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April 30, 2010


 Leinster Leader 11th February 2010

Playing Cupid among the Kildare hills
Readers looking for a romantic outing over St. Valentine’s weekend could do worse than heading for the hills and seeking out Kildare’s very own Cupidstown Hill. Whether the ‘Cupid’ in the name of the hill has any connection with the Roman god of love we may never know but what is certain is that the hill holds the record of being the highest point in Co. Kildare at 1,248 feet above sea level. This may come as a surprise to some Lilywhites as there is a general assumption that the highest point in the county is the Hill of Allen. And while the tower-crowned eminence of Allen is  Kildare’s most prominent landmark, it is little more than half the altitude of the Cupidstown .
To get to Kildare’s highlands, modest as they are, one needs to explore the hill terrain on the Kildare-Wicklow boundary. Cupidstown Hill is part of range of hills which run in a north-east to south-west direction roughly from Saggart  to Pollaphuca. Kildare’s highest village, Kilteel is located on the western slope of the ridge with wonderful views to the west out over the plains of Leinster.. Looked at in the opposite direction from the plains of Kildare this range of hills forms the first ridge of the Wicklow mountains. The county boundary runs along the ridge and indeed just down the slope on the Kilteel side of Cupidstown there is a point where the three counties meet – Kildare, Wicklow & Dublin.
 Whatever about the mystery of Cupidstown’s name its neighbouring hill just to the south-west carries a name which will send a shiver down the spine – Cromwellstown Hill. Tracking in a south-westerly direction the next eminence is the Caureen hill, notable for the green road which tracks directly over its summit and links the Hempstown and Crosschapel roads on its northern and southern flanks respectively. The ridge continues south to Tipperkevin before merging with the Wicklow hills proper in the Pollaphuca area. It is not surprising that the landscape in this location would carry echoes of past conflicts. The hilly terrain between Kilteel and Ballymore Eustace has always been contested country forming a barrier between the plains of the mid Leinster and the mountain hideaways of west Wicklow. The presence of the knight’s hospitallers’ castle at Kilteel and the imposing motte and bailey at Rathmore, guarding one of the key passes through the hills, is testament to centuries marked by skirmish and ambush among the east Kildare hills. The fort of Rath Turtle in Glending, another dramatic pass through the hills on the Eadestown-Blessington road, suggests a Norse origin. In later but still troubled times the defensive ditch known as the Pale tracked along the ridge and remnants of it are still to be seen east of Kilteel.
And what of the great Kildare landmark of the Hill of Allen? At just 676 feet above sea level Allen is just a little over half the height of Cupidstown. Indeed Allen falls short of its neighbours to the south west, Grange hill and Dumurray hill, both over 700 feet. Grange and  Dunmurray form the first two slopes in a ridge completed by the Red Hills, a familiar view on the western horizon for Kildare town residents. 
The generally flat topography of the county means that hills which would hardly rate as such in other parts of Ireland become quite prominent when viewed against the low lying plains of the county. Cupidstown Hill, although Kildare’s highest point ranks in a lowly 22nd position in a list of 26-county high points.
Carbury Hill with its haunting castle ruins and Cappagh Hill (west of Kilcock), are two modest hills which dominate their surrounding landscapes. More geologically connected with the Wicklow mountain range are the hills which fall within the south-eastern boundary of the county in the Narraghmore to Castledermot pinpointed by names such as Bullhill, Nine Tree Hill and Knockpatrick Hill.  The place names of the county form a rich vein of terminology indicating its diverse landscape but few convey that sense of enigmatic romance as Kildare’s very own Cupidstown Hill. Series No: 164.


In his regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' in the Leinster Leader Liam Kenny explores the hill terrain on the Kildare-Wicklow boundary. Our thanks to Liam...

April 29, 2010


Leinster Leader 25th March 2010

Leader editor a founding member of the GAA

For two decades after it first rolled off the presses in 1880 the Leinster Leader was a campaigning newspaper, enthusiastically supporting the Land League and the Home Rule movement. Its first editor, Patrick Cahill, was imprisoned for his outspoken views in support of the Land League. However it was Cahill’s successor, the double-barrelled John Wyse Power, who was to connect the Leinster Leader with a nationalist movement as enduring as any – the Gaelic Athletic Association.  An urgency in the late 19th century to shape a particular kind of Irish identity was fuelled by the formation of a number of organisations including the Gaelic League, dedicated to reviving the Irish language; the Home Rule movement, which aimed to achieve an Irish parliament; and the GAA which set out to create a code for athletics and field games distinctive to an Irish setting. The prime movers behind this markedly Irish sporting ambition were Michael Cusack of Clare and Maurice Davin of Tipperary. They signed a circular convening a meeting scheduled for Thurles on 1st November 1884. According to reports of the time, the meeting was attended by seven men generally representative of nationalist opinion. A week later the Leinster Leader published an account of the meeting which in its level of detail looked to be from an ‘inside’ source. And so it was, as one of the seven in attendance at that foundation meeting of the GAA was the then editor of the Leinster Leader - John Wyse Power. The report represented something of a ‘scoop’ for the paper, even if its historical significance was not appreciated at the time.  Wyse Power was a man of many parts. A native of Waterford he had worked for a time in the Civil Service , but resigned because its English tone jarred with his radical nationalism. In police reports he was described as being a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a prominent Fenian. He first came to Naas in late 1881 but not of his own free will – he was interned in Naas jail for protesting against landlordism in Baltinglass. He was released in March 1882 and resumed his work as a journalist contributing to the Freeman’s Journal, the leading home rule paper of its day. Baltinglass was to feature again in his life but in a happier context when in July 1883 he married Jennie O’Toole, a native of the Slaneyside town. It was a marriage which was to become a powerful political force in nationalist circles into the 20th century. Shortly before their wedding he returned to Naas (this time in a willing capacity) when he was appointed editor of the Leinster Leader in June 1883. It was a logical progression for a campaigning journalist, the Leader had been set up with an unequivocal nationalist agenda. It was during his time in the editor’s chair in Naas that he responded to Michael Cusack’s invitation to join in the inaugural meeting of the GAA. His ambition was such that he did not stay long with the Leader and by early 1885 he had moved to the staff of the Freeman’s Journal in Dublin. Nor did he stay long with the GAA leadership, parting over nuances of its approach to Irish nationalism.  However he left an important legacy being instrumental in the establishment of the association’s Dublin County Board. His dedication to nationalist activism continued; he joined the Irish Parliamentary Party and became a loyal disciple of its leader, Charles Stuart Parnell. So loyal that when the party ruptured over the ‘Parnell split’ he maintained steadfast to the hounded leader and became a spokesman for the pro-Parnell side of the divide. Even after Parnell’s death Wyse Power carried the torch and in June 1892 a report in the New York Times related how he accompanied John Redmond, by then leader of what remained of the Irish Parliamentary Party, on a visit to rally Irish-American support. Such was Wyse Power’s reputation across the Atlantic that the New York Times reported how a number of city journalists hosted a dinner in the prestigious New York Press Club to mark his arrival.  In later years he continued in journalism with the Irish Independent but his commitment to nationalism was transformed into support for his wife Jennie whose status, in a rare role reversal in a male dominated world, was to surpass that of her husband as an activist and leader across an array of nationalist organisations. Indeed such was her prominence that her career has been documented in book form. No book has been written about John Wyse Power but his role as a founder member of the GAA has been given enduring notice with the erection earlier this month of a commemorative plaque on the Leinster Leader premises at South Main Street, Naas. Series no: 170 (the knowledge of Mr. Stan Hickey, newspaper historian, is much appreciated). 

Liam Kenny in his regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun'  recalls John Wyse Power, a founder member of the GAA, who has been given enduring notice with the erection of a commemorative plaque on the Leinster Leader premises at Sth. Main St., Naas. 


ATHYS May Day Festival 2010
This is the first May Day festival in living memory in the welcoming and historic town of Athy, Co. Kildare. The festival is a multi-cultural event and will feature a colourful display of Trade Union Banners and Posters over the last century. There will be a series of papers presented tracing the development of agrarian labour organisations and discussions on two major rural labour disputes in south Kildare in 1922/23 and 1947.
The day will culminate in a music and multi-media performance by Will Kaufman, the famous Woody Guthrie biographer.
The event is being sponsored by the Athy and Kildare/Leixlip Branches of SIPTU. All events during the day are free; there is a small fee for the evening performance by Will Kaufman. Tickets are available from SIPTU for 5. Contact No. 045 432318 (office Hours Monday to Friday) or Adrian Kane on 0876784736
Saturday MAY DAY 2010.
Display of Trade Union Banners Posters from.....11pm-6pm
Papers and Discussion..... 2.00pm-5.30pm
The Woody Guthrie Story, Tales and Ballads from the Dustbowl....8.30pm
2.00- 2.10pm....Opening of Festivities by the Mayor of Athy
2.10-2.20pm.... An Introduction to May Day by SIPTUs Kildare Organiser Adrian Kane
2.20-3.00pm..... The Whitefeet, a story of a radical movement of Miners and Farm Labourers in the 1820s and 1830 in the midlands by Terry Dunne a graduate of NUI Galway and native of Athy.
3.00-3.340pm..... The Knights of the Plough early Farm Labourers organisations in South Kildare by local Historian Frank Taaffe
3.40-4.00...... Tea/Coffee Break
4.00-4.40..... Not Organisable, The Autonomous Worker and The Farm Labourers Strike of 1922/23 by Doctor Noel Kavanagh, Philosophy Lecturer Carlow
4.40-5.10.....The Kilkea lock out of 1947, the struggle for the shorter working week by John McKenna, local Novelist and Play-write
8.30pm.... Will Kaufman, The Woody Guthrie Story, Tales and Ballads from the Dust Bowl, an evening of song and celebration of Woody Guthries life.
Please Note that all events will take place in the Methodist Hall, Woodstock Street, Athy Co. Kildare on Saturday the 1st of May 2010. Tickets available from SIPTU contact 045 432318 office hours Monday to Friday or Adrian Kane 0876784736


Historic town of Athy, Co. Kildare welcomes its first May Day festival in living memory. The event is being sponsored by the Athy and Kildare/Leixlip branches of SIPTU.

April 24, 2010


 Kildare Observer 12th May 1894

Punchestown Reminiscences
Fifty years ago “princely Punchestown” was a very insignificant meeting as compared with the big gathering of later years. The Kildare hunt was always a most sporting body, and each year used to hold races somewhere in the neighbourhood of Naas, but these were purely local. For instance, just half-a-century ago, on the 22nd March, the K.H held its reunion. Four events were contested; the first - the Kildare Hunt Cup, only bringing out two runners, Mr de Burgh’s Taglioni (owner) coming in first, and Mr. Lawless Moonraker (owner) second. Forty sovs, given by the Hunt, went to Mr Dunne’s Fanny Elssler, and thirty-sovs, also contributed by the K.H to Mr Colgan’s Chanter. The Ponsonby Bowl was captured by Mr Woodhouse’s Milo. In 1849 a proper course was layed out over the fine grasslands of Punchestown. Several objectionable fences were avoided, and the winning field so selected that nearly the whole race was visible form it.. There were then thirteen fences in the three miles, two of them being walls. In this year (1849) it still remained a one day affair, but it was easy to see that it was fast becoming a popular feature, by the names of the gentlemen taking part in it. The Kildare Hunt cup brought out a good field. The winner turned up in Lord Drogheda’s Westmeath, with Mr H Moore up; Mr Kirkpatrick’s Canvaseer (owner) second; Sir E Kennedy’ Yellow Dwarf (Mr Proby) third, and Lord St Laurence’s Paragon (Mr W Kennedy) fourth. A plate of 80 sovs went to Mr M Dunne’s spider (owner), and the open stakes to Mr lord Gunning, with Mr Meredith’s Miss Despard second. A Hack Race finished up the day, which may be considered the first over the regular Punchestown course. In ’57 and ’58 we find Puncheston in full bloom. The meeting had then been extended to a two days’ one, and in the first mentioned year nine events were decided, with large entries for each race. The Kildare Hunt Cup, in ’57, was won by Lord Lawrence’s Lobster, with that fine rider Capt “Dickey” Bernard up. The Corinthian Cup of £100 was favourite race in those days, and we find Sir J Power, Lord Waterford, Mr Persse, Lord Howth, Mr Connolly, and other well-known sportsmen taking part in it. At the ’58 meeting the Military Plate was first run for, and was won by Mr Handley’s The Miller (Mr Browne). The Corinthian Cup of ’58 has twelve runners, and went to Col Caulfied’s Ace of Hearts, with Mr Thomas up. Mr J H Moore was to the front in this year, winning the Visitors’ Plate with Rake, who also ran second to Mr Wall’s Redskin in the Kildare Hunt Plate, Dan Meany being in the saddle in both rides. Thirty years ago, Punchestown has assumed such proportions that it was no misnomber to dub it “Princely”. In this year (on 12th and 13th of April, 1864), there was a bumber meeting, and through the stand, &c, accommodation was poor, compared with what it provided for us now, nothing better in the way of fields of sport could have wished for. The gallant 10th and 15th Hussars were in Ireland that year, and made a goodly show; the hospitality and horsemanship of the officers of these regiments being as lavish and plucky as that of their representatives of to-day. A memorable race was the Grand National Hunt Steeplechase, which was, par excellence, the event of the meeting. Thirty-two horses were on the card, and of these no less than twenty-six came to the post. It was the custom at this time to put the county from which the horse halled in brackets. Dublin and Tipperary tied with five representatives each; Kildare, three, Meath and Cavan, two each; while Galway. Kilkenny, Meath, Westmeath, Louth, King’s County and Cork had each a runner, and Scotland furnished a trio. Galway took the pride of place with Lord Clanricarde’s Caustic; Tipperary next, with Mr Vane’s Forager, and Dublin third, with Mr Banfield’s Yellow Leaf. Amongst the owners and riders in this race were several names well-known to turtfies. Most of them, alas! Have gone over to the “great majority”, but a few are still with us. Amongst those riders in the race may be mentioned Capt M Craith, J H Moore, Tom Jackson, Mr Long, D Canny, Mr Leannigan, Mr M Aylmer, N M Delamere, Mr McGrane (who ran Blood Royal in the race), Mr J D White, Mr “Bob” Exshaw, Capt Smith, Mr D Smithwiok, Capt Tempest, Mr C Allen and Mr Cashman. Mr Long’s victory on Lord Clanricarde’s Caustic was a very popular one. The winner was by Rasper, and was bred by Lord Freyne, Three weeks before the race Lord Clanricarde had been hunting the horse regularly with the Quorn, at Melton, and he was only sent over to Howth Castle for a couple of weeks’ preparation, Mr Banfield, whose Yellow Leaf was third, was a nephew of Lord Clanricarde’s, so the race was pretty well “in the family”. In these days, when everyone is betting, it appears strange to read, “Owing to there being only two or three bookmakers present there was very little betting”. The Grand Military brought out a fine field of fifteen, the winner turning up in Colonel Forster’s (4th D.G) Tony Lumpkin; Captain Cunninhan’s (11th Hussars) Stilton, second, and Major Ainstie’s (1st Royal Dragoons) Miss Arthur, third.
1868 was a notable year at Punchestown, as being the occasion of the visit of their R.H.’s the Prince and Princess of Wales. There was a very large attendance then, but the weather was anything but “royal”. It was in this year that the “Prince of Wales’s Plate” was inaugurated - an event which has remained very popular ever since. The winner of the race in 1868 was Captain Pigott’s Excelsior, with Captain Harford in the saddle: A field of twenty-one started for the initial race, and for the next five years it was well contested, and was won by such good horses as Fertullagh, Rufus, Huntsman, Quickstep, and Shylock.
1874 was a fine meeting, and many well-known men and there horses were there. The Bishopscourt Plate was the first event on the card; eighteen faced Major Dixon, and the winner was Mr Osborne’s Warbler, steered by Mr “St James”; Moorhen, with Tommy Beasley up being second. J D Whyte, R Exshaw, Captain Trooke, Colonel Harford, Mr Oldham, Captain Smith and Mr Apleton all rode in this race. Poor Mr “St James” was in luck at this meeting as, besides winning Bishopscourt Plate, he also won The Drogheda Stakes, on Mr Moore’s Leinster Lilly, and the Kildare Hunt Cup on Captain Tuthill’s confederate. A splendid lot contested the “Prince of Wale’s Plate”, which was won by Mr Chester’s Albert (Mr Apleton); Mr Linde’s Game Bird (Mr Beasley), second and Mr Poe’s Gaslight (Cusack), third. Amongst the unplaced were-Scots Grey (Mr G Moore), Heraut de’Armes (Captain Smith), Revoke (Mr St James), and Quickstep (T Ryan). A fine race was that for the Downshire Plate, for which there were seven starters. Mr Apleton had another winning mount on Mr Chester’s Supple Jack, but “Garry” Moore, with another crusher of 14st 9lb, ran him close. Mr Moore’s horsemanship on this occasion was have said to have been splendid. Supple Jack was looked upon as a perfect certainty, but was nearly beaten by Shylock, though the latter was conceding him the enormous lump of 48lbs. There was no doubt but that Shylock in “Gary” Moore’s hands, had no compeer with 15st up. These good horses, Revengo and Juggler, were amongst the unsuccessful ones in the Conyngham Cup, which was won by Mr Hume’s Miltown (Col Harford), While Mr J D White, on Recipe was second, a position which he had the bad luck to fill in the same race on two former occasions, viz, on Polestar, in ’68, and The Kitten, in ’69. The veteran rider, Capt Trocke, whose victory at Punchestown, in the Prince of Wales Plate, a few days ago, was so popular rode Bombardier in the Veteran Race in ’74. He also rode Mistletoe in the Conyngham Cup, Sapling in the Kildare Hunt Cup, and Freney in the Bishopscourt Plate at that meeting. Capt Trocke, on Mr Harpurs Olympia, by Newton-le-Willows, won the Conyngham Cup in the “Prince’s Year” (1868), beating Polestar, Cheerful Boy, and ten others, so that he can justly lay claim to being the Veteran of Punchestown.  His contemporaries of a score of years back who are now alive have all retired. “The too, too solid flesh” has handicapped “Garry” Moore out of the saddle; Tommy Beasley has “married a wife;” while other reasons prevent J.D. White and “Bob” Exshaw from taking part in the sport they loved so well.  The many new meetings around Dublin may, in some degree, dim the lustre of Punchestown, but it will ever remain dear to the hearts of race-goers who knew it in the good old days of a quarter of a century back.  – Irish Sportsman.


The Kildare Observer of May 12 1894 reminds its readers that 'fifty years ago  "princely Punchestown" was a very insignificant meeting as compared with the big gathering of later years'.Our thanks to Carl Dodd.

April 23, 2010


Leinster Leader 11th March 2010
Over the border down Wicklow way.

The configuration of Ireland’s counties is a subject of endless discussion. How were their shapes established and boundaries defined? The story of county formation began with the arrival of the Normans in Ireland in the late 12th century and within a hundred years or so the counties of Leinster and east Munster had been named and given a shape.
As Norman authority waned the mapping of Ireland slowed but it regained momentum during the enforced plantations of the 16th century when the county map of Ireland was largely completed although some boundary anomalies remained. The last Irish county to be formally declared was Wicklow which was not made into a county until 1606, three hundred years or more after the formation of its neighbouring county of Kildare. Such was the resistance of the rebel clans (O’Toole’s and O’Byrne's) in their secure mountain fastnesses of Wicklow that Dublin Castle had great difficulty bringing them within the King’s writ. Given that parts of Wicklow were almost within sight of the towers of Dublin Castle this was an extraordinary situation, all the more so given the English conquest of other remote parts of Ireland.
And in many ways Wicklow is an extraordinary county – the great granite mass of the Wicklow mountains forming a very real barrier between east and west Wicklow. This physical division influenced aspects of the public administration of the county into modern times. While Wicklow has its own county council for mainstream local government services, other public agencies based in Co. Kildare have had responsibilities for West Wicklow. In modern times the Kildare organisation of the Health Services Executive covers West Wicklow, a fact very appropriately reflected in the naming of the ‘Imaal’ ward in Naas General Hospital. Other public bodies such as the old Co. Kildare Committee of Agriculture  embraced west Wicklow, reflecting the fact that many west Wicklow dwellers did their business in Naas and Ballymore Eustace.
The many cross county-boundary connections between Kildare and west Wicklow are highlighted in the recently published West Wicklow Historical Society journal, the fifth such journal published by this industrious history group with membership spanning a wide catchment from Ballymore to Baltinglass.
Among the contributors is WWHS secretary Donal McDonnell, brother of Naas parish priest Fr. Tom McDonnell, PP.  Donal brings readers on a journey from Tallaght to Tullow through the eyes of the compiler of ‘The Post chaise companion’, a travel guide for mail coach passengers in the 1780s. Of particular interest are the ‘Companion’s’ comementaries on Blessington, Ballitore and Ballymore Eustace. The author of the 1786 guide suggests that Ballymore had seen better times: ‘a small town, pleasantly situated on the Liffey, it was previously of much greater extent. Its decay chiefly arose from the turning of the great southern road from this town to Kilcullen bridge.’
Donal McDonnell is joint editor of the journal with Chris Lawlor, a well known staff member of Naas CBS post-primary and a doctoral scholar of history. Chris contributes an article entitled ‘Tithe, protest & criminality around Dunlavin 1823-45’ which suggests that the West Wicklow town was a much more raucous place in the past than its modern tranquillity would suggest. In a meticulously researched article he demonstrates how Dunlavin became a cauldron of resistance in the early 19th century embroiling the small farmer and the landlords in conflict. The immediate cause of the rancour was the imposition of a tax (known as a tithe) on farmers, including those with little acreage, to pay for the upkeep of the Anglican church. Threatening letters posted in public places were the main means of communicating grievance. The writer notes that one such letter of September 1836 cast aspersions on the parentage of the local rector in the following words: ‘we watch this bastard till we take him down’ (letter still on file in the National Archives). 
The rich contents of this journal include contributions on St. Patrick’s missionary society, Kiltegan; memories of Donard; dairy farming in West Wicklow; Methodists in Baltinglass; the Cistercian abbey of Baltinglass; the Blessington tram; and the establishment of the army firing range in the Glen of Imaal. Seldom has such good writing been incorporated in such a slim volume. Copies may be had from Chris Lawlor, Sparrow Road, Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow. Series no: 168

An interesting article from Liam Kenny's regular feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' from the Leinster Leader of 11th March 2010 on the configuration of Ireland's counties which began in the late 12th century.  Our thanks to Liam.

April 16, 2010


Leinster Leader 18th February 2010

Folklore days & canal ways …memoirs of bog & water


The Irish economy in the early months of 2010 is in the depths of depression after years of boom. It’s not the first time that this boom and bust cycle has manifested in our island economy. The 1950s were a tough time by all accounts but the 1960s saw much better prospects. Young men and women got good jobs and had money to spend. It was the ambition of every young man to have a car. Garages & motor dealers emerged in every town to fulfil the demand. The likes of Dermot Kelly’s in Kilcock and McCormack’s in Naas were among the household name in the Kildare motor industry of the time. Another flagship in the motor business was P.J. Woods’ Volkswagen dealership in Clane. The pristine new showroom flanked by a wall with an extra large VW motif mural was one of the landmarks of Clane. And it had its impact on willing customers too. It seemed in the 1960s that everybody around Clane drove a VW Beetle. It’s a trend well portrayed by Donadea historian John Freeman in his latest book ‘Folklore Days & Canal Ways.’  He recalls that his first lesson in driving was in a Beetle purchased from Paddy Woods’ for €380. Petrol was five shillings per gallon while road tax was €20.50 for one year.

It’s not the only form of transport documented by John in his freewheeling compilation of history, lore and traditions with a few poems and prayers thrown in. He brings to light a project known as the ‘Celbridge & Donadea light railway’. He writes that this tramway was to run alongside the main road from Celbridge to Clane and then turn west along the Kilcock road, branching off for Donadea and terminating at Ballagh cross on the fringe of the Bog of Allen. The project got as far as proper plans drawn up by H.J.Fuller, Brunswick Chambers, Dublin and printed by Browne and Nolan, printers.
This ambitious plan never got further than the drawing board and the people of north-west Kildare were left with the horse-and-dray as their main mode of travel. Those who lived near the banks of the Grand and Royal canals had a big advantage and John Freeman devotes a third of his book to following the channels of the canals through Kildare and recording their associated history and folklore. How many, for example, know that inland Kildare had its very own ‘Island’ surrounded by water? The ‘Island’ was formed by the triangular junction of the old and new Barrow lines of the canal with the main channel at Lowtown just west of Robertstown. A number of families lived on the island, using a footbridge for access to the ‘mainland’ at Ballyteague.
 The author turns off the main canal lines into some of the abandoned backwaters of Kildare’s canal system. He visits the Blackwood feeder on his odyssey and records that turf was brought to the canal bank from ‘local bogs at Closh, Blackwood, Ballinafagh, Downings, Garravogue and perhaps as far as Timahoe, Mucklon and Derry bogs’ for loading on barges which sailed for Dublin with their sought-after cargoes for the firesides of the capital city. Turf features large in this book as befits an author based in the turbary rich environs of Staplestown and Donadea. Among the interesting pictures in the book are those of crowds who turned out in 1934 at the Skew bridge on the Allenwood to Rathangan road to greet Taoiseach Eamonn de Valera who came to cut the first sod of turf on a great government scheme to exploit the bogs and which was lead on to the ESB and Bord na Mona. John Freeman, who interviewed local people for his book, records that the pupils of Robertstown national school performed Irish dancing for the occasion. Essie Murphy, aged nine, danced on a prepared platform while Willie Byrne of Allenwood played the fiddle. The occasion of the first cutting of the bog was taken so seriously that one local woman parcelled up one of the first cut sods and posted it to her son in America thus fulfilling the emigrants’ dream of the ‘old sod’. Also preserved in Kildare was the silver slán which de Valera used to cut the first sod.
These are just a small sample of the many threads of Kildare life explored by John Freeman in his book ‘Folklore Days and Canal Ways’ and published by the author. Series no: 165.

In his regular feature  'Nothing New Under the Sun'  in the Leinster Leader Liam Kenny observes a small sample of the many threads of Kildare life explored by John Freeman in his book 'Folklore Days and Canal Ways'. Our thanks to Liam. 



Leinster Leader 11th March 1967


One of the old time greats of Kildare football Passes Away
The death occurred shortly before midnight on Monday of Mr. William (“Squires”) Gannon, Tully West, Kildare, one of the old time greats of Kildare football and the first county team captain to be presented with the Sam Maguire Cup, the All-Ireland senior football trophy.
Aged about 65, he was a native of Kildare and first came to prominence in Kildare football when playing as a youth with the old Round Towers team.  His outstanding ability on the field quickly singled him out for county honours and throughout the “golden era” of the All Whites in the middle and late 1920’s, “Squires,” as he was so widely known, was one of the stalwarts of the Kildare sides which brought so many honours to the county.
He took an active part in the fight for national independence.
Another of his interests was music; he was one of the founder-members of the now long lapsed Kildare Pipe Band which achieved considerable success under his guidance.  He was also a founder-member of St. Brigid’s C.Y.M.S., Kildare, and was a trustee of the local St. Brigid’s Park.
In his native district he will be remembered not only as a great footballer, nationalist and civic-spirited figure but as a warm-hearted, generous man whose invariable good humour and self-effacing modesty were outstanding qualities.
He is survived by his wife, five sons and three daughters.  The remains were removed to St. Brigid’s Parish Church, Kildare on Tuesday evening and interment took place on Wednesday.
Naas U.D.C., on Tuesday night, voted sympathy with the family and relatives of Mr. Gannon.

The Leinster Leader of March 1967 reports on the death of Mr. William ("Squires") Gannon,  the first county team captain to be presented with the Sam Maguire Cup, the All-Ireland senior football trophy.

April 15, 2010


 Leinster Leader 4th March 2010

Local history groups explore Kildare’s diverse heritage
The very mention of the word ‘history’ is enough to turn many people off. Many associate it with terrifying ‘learning by heart’ exercises in classrooms of their school days when the recitation of the pedigree of the emperors of France, or the succession of British prime ministers, seemed to become an end in itself. History seemed to be  remote and academic and, in the Irish context, stopped at 1916. In more recent times some of the mystique has been removed and history is now the subject of television programmes and newspaper articles and has found a place for itself in everyday discussion.  At a local level this process has been given momentum by the flowering of local groups devoted to researching and sharing the history of their localities. History has been removed from its rarefied pedestal and has been brought into the community and viewed for what is its central meaning – the story of our lives and the influences that have shaped them. Kildare is fortunate in having a number of local history groups active in bringing this community dimension to local history studies.. Some have strong annual programmes of walks and outings; others devote their energies to running a museum and heritage centre; while others again operate on a low key basis and meet occasionally as their resources permit. Taking a look at some of the programmes announced for the year ahead gives a picture of the diversity of local history activity in the county. The Cill Dara Historical Society (Kildare town) plans well ahead and has published a programme for the full year. For instance, on Wednesday, 3rd March, its topic will be ‘Lord Edward’s Own’ presented by Barry Walsh who is supremely well qualified being a core member of the Monasterevin military re-enactment group which can turn its hand to accurate reproductions of almost any military engagement.  The venue is the Kildare Education Centre. The following month, 7th April,  the  Cill Dara society takes on a participative theme with a night on ‘Movies/Memories/Memorabilia’ at which members are invited to share their own memories and mementoes of times past and, in the process, make a vital personal contribution the record . The subject matter for the May talk may seem unusual given that Kildare is an inland county. Rory McKenna will present an illustrated lecture on ‘Martello towers’, those sturdy fortifications built by the British in the early 1800s when fears of a sea-borne invasion by Napoleon exercised minds in Dublin castle. Rory’s talk will be a reminder that the history of the coastal environment is relevant to midlanders – the livestock and product exported from the farms of Kildare travelled by sea, as did many of the imports needed to sustain the county’s homes and farms.
Farther north in the county the vibrant Celbridge Historical Society presents an equally varied programme.  The society will mark St. Patrick’s Day with a visit at 10.30am to the church, hill and well at Ardrass (Straffan – Barberstown road) named after the national patron. The following month the society will return indoors to its regular venue of Celbridge library with, on Monday, 12th April, an illustrated talk on early Irish cinema with the literary title of ‘The early cinema: Yeats, Joyce and O’Casey – what the writers saw’.
The Kill History Group will devote a night in March to motoring history. Kildare vintage expert Bob Webster will present a talk on the theme in the Parish meeting room at 8.30pm on 22 March. The same time and venue will also hold for a night on 26 April when Hugh Crawford will talk on the (literally) big subject of ‘The Curragh plain.’   Looking ahead to May 24th the Kill group will host Adrian Mullowney who will project a collection of old newsreels showing glimpses of Kildare life in the period from ‘The Civil War to the Emergency’.  A broadly similar period will be covered by one of Kildare’s most industrious historians, Seamus Cullen, in a lecture to the Naas Local History Group on 6th April on the subject of ‘Sinead de Valera and W.T.Cosgrave and their Kildare connections.’  The venue is Naas library at 7.45pm.  Later in April the Naas group will celebrate that most typical of Kildare excursions, the Walking Sunday promenade about Punchestown, meeting at the main stand at 3pm.
So whether indoors or on the open plains, Kildare’s local history groups are delivering a programme of talks and outings which help to share and illuminate the history and heritage of the short grass county. Series No: 167.

In his regular Leinster Leader feature 'Nothing New Under the Sun' Liam Kenny looks at how local history groups through a programme of talks and outings help to share and illuminate the history and heritage of Kildare.  Our thanks to Liam.

April 01, 2010


Leinster Leader 4th February 2010

Hidden gems of Kildare – a fusion of place & person
There are a small number of images of County Kildare which are used repeatedly to underpin a certain portrayal of the county’s identity. Images of horses on the Curragh or at Punchestown, for example, tend to feature in publications portraying the county.  But there are many more insights into the identity of Kildare – its people and its places – for those who take the trouble to seek them out.
Such variety is what artist Rowena Keaveny has realised with the project ‘Hidden Wonders of County Kildare’ commissioned by Kildare County Council through its Arts service.  Through the medium of Kildare people passionate about their county she has identified and portrayed a mosaic of images which emphasise the diversity of the strands which make up the identity of Kildare. Some are tangible like Carbury Castle or Castledermot Church. Solid stone work that speaks of the story of the county and the many generations who have left their imprint on its landscape. Other images in the project are more intangible – bringing to life the less obvious layers of the social and cultural life of Kildare. The poetry inspired by the nineteenth century ‘wren’ women of the Curragh and the representation of Nepalese culture in modern Kildare bring to the surface the eclectic nature of the social diversity of the county.

But this project is about far more than a compilation of alternative views of County Kildare. The artist approached her quest for ‘Hidden Wonders’ by enlisting local knowledge and drawing a link between the images highlighted and the people who had brought them to her attention. The project is as much about the process as the end result.
A public invitation was issued for people to put forward ideas for portraying aspects of the county’s identity. Those who nominated were involved with the development of the portrayal of their subjects to the extent that in most cases the individuals were photographed along with symbols of the feature they had nominated. An immediate connection was made between place and personal.
Too often images of Kildare have been regarded as pleasant photographs which might make for a nice postcard but lack the personal touch of the people who know and love the sometimes hidden wonders of the county. Now Rowena Keaveny has brought into focus the connection between Kildare people and their personal interpretations of what living in the county means to them.
By placing those who suggested the images at the centre of the project the artist has transformed what might have been a photographic assignment into a commentary on how Kildare people see themselves, what brings their sense of place to the surface and what engages their connection with their surroundings and its many identities.
An outcome of the project is a visually appealing and informative booklet which features the images of Kildare together with reflections by the local people who proposed the various depictions for inclusion. Among the people and places featured are: Rosalind Fanning and Ballitore Quaker library; Lee-Ann Sheehy, Springfield House, Celbridge; Liam Kenny, Victorian Railway Bridge, Brannockstown; Margharita Solon, McAuley Place/old Convent, Naas; Nuala Walker, Tea Lane cemetery, Celbridge; Mae Leonard, Sequoia Trees, Tipper Road, Naas; Martine Rigney, Mick Murphy’s pub, Ballymore Eustace; Luka Bloom/Barry Moore, the Bluebell Grove, Monasterevin; Siobhán Conway, the Curragh plains; Naas Fire crew who nominated the Moat hill; Peter Minnock, Roche’s pub, Donadea; Hiralal Ghaine, Nepalese culture in Kildare; Gabrielle Brabazon, St. James’s well, Pollardstown; Dr. Niall McKeith, National Science Museum, NUI Maynooth; Julie Lynch, the Gate Lodge at Castletown, Celbridge; Anita Hendy, horse tie-rings, Allen church; Mario Corrigan, the 100 acres heritage trail, Kildare town; Peggy O’Malley, Brigidine tradition, Kildare town; Aileen-Anne Brannigan, Bapty Maher’s, Athy; Bridget Loughlin, north Kildare monuments; Elizabeth Trappe, Kildare traveller culture; Jade McMahon, Leinster Aqueduct near Sallins; John Molloy, the Great Book of Caragh; KYS, youth culture in the county; Ann Egan, Wren women poet; Jim Kelly, trad music in Athy; Ger McCarthy, The Forgotten Heritage of Kildare book; Theresa Harney, the Granite seat east of Ballymore; and Jonathan Deane, the haunting ruins of Carbury castle.  Copies of Rowena Keaveny’s Hidden Wonders of Kildare can be had from Ms. Rina Whyte, Kildare’s Public Arts Co-Coordinator at KCC Arts Service, Riverbank, Newbridge. Series No: 163.

In his regular feature  'Nothing New Under the Sun' in the Leinster Leader 4th February 2010, Liam  Kenny looks at the many insights into the identy of Kildare - its people and its places....Our thanks to Liam.

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