply to any other Library at present operating here in Naas.
Some people were under the impression that every book coming into the country was censored. That was wrong. In the first place, any book or paper-even the rottenest production-could come in; and the way the censorship applied was this-a reader finding something objectionable would report to the Censorship authorities, but in doing so, he was obliged to supply, at his own expense, three copies of the book, and then they would take it up. All books passing through the County Library would be censored before distribution, under the voluntary scheme of the various County Libraries, working in co-operation with Rev. S. Brown, S.J., of the Central Catholic Library. These were some of the advantages to be derived from amalgamation, and the only objection he had heard was the question of finances. Mr. Boyle told them their contribution to the County Scheme would be a penny in the £, on the gross valuation of Naas. This penny on the restricted valuation would more than meet the salary of the Librarian. Of course, in Naas, the public pay for the borrowing of a book whereas the County scheme was free. He was not an advocate of increasing public expense. He realised as keenly as anybody the enormous strain of public expenditure on both local bodies and central administration. He really believed the country had reached breaking point in the matter of public expenditure. But in this case they were not spending money on a luxury, but on a very important public service from the point of view of the cultural, educational and recreational welfare of the people, and he should stress the service which the scheme would give to religion, to schools, to the poor, and also to their public and professional men. They were wasting money by keeping on their present library, because the people had ceased to use it. In saying it was a waster of money he wanted to make it clear that it was not a waste of money in regard to the salary paid to the local Librarian, which was shamefully small.
Father Doyle, concluding, said he had been in the County Library and interviewed the County Librarian, whom he found a most obliging, courteous and highly efficient official. His work was a credit to him, and marked him out as outstanding. The place was marvellously stocked with all classes of literature. The classification of the books was wonderful. He had found a most marvellous card index. In brief, he was amazed at the efficiency and advancement which he saw on every side of him and he only regretted that Naas was not enjoying to the full the splendid reading facilities which were at their disposal for the mere asking.
Chairman -We will put it on the agenda for the next meeting.
Mr. Cunningham -I certainly agree with every word Father Doyle has spoken. I have always advocated amalgamation. It is a waste of money carrying on the present library here.
Mr. Doyle -An objection I have to it, is that well-off people will be deriving another free service off the rates. I don’t mind serving free food to necessitous children, but it is another day’s work to be serving free fiction to professional gentlemen.
Father Doyle -These people pay through the rates, and as regards the reference to food-perhaps, it is equally, if not more important to provide food for the mind, guaranteed chemically pure, as the mental food would be in this case.
Mr. Lacy -We can do nothing to-night about it. It must go on the agenda for the next meeting.
Mrs. Higgins -I hope none of us will stand in the light.
Mr. Cunningham -We are grateful to Father Doyle. The present Library is not a library at all. We are only throwing away money. Our common sense should have told us that long ago.
Mr. Murphy -When I tried to press forward amalgamation before, there were certain members (not Mr. Cunningham) against it, who appear to have changed their minds to-night. I hope the amalgamation will take place at once.
Mr. O’Donoghue -As Father Doyle points out, we forfeit none of our powers.
Father Doyle -When the matter was raised here before I don’t think that aspect was clearly apprehended.
Mr. Cunningham -It is a shame to have Naas so backward in regard to reading facilities. We seem to be backward all round.
Chairman -We will discuss it at the next meeting.
Mr. Doyle -You should have a hole and corner meeting between this and then (laughter).
It was decided, as stated, to out the matter on the agenda for the next fortnightly meeting, and to request Father Doyle to attend.

The Leinster Leader of 1938 reports that Father Doyle P.P. strongly urged  Naas Urban Council to amalgamate the Naas Library with the County Library.Our thanks to Roy O'Brien.

July 11, 2009


A bust of famous Irish Novelist, Molly Keane (born Mary Nesta Skrine, at Ryston Cottage, Newbridge in 1904), will be unveiled at

Ryston Sports and Social Club,

on Friday 17 July 2009 

at 8 p.m.

All are welcome.

Ryston Sports & Social Club celebrates its 60th Anniversary and as well as the launch of their new website,  there will be an exhibition of old photographs.


Molly who wrote her earlier works under the pseudonym M. J. Farrell is probably most famously remembered for her book 'Good Behaviour' which was shorlisted for the Booker Prize in 1981

For many years Molly Keane's birthplace was shrouded in mystery - according to different sources she is born in Counties Kildare, Waterford or Wexford; the two most popular entries being Ballyrankin, Co. Kildare (actually Wexford) and Connellmore, Co. Kildare. County Genealogist, Karel Kiely traced her birth to Ryston Cottage in Newbridge and published her findings in the Irish Family History Journal. We reproduce that article here to commemorate Molly Keane's 'Kildare' origins.

Searching for the birthplace of Molly Keane
Karel Kiely:
Genealogist, Kildare Library and Arts Service

2004 was the centenary of the birth of the writer Molly Keane, author of many well known works including Good Behaviour, which dealt with the theme of the “Big House” in the early twentieth century.  She was the daughter of Walter Skrine and Agnes Higginson. Her mother was also a writer who wrote under the pen name of Moira O’Neill, publishing such works as Songs of the Glens of Antrim and An Easter Vacation.

To commemorate Molly Keane’s life and work several busts of her were commissioned, one of which was to be sited in the county of her birth, Kildare.  Most sources, including Polly Devlin’s “Writing Lives” (1988), state that Molly Keane was born in Ballyrankin, Co. Kildare.  However, there is no such townland in Co. Kildare. A search of the Townland Index of Ireland revealed that there is a Ballyrankin in Co. Wexford. So was she born in Wexford or Kildare? And if she was born in Kildare, where exactly was she born?

A general web search revealed the following information: in the 1901 Census of Alberta, Canada, Walter C. Skrine aged 41 years, his wife Agnes aged 36 years and their daughter Mary E.B. Skrine, aged nine months, were recorded.   The Alberta Family Histories Society has put the births, deaths and marriages of many Calgary newspapers online and it was here that I located a notice of a daughter born to the wife of Walter Skrine, Pakisko on 6th June 1900.   Further information was found on Walter Skrine at Pakisko or Pekisko, Alberta.  He went to north west Canada in 1883, ranching at Pekisko in the Alberta foothills and was a famous figure in Calgary ranching history.  He returned to Ireland and married Nesta Higginson in 1895.  They returned to ranch at Pekisko.

A search was carried out in the General Register Office, Lombard St., Dublin for their marriage. It states that Walter Skrine married Agnes Shakespeare Higginson on 5th June, 1895.  He was the son of Henry Duncan Skrine and she was the daughter of Charles Higginson. Both gave their residence at the time of the marriage as Rockport, Cushendun, Co. Antrim. A further search was carried out for the birth record of a daughter of this couple in 1904 and the birth record of their daughter, Mary Nesta Skrine was found on 20th July, 1904. She went on to publish under two names M.J. Farrell (a pseudonym) and later as Molly Keane. The place of birth was given as Ryston, Newbridge. The father, Walter Claremont Skrine, gave his address as Kilnamoragh, Clane.  The birth notices in the Kildare Observer newspaper also record the birth of a daughter to Walter Clarmonte Skrine and his wife in July 1904 at Ryston Lodge, Newbridge.   

Why were Walter and Agnes Skrine in Newbridge, Co. Kildare at the time of the birth of their daughter? Why did Walter give his place of residence as Kilnamoragh, Clane? Kilnamoragh is in the civil parish of Donadea and was part of the lands owned by the Aylmer family. It is about eleven miles from Newbridge.  

A search of the Co. Kildare genealogical database for any records relating to the Skrine, Higginson or Aylmer families revealed that a James Macaulay Higginson and his wife Olivia Nicola had three children baptized in Co. Kildare: James Macauley Higginson was baptized in Clane Church of Ireland parish on 01.04.1860; Montagu Edward Higginson  in Straffan Church of Ireland parish on 27.04.1866; and Archibald Bertram Higginson  in Clane Church of Ireland on 25.06.1872.  The marriages of two of the daughters of Sir James and Olivia were located in Morristown Biller Church of Ireland parish.   Frances Anne married in 1893  and Olivia Charlotte in 1894 .  Both gave their address as Great Connell at the time of their marriages. Therefore the maternal family of Molly Keane, the Higginsons, had connections with both Clane and Newbridge, Co. Kildare. 

A detailed study of the family tree of the Aylmer family in Burke’s Peerage & Baronetage shows that in 1853 Sir Gerald George Aylmer, 9th Bt., of Donadea Castle married Alicia Hester Caroline Dobbs, the daughter of Conway R. Dobbs, of Castle Dobbs, Co. Antrim.  This Dobbs connection leads us back to Co. Antrim, home county of Agnes Shakespeare Higginson.  The Dobbs family tree shows that Alicia’s older sister, Olivia Nichola Dobbs, married Sir James Macaulay Higginson in 1854.  Sir James Macauley Higginson, K.C.B., Governor of Mauritius, was a son of Major James Higginson.  Sir James and Olivia Macauley Higginson had a family connection with Clane because her sister Alicia was married to Sir Gerald Aylmer.

A search of the genealogical database also located the death of Sir James Higginson on 2nd July, 1885 at Tulfarris, Great Connell, Newbridge.  An obituary in the Kildare Observer on 11th July 1885 states that Sir James “was one of the oldest sportsmen in Ireland, and one of the straightest riders to hounds in that hard-riding (and, according to some, hard-ridden country)”.  It also gave the important information that Sir James had been married twice, firstly to a Miss Shakespeare and secondly to a Miss Dobbs.   As we know, Molly mother’s name was recorded as Agnes Shakespeare Higginson on her birth certificate.

The Higginson papers in the Public Record of Northern Ireland include wills, leases, deeds and correspondence from 1737-1964, and relate to the Higginson family of Nappan, Springmount and Rockport, Co. Antrim, as well as Connelmore, Co. Kildare and the Skrine family of Ballyrankin, Co. Wexford.  Included in the correspondence are letters from or relating to Sir James Macaulay Higginson and Charles Henry Higginson of Springmount, later Rockport, Cushenden, Co. Antrim.   Charles Henry, born in 1824, married his cousin Mary, elder daughter of Sir James Macauley Higginson and his first wife Louisa Mary Ann Shakespeare, in 1861.    One of their children was Agnes Shakespeare. According to the Higginson family tree, Agnes Shakespeare Higginson, mother of Molly Keane, married Walter Clarmont Skrine on 5th June, 1895.  He was the youngest son of Henry Duncan Skrine, MA, DL, JP, of Warleigh Manor, and Claverton Manor, Somerset, and of Stubbings, Berkshire.

We know that the Higginsons were residing in Co. Kildare in 1885 when Sir James died and were still in residence at the time of the marriages of Frances and Olivia in 1893 and 1894. A search of the computerized database of the 1901 Census of Co. Kildare revealed a possible residence where Mary Nesta Skrine was born in 1904. In the District Electoral Division of Newbridge Rural, in the townland of Great Connell I located the household of Olivia Higginson , a farmer, aged 73 years, her daughter Millicent and sons Metcalfe and Henry.  She gave her place of birth as Switzerland, and Millicent , aged 39 years, was born in Co. Antrim.  Metcalfe, born in Jamaica, and Henry in King’s Co., were obviously the sons of Sir James and the step-sons of Olivia as they were 60 and 58 respectively, and both retired army officers. There were seven servants attached to the household.   In the same house in 1911 the occupier is Conway Higginson, a retired army officer, and his daughter, Hylda, aged 17 years.  However, Great Connell or Connellmore is on the opposite side of the river and quite distant from the location known as Ryston.  It seems certain that Walter and Agnes did not stay with the Higginsons during their time in Newbridge but in a separate residence at Ryston.

Ryston, which is a local name but not a townland, is now home to the Irish Ropes Social Club which occupies a large site with a pitch and putt grounds and clubhouse.  There are also two small housing estates at the back of the site, called Ryston Avenue and Ryston Close.   Local information is that the house that once stood here was demolished sometime in the 1970s.  It had been occupied throughout the 1920, 1930s & 1940s by a Church of Ireland clergyman, Rev. D.H. O’ Connor, and subsequently by his two spinster daughters.  Rev. O’Connor, Rector of Newbridge, performed the marriages of both the Higginson girls at Great Connell church.

It is possible that the house which once stood on the site, which was called Ryston Lodge, was associated with the military barracks which began to be constructed in Newbridge from 1816 onwards.  The Ordnance Survey maps show a large house with gardens on a substantial site adjacent to the River Liffey.  The entrance to the house is directly opposite the entrance to the military barracks.  The walls that surrounded the barracks are constructed from the same stone as the lower wall around the present grounds of Ryston.  The house at Ryston is not on the Alexander Taylor map of 1783. It appears for the first time on the 1837 OS map.

Sometime around 1912 the Skrine family purchased Ballyrankin House, Ferns, Co. Wexford.  Walter Skrine died in 1930 and his wife Agnes on in 1955.  Their daughter Molly Keane died in 1996.


Bringing Molly Home - Invitation to all to unveiling of bust of Molly Keane at Ryston Sports and Social Club, Newbridge, Friday 17 July, 2009, at 8 p.m.


Clane Abbey Cemetery, Clane, County Kildare


Situated on the ruins of a 13th century Franciscan Friary.
This is a partial listing of headstones which are not listed in any particular order.

In loving memory of Patrick Ahern, Clane, died, 23rd February 1983 also his wife, Josephine, died, 16th September 1988. Erected by his wife and family.

Bridget Baker, Blackhall, Clane. Died, 15th February 1982 aged 83 years.

Edward Behan, Green View, Clane, died, 22nd July 1980 aged 57, his daughter, Patricia, died, age 1 year and 11 months, his wife, Ina, died, 27th May 1996 aged 72

Joseph Bracken, Blackhall, Clane, died, 2nd December 1978.

Erected by, Daniel Boyle, Blackhall, Clane, in memory of my brother, William,  died, 2nd February 1940, his wife, Katie Boyle, died, 10th May 1952, his brother in law, Patrick Esmonda, died, 1st March 1952, Daniel Boyle, died, 3rd April 1955.

In Loving memory of, Patrick Brennan, died, 18th March 1948, also his wife, Mary Catherine, died, 5th January 1965. Resting in Dean’s Grange.

James Buchanan, Clane, died, 17th April 1979 aged 46 years.

In loving memory of Con Burke, 87 Coill Dubh, died, 9th December 1984 aged 74 years, also his wife, Kathleen, died, 31st December 1992 aged 71 years.

In loving memory of John Byrne, died, 20th October 1987 aged 49 years, also his mother, Nancy Byrne, who died 25th June 1930? Aged 32 years, also his brother in law, Billy Keating, died, 13th October 1999 aged 61 years. Formerly of Limerick.

John Byrne, Capdoo, Clane, died, 22nd January 1974 aged 77 years, his wife, Elizabeth, died, 14th May 1987 aged 92 years.

In loving memory of, Patrick Byrne, Dublin Road, Clane, died, 6th April 1955, his wife, Catherine, died, 14th April 1967, their son, Joseph Thomas, died, 27th September 1980 aged 61 years.

Thomas Campbell, Blackhall, Clane, died, 2nd January 1964 aged 58 years.

In Loving Memory of, Christopher Campbell, who died, 1st December 1939, also his wife, Catherine, died, 26th March 1952, and their son, Patrick, died, 23rd January 1950, and her brother, Patrick Judge, died, 17th February 1950.

In Loving Memory of, Michael Carey, died 13th January 1939 aged 55, his wife, Elizabeth, died, 8th May 1967 aged 51, William Carey, died, 6th September 1955 aged 45,their sons, William, died, 25th January 1975 aged 47, Michael, died, 25th August 1991.

In loving memory of John Casey, Dublin Road, Clane, who died, 2nd May 1983 aged 82 years, also his wife, Ellen, died, 24th January 1990 aged 86 years.

In loving memory of John (Jackie) Casey, Dublin Road, Clane who died, 14th October 1999 aged 68 years.

In Loving Memory of, Dr. William Cahill, Straffan Lodge, Clane, died, 16th January 1940, his wife, Catherine Cahill, died, 21st June 1968.

Leo Carroll, Clane, died, 23rd October 1966 aged 29, his father, Bernard, died, 21st July 1968 aged 76, his mother, Lucy, died, 22nd August 1978 aged 79 years.

Mary Colgan, Firmount, Clane, died, 14th July 1966 aged 82, her husband, Denis, died, 21st December 1976 aged 89 years.

Elizabeth Coffey, Fairmount, Clane, died, 28th September 1960, her husband, James, died, 6th June 1985.

Pray for the soul of Patrick Coffey, who died, 24th June 1944 aged 51 years, and his brother, Richard, died, 7th February 1970 aged 67 years, Margaret Coffey, (Nee Grace), died, 7th May 1992.

In loving memory of , Katie Cooper, died, 10th August, 1961 aged 71 years, her husband, John, died, 11th January 1966 aged 87 years, their sons, John, died, 12th October, 1986 aged 87 years, and Edward, died, 30th October 1989 aged 69 years.

Richard Corrigan, Blackhall, Clane, died, 28th January 1952 aged 73, his daughter, Catherine, died, 11th August 1932 aged 16 , his daughter, Mary, died, 7th August 1914 aged 3 years, his son Richard, died, 24th July 1959, aged 52 years, his son, Patrick, died, 22nd January 1945 aged 22, his son, Hughie, died, 8th November 1945 aged 32, his daughter in law, Kathleen, died, 12th July 1945 aged 24, Teresa, died, 27th May 1973 aged 88 years.

Peter Curran, Capdoo, died, 17th April 1971 aged 64, his wife, Elizabeth, died, 11th July 1982 aged 59.

Erected by, Peter Delaney, Loughanure, Clane, in loving memory of his wife, Anne Delaney, died, 11th April 1934 aged 54, also his son, Peter Delaney, died, 4th December 1946 aged 34, the above, Peter Delaney, died, 20th July 1951 aged 75 years.

Paddy Delaney, Capdoo, Clane, died, 2nd January 1988 aged 70, also his mother, Mary Delaney, died, 17th November 1920 aged 38, also his father, Patrick Delaney, died, 12th December 1952 aged 73 years, R.I.P. Erected by his loving Brothers.

In loving memory of Patrick (Podge) Delaney, Railway Cottages, Sallins, who died, 9th January 2006 aged 51.

In loving memory of Oliver Delaney, St. Bridget’s Tce. Clane, died, 27th October 1998 aged 79, Baby Agustain, died, 8th October 1969. Erected by his loving wife and family



(Old stone)
Erected by, John Dillon, in memory of his Parents, James and Ellenor? Who died, and his son, James Dillon died, 1800.

In Loving Memory of, Nan Doherty, Mortcommon, Clane, who died, 14th October 1941, her husband, Patrick, died, 1st September 1955, their daughter in law, Martha, died, 4th April 1957.

Matthew Donnellan, Clane, died, February, 1827 aged 73, his wife, Esther, died, 25th July 1873 aged 79, their son, Thomas, died, 28th September 1886 aged 75 years.

In loving memory of, Christopher (Christy) Donnelly, Firwood, Clane, died, 7th June 1983 aged 76 years, his brother, Matthew Donnelly, died 3rd April 1987 aged 66 years.

In loving memory of Peter Donnelly, died, 30th November 1968, also his wife, Annie Donnelly, died, 28th October 1996, 3 Lohunda Road, Clonsilla, Dublin. And late of Firmount, Clane.
Erected by their loving son, Peter and daughter, Sheila.

In loving memory of John Donnelly, Sherlockstown, who died, 11th January 1939 also his daughter, Mary Donnelly, who died, 29th September 1954, his sons, Christy Donnelly, who died, 11th February 1959, also his son, Michael Donnelly, who died,4th January 1990, also his daughter, Marcella (Cella) who died, 29th November 1991.

Gerald Fitzgerald Dunne, born at Aghovoe, 1850, died, in Ballinagappa, County Kildare, 22nd September 1902, husband of Julia Mary.

Sacred Heart of Jesus have mercy on the soul of, Annie Dunne, Maryfields, who died, 23rd January 1959, also her beloved husband, Patrick, who died 31st May 1971.

Mary Ennis, Firmount, died, 10th January 1967 aged 36 years.

In Loving Memory of, Michael Farrell, Butterstream, Clane, who died, 26th June, 1936 aged 63 years, his wife, Mary, died, 15th May 1962 aged 90 years, their son, Patrick, died, 1st March 1989 aged 75 years.

In Loving Memory of our dear Mother, Elizabeth Fox, of Millicent, died, 13th August 1931 aged 76, her son, Joseph Fox, died, 25th May 1953,aged 63 years, his wife, Margaret, died, 5th May 1955, her daughter, Elizabeth Minghin, died, 24th February 1966 aged 73 years.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Have Mercy on the Soul of My Dear Father, John Francis Fox, Claremont, Castle knock, died, 20th September 1974,also my dear mother, Annie Fox, died, 28th September 1931, my dear brother,Joseph,37 Woodbine Road, Black rock, Dublin died, 11th January 1973, interred in Dean’s Grange Cemetery, my sister, Elizabeth, died, 6th February 1996.

In loving memory of Elizabeth Fox, who died at Raheny, 21st December 1945, also her son Peter, who died, 4th May 1926, also her dear husband, Peter Fox, who died at Raheny, 18th May 1958, also their son James Fox, died, 5th January 1994 and their daughter, Agnes Fox, died 3rd February 2004.

Michael Fox, Millicent, died, 6th March 1979 aged 84 years, his wife, Annie, died, 12th April 1979 aged 84 years.

Patrick A. Fox, died, 17th April 1986.

In Loving Memory of, Anne Greene, who died, May 14th 1938 aged 68, Michael John Greene, died, 28th October 1965 aged 68 years, Esther Greene, died, 21st November 1969 aged 73 years, Anne Greene, died 10th October 1976 aged 76 years.
In Special Remembrance of, Mary Greene, who died, 31st March 1982.
Erected by Michael and Kay.

Peter Hackett, Loughbollard, Clane, died, 1st September 1977 aged 44 years.

In affectionate Remembrance of a devoted husband and father, Charles Henry, died, 21st August 1981 aged 81 years, his wife, Mary, died 1990 aged 86 years.

William Hickey, Capdoo, Clane, died, 19th December 1982, also his loving wife, Teresa (Tess) died, 3rd August 2005. R.I.P.Erected by his loving wife and son.


Catherine Hogan, Ballymyraagh, Nenagh, died, 18th February 1942. John Kinsella, Kilmurry, erected this stone for his wife, Mary, who died, 4th January 1909 aged 51 years.

Michael Holligan, Castlebrown, died, 11th September 1969, his wife, Elizabeth, died, 9th July 1994.

In Memory of, James J. Jones, Clane, who died, 21st October 1942, his wife, Matilda, died, 22nd August 1985, also, Joseph Whelan, died, 6th January 1953, Kathleen Whelan, died, January 13th 1979.

In Loving Memory of Delia Greoghegan, Clane, who died, 22nd August 1944, Margaret Casey, died, 18th March 1966, Michael Greoghean, died, 26th September 1966, Mai Fielding, died, 13th April 1971, and all the relatives of the Greoghegan Family.

Thomas Kearney, Curry Hills, Prosperous, died, 26th November 1954 aged 80, his wife, Elizabeth, 25th June 1983 aged 80, Susan Kearney, died, 19th October 1991 aged 44 years.

In loving memory of Mrs. Anne Kelly, died, 22nd January 1941, and her husband,  John Kenny, died, 2nd January 1916, also their grandson son, Brendan Kearns, died, 28th May 1946, and their nephew, Patrick Corrigan, died, 22nd January 1946.

Pray for the soul of Very Rev. Laurence J. Keogh, Parish Priest of Clane, 1926 – 1948, died, 20th July 1948 aged 78 years.

Patrick Kinsella, died, 19th February 1843 aged 83 years, his wife, Elizabeth, died, 6th August 1819 aged 60 years. This stone was erected by his son, Thomas.

In loving memory of Michael McDonald, Millicent, Sallins, who died, 17th April 1949 aged 56 years, his wife Teresa, who died, 28th May 1982 aged 85 years, their son in law, Patrick Walsh, died 3rd May 2004 aged 73 years.

Thomas Langan, Clane, died, 29th December 1973.

In Loving Memory of, Maurice Lee, Clane, County Kildare, died, 20th January 1968, aged 78 years, his wife, Mary, died, 26th December 1970 aged 61 years, his son, Laurence, died, 16th December 1957 aged 23 years.

Bridget McGuire, Mount Armstrong, died, 9th April 1979 aged 53 years

In loving memory of Norman O’Brien, who died 28th December 1979, also Lorraine Shannon (Niece) who died, 23rd September 1975 aged 2 years and 6 months.

Cherished memories of a dear husband and father, James Manzor, Clane, who died, 13th January 1985, also his wife, Sheila, died, 26th October 1999.

Pray for the Repose of the Soul of, Andrew Joseph McEvoy, who died, on the 29th August 1943, John McEvoy, who died, 22nd January 1965, Catherine McEvoy, who died, 16th May 1966.

Joseph McCormack, Ballinacappa Road, Clane, died, 30th July 1979 aged 16 years, his mother, Ann, died, 7th December 1986 aged 62 years, her husband, Christopher, died, 16th October 1994 aged 83 years.

In Loving Memory of, Thomas Meskell, died, 23rd January  1944,aged 74 years, his wife, Elizabeth, died, 15th July 1968 aged 80years, their children, Anne, died, 15th April 1939 aged 22 years, Thomas, J.K. died, 25th May 1947 aged 26, Edward Ignatius Meskall, died, 24th July 1972 aged 56, his wife, Elizabeth Ann, died, 5th April 1995 aged 84 years.

In Loving Memory of My Dear Wife, Ena Mescall, died, 18th June 1975 aged 43.

In Loving Memory of, Bridget Marrow, Clane, died, 4th January 1949, her husband, Peter A. Marrow, died, 21st July 1`977, and their son, John, died, 3rd November 1955, also their daughter, Patricia Rooney, died, 1st November 1986. Laid to rest in Shellharbour, Australia.

Patrick McManmon, died, 4th October 1967 aged 59, his wife, Bridget, died, 10th August 1982 aged 66 years.

Mary O’Brien, Blachhall, Clane, died, 10th November 1966 aged 86, her son, Daniel, died, 16th September 1984 aged 73 years.


In loving memory of James O’Donnell, Capadoo, Clane, who died, 29th November 1982 aged 83 years, and his wife, Mary, died, 15th November 1997 aged 89 years.
In Loving Memory of Sheila O’Neill, Abbeylands, who died, 18th October 1961, her father, Charlie O’Neill, died, 8th December 1978, also his wife, Mona O’Neill, died, 22nd September 1992.

Erected to the memory of, Stephen O’Rourke, who died, 3rd May 1879 aged 72 years, also his wife, Jane, who died, 3rd June 1875 aged 52 years.

In loving memory of Seamus Moore, Millicent, Clane, who died, 10th December 1930 aged 52 years, also his daughter, Theresa, who died, 9th April 1991 aged 10 years, his grandson, James Curran, died, 17th October 2001 aged 14 years.

Erected by Bryan Murray, In loving remembrance of his father, Billy Murray, who died, 1856, also his mother, Nora, and his sister, Jane.

In loving memory of Joe Reddy (Uncle Joe), James, Ester, Reddy, their daughter, Kathleen, Tess.

Christopher Rorke, died, 3rd May 1879 aged 73, his wife, Jane, died, 31st July 1875 aged 63.

In loving memory of Peter Shortt, died, 23rd February 1975 aged 70, his wife, Agnes, died, 9th July 1988 aged 79 years.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on the soul of, Patrick Shortt, Clane, who died, July 27th 1945, his daughter, Elizabeth Kelly, died, September 29th 1945, also his wife, Rose Shortt, died, September 11th 1960, his son in law, Jeramiah (Jer) Kelly, died, 16th April 1986, his daughter in law, Kathleen Shortt, 14th November 1997, and his son Edward (Ned) 1st June 2000.

In Loving Memory of our father, Thomas Slevin, Blackhall, Clane, who died, 19th August 1946 aged 40 years, also his wife, Margaret, died, 27th March 1986 aged 80 years, also their daughter, Kathleen O’Connor, died, 16th August 1996.

Peter Slevin, Rathmore, Clane, died, 24th May 1966, his wife, Catherine, died, 5th October 1978.

Erected by, Mrs. Anne Staunton for her beloved husband, Charles Staunton, died, 25th May 1858 aged 49 years, and their beloved children, Michael and Joseph, who died young.

In Loving Memory of, Kate Tomkins, who died, 26th September 1941 aged 56 years, her husband, John Thomkins,who died, 19th January 1944 aged 70, late of Landenstown, also my dear husband, Hugh Casey, who died, 22nd April 1980 aged 62 years, late of Clonfert, and his wife, Mary (Mai) (Nee Tomkins), died, 22nd September 2000 aged 87 years.
Plaque on grave reads from: Ivan, Colin and Tricia.

In loving memory of, Bridget Wallace, Clane, died, 20th April 1948, her son, Peter, who died, 26th February 1982.

Pray for the soul of Bridget Walsh (nee Moynihan), Clane, who died, 28th January 1955, Dr. Michael Walsh, died, 12th June 1972.

In loving memory of Herbert Delamare, Whyte, Viewmount, who died, 13th October 1917 , his wife,  Mary, died, 3rd March 1949 , also John Cecil Ferris, died, 31st October 1986.

In loving memory of Patrick J. Woods, Clane who died, 2nd September 1983 aged 71 years, his wife, Ellen, died, 26th January 1988 aged 60 years.



Partial list of transcriptions from Clane Abbey Cemetery by Anna Ryan. Our thanks as always to Anna. 




Larry Breen


Donnellys Armsmall.JPG

Naas Public Library presented a unique opportunity in recent times (March 2009) for a captivated audience to see in public for the first time in many years the “arm” of the famed Irish Boxing Champion, Dan Donnelly, hero of the epic battle with English Champion George Cooper in the cauldron of “Donnelly’s Hollow”. The arm had been made available through Nessa Dunlea of Kilcullen Heritage Centre and by courtesy of Josephine Byrne, the owner of the arm and formerly of the “Hideout Pub” where Dan’s arm had rested for forty years or more.

Group small.JPG
Nessa Dunlea, Ger McCarthy, Josephine Byrne, Larry Breen, Brendan Cullen

Naas Local History Group member, Larry Breen, who had taken a personal interest in this remarkable man gave a fascinating talk on Dan’s life, loves and final demise. The talk was dedicated by the speaker to two of his late friends, Bob and Wanda Spencer, from Bangor in County Down. Larry told the story of how his great friend Bob had became infatuated with Donnelly’s life after making visits to Donnelly’s Hollow and the Hideout and had passed that interest on to him. Dan’s story was tailor made for the “Silver Screen” as it embodied all the ingredients of life, poverty, success, fame, alcohol, sex and the eventual demise of a people’s champion. “Sir Daniel” as he was affectionately known was a man of his time, a larger than life character, a product of the Regency era.  It is to our great shame that outside of Donnelly’s Hollow in the Curragh and in particular in his native Dublin that no public memorial bears testimony to this great Irishman.

Arm small.JPG

A description of Dan reads as follows:  Donnelly was a creature of the moment, creating mirth and laughter all around him. His sayings were droll in the extreme and his behaviour was always decorous. He was generous, good natured and grateful. Tomorrow might, or might not, be provided for and it never created any uneasiness in his mind. He would say, “Devil may care”. He was an Irishman, every inch of him.  

Donnellys Arm small.JPG
Nessa Dunlea, Larry Breen and Paddy Behan

Naas Local History Group have printed the talk given on the night by Larry Breen in booklet form, a great idea for all Local History Groups to capture the wonderful knowledge on display annually throughout the county. 

The arm of famous boxer Dan Donnelly was on show at Naas Local History Group in March for a talk by Larry Breen. The photographs of the arm offer us a unique insight into the strange and wonderful tale of one of the most remarkable 'Kildare' figures of the 19th Century. Our thanks as always to Larry Breen.

July 10, 2009


Leinster Leader 17 March 1928
So much interest has recently been taken in business in connection with the Newbridge township that some little particulars of the past may not be unacceptable to all who are at present or have been in touch with the town. The present Town Hall structure was built as a Sessions and Market House in 1856 by Mr. Eyre Powell, but the Town Commissioners were not formed until nine years later in 1865 when Mr Eyre Powell was selected to occupy the first chair of the representatives of the township. In our last issue we mentioned one of the Eyre Powell family in 1880 being Sheriff and having a County Kildare residence. This was afterwards the property of Mr. Crawly at Hillsborough, and in more recent years the site of the Old Connell Church. The hill beyond this is called Powell’s Hill, and the residence here was burned during the 1798 insurrection. At that time it was occupied when Eyre Powell was Sheriff of the County Kildare. At the same time a residence at Knockspencer, Oldtown, Rosetown, now included in the Reeves’ property, was also burned down by the United Irishmen.
There are to be found still traces of the ruins of Knockspencer some few fields across from Hillsboro. There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that both places were burned down four years before the insurrection broke out, but the time being fixed at 1794 when matters were also in a state of unrest in the County Kildare.
The Big Hollow, Rosetown, Athgarvan, is still known as Eyre’s Hollow to many of the people.
In ‘65 Eyre Powell was residing in Monkstown, County Dublin, but was pressed by people of the town to represent them as a Commissioner at Newbridge, and agreed to do so. The late Mr. R.J. Goff was also elected at the time. Mr. Irwin, the well-known contractor of the time, and Mr. Keogh were also in the first body.
Mr. Hamilton was the first Town Clerk, and much improvement would seem to have been carried through by the first body, while special attention was paid to the sanitary matters. A scheme round by Royston was completed in 1867.
The meetings of the Commissioners for the first 30 years have been held a night, but at first the hour was fixed for one o’clock p.m. After a time, however, it was found that there was a difficulty in getting a quorum during the day, and the hour was changed to the evening.
Markets were then held at Newbridge on Wednesdays and were very successful, being a source of profit generally to the town.
Several meetings of the National League were held in the Town Hall in the early eighties and afterwards during the Clongorey evictions, in the openings of the nineties. At the time we find Mr. John Conlan, ex-T.D. applying for and being granted the use of the Town Hall for the purpose of holding meetings of the National League.
The Newbridge Commissioners changed the names of a number of streets of the town some 25 years ago. Hawkins’s Lane, called after an ex-soldier of that name, was named Robert Street. Tea Lane was called Anne Street, while the Lumper Lane of that time is now John Street, James’ Street was named after the late Mr. James Hyland who owned considerable property in the neighbourhood. Power’s Court received its name from Mr Power who was the landlord of a large number of houses in the town. Mr. Power also owned the pawnbroking establishment at present in the possession of Mr. T. Kearns, P.C., at Eyre St. Mr. McElween was responsible for the building of houses on the station road, which take his name, McElween Terrace.
The want of regularity in the building of the Main street and again in Eyre street is due to the fact that the houses were built at different times, and as far as size and accommodation were concerned the length of the purse had a great deal to do with these arrangements at the time.
The Town Commissioners at one time exercised more power as far as the carrying out of work in connection with the township than at present, and the whole front street was at one time flagged by them, while Mr. Irvine was the contractor. Mr. Irvine’s offices were in the large premises now occupied by Messrs. Wallace as coal stores in Eyre Street.

A short history of Newbridge was presented in the Leinster Leader of March 1928. Our thanks to Carl Dodd.

July 02, 2009


Kildare Observer, January 2nd 1892
The Source of the Grand Canal
The caption of this article may provoke a smile from our readers, but surely they will admit that a canal must have a source, just as necessarily as the Danube or the Dodder. Most people, of course, simply accept the existence of a canal as they do many other things, without questioning, but if you begin to think of it, these useful, if common waterways must be supplied in some way. The writer had the pleasure on Saturday of exploring, in company with Mr Kirkland, the secretary of the Grand Canal Company, one of the sources of the Grand Canal. We proceeded by train to Newbridge, and despite a drenching rain and wild gusts of wind mounted on a car, and drove to the mysterious spot. Our destination lay about a mile from Newbridge and a good part of the way was through an unfrequented road to a graveyard. And here we would give a word of advice to intending visitors to the place. Choose a dry day for your excursion, or the chances are that you may have to dig your conveyance out of the mire. However, without mishap, we arrived at a stile where we had to take to our feet. A walk of five minutes across a wild moorland tract of country brought us to a number of springs, and these springs were the object of our search. The inhabitants of the adjacent towns and villages do not appear to be aware of the useful service which the wells perform. These good people regard some of the springs as holy wells. One is known as St. James’ Well, and by that it is described by the company; while others are known as the Seven Springs, the Nine Springs, and so on. These wells or springs are most numerous; in fact, within a certain radius it is only necessary to dig a depth of say 3 feet, and there you have the pure water bubbling up and rushing merrily away to join one of the streams which carry off the water. We counted more than 30 of these springs, many of them being of course in one basin, of which there are several. So abundant is the supply, so continuous and reliable, that it would almost seem that here a river which had for miles wended its devious course underground suddenly leaped to the surface, glad to escape from dark confinement into bright daylight. We partook of a draught of the bright, sparkling, and cool liquid, and found it delightful. To the palate it offers no pronounced taste, such as many springs do, and it is perfectly soft-as soft almost as distilled water. The supply, we should say, must necessarily come from the distant Wicklow Mountains, and ere it reaches the bleak moorlands of County Kildare must penetrate the earth to a considerable depth; in fact, it must pass under the bed of the Liffey. The water wells up from the ground through a surface of gravel, and as it overflows and forms a brook it passes over a bed of sometimes silver sand, and sometimes pebbles, which must needs have a very purifying effect, since these are the means employed for cleansing the Vartry water before it is supplied to the citizens of Dublin for household purposes. The brooks formed by the springs unite at length into a broad burn or stream, in which lusty trout disport themselves; and this flows in a channel one mile long to Lowtown, from whence it is carried round the Hill of Allen to the summit level at Robertstown, some six miles distant, and by means of a regulating canal the water is sent towards Dublin or the Shannon. To judge of a canal from its appearance in a city, one gets a mistaken idea of its purity. There it would appear to be a sluggish and not over-clean stream; but in the country it has a very different look. Take the Grand Canal at Lowtown, where the canal’s supply is poured into the cutting, it is as pure as any water need be, and the fact that it abounds with trout, the most fastidious of all fish is sufficient guarantee of the truth of this. Most of the breweries and distilleries in Dublin, it is interesting to know, obtain their supplies of water from the same sources which feed the supply of the Grand Canal in the upper level in the County Kildare. For instance, Messrs Guinness’s famous breweries are so supplied, and the soft quality of the water makes it very valuable for such purposes. The source is so unfailing that the Dublin citizens need never fear a want of water, even should an unforeseen circumstance interfere with the supply from the Vartry. The quantity of water which comes to the surface near Newbridge is so great that the Grand Canal Company use but a very small portion of it. It is a supply which has been going on for over a century, from the time when the company obtained the patent to construct a canal “because it was desirable that the country should be opened up by reason of the thieves and robbers which infested the bogs.” The wells are situated, as we have said, about a mile from Newbridge Station, on the Great Southern and Western Railway, a little west of the high embankment which overlooks the moorland flat of Pollardstown, near the Curragh. During the driest portion of the year there is a daily flow of the pure water of over 3,100,000 gallons from the largest well which is known as St. James’s. These springs are the chief source of supply to the summit level of the Grand Canal, over which level the boats of the company pass on to the Barrow and Shannon Rivers, maintaining a regular traffic from Dublin to Carlow and Bagnalstown on the Barrow, and to Limerick and Athlone on the Shannon. It is a main help also in supplying water to the Dublin end of the canal and the Ringsend Docks. In former times the principal well, which is now a pond about 80 feet in diameter flowing off into a channel ten feet wide, was a favourite rendezvous for hunting parties, who there refreshed themselves, strengthening the water no doubt, many of the sportsmen, with something more ardent. Even to the present day the young men of the district meet here to hunt the rabbits and course the hares. When the well was being widened some years ago a number of hunting spears, now to be seen at the company’s offices, were found in the gravelly soil, and there was brought to light too a planked road of oak leading to the well from the Curragh side. Analysts are unanimous in considering the water wholesome, and it is said to be a curative in cases of dyspepsia. In a few days an eminent analyst will again test the water.
 We traced the burn formed by the springs for a long distance, meditating meanwhile upon this mysterious supply of water from underground, but the supply which was coming from the heavens over us caused us to seek our car and repair to the nearest hospitable hostelry.

A reporter from the Kildare Observer explores one of the sources of the Grand Canal in the company of Mr. Kirkland, secretary of the Grand Canal Company.

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