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December 31, 2010


The biggest hunger strike in history
8,000 men and women protest against injustice

In 1922 and 1923 over 14,000 Irish republicans – men, women, boys and girls – were arrested in all parts of the country by the King of England’s Irish tools, without any charge, and were kept in the prisons and internment camps without trial, and under conditions that were unbelievable then and would be unbelievable now.
In the Autumn of 1923 the conditions grew worse and the prisoners in Mountjoy and Kilmainham were being systematically treated as convicts. To end this and to make the only protest in their power against injustice and to draw public attention to the cruelty and duplicity of the “Free State” Government, the prisoners went on hunger strike on October 14, 1923. Five days later the men and women in the other prisons followed their example, although the original intention was that only a selected comparatively small number should take the offensive in this drastic way and continue to the end, whether that end was death or victory.
Every mean device was resorted to by the “Free Staters” to break the hunger strike and in many of their tricks and schemes they were successful. Men were induced by lies, and by forged orders supposed to have come from superior officers, to come off the strike and take food. Then when they discovered they had been fooled, they were ashamed to go back again. Thousands broken in health by long imprisonment under the worst possible conditions were unable to hold out more than eight or ten days, and collapsed completely, in some cases falling into such bad health that they never recovered.
Those who remained on hunger strike were treated with a savagery beyond belief. They were left to lie in open sheds in the depth of winter, with insufficient clothing, and with practically no medical attention. Nurses from outside volunteered to go into the prisons and camps and care for the men, but he offer was refused by the “Free Staters,” many of whose own medical men were only touts who did their best – and worst – to break the strike. There were honourable exceptions who did all in their power to relieve the sufferings of those who had adopted as a last weapon this most terrible form of warfare, and who endeavoured to get clean clothes for them and as much warmth as possible, but they did this at eh risk of losing their positions.
The strike lasted for 41 days. It had claimed two victims, Denis Barry, of Cork, and Andy O’Sullivan, of Mallow, two brave and loyal soldiers of the Republic. The Bishop of Cork, Most Rev. Dr. Cohalan, refused to allow Denis Barry’s body to lie in any church in the diocese and ordered all his priests to keep away from the funeral. It was only Denis Barry’s body that was subjected to this un-Christian cruelty; his martyr soul was already, with God’s help, in Heaven, in the company of Terence McSwiney, another hunger-strike, at whose funeral Dr. Cohalan and other bishops had officiated a couple of years before. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”

Deed of horror

We record here the death of Joe Bergin, of the “Free State” Military police, because we and others experienced kindness at his hands during the Hunger Strike of 1923, when he was stationed at Tintown 3 on the Curragh of Kildare. We record it also because it illustrates the savage methods employed by men who allowed themselves to fall into the power of the English and then struck wildly at all but their captors. We have said elsewhere that the combined influence of the Catholic Hierarchy and of the I.R.B. carried the Treaty of Surrender. That is quite true. The I.R.B. was made use of later when the “unauthorised murders” came to be committed. It is even to be feared that there were two sections or cliques of the I.R.B. within the “Free State” Army. Joe Bergin believed there were. He belonged to one of them and fell under suspicion because he was kind and helpful to republican prisoners and carried messages from them to their friends in Dublin. He was watched and followed. He was seen to enter a house of a republican in Dublin City. Certain men from the Intelligence Department of the “Free State” Army were sent down by car to intercept and “interrogate” him on his way back to Camp. They met him, questioned him, tortured him, mutilated him, then tied ropes round his body, which was still alive, and dragged him along the road for miles, the car travelling at top speed. Then they riddled the poor body with bullets and threw it into the canal. That was on December 13, 1923. A man named Murray, attached to the “Free State” Intelligence Department, was found guilty of the murder and condemned to death in 1925. The sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. A witness at the trial volunteered the information that Murray “knew something” about the murder of Noel Lemass. So did “some person or persons unknown” higher up than Murray, who was a scapegoat. It was a similar type of murder. Murray was out of the country for two years after this deed of horror had taken place, but his pay was given weekly to his wife during all that time. And these murderers were the “Christian Soldiers” of a “lawful Government.” There was no condemnation of this terrible deed.

An article from the Wolfe Tone annual of 1937 with particular reference to Co. Kildare in December 1923.

December 30, 2010


Leinster Leader July 13 1946


Kildare man sees Hiroshima. Atom bomb’s destruction.


Sapper J. Cox, R.E., a native of Rathangan, is at present on a visit to his wife and family from, which he left on May 20th. He is 2½ years in the British Army and spent nine months in the Malay campaign. With reinforcements of the 208th Field Company, Royal Engineers, he was flown from Karachi to Mandalay early in 1945, being one of the men who built a floating bridge across the Irrawaddy river under heavy Japanese fire. When the Japanese capitulated after the fall of the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6th he was one of the army of occupation which entered, and shortly afterwards he visited the bombed city. The damage caused appalled him. Of a modern city, noted for its fine buildings and dense population, he saw nothing but mile upon mile of rubble and ruins. Around the outskirts of Hiroshima a chain of ruined buildings still stand, and from the top of what was formerly a huge “skyscraper” he looked across nearly six miles of absolute desolation. Near where the bomb fell, and for a big area around, the ground is covered with surprisingly small symmetrical boulders and stones parts of the terrain looking like a half-finished roadway covered with fairly large stones. Here and there a chain of ruins stand; evidence of the freakish nature of the blast which left houses upright for no apparent reason, while others disappeared as if by magic. The bomb dropped at 8.30 a.m. when the city’s streets were crowded. According to a Japanese interpreter about two-thirds of the population of 200,000 was wiped out. He spoke to many victims of the explosion and one man who was near the scene told him that he had closed the door of his house on the city and a few minutes afterwards he saw a flash light up the room and part of the house collapsed. He looked out across a city that seemed to crumple and vanish before his eyes. Many people were rendered powerless by the mysterious gaseous emanation from the bomb, and he was told that it was true that many died a week afterwards from the effects of this “gas.” Mr. Cox saw people wearing masks over their mouths as a protection, and was told that an area near the bomb crater was fatal to human life for a fortnight after the fall of the bomb.

A Leinster Leader article from a Kildare eyewitness to the destruction of Hiroshima in 1945 after the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city.


Leinster Leader March 12 1927


Death of Crimean War veteran

Comparatively few of the Crimean war veterans are now on the “land of the living,” and last week another of those ancient warriors passed away. His name was Burke, stated to be a native of Ballytore, Co. Kildare, and he had reached his 92nd year. There are no relations of his round Ballytore to-day, but a nonagenarian resident recalls that he was a son of a police constable named Burke, who must have been one of the members of the R.I.C. established in 1836. But for a short paragraph in an English journal the name of this Kildare veteran would never be heard.

            The writer well remembers another Crimean veteran, Tom Shafforoy, who lived around Castledermot a generation ago, and who was fond of telling what occurred at Sebastopol, especially on the evening of the day on which he “drew” his pension. Tom, like Goldsmith’s old soldier in “The Deserted Village” would shoulder his crutch and show how fields were fought and won. Between pension days poor Tom broke stones, and he did not die in Chelsea hospital; a lesser building was destined to be the scene of a Crimean warrior’s departure.

Links in history! These are small links in history, but the writer is almost ashamed to announce that he shook hands with a veteran who took part in the battle of Waterloo! Most people nowadays are ashamed to grow old. Just forty years ago the writer having only recently emerged ex vestibus infansalibus, was introduced to an old age pensioner in his 93rd year and who took part in the faithful battle mentioned.

A Leinster Leader article on the death of a local Crimean War veteran in 1927.

December 22, 2010


The Genealogy Roadshow.

Are you a relative of Jack Dempsey?

Do you think you might be related to someone famous? Is there a family connection to some politician, entertainer, sports personality or explorer? If so, the Genealogy Roadshow wants to meet you!
The Roadshow is coming to Kildare in the new year with a day long genealogy event, filmed for RTE television, which can help you trace your family’s roots for free. The Roadshow will be hosted by RTE’s Derek Mooney and the programme tries to help ordinary people find extraordinary stories from their family history.
Was one of your relations involved in a dramatic part of local or national history? Did one of your relations do good – or bad – in America, Britain, or Australia? Maybe you believe there’s a connection to some of Kildare’s most famous. If so the Genealogy Roadshow wants to hear about it!
Their team of genealogy experts and historians are coming to Carton House in Maynooth on Sunday 16 January 2011 and their experts will be giving free advice and help. So if you have letters, photographs, birth certificates, heirlooms or any other pieces of information that might help, then bring them along to Carton House between 11 am and 5 pm on 16 January for what promises to be a day of fun and discovery.

A worthy son of Kildare

Jack Dempsey was one of the most famous boxers in the world, regarded by many as the apotheosis of the professional fighter. Known as the ‘Manassa Mauler’ he held the heavyweight title from 4 July 1919, when he knocked out reigning champion, Jess Williard, in three rounds, until 23 September 1926, when he lost a ten-round decision to Gene Tunney. After appearing in several Hollywood movies, a time as a boxing and wrestling referee and a stint in the Coast Guard during WWII, Jack Dempsey eventually became a successful restaurateur in New York City. He died on 31 May 1983 in New York. In his 1977 autobiography Jack Dempsey said,

'The Dempseys go back a long way. Just how far is hard to say, since very few of my ancestors could read or write and births and deaths were not generally recorded. My father, Hyrum Dempsey, was a descendant of Irish immigrants from County Kildare. My paternal grandfather, Big Andrew Dempsey, was for a time sheriff of Logan County [West Virginia], as well as county surveyor. Somehow he managed to acquire several hundred acres of timberland while siring five strapping sons, of which my father was the oldest.'

Hyrum Dempsey, son of Andrew Dempsey, married Mary Celia Smoot in Logan County, West Virginia.
William Harrison ‘Jack’ Dempsey was born on 24 June 1895 in Manassa, Colorado, the ninth of thirteen children, to Hyrum and Mary Dempsey.

A search for Hyrum and Andrew Dempsey led to Geni.com which states that:

Hiram 'Hyrum' Dempsey, born 4 May 1857, in Logan (Mingo) County, West Virginia, married Mary Celia Smoot, born c. 1856, on 19 December 1879. Mary Celia was the daughter of Charles Smoot and Francis Greever. Hiram was the son of William Anderson 'Ance' Dempsey and Mahula 'Huldie' Blair, of Logan County. William Anderson (Andrew?) was the son of Joseph Dempsey and Alena Vance, Logan County. Joseph was the son of John William Dempsey and Rachel Solomon, Logan County and Botecourt County, VA. John William was the son of William Dempsey and Jane Dubartis/Gulliver/Meadows. 

The earliest William Dempsey baptism in Co. Kildare is in Newbridge - William, son of James Dempsey and Margaret Hyland, on 26 May 1793.

If you think you are a relative of Jack Dempsey – not to be confused with Jack Dempsey ‘the non-pareil’ – contact Karel Kiely at Kildare Genealogy at 045 448350 or genealogy@kildarecoco.ie.

Do you think you might be related to someone famous? Is there a family connection to some politician, entertainer, sports personality or explorer? If so, the Genealogy Roadshow wants to meet you!

December 16, 2010


Aeridheacht at Kildare 1910
James Durney

In June 1910 thousands attended one of the most successful Aeridheachtanna - an open air gaelic fete - that had been held in the Province since the revival of the national language started. Fr. Campion, P.P., opened the festival in Kildare town, which included participation of the Kildare Fife and Drum Band, Children of the Presentation Convent, and De La Salle Fife and Drum Band, in a field kindly given by Joseph Bergin near the Carmelite Church. On hearing of the coming event an un-named correspondent, in his enthusiasm for the Aeridheacht, wrote a ditty to the air of “The wearing of the green.”

Oh, Major dear, and did you hear, the news that’s going round.
The likes of such an Aeridheacht has never yet been found,
‘Twill be held down in Cill Dara by the Gaelic Leaguers there,
With the best of talent coming from Dublin and everywhere;
There’ll be pipes and reciters there’ll be dancers too, go leor,
There’ll be Owen O’Brien and Ingoldsby, McGinn and plenty more,
There’ll be ladies too from Dublin, whose fame for song is great,
There’ll be none but first prizewinners at this finest gaelic fete.

Oh, then if you want to spend a pleasant afternoon,
Just trip along to Kildare on the twenty-sixth of June.
It starts at half-past two pm, the charge is not too high;
While with music, song and dancing the evening’s sure to fly,
And if God wills that Sunday next should happen to be wet,
Oh, never fear to come along, for we’ve a trump card yet,
We shall hold a splendid concert in our own Kildare Town Hall,
So, from every side in thousands come on Sunday next, that’s all.


In June 1910 thousands attended one of the most successful Aeridheachtanna that had been held in the Province since the revival of the national language started.


Refused to surrender flag in Belfast
Leinster Leader 2 July 1968

A lady who caused a minor sensation in Belfast when she successfully resisted the attempts of an R.U.C. constable to take from her a tri-colour she carried in Belfast, is back in her native Ballitore. The lady, then Miss Kathleen Mackey, and now Mrs. Luce, is over from England with her husband, Mr. Doug Luce, and their young daughter, on a visit to her sister, Miss Margaret Mackey, The Cross, Ballitore.
At the time of the flag incident she was a member of the Co. Kildare camogie team that had gone to Belfast to play a representative match. The Kildare players and supporters were marching through Falls Road on the way to the playing grounds when the police stopped them. After a constable had failed to wrest the Irish flag from her, the march to the grounds continued without further interruption.
During her camogie career she played for Ballitore Club, which was then the best in the county. She is a sister of Messrs. Chris and Willie Mackey, Ballitore, Patrick Mackey, Offaly, and Peter Mackey, England, as well as of Mrs. Elizabeth Byrne, Dublin. Another sister, Mary, lives in England.

From the Leinster Leader of 1968 - A Kildare lady caused a minor sensation in Belfast when she successfully resisted the attempts of an RUC constable to take her a tri-colour.

December 11, 2010


Major J. H. de Burgh –  custodian of a 300 year old family tradition

Liam Kenny

The expression ‘the end of an era’ was the reaction of many in the Naas area on learning of the passing of Major J H de Burgh of Oldtown House on Saturday morning last. Invariably known as ‘the Major’ he was the personification of a de Burgh presence in Naas going back some three centuries when his ancestor Thomas Burgh set out the forest and water gardens at Oldtown in the early 18th century. It was an inheritance cherished by the late Major who was acutely aware of his family’s contribution over many generations to the civic and sporting life of Naas and Co. Kildare. For generations of Naas locals ‘de Burghs’ meant the wonderland of woods, lakes and streams bounded by the Sallins Road, Mill Lane and the banks of the Grand Canal. John de Burgh was rightly protective of the lovely estate yet always ready and proud to welcome groups of local schoolchildren, scouts and historians who were enchanted by the sylvan wonderland. Inevitably it was the Major himself and his rich and extraordinary life story which competed for attention with the arboreal beauty of the Oldtown grounds.

John Hubert de Burgh was born in 1921, son of Hubert Henry de Burgh and Margery (nee Buchan), into on a family tree which numbered some of the leading country families in Co. Kildare and beyond among its connections. His paternal grandparents were Col. T.J. de Burgh, an influential figure in the civic life of early twentieth century Naas, and the spirited Emily de Robeck of Gowran Grange, near Punchestown.
He was educated in England and from an early age showed that he had inherited the anciently formed de Burgh qualities of leadership and horsemanship being selected to lead his school’s equestrian display team. On holidays home to Oldtown he often rode out to Joe Osborne’s stables at Craddockstown to gain experience at schooling horses. As with so many young men of his background he interweaved the business of making a living with a passion for sport on the racecourse and on the hunting field – a sporting balance which he maintained throughout his life. First though another de Burgh characteristic, that of military service was to intervene.  While destined to follow the prescribed path of a spell in the British army this destiny took on a new and more serious aspect with the call up for service at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. At just eighteen years of age he gained a commission in the Ayreshire Yeomanry, a front line artillery unit. He valued the bonds formed with his regimental comrades and in later years he was to affectionately recall the Ayreshires as being ‘a bloody good regiment.’  His own accounts of his battle experience were understated but the record shows that he was an inspirational and unflinching officer always driving forward to meet the enemy head on. His first theatre of action was in the fierce fighting against Germany’s Afrika Corps in the North African desert. In January 1943 his unit came face to face with a squadron of Rommel’s Panzer tanks in a battle for a position known as ‘Hill 286’. It was crucial to the security of the Allied lines and the Germans attacked it with ferocity. In the chaos of a night time battle John de Burgh and his crew were cut off from the rest of their unit. In a dash to break out he was wounded in the head and knocked unconscious. Despite his wounds he ran the gauntlet of gunfire and managed to break through to the Allied lines. His brave stand in an isolated position helped save the Allied lines from collapse in one of the pivotal battles in the north African theatre. For his courage in the field he was awarded the Military Cross, the first in a number of distinctions he gained through his insistence in leading his men from the front. It was a style of leadership which carried him from the sweeping tank battles of north Africa through to the landings in Italy in February 1944, the gruelling fighting around Monte Cassino, and the subsequent slog through the north of Italy to Austria. He remained with his regiment until 1947 when the pull of the racing sport drew him back to the schooling grounds of Sandown in preparation for a return to Ireland and the development of a successful breeding operation at Oldtown. He recalled this pivotal period in his life: ‘I had decided that horses and racing would be my life, but it had to be a business and produce an income that would enable me to live at Oldtown.’ He rode winners at Cheltenham and made connections among owners, trainers and jockeys at the highest level of the racing industry. Racing was to be the background theme to another milestone in his life at the time – he met his wife Clare when she asked him to ride her horse at Cheltenham. The couple returned to Naas after the Cheltenham meeting of 1952, announced their engagement at Punchestown in April of that year, and were married in September. Their partnership was mutually reinforcing, their common interests in local involvement, estate management and country sports providing the core to a long and happy marriage. It required all their combined determination to reinvigorate the Oldtown estate which like many properties of its kind had seen hard times in the years from the early 1920s to the end of the Emergency era in the 1940s. The Naas which John and Clare de Burgh arrived back to had changed little in the previous decades. He recalled: ‘It was still possible to ride through the middle of Naas with my point-to-point horses and Clare’s dogs; we could even ride along the Dublin road.’   A fire in the old house at Oldtown in 1955 added to the estate woes but as with other aspects of the property’s circumstances he used it as a new beginning - rebuilding a more compact house in the style intended by the original de Burgh at Oldtown.  He similarly modernised the remit of the Oldtown estate: he sold off many of the old leases which the de Burgh estate had held in the town of Naas and concentrated the resources of Oldtown on building up a compact but quality stud farm. Under his leadership a loyal staff built Oldtown Stud into a first rate operation which produced a Group One winner in 1964, a triple Oaks winner in 1978, and in 1984 achieved the then record price for a yearling of one million pounds sterling at Newmarket sales. On the administrative side of Irish racing the name ‘Maj. J.H. de Burgh’ appeared regularly in the listing of stewards at National Hunt meetings throughout the country. He was instrumental in bringing the Irish racing industry into a modern commercial era while at the same time respecting the traditions which had underpinned the sporting interest in previous generations. It required persistence and the changes were not always welcomed by the old guard. The modernisation of Punchestown including the transition from a banks course to a more specialised bush fence course was among the challenges he faced. He felt strongly that if Punchestown was to retain its repute as a leading National Hunt fixture it must have a proper bush fence course. However the transition was not easy as he recalled: ‘This produced a head on collision with the Kildare Hunt. Eventually we won and by the time I retired we also had a flat race course.’
His duties in relation to Punchestown were nothing if not varied. It had been customary for the Head of State to be invited to the April festival meeting and in a previous generation this had seen Royal visits, conferring the title ‘Princely Punchestown’ on the east Kildare course. The continuation of this invitation in post Free State Ireland produced some unlikely combinations of tradition as when John de Burgh found himself at the wheel of a Land Rover taking the President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera (not a noted racing fan) on a guided drive around Punchestown’s hills and dales.  Apart from such protocol duties he was influential at the highest levels of the racing sport in Ireland. His appointments included election to the National Hunt Stewards committee in 1959 being Senior Steward when Arkle won his first Gold Cup. He was elected to the Turf Club in 1961 and also served for fifteen years on the Irish Racing Board. His circle of acquaintances was extensive and in a discreet way he managed to interest important figures in the promotion of the racing industry which was of particular value to Co. Kildare. Among frequent guests at Oldtown was the US Ambassador, Raymond Guest, who became a strong patron of the industry.
Retirement was a concept unknown to John de Burgh and when in later years he was to give up active stud farming and committee work he refocused his energies on the management of the home farm and gardens at Oldtown. Conscious of the place which the de Burgh’s had in the civic and community life of Naas he reached out to his urban neighbours and gave quiet but consistent support to an array of local ventures. A signature project was his involvement in the restoration of the Grand Canal branch to Naas in the 1980s – an altogether fitting involvement given that the name ‘Burgh’ had been engraved on the stone pier of the third lock gate in Naas by the canal builders in the 1780s. He served on the community council and was a valued supporter of the Tidy Towns committee and continued the family’s long association with St. David’s Church of Ireland.  His sporting interests were reflected in his discreet but practical support to the tennis, boxing and soccer clubs in the town, among others.  As Naas was expanding in its modern suburban configuration it became increasingly difficult to run a working estate and in 1998 the Oldtown farm was sold off. However the house and woodland grounds were retained and he welcomed visitors and groups who were enthralled with its timelessness and tranquillity, a sylvan oasis in the modern town.  As recently as May of this year he was to be seen in the Oldtown gardens, benignly patrolling the grounds laid out by his ancestors three centuries previously.  He is survived by his wife Clare and family, Hubert, Caroline and William. The internationally renowned singer Chris de Burgh (Davison) and his daughter, former Miss World, Rosanna Davison, are among the wider family connections. 

A end of an era passed with the death of Major John Hubert de Burgh on 4 December 2010. An obituary by Liam Kenny. Our thanks to Liam.

December 09, 2010


Sean Judge, All-Ireland winning producer, will launch
"Pure Drama from Behind the Spotlight"


Joe Connolly

Silken Thomas

Thursday 9th December 8 p.m.


“Pure Drama from Behind the Spotlight” is a nostalgic look back at the first 50 years of the Kildare Drama Festival 1958 to 2008. Performers, groups, adjudicator’s reports, paper cuttings, photographs and stories of those entertaining evenings. In the opening chapter it looks at some early drama groups in Kildare, a short review of the 14 festivals that were up and running between 1940 and the mid 50’s. and the first All-Ireland finals in Athlone in 1953.

Six participants, one from each decade, give a short memory of their involvement in drama at that time. Ray Darling, actor 1950’s – Barry Cassin, adjudicator 1960’s – Stan Hickey, backstage 1970’s, Kevin McCaffery, producer 1980’s, Fr. Adrian Carbery,  festival president 1990’s and Conor O’Connell, actor 2000’s. 
Many well known actors and producers from stage and screen have “tread the boards” at the Kildare Festival. Tom Hickey, Gabriel Byrne, Joan Brosnan Walsh, Myles Dungan, Pat Moylan, Pat Kinnevane, Simon Delaney and Moya Doherty who wrote the foreword for the book.

Many Co. Kildare groups are included :-
Allen, Athy, Caragh, Brownstown, Carbury, Curragh, Kildare, Kilcullen,  Lackagh, Leixlip, Monasterevin, Naas, Newbridge and Prosperous.

On Sale in Farrell's bookshop Newbridge - Easons, Whitewater, Newbridge -
Kildare Parish Center - Kildare Heritage Center.

A new book on Co. Kildare drama will be launched tonight at 8 p.m. in Kildare Town. All wlecome

December 07, 2010


The Gaul’s of Rathasker Road, Naas

James Durney

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there were several families with the surname Gaul living in Naas. However, when Kathleen Gaul, of Caragh Road, Naas, married Jim Durney, of Pairc Mhuire, Newbridge, on 26 December 1958, the once popular surname disappeared completely from the annals of Naas. Kathleen Gaul was the last namesake of the Gaul’s, who had lived at Rathasker Road since the 1800s.
The first recorded Gaul in Naas was, according to the Griffith Valuation of 1848-64, a Michael Gaul living at Naas East, which included Rathasker Road. The Gauls were living in a cottage on the Rathasker Road at least in the 1890s, as the records from St. Corban’s Cemetery note when Ellen Gaul, Rathasker Road, age 50, died on 12 October 1897. She was the wife of Edward Gaul, a railway miles man. Edward died, age 76, on May 27 1909, while he was living at Railway View, Naas. Mary Gaul, ‘wife of a labourer,’ died on 8 February 1898. She was 102 years old and had been born in 1796. Her passing was noted by the Leinster Leader on 12 December 1898.

'A Naas centenarian died on Tuesday last. Mrs. Mary Gaul, who resided at Rathasker Road, has gone to her long account, after an existence of 102 years. The old lady enjoyed good health up to a short period before her demise.'

Mary was the mother of Edward and Bill Gaul. Edward and Bill Gaul were popular men in the locality. Bill was a noted Gael and supporter of the Gaelic League and was present at the funeral of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1891 as a member of Naas Labour Union. In June 1902 Bill Gaul was present at a packed meeting to establish a branch of the Gaelic League in Sallins. The meeting in the National School was addressed by Mr. C. Hournihane, a teacher and fluent Gaelic speaker. He gave an outline of the movement’s programme, which consisted of the acquirement of Gaelic as the national language; the teaching of Irish history, music, singing and dancing and the promotion of Irish culture. Mr. Hournihane after an address in Irish gave a rendition of ‘John O’Dwyer of the Glens,’ which was followed by Mr. Lacey’s rendering of ‘Molly Bawn.’ Bill Gaul brought down the house by his singing of the ever popular, ‘Eileen Alannah.’ More singing and dancing followed. The meeting culminated in the formation of a committee.
In a list of subscribers towards the building of the mortuary chapel at Naas Cemetery, printed in the Kildare Observer on 8 December 1906, Edward Gaul, Rathasker Road, donated 5 shillings, quite a large sum at the time. Edward’s son, Patrick Gaul (22) married Margaret Higgins (34), a widow, in 1897. Maggie had three children at the time: John (9), Thomas (8), and Christopher (6). Patrick and Maggie’s first child, Ellen, was born on 24 December 1897. They would have four more children: Edward, or Ned, born 1899; William (1901); Maggie (1904); Katie (1905). Patrick Gaul (44), a railway labourer, died on March 24 1919 in Naas Infirmary. Maggie was left with a young family and Ned and William, or Bill, began working early as railway labourers then hired car drivers.
During the Civil War Bill Gaul was held up by anti-Treaty IRA men on the Naas to Dublin road and his cargo of yeast, bound for Carlow, confiscated. Bill and four friends from Naas attended the All-Ireland final on September 1928, at which Kildare defeated Cavan by a point. It was Kildare’s first and last time – so far – to win the Sam Maguire trophy. On the way home the car Bill was driving was in a collision with a motorbike and sidecar, in which the female passenger was concussed. Bill and all his passengers were unhurt and the injured female made a complete recovery. Two months later, on 18 November 1928 Bill Gaul died of short illness at a young age, 27. The Kildare Observer noted that,

'Much regret was felt in Naas and district at the death of Wm. Gaul, motor owner, Naas, which occurred of an illness of only two days, on Sunday 18th November. The funeral took place on Monday, 19th November to the New Cemetery, Naas, and was very largely attended.'

Bill Gaul left a young wife, Mabel, and son Liam, born in 1926. As the last male with the Gaul name Liam left Naas to work in Dublin, where he married and raised a family and ran a successful business, Shelton Stores, in Kimmage. He returned to Naas regularly to attend the Punchestown Race Festival. Liam was a man of simple tastes who enjoyed a game of cards or a game of snooker and the odd bet on a horse. Liam Gaul died in Our Lady’s Hospice, Harold’s Cross, Dublin, on 3 October 1991 and was buried in St. Corban’s Cemetery, Naas. His wife, Ellen, or Nellie, died in 2000, age 66, and although she was a Dublin native, she was also buried in St. Corban’s. Liam’s son, Kevin, continues the Gaul name, alas not in Naas, but in Dublin. Liam’s obituary said,

'He was a very popular shopkeeper who was particularly noted for his courtesy and gentle manner… The burial was to Mr. Gaul’s native Naas where a huge local attendance joined the Dublin cortege.'

Katie, the youngest of the Gaul girls, was 26 and single, when she died on March 7 1930. Popular sisters Ellen and Maggie Gaul enjoyed the Naas social scene: they attended dances in the Town Hall where they met with British Army officers and Black and Tans – who seemed to be ‘quite decent;’ Ellen even met a German officer, an internee on the Curragh, who she exchanged letters with. The sisters were fans of cinema musicals – ‘South Pacific’ and ‘Hello Dolly,’ being personal favourites. Ellen rarely drank, while Maggie loved a nip of whiskey or a bottle of stout. When she moved to Newhall, Maggie cycled in to Swan Dowling’s for a tipple, dropped in to her sister for a cup of tea, and then cycled back to her home.
During the Second World War Rose Gaul, who had married and settled in Liverpool, sent her son, Eddie Cannon, over to Ireland to escape the Blitz. Liverpool had suffered severely from German bombing in May 1941 and many residents with family ties in Ireland sent them across the Irish Sea to stay with relatives. Liverpool, Bootle and Wirral were the most heavily bombed areas of the United Kingdom outside London, due to their importance to the British war effort. The British government was desperate to hide from the Germans just how much damage they had wreaked on the ports and so reports on the bombing of the area were kept low-key. Over 4,000 residents lost their lives during the blitz, dwarfing the number of casualties sustained in other bombed industrial areas such as Birmingham and Coventry. This death toll was second only to London. Eddie Cannon stayed with the Gaul’s of Rathasker for most of the war. One of the first things Eddie remembered was the local Garda sergeant calling to the house to tell Ellen Gaul to enrol him for school.
In 1922 Edward, or Ned Gaul, car driver, was employed temporarily at Naas Hospital as an ambulance driver, at £4.00 per week. Ned built up a small profitable business as a car driver and regularly plied his trade to and from Lawlor’s Hotel, where he met and courted a young girl, Kathleen Ryan, from Fethard, Co. Tipperary. Kathleen Ryan was the daughter of James Ryan, a Tipperary farmer. Kathleen had come to Naas to work for Mrs. Lawlor at the Nas Na Riogh Hotel. Ned Gaul and Kathleen Ryan married on 16 February 1938 in the Church of Our Lady and St. David, Naas. Ned was 34, while his bride was ten years younger. The bridesmaid was Kathleen’s sister, Ellen Ryan, who gave her address as the Curragh. The couple’s married life was short – Kathleen died on the 28 December 1940, at her home on Rathasker Road from acute bronchitis, giving birth to her daughter, Kathleen.  Her obituary in the Leinster Leader of 4 January 1941 said Kathleen Gaul was,

'A very quiet and unassuming girl, she was liked by everyone, and her death at such an early age has aroused sincere sympathy amongst all classes.'

Ned Gaul’s mother, Maggie, died some years later, at the age of 85. She was known affectionately as ‘Granny’ Gaul. The Leinster Leader of 6 November 1948 recorded that,
'Deceased was a member of one of the oldest and most highly respected families in town, and was extremely popular with everyone, rich and poor alike. A very kindly old lady, she was noted for her characteristic good humour and good nature. A zealous Catholic all her life, she was a faithful adherent to her religion, and while her strength remained attended regularly and consistently to her religious duties.'

Ned Gaul was associated with many leading sports figures in the racing game. He is pictured in a photograph of the presentation of prizes for the Traders Cup at the first official race meeting at Naas racecourse on 19 June 1924. (A copy hangs in Fletchers Pub, North Main Street, Naas.)  He was also pictured behind the Governor-General of the state congratulating Mr. H. H. Beasley, who at the age of 71, had just won the Maiden Plate, at Punchestown, in 1923, on his horse, Pride of Arras. Ned was also involved with greyhound coursing. He owned a number of dogs and some of them performed well on the track. Edward ‘Ned’ Gaul, Rathasker Road, died in Naas Hospital on July 11 1951, age 51, after being in failing health for a considerable time. His obituary in the Leinster Leader stated his death

'… removes a very well-known and popular personality who had been associated with the social and sporting life of the town for many years… He was very popular with everyone and his demise at a comparatively early age is sincerely regretted.'

Ellen Gaul married Michael Mahon, a widower with two children, and moved to New Row, Naas. They had no children. Ellen and Mickey Mahon lived in the last occupied house on New Row, which was facing demolition, and were re-housed at 14 Caragh Road, Naas, in early 1958. Mickey Mahon worked in Odlums Canal Mill. He died in 1963; Ellen died on 25 December 1979, at 11 Sarto Park, Naas. She was 81 the day before having being born on 24 December 1897. Maggie Gaul married John Byrne, a native of Wicklow. They had one daughter, Margaret, or Rita, who married another Naas native, Bernard Wheeler. (Rita Wheeler, nee Byrne, died on 2 May 2010, age 66.) John Byrne worked in Scotland during WWI and served in the National Army during the Civil War. Maggie and John Byrne moved to Newhall, Naas,around 1958. John Byrne died in 1984; Maggie died on 25 January 1985, age 81.
Kathleen Durney, nee Gaul, died on 10 November 1989, age 48. She was the last of the Gaul’s of Rathasker Road, Naas.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries there were several families with the surname Gaul living in Naas.

December 03, 2010


Plumeting Temperatures

Liam Kenny

The exceptionally severe weather conditions are making history in their own right and it is particularly extraordinary to have two severe weather events in the same calendar year (January and November/December). A little fact that I have been telling people is that the coldest temperature recorded in Ireland in the twentieth century was at Lullymore Research Centre, Co.Kildare on 2 Jan 1979 when the mercury plunged to minus 18.8c (officially accredited by Met Eireann). There was a minus 19.1 in Sligo back in the 1880s so our county holds the record for the second most extreme temperature recorded in Ireland ...

A little historical note by Liam Kenny on the current severe weather conditions! 

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