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August 31, 2012


Newbridge Barracks. The first units

James Durney

In 1807 General the Earl of Harrington, Commander of the Forces in Ireland, had proposed that new barracks be built countrywide and as many as possible of the temporary barracks vacated. Among the sites proposed for cavalry barracks was the Curragh of Kildare. A site survey was undertaken by the Assistant Quarter-Master General Colonel W. Blanquière, who recommended instead a site at Newbridge. The text of the site evaluation referred to the military aspects of the terrain at the site, its proximity to Dublin in the event of an emergency, the importance of its proximity to water on the Liffey banks and the availability of building materials in the locality and of stone for building at Kilcullen Bridge. The availability of forage and provisions in nearby areas was also considered advantageous for the siting proposal. The local landowners welcomed the proposal to build the barrack in their midst as it offered a prospect of selling land and if occupied by troops the outlay in the neighbourhood of their subsistence and maintenance.
Colonel Blanquière’s recommendation was approved and in September 1812 the Deputy Barrack Master, General Quin John Freeman, secured leases in perpetuity for a site of some thirty-nine Irish acres from three Newbridge landowners: Eyre Powell, who owned the entire townland of Greatconnell; the Hon. Ponsonby Moore of Moorefield; and the Hannon family of Kilbelin. The project was first advertised for tender in November 1812 ‘for erecting a Cavalry Barrack at new Bridge, in the county of Kildare’. No acceptable tender was received and it was again advertised the following spring. The tender of Hargrave, a Cork architect and building contractor, was accepted, at a cost of £96,000. The furnishings and fittings cost a further £4,000.
By 1819 the barracks had been built, having giving employment to many local tradesmen. In January 1819 the 3rd Kings Own Dragoons landed at Waterford and passed through the town of Clonmel, en route for Tullamore, Philipstown and Newbridge, where a detachment of troops were billeted. These are the first recorded troops at the new barracks. A tour of duty was usually for a year when the units were rotated and replaced by other garrison troops.
In 1820 the barracks was occupied by 868 cavalry officers and men; 107 infantry officers and men; and 980 horses. In August 1820 the 3rd Light Dragoons, under the command of Lt. Col. Hutchins, were stationed at Newbridge, and were replaced in December 1820 by the 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays). In August 1823 it is recorded that the unit in garrison were the 4th Dragoon Guards.
The Freeman’s Journal recorded that on 26 January 1827 the ‘14th Light Dragoons marched this week from Dublin to Newbridge to replace the 7th Dragoon Guards, who are gone to Dublin’.
Some additional blocks seem to have been added to the barracks by 1826 and it then housed four permanent Field Officers, twenty-one Captains, thirty-eight Subalterns (lieutenants) and 858 NCOs and Privates, with 1010 horses. The barracks also had a hospital with 100 beds. The Freeman’s Journal recorded that on 19 February 1828: ‘the 8th Royal Hussars to be stationed at Newbridge’ and on 3 August 1829: ‘detachment of the 7th Hussars in London, embarking Liverpool en route to Newbridge’.

The first units of the British Army to garrison the new barracks at Newbridge


The Irish Press 24 January 1972

Former Garda chief dies at 85
Col. Eamon Broy, who died on Saturday at his home, Oaklands Drive, Rathgar, Dublin, aged 85, was a former Commissioner of the Garda Siochana. During the War of Independence he was one of Michael Collins’s three “contacts” among the detective force in Dublin Castle and played a leading part in breaking the secret information system there.
A native of Rathangan, Co. Kildare, he joined the old D.M.P. in his youth and was attached to G Division – the secret service arm of the British administration in Ireland. During this period he and his police colleague, David Neligan, formed the heart of Collins’s intelligence service. Between 1917 and 1921 they fed him with vast amounts of highly classified information and warnings.
Col. Broy was arrested by the British in February, 1921, and imprisoned in Arbour Hill until the Truce. He was subsequently secretary of the then Department of Civil Aviation and later adjutant of the first Irish Air Corps, with the rank of commandant. On his promotion to colonel he was made OC of the ground organization of the corps.
In 1922 he became secretary to the D.M.P. and on the formation of the Dublin Metropolitan Garda in 1925 he was appointed chief superintendent. In 1929 he was transferred to the Depot, Phoenix Park, as commandant.
In February, 1933, he became chief of the Detective Division in succession to Col. David Neligan and inside a month was appointed Commissioner of the Garda Siochana to replace General Eoin O’Duffy who had been dismissed by the Government.
In the same year Col. Broy established a new force attached to the Special Branch, to deal with the situation arising from the refusal of some farmers to pay rates during the period of the Blueshirt movement.
The members were drafted to parts of the country where the no-rates campaign was in progress. They escorted bailiffs on cattle seizures and were involved in many violent incidents.
In his early days, Col. Broy took part in athletics and later was, for some time, president of the Irish Olympic Council He spoke Irish, French and German fluently and represented the Garda at international police conferences. He retired in1938.
Col. Broy is survived by two sons, Patrick and Eamon, and two daughters, Mrs. Eilish Taaffe and Miss Aine Broy. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1958.


An obituary for former Garda chief, Eamon Broy, who died on 22 January 1972, aged 85


Plucky postmistress alerts Volunteer police to armed raid

Well before the signing of the Treaty between Britain and Ireland in December 1921 the republican movement had been undermining British rule in Ireland by a number of strategies. One of these was to set up an alternative set of public service departments to win over the allegiance of the public from the established British administration.  Particularly sensitive in this process was the setting up of a new Irish Volunteer or Republican police force which was intended to displace the Royal Irish Constabulary who were seen by many as being agents of British oppression in Ireland (although, ironically, most RIC personnel were decent men of solid Irish origins).
The existence of two parallel policing forces in the country especially after the Irish Volunteer police came into the open after the signing of the Treaty in December 1921 must have created an amount of confusion. Nonetheless the Volunteer force proved effective in policing duties and a dramatic account from the files of the Kildare Observer newspaper in January, 1922 shows the Volunteer police taking rapid action to bring wrongdoers to justice.
The episode centres around a raid on the small post office at the gate to Clongoweswood College, on the Clane-Kilcock Road. Headed ‘Smart capture by Volunteer Police’ the report tells of how two masked men entered the post office and pointed revolvers at the post-mistress, Miss Shanahan. One of them smashed up the telephone instrument  A quick-thinking Miss Shanahan refused the raiders’ demands to hand over money or even to put her hands up but she did manage to conceal a sum of money in notes by dropping them behind a desk. One of the men brandished a large knife and proceeded to rifle the desk where he found a small sum of money. The raiders made off but warned Miss Shanahan not to leave the place for an hour or she risked being shot.
However the plucky postmistress ignored the warning and slipped out the back door of the small post-office. She knew exactly where she was headed for just three hundred yards away was a neighbour’s house --Mainham forge --which happened to be the residence of the Officer Commanding of the 4th Battalion Irish Volunteer Police, Mr. Pat Dunne. This officer reacted as effectively as any professional policeman and using the communication links built up during the war of independence (1919-21) mobilised his Volunteeer colleagues in the surrounding countryside and despatched search parties on bicycles to cordon the area of north Kildare centred on Clongowes. Taking two companion Volunteer police with him, he set off for Clane where he made enquiries. Observant locals said that the two strangers had been seen pedalling towards Dublin on the Celbridge Road. Pat Dunne’s Volunteer trio took off in pursuit and a kind of chase on bicycle ensued. Eventually the trio of Volunteer police caught up on the two raiders near Baybush on the Celbridge Road and promptly put them under arrest. The suspects were searched and were found to have in their possession £2 3s 6d in coppers and silver, two toy revolvers, two masks and large army jack knife. They appeared to be brothers and gave their address initially as Lucan but later as Mount Brown, Inchicore.  The prisoners were removed to Dublin by order of the Brigade Chief of the Republican police.
The Kildare Observer highlighted that the notes hidden behind a desk by Miss Shanahan when the raiders had burst in had not been touched. It added that the ‘plucky action of Miss Shanahan in leaving the office to report the matter, notwithstanding the warning she had received, might be regarded as the chief factor in the capture.’    It reserved particular praise for the Volunteer police: ‘This capture establishes a very creditable record for the Mainham volunteers, it being the second effected by them within the past month.’ 
It is notable that nowhere in the account is there a mention of the official police force of the day, the Royal Irish Constabulary. A transition was underway at many levels in the administration of justice and the organisation of policing in Ireland. The Royal Irish Constabulary was winding down its operations in Ireland and ceding police barracks to the Volunteer police.  The praise heaped on the Mainham Company of the Irish Volunteer police suggests that this improvised police force was well up to the job and needed to little learn from its royally-titled police predecessors. Series no: 264

How a plucky postmistress assisted in the capture of two raiders from the Looking Back series of 17 January 2012. Our thanks to Liam


I saw a lone star hover, gem-like above the bay’

It took over three weeks in January 1922 for the news to reach his native county that the celebrated polar explorer, Kildare-born  Sir Ernest Shackleton, had died while on an Antarctic voyage.  The first issue of the Kildare Observer newspaper in February 1922 under a headline ‘Great Explorer Dead’ explained how the sad message had travelled from the southern hemisphere:‘The news was cabled on Sunday (29 January) by Reuter’s correspondent in Monte Video (Uruguay) where the body had been brought by a Norwegian steamer’. He had died over three weeks previously on 5th January on board his ship, the Quest, which had been moored in the small whaling harbour of Grytviken on the remote South Georgia islands. He had been leading his fourth expedition to the Antarctic which intended to carry out scientific explorations on the frozen continent.
The first sign that there was anything wrong with Shackleton’s health emerged in December of 1921 when his vessel had docked at Rio de Janeiro on its long voyage south from Britain to the Antarctic. He had suffered a heart attack there but against the advice of the expedition’s doctors had insisted on continuing as leader of the expedition despite all the stresses of leading men into such a hostile environment as the south Atlantic. And that hostility had proved only too real when having left Rio the ship encountered punishing weather conditions as it plunged into he storm surged waves of the south Atlantic. On Christmas day 1921 Shackleton recorded in his diary that the storms were the worst he had ever experienced.
They pressed on and by the first week of January had found temporary shelter in Grytviken a whaling station of a few hundred souls on South Georgia. Shackleton retired to his cabin on the evening of 4 January but in the early hours of the following morning he called for help and asked Dr. Macklin, the expedition doctor for something to cure pain in his face and back. But it was too late. Macklin was preparing the medicine when Shackleton took a severe turn and died.
Distances in the southern ocean were vast and radio communications almost non-existent so the only way to get news out of isolated South Georgia was to set sail over thousands of miles of ocean for a port on the south American continent to send a message via international telegraph links.
It was decided to send Shackleton’s body on a Norwegian ship from Grytviken across the vast expanse of the Atlantic to Monte Video where a long-distance vessel could be engaged to bring him home to the UK. After a voyage of over two weeks his body was received with full state honours by the Uruguyan government. It was taken to Monte Video’s  military hospital where nurses formed a guard of an honour and put fresh flowers on the coffin each day. It had been expected that once an available ship was found his body would be  carried back to Britain where he would be buried on home ground. However within a couple of days a telegram came back to Monte Video from Britain which changed everything. His wife, Lady Emily Shackleton, was no doubt grief-stricken when the news of her husband’s demise had eventually reached her in Easbourne, Essex. However while the normal inclination of a wife would be for her husband to be brought home for burial she realised that although a good husband his heart lay in the wilds of the south Atlantic. She telegraphed Monte Video instructing that his body was to be brought back to South Georgia and buried there overlooking the wild South Atlantic oceans which had formed the backdrop to his celebrated expeditions over the past two decades. Accordingly his body was taken on board ship for one last time and a course set for a return to South Georgia.
Some weeks later his funeral service was held on the island attended by a handful of whalers and some British officials from the Falklands. He was buried looking over the harbour – Lady Shackleton having given a final instruction that his body was not to be buried facing east as in normal burials, but facing south so that he now looked towards his beloved Antarctic in death as he had in life.
Shackleton’s connections with Kildare were highlighted by the local press in reporting news of the telegram received announcing his death. Under a heading ‘Co. Kildare man’s life of adventure at sea’, the Kildare Observer recalled that he had been born at ‘Kilkea (near Castledermot) in 1874, the eldest son of Dr. Henry Shackleton, a member of a well-known Quaker family.’
His path in life had taken him a long way from the big fields of south Kildare to the wild seas of the south Atlantic. His last words written in his diary the evening before his death as he looked out on the ocean from Grytviken harbour reflected on the beauty of nature even in extreme environs: ‘ In the darkening twilight, I saw a lone star hover, gem-like above the bay.’
(series no: 263).

Ernest Shackleton's last entry in his diary from Liam Kenny's Looking Back series of 10 January 2012. Our thanks to Liam

August 22, 2012


Naas Cinemas
Part 2: The Dara Cinema
James Durney

When the Coliseum was bought by Modern Irish Theatres in 1972 the new owners wanted a different name for the cinema when it re-opened. The proprietors advertised a prize of £20 for the most appropriate title in the Leinster Leader on 12 August. The £20 prize was won jointly by Miss M. Ryan, Gransto, Ballcolla, Co. Laois and Mr R. Maguire, The Cottage, Caragh, Co. Kildare, and the new owners announced: “We wish to return our grateful thanks to the many Leinster Leader readers who suggested such a wide and interesting list of names. The Proprietors have gone right through the list and found many appropriate names. However, being situated in the Capital of Co. Kildare ‘The Dara’ seemed the most suitable and was the ultimate choice. (Lured by the prospect of easy money this author suggested ‘The Abbey’ – and you know how far that went!)
The Dara opened on Friday 1 September at 8 pm with “one of the outstanding action-adventure movies of all time ‘The Dirty Dozen’ which has been re-processed in wide screen with multi directional magnetic sound. The Film Theatre will provide cinema lovers with a new experience in luxury. It is of a modern cosy concept to which the many larger cinemas are now turning with a capacity for 440 people. The old Coliseum has been completely altered and is now fitted out to meet the most modern demands of luxury. Plush rich red velvet drapes will hang from ceiling to floor all around the theatre while the entire floor area will be carpeted in warm maroon and gold carpeting. The seating will be of plush red and all seats will have padded armrests for added comfort. The screen has been brought forward and the old ‘pit’ no longer exists. The new Vision screen is the first of its kind so far installed in the Provinces. It has a full range Panoramic vision and extends from wall to wall, ceiling to floor.
“Only the top professional people were entrusted with the transformation of the old Coliseum to the new super luxury Dara. The McGoff Brothers carried out all the main contracting work. Additional carpentry work by Patrick Keane. Outside painting by Brinsley Sheridan and all electrical work was handled by John Mahon. Total cost of the renovations and new equipment has totalled £12,000.”
Paddy Melia, Kilcullen, was the Dara’s Managing Director, while John Mahon continued as the projectionist and house manager. Cine hostesses were: Anne Gunning, Geraldine Wilson and Francis Maher. (The cine hostess uniform was like that of an air hostess, complete with cap and fashionable mini-skirt.) Prices, all parts, were 40p. Matinees: children 20p and 15p.
David Lean’s controversial masterpiece ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ opened in the Dara on 4 September and there were queues for weeks. The Dara also introduced late shows on Friday and Saturday nights and the following year opened a ‘Dara 2,’ with seating for 100. This closed after a short time, and became a poolroom. In 1980 the cinema again went through a change when it was made part of a new shopping complex with the cinema on the top floor. The Dara 2 experiment was repeated in 1989 when a small theatre was opened to cope with increasing crowds.
Fran McCormack, Kildare, took over the Dara in September 2003 and introduced many new concepts. Sadly that great institution of entertainment, the Dara Cinema, closed its doors on Thursday 8 February 2007. The last movies screened were ‘Goal 2’ and ‘Infamous.’

To coincide with the cinema exhibition in Naas Library during Heritage Week we reproduce an article from the Nationalist on Naas Cinemas of old


Naas Cinemas
Part 1: The Coliseum
James Durney

In early January 2009 Derry City Harbour Museum Archivist Bernedette Walsh contacted Kildare Library and Arts Services with an unusual query:
“We are currently moving the museum and archive collection to a purpose built new store and we have come across an item that relates to County Kildare. It is a drawing of a proposed new cinema on the Main Street North, Naas, County Kildare, date 1939. It is in very good condition on linen paper. I have no ides how it came into the collection and would be very happy to send the item to its correct home!”
The item duly arrived and turned out to be a drawing of a proposed new cinema for Naas named “The Regal” for Mr Percy Whittle, Esq. The drawings, while not totally in line with that of the eventual neo-Egyptian style Coliseum, show a different structure and outlay. However, it was the Coliseum which opened in April 1940 and not the proposed Regal.
Moving pictures, or cinema, came to Naas as early as 1902, and were shown in the Town Hall. This was the era of silent movies and background music was provided by an orchestra. Chris Sylvester from the Curragh ran the Town Hall cinema from 1929 to 1942. He introduced the “talkies” to Naas. However, Naas got its own purpose-built cinema, The Coliseum, in 1940. The Coliseum was built on the site of stables and a back garden belonging to the Protestant school in St David’s House. It was owned and built by the Kelly family from Portlaoise, a firm of builders and steel erectors.
The Leinster Leader of Saturday 9 February 1940 advertised the new cinema opening: New Naas Cinema. Opening of the Coliseum. “The erection of the new Coliseum Cinema, an important architectural addition to the main thoroughfare of Naas, is practically completed, and the new house will open its doors to the public on next Friday evening. The façade, ornamental in a dignified way, will be furnished in cream stucco with base and parapets in chocolate brown. At night the tubular lighting will emphasize the effectiveness of the frontal design. The spacious vestibule, with box office, cloak rooms, etc., gives a nicely blended medley of colour in the terrazzo flooring, with walls and ceiling in tanned effects, which is also carried out in the auditorium, approached by a wide staircase, heavily carpeted.
“The cinema has comfortable seating for 750 patrons, and the luxury of the upholstery work is beyond criticism. The floor is suitably “stepped” so that a clear and uninterrupted view is provided of the proscenium towards which the walls converge. There is a stage of amble dimensions, ideal for concerts, variety shows, etc. The new cinema is affectively heated and lighted, whilst the sound system to be used will be the Western Electric Microphonic, one of the latest advances in film reproduction.
“Messers. T. A. Kelly, John Egan and J. L. Kelly, directors of the Coliseum, take a pride in the fact that a combination of Irish capital, enterprise and labour have been responsible for the provision of a cinema worthy of Naas district.
“The feature for the opening programme on Friday evening will be ‘Batchelor Mother,’ regarded as one of the finest issues of the year, featuring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. It is interesting to note that the Coliseum will give performances each night at 8 o’clock, and there will be matinees every Saturday and Sunday at 3 o’clock.”
Admission was 1 /4, 1/-, 8d and 4d nightly and for matinees 8d, 4d, 2d. John Mahon was the projectionist at the cinema for nearly fifty years until his death in the 1980s. Staff in the 1950s and 1960s were P. Whelan, Scotchie Egan, Nora Tully and Mrs Delaney. The Coliseum changed ownership in 1972 when Modern Irish Theatres bought the premises from the Kelly family. The last film to play in the Coliseum was ‘Lust for a Vampire’ on Tuesday 8 August 1972. The new look cinema was to re-open on 1 September.

To coincide with the cinema exhibition in Naas Library during Heritage Week we reproduce an article from the Nationalist on Naas Cinemas of old


Seminary life in January… memoirs of a Maynooth student

Student life in Maynooth College has been recalled in copious memoirs written mainly by clergy who studied there as seminarians when the College’s role was exclusively that of training priests for the Irish Catholic Church. One such seminary graduate was Fr.Richard O’Kennedy who writing in the Irish Monthly magazine in 1891 left an account of the forbidding initial impressions that the austere College held for him as a young student.  He begins by recounting the tribulations of the journey from his family home in the country to Maynooth: “ It was a very dark night in the January time of the year.  I had been travelling all day by train from my distant home in the country …I heard Maynooth called out. It was well: I was beginning to get sleepy from sheer weariness.”
Fr. O’Kennedy gives an atmospheric account of arriving at the College: ‘The night was pitch-dark, and the gas lamps that flanked the avenue seemed by their light to make the darkness doubly dense. I was escorted by a liveried servant from the gate into the precincts of the College.’ 
Even in the bleakness of a January night the imposing College architecture made an impression. He wrote that ‘coming from the country I was quite unprepared to find what the magnificent cluster of College buildings was like.’  He took in with some awe the uninterrupted lines of masonry, the gothic doors and windows and arches and the long corridors swept to a polish by the soutanes of generations of seminarians. However his silent wonder at the imposing architecture was interrupted by a burst of activity: ‘A huge door opened and out rolled a torrent of student figures.’ He had arrived just as the students were finishing their supper in the College refectory. He felt a stranger among the hundreds of seminarians as he was a new student and for a while was confused and  home-sick. However his ‘Purgatory’ did not last too long as some students from his parent diocese took him under their wing and found a room and a bed for him in the great seminary building designed by Pugin, the celebrated architect of the Gothic revival style.
His introduction to the lack of creature comforts in the seminary was to continue in the morning where he returned to the refectory from which he had sent the students pouring out the night before. The agony of that morning, gripped by the penetrating north Kildare cold, was etched painfully in his memory: ‘I do not think I shall ever forget my first breakfast in Maynooth. It was a fearfully cold morning … there was no fire in the immense refectory.’ His fingers were so numbed that attempting to hold his table knife was akin to how ‘a Tipperary man holds his blackthorn’! The arrival of the tea service also held a surprise: ‘ I found to my astonishment that the tea-service consisted of huge bowls, with St. Patrick and the serpents in lively blue at the bottom.’ And he did not even have the luxury of complaining with his fellow students about the discomforts because another discipline enforced in Maynooth was that of silence and -- except for short periods of recreation -- silence was the rule of the college day.
However seminaries were never meant to be comfortable or convivial places, rather it was the things of the intellect rather than of the body which were the priorities of seminary training.  And in this pursuit he was impressed from the start with his first contact with the highest officer of the College, the President. In that era seminary Presidents were to be feared rather than admired as far as the collegiate body was concerned.  But in Dr. Russell, the President of Maynooth from 1857 to 1880, was a man who in manner was mild and inoffensive, in culture and learning a scholar, in demeanour a gentleman, in thought and purpose dignified, and above all, a cleric’s cleric. From the moment Richard O' Kennedy was ushered into his presence with other freshmen seminarians he took an instant liking to Dr. Russell: ‘But the one thing that struck the beholder immediately … was his grace of manner.’  Popular with the students, and regarded by Catholics and non-Catholics alike as one of the greatest church historians of his age, Dr. Russell was described as ‘an ornament to the Irish church’. However his brilliant Presidency at the College was cut short by a tragic accident when in May, 1877, he was thrown from his horse in the street of Maynooth. Although he survived the fall, the effects of concussion were slow but pernicious and he died in February, 1880, never having quite recovered from the accident. His memory is perpetuated in Maynooth College today in the naming of the Russell library and fittingly, as a memory to a historian, the home of the College’s rarest old books and archives.
New Year wishes:  a few lines from the great Co. Kildare poet, Teresa Brayton (1868-1943) of Kilcock, to greet 2012:
‘ The new year has come – ‘tis time for beginning,
A time for new efforts, new victories winning,
The old page is finished, the new page is clear,
Let’s make a good record, this happy new year!’

Liam Kenny recalls Maynooth seminary life in his Looking Back series from the Leinster Leader of 3 January 2012. Our thanks to Liam


World War 2 air crash recalled in Edenderry history publication

A world war 2 aircrash, Masonic lodges and a mystery mining company are just some of the stories in the end-of-year  Edenderry Historical Society newsletter issued just as 2011 moves to a close. Among the eye-catching snippets in the publication is an article by prolific local historian Ciarán Reilly (who this year received his Doctorate from NUI Maynooth) on the mining company which never produced as much as a barrow load of ore. The story goes back to 1851 when the Blundell Mining Company was promoted by the fourth Marquis of Downshire with the ostensible aim of reviving the town of Edenderry and its environs after the devastation of the famine years. The fact that the bold Marquis owned 14,000 acres of land in north-east Offaly might explain his lordships enthusiasm for a mining operation which would inevitably increase the value of his estate. The Marquis had done his homework and had recruited one Edward Pickering, a Welsh mining expert, to oversee the property. His sales pitch for the Blundell Mining Company enticed sixty locals to buy shares in the fledgling company including such local notables as M P O’Brien, Denis Fay, and James Delaney, a hotel owner in Edenderry. However thirty years later the mine had not produced even a sack of ore and the Marquis of Downshire was accused of having swindled the local shareholders out of their money.
A more successful extraction industry in Edenderry which gets a mention in the newsletter is the quarry at Carrick. Stone from the Carrick quarry was used in the 1720s in the construction of the greatest Palladian mansion in these islands, Castletown House, Celbridge. When refurbishments were carried out at Castletown in the 1970s the contractors, Sisks, reopened the old quarry at Carrick to make sure that the stone used for the 1970s restoration would authentically match the original stone supplied from the same source.   
There was also a Downshire connection with another theme highlighted in the Edenderry Newsletter – that of Masonic lodges in the locality. The Masonic lodges were, up to recent times, secretive societies made up of men of high social standing who were alleged to have excessive influence on the highest levels of government and business. The Edenderry Masonic Lodge was registered in 1881 when a warrant was granted by the Grand Lodge (Masonic headquarters) to set up a branch with the title of ‘Downshire Lodge’ after the owner of Edenderry. By 1900 there were 76 brethren registered with the Lodge. So progressive was the membership that plans were prepared to build a Masonic Hall in Edenderry and a fund of £154 was collected. The Hall never went ahead but membership remained buoyant with a total of 41 brethren enrolled as recently as 1983. Nonetheless consolidation was underway among the Masonic lodges in the midlands and in 1985 the Edenderry lodge was merged with that of Newbridge.
A likely candidate for membership of the Edenderry lodge was a Reverend Kitson of Ballyburley. Edenderry Historical Society researchers have located his diary in the archives of the Church of Ireland in Dublin. A glimpse at his social diary for 1888 reveals the relatively idyllic life of a rural rector which seemed to be a round of social events in the big houses of north-east Offaly: ‘May 27 Trinity Sunday – lunched at Rathmoyle; Rahan with the Palmers dining in the woods; 14 May – played tennis at Rathmoyle; 15 May – went cowslip gathering with Mrs Dames; 19 May – shooting at Rahan.’
The Edenderry Historical Society Newsletter is full of historical drama and one of the most dramatic events is outlined by Declan O’Connor who has delved into the Irish Military Archives to reveal the story of the American pilot who found himself upside down in an Offaly bog. The incident happened in July 1944 when a group of Turf Board workers at Clonsast bog south of  Edenderry were startled to see a big aeroplane thunder over their heads as it made a forced landing on the bog. The pilot, Flight Officer Iris Dillon, thought he was landing on a perfect surface – so he was naturally surprised when his wheels sank into an Irish bog and his plane overturned. The startled turf workers ran to the plane and heard Dillon call out ‘Anyone there?’ as he attempted to get free from under his inverted aeroplane.  Declan O’Connor’s research in the Irish Army files reveals an amusing sequel in that it was dutifully reported that the American was taken to the Curragh camp where he was given some ‘stimulant and food’.  Unlike German and British pilots who were kept in detention in the Curragh, stray American were taken to the Border within days and handed over to American diplomatic representatives. Declan O’Connor notes that Flying Officer Dillon returned to a successful career in the United States Air Force retiring with the rank of Major.
There is much more to be gleaned from the spectacularly well-produced Edenderry Historical Society newsletter and we will return to the subject … next year. Series no: 261

Liam Kenny reviews a WWII air crash, Masonic lodges and a mystery mining company in Edenderry's local history publication. Our thanks to Liam

August 16, 2012


Heritage Week at the Library!
20th – 25th August

Kildare Library & Arts Services

See you at the pictures!
The History of ‘Cinema in Kildare’ Project


Check out our library exhibitions at Athy, Naas, Kildare and Maynooth Libraries and learn about the history of cinema in your community.
Share Your Story:

You are also invited to share your personal anecdotes and memories of your cinema-going experiences of the past. We will collect your stories for our archives and for the RTE funded documentary, See You at the Pictures, which is currently in development in association with Planet Korda Pictures.

The documentary will gather a nationally shared experience of cinema-going in Ireland and will also provide a social and cultural archive that will be gathered on the documentary-makers website; www.seeyouatthepictures.com
Film Screenings: [places must be booked in advance]

Special screenings of Stella Days, in partnership with ACCESS CINEMA and MAYNOOTH FILM FOR ALL CLUB:

Maynooth Library: Tuesday, 21st August at 10:30 am – 01 6285530
Naas Library: Wednesday, 22nd August at 10:30 am – 045 879111
Athy Library: Thursday, 23rd August at 10:30 am – 059 8631144

Kildare Town Library will be screening Keep ‘em Flying! An Abbott and Costello classic, first shown in the Tower Cinema 60 years ago!!
Thursday, August 23rd at 7:00pm – 045 530626
Children’s Art Exhibition:

We are inviting children of all ages to draw or create a piece of art that represents their experience of going to the cinema. Art materials will be available for the children to work in the library, or they can bring work from home. All the art work will be exhibited in the library.

Contact in at any of the library branches above for further details…

Check out our library exhibitions at Athy, Naas, Kildare and Maynooth Libraries and learn about the history of cinema in your community.


St. Mochua's Heritage Week Walk

St. Mochua’s Historical Society will conduct a walking tour of Coill Dubh Village in connection with Heritage Week on Saturday 18 August starting at 2pm. The Bord na Mona built village celebrates its 60th year in 2012. The tour will be led by John Larkin, a life time resident and Seamus Cullen, a local historian. Meeting place will be Coill Dubh Credit Union at 2pm.

Phone Carmel Darcy on 087 6779785 for any queries


St. Mochua's Historical Society will conduct a Heritage Week Walk of Coill Dubh Village


Death on the ice … a winter tragedy

The Christmas of 1916 was not a happy one in Ireland. There was tragedy and loss everywhere. There was an empty place at the dinner table in many a Kildare household where a father or son had perished on the killing fields of Europe. They were the casualties of what became known as the First World War (1914-18) … a war which marked new depths of depravity in the annals of human conflict. The shadow of war shrouded the small towns of Leinster with each week’s newspaper carrying lists of the dead and the missing.
Against the background of such epic sadness it was a local tragedy which transfixed the readers of the Kildare Observer newspaper in the days before Christmas 1916.
Under a headline ‘Sanatorium patients drowned – tragedy at Peamount’ the paper carried a vivid account of a multiple drowning just over the county boundary in the part of Co. Dublin near to Celbridge.  The tragic incident claimed the lives of John Flaherty (25) from Maynooth, James Cannon of Balbriggan (20) and James Lynn (18) of Derry. The tragedy took place at a time of severe weather which saw ponds and lakes freeze in many parts of the country. The temptation to go sliding on the ice was irresistible for a number of the younger patients of the Peamount sanatorium, just north of Newcastle, Co. Dublin.  The sanatorium had been established in 1912 by the Women’s National Health Association as a place of convalescence for those with TB and other respiratory diseases which were prevalent and dangerous.  It was occupied by patients who were not necessarily bed-ridden but who needed care to recover from dreadful consumptive diseases.
The week before Christmas 1916 saw Ireland enter a deep freeze. Frozen ponds became gathering places for young people. According to the Kildare Observer a number of the patients from Peamount left the grounds of the sanatorium and made their way to a flooded quarry some 300 yards away known as Burn’s Quarry. An eye-witness, one Francis Evans, said he was in a group of twenty who had begun to slide on the frozen surface of the water-filled quarry.  He saw three men sliding further out on the ice from the main group, at one point he saw them holding hands as they slid across the surface. Then in an instant glee turned to terror as the ice gave way and the three young men plunged into the freezing water.
Another witness John O’Shea said he and a man named Columbcille O’ Sullivan had heard the screams from the quarry and had run over. He saw the three deceased in the quarry pleading for help. Sullivan managed to enter the water and took two of the drowning men under his arms. However the ice gave way as he attempted to bring them to shore and in the chaos lost his grip and in seconds they had disappeared into the deep waters.
An inquest held at Peamount two days after the tragedy revealed more details on some of those involved. One of the drowned, John Flaherty, was a native of Maynooth and prior to admission to the sanatorium had been a labourer on the Duke of Leinster’s estate at Carton. 
The inquest jury was fulsome in its praise of the rescuers. The paper singled out Columbcille O’Sullivan for particular mention. Also a Maynooth man he had been a patient at Peamount in 1913 and had left the sanatorium so restored to health that he was accepted into the British Army. He had fought on the western front but the hardship of the trenches had broken his health again and he was re-admitted to Peamount. Another plucky rescuer Laurence Kavanagh, was described as being a south Kildare man and also an ex-soldier.
The details of the tragedy and the inquest were given prominent coverage in the paper. Peamount was well known throughout Kildare as a sanctuary for those in danger of death from TB. Death in a different guise tinged its story in the week before Christmas of 1916.  It did not make for happy reading for readers looking forward to the tranquillity of Christmas. But then bad news never respected the calendar.
Postscript: Congratulations to the congregation of St. Brigid’s, Straffan who this month mark the 225th anniversary of their picturesque church. A visit by Dr. Dermot Martin,  Archbishop of Dublin, has been a high point of the commemorations. Still on Straffan a mention for the charming seasonal custom which sees the carefully tended holly tree in the village decorated with lights … a homely sight to passers-by on the road from Kill to Barberstown Cross. Series no: 260.

Liam Kenny writes of a winter tragedy in 1916 when three patients from Peamount drowned at Burn's Quarry. Our thanks to Liam


Seventy years of Army publication marked by move to Curragh

The historic decentralisation of the Dept. of Defence to Newbridge earlier this year was accompanied also by the relocation of units of the Defence Forces Head Quarters to the Curragh Camp. A welcome accompaniment to this relocation was the arrival of the editorial offices of An Cosantóir, the  Defence Forces monthly magazine, to the Curragh.  The timing is auspicious as this year An Cosantóir (‘the defender’) is marking the seventieth anniversary of its first full year of publication in 1941.
 The magazine is a rarity among the publication efforts of Irish public bodies. Most large Government agencies have house-magazines which are for internal consumption only.
The Defence Forces magazine, in contrast, has always been available to the public.  Although fulfilling the functions of a house-magazine it also provides an attractive window for the outside world to learn more about the work of the men and women who comprise Ireland’s Defence Forces.  Today the magazine is a quality production printed on super-glossy paper which does justice to its top class photography.  The magazine’s content template provides for all interests. Reports written by soldiers who participate in gruelling training exercises on the Curragh or the Glen of Imaal bring a personal touch to the content.  Articles on military ceremonial occasions, on equipment, tactics and training as well as generous coverage of army sporting events are other key features of its content.  Looming large is coverage of overseas missions where the challenges faced by Irish troops on a daily basis in UN service are well documented. From its first edition military history has been a feature and the past year alone has seen the magazine give prominence to the memories of Congo veterans – a UN mission which gripped Irish public opinion in the 1960s like none other.
Today’s glossy An Cosantóir contrasts with the austere feel of the early editions starting with volume one which was published just after Christmas 1940 at a time when the Second World War was at its most dangerous.
Although Ireland had declared neutrality the threat of invasion by any of the warring powers was a daily fear.  The Irish coastline was manned by coast-watching personnel on the look out for ships and aircraft which could herald a full scale invasion. At one stage or another there were invasion threats from the Germans, British, and even from the Americans.
As a response to such dangers Eamon de Valera’s government mobilised plans to greatly expand the capability of the Defence Forces. The Army had been neglected through the 1930s but the situation had now to be reversed and the numbers of troops built up rapidly.  In order to reach out to a wider resource of manpower the Government also recruited for a reserve force known variously as the Local Security Force (LSF) or Local Defence Force (LDF). 
However such rapid expansion of the military was fraught with its own tensions not least the fact that many of the recruits came from households which still harboured bitterness over the Civil War and the subsequent damaging split in Irish politics.
Senior Army personnel realised that a sense of camaraderie needed to be fostered to ensure that any residual Civil War animosities did not cause tensions in the ranks of the newly expanded Army. It was a case of achieving cohesion in the face of a common enemy. The publication of a new magazine titled An Cosantóir was one of the strategies deployed. The mission to foster a common bond despite the disagreements  in the previous decades was made clear in the introductory article of the first issue in which the Chief of Staff, Major-General Dan McKenna, wrote: “ The present expansion of the Army has brought into its ranks men of every political party and men of every creed and class. This unification of the different elements of the community is in itself one of the greatest factors in our defensive strength today … No personal feelings or prejudices must be permitted to mar this unity.’
The first issue came off the presses on December 27, 1940 and cost just two pence. It’s content, as well as the exhortations on unity and loyalty, was diverse and included articles designed to boost the training capacity of the forces dealing with such military subjects as ‘Map Reading,’ ‘Ambushes’ and planning ‘A successful raid.’ Leadership was an important element too at a time when young men had big responsibilities landed on their shoulders so articles on ‘ How to Instruct’ and ‘A Talk to the NCOs’ featured.
The early issues of An Cosantóir were published by the Southern Command before it’s publication was taken under the wing of Army Headquarters in Parkgate Street, Dublin where it was located for decades. A long-time Editor who helped shape the magazine for modern times was Naas resident Col. Con Costello better known to readers of the Leader as the writer of this ‘Looking Back’ column for a remarkable twenty-five years.  Now, as it marks its seventieth year in print, the Defence Force’s magazine has made its third move and will be published from its Curragh Camp  for, it is to be hoped, another seventy years and more. Series no: 257.

In series 257 of his weekly column in the Leinster Leader Liam Kenny writes about An Cosantoir's move from Dublin to the Curragh. Our thanks to Liam

August 11, 2012




Impressive '98 Commemoration Ceremonies

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Naas on the night of the 23/24th May, 1798, was commemorated at Naas on Sunday, when a huge gathering assembled in the town to pay tribute to brave Michael Reynolds and his comrades, who intrepidly attacked the entrenched Yeomen in Naas and put them to flight on that memorable date afterwards retiring from the town.
Glorious sunshine favoured the event and thousands of people lined the thoroughfare in the flag-bedecked Main Street as the parade, led by the Ballyshannon Pipers Band, marched from the assemblage point on the Fair Green to the Town Hall, where a memorial plaque to Michael Reynolds and his fellow Insurgents was unveiled. Mr. Jack Delaney was Chief Marshal of the Parade, which included contingences of the Old I.R.A. from Kilcullen, Naas, Droichead Nua, Athgarvan, Suncroft, Ballyshannon, Kildare, Straffan, Mainham, Kill, Ardclough and other centres. Mr. P. Carroll, Naas, was in command. A large contingent of the F.C.A. drawn from Naas and outlying districts under the charge of Lieut. J. Walsh also made an impressive contribution to the parade. The F.C.A. colour party consisted of Lieut. Wm Byrne, Lieut. G. Robinson and Lieut. E. Kinsella, with Parade Sergeant-Major P. Brennan. The Ex-L.D.F. and Ex-L.S.F. from Naas and district were commanded by former officers D.L. Jos. King, Adjutant T. Harvey and Intelligence Officer, T. Hayden.
Other organisations taking part in the parade were former members of the Cumann na mBan, the Naas Hurling Team, captained by Mr. P. Murphy; the Naas Boy Scouts,    Naas Unit of the Order of Malta, men and women, schoolboys and outside bodies, and the general public. There was a deeply impressive scene, as with the full parade assembled in front of the Town Hall. Very Rev. P. J. Doyle, P.P., Naas, unveiled the memorial plaque to the '98 patriots.
Three volleys rang out, breaking the stillness which had descended over the town, and F.C.A. Bugler Noel Murphy sounded the Last Post. As the Reveille followed the National Flag, which was half-masted was raised and dipped by Mr. P. Carroll, Vice-Chairman of the County Kildare Committee of the Old I.R.A. The Firing Party, which was favourable commented upon for its discipline and precision, was drawn from the Kilcullen Branch of the Old I.R.A. under Mr. Paddy Quinn.
Prior to the unveiling ceremony, Mr. M. J. O'Donoghue, Vice-Chairman of the Naas Urban Council, in introducing Father Doyle, said that their beloved parish priest was well-known for his kindly acts, not only by the people of Kildare, but by numerous people all over Leinster.
The entire parade then proceeded to the top of the town and re-assembled on their return, around a platform in Market Square, where an oration was delivered by Very Rev. Thomas Burbage, P.P., V. F., Mountmellick.

Very Reverend Father Burbage said:
Michael Reynolds, whose memory we honour to-day was one of that valiant band who 150 years ago dedicated themselves to the cause of Ireland's freedom and to the promotion of goodwill and understanding among all Irishmen. He was one of those who believed that when all other means of rescuing the nation from slavery and degradation had been used in vain, that recourse to armed force was justifiable. Those men were confirmed in this belief by the fact that the invaders had driven the mass of their victims to such a state of desperation that revolt had every prospect of success.
For generations before 1798, England pursued a deliberate unwavering policy of fomenting disunion among all classes of Ireland. They encouraged religious strife between Catholics, Protestants and Presbyterians and ill-feeling between landlords and tenants. Even children were set against their parents. There was method in this criminal procedure. English rulers realised that internal dissention in Ireland facilitated their alien rule. England was warmly seconded in this policy by the possessors of the confiscated estates and their hangers-on who feared that if by any chance the people came together and used their strength, they (the planters) would lose their ill-gotten goods.
This policy was disastrous for the country as a whole. It was aimed primarily at Catholics, but discerning Protestants came to realise that it would eventually cause the ruin of themselves as well as of their Catholic fellow-countrymen. It made the rectification of almost any public grievance practically impossible and left the country seething with injustices and discontent. In 1791, twenty distinguished Protestants came together and planned to meet the situation by inaugurating a body that would include Irishmen of all creeds and classes, united for the promotion of their common interests, and specifically for the reform of a very corrupt Parliament and for the emancipation of Catholics. This body was known as the United Irish Society. It spread rapidly. It reached a membership of 500,000 in a very short time. This was the last thing on earth that England wanted. Though the Society was legal and constitutional, steps were taken at once to stamp it out. As early as 1792, less than a year after its inception, by means of packed juries, heavy fines and long terms of imprisonment were being inflicted on leading members for the crime of criticising the corrupt constitution of Parliament. Later a savage campaign of terrorism was let loose on the general, defenceless population. A lustful, alien soldiery was quartered and billeted among the homes of the people, with permission and encouragement to flog, pitch-cap, and press-gang and drive the people by every means into an insurrection that it was expected could easily suppressed. Re-acting to the Government's measures the society changed its character and began arming its members. Arms of one kind or another were supplied to as many as 300,000 men of whom 110,000 were resident in the northern counties, showing clearly that there was nothing sectarian about the movement.
It is interesting to note that this county (Kildare) was so highly organised, that it had over 60,000 enrolled. This was largely due to the residence here of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The British nearly overshot their mark, for if the other counties had risen and fought with the same determination and tenacity as did Kildare and Wexford, there would have been an end to British rule in Ireland. Failure was not due to want of numbers on the part of the insurgents, neither was it due to the inferior quality of their arms, primitive as they were. It was due to want of thorough preparation, and above all a system of spying and informing organised by the British Secret Service and operating in the highest ranks of the insurgents and in other unsuspecting quarters.
This enabled the British to effect unexpected arrests of leaders, and to anticipate military actions, as they were kept informed well beforehand of important military moves that were decided upon. Thus the plans of the insurgents were thrown into utter confusion, and they were rendered incapable of using their strength. The men of the 1916-21 were much more successful in their handling of the British Secret Service. It is never too late to learn.
The Insurrection was fixed for the 23rd May, 1798. The signal was to be the simultaneous stopping of the mail coaches that left Dublin Post Office daily for Belfast, Cork, Athlone and Limerick. That stoppage was duly carried out. On the 23rd May the mail coaches and burnt at Santry, Naas, Lucan and the Curragh and the rising began. At the commemoration meetings held during the past couple of months at different parts of the country you have heard the story of the fighting at Prosperous, Clane, Kilcock, Maynooth, Rathangan, Timahoe, Monasterevan, and so on. The attack on Naas was made on the 24th May by a body of insurgents led by Michael Reynolds, whose memory you honour to-day. He was a young farmer from the neighbourhood of Johnstown. He was previously active in organising the county and held the rank of Colonel. The town was garrisoned by the Armagh militia, part of a regiment of Dragoons, the Ancient Britons (a Welsh regiment), and Yeomanry, and was warned beforehand of the impending insurgent attack.
Michael Reynolds led three attacks which were pressed with great courage and determination. But finally discipline and superior armament prevailed and the insurgents were forced to retire with a loss of 140 men. On the withdrawal of the insurgents the British took revenge on the town by what is described by Father O'Hanlon, the historian, as disgraceful executions and excesses. In other words, by the butchery of those in the town who sympathised or were suspected of sympathising with the United Irishmen. Michael Reynolds and his men fell back to Wicklow. He himself fell during the attack on Hacketstown. Fighting in Kildare ceased with the surrender made at Sallins on the 21st July.
The Insurrection of 1798, and other such movements that followed in its track are not to be judged in retrospect as isolated and unconnected events, and pronounced on according to the immediate military victories of defeats. The end of the first and second world wars atoned and compensated for colossal initial defeats by an ultimate victory on the part of one of the belligerents, known as the Allies. So, too, in the case of Ireland. The movements of 1798, 1848 and 1916-21 are to be viewed as part of a whole not yet completed, where the inspiration and knowledge of what is needed for success is drawn from the valour, self-sacrifice and methods of those who first faced the foe. In other words the great campaign for freedom there are lessons to be learned and applied. Things that are found worthy of imitation and also things carefully to be avoided. So we find justification in our day for the scorn and contempt, deservedly poured on the Knaves and Slaves, unworthy of the name of Irishmen who hang their head in shame at the mention of those brave men who kindled that blaze that does not die, but lives on in the hearts of the people, and will eventually destroy alien rule in our land. Without the Tones and Fitzgeralds, McCrackens and Russels and men like Michael Reynolds in 1798 who faced the foe despite the odds, there would have been no 1916-21, and without '21 no onward march which the people of Ireland will take good care will not cease, till every trace of slavery and subjection to alien rule and influence has been blotted out.
The merit of men like Michael Reynolds lives in the fact that they had vision and faith in their countrymen and foresaw the effect of their actions. They proved that it is possible to raise up this dominant race, no matter how trampled under foot in mud and blood ― possible to bind them together for their mutual protection, to inspire them with self-reliance and a striking power of which even powerful enemies must take account. They showed too, that in this land, those who strive for freedom have never cause to despair, for Ireland, given the opportunity, can always raise up men who will take the glorious risk of leading the way to victory, in spite of difficulty and danger.
I would strongly urge the young men of Kildare to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the lives of the young leaders of '98, '48 and 1916-21. The object to which these men dedicated themselves, and for which so many of them gave their lives, has been through the inspiration of their example, carried far on the way to success. This object should be as dear to the men of to-day as it was to them. Don't forget that there is still grave and urgent work to be done. Work requiring foresight, determination and self-reliance ― needing, too, the energy, enthusiasm and leadership of the young generation. Nowhere is the inspiration for this work more surely to be found than in the patriotic cycle which starts with 1798, with its splendid vision of a national union of hearts and hands ― with the sun of freedom shining brightly on a peaceful, prosperous, happy and united people.
Irishmen reading the lives of those young leaders will be astounded at their intellectual and moral stature. They will wonder at the meanness, depravity and malice of enemies who have striven to discredit them, and to brand them as brainless, crazy fools. These young men stood head and shoulders over their compeers in the professions to which they belonged, and which they, in many cases sacrificed, together with liberty and life for the sake of the country they loved. Study the lives of Tone, Emmet, Fitzgerald, of McCracken, Russel and Orr, of Davis, Duffy, Mitchel and Meagher, of Pearce and half a hundred of others. In no nation on earth will you find such thrilling examples of devotion to truth and justice, nowhere such hatred of oppression, unqualified spirit of sacrifice, unconquerable love of country.
If you seek an antidote to the poisons of this era, to self-seeking selfishness, hypocrisy, sham and shoneenism, you will find it in the story of their aspirations and achievements. If there is any body of men more than another to whom I recommend this study, it is to those who have taken on themselves the profession of arms, whether in the National Army or the Local Defence, and have sworn to defend their country's flag even at the sacrifice of their lives. Ireland will be glad to know, and to feel that these men are in spirit and conviction, and not merely in outward form, descendents of the heroes of '98. Ireland's real defence in every hour of danger. See that your county and branch libraries, as well as libraries at the Curragh and other garrisons in the county are fully stocked with these works, and that the thoughtful study of them is encouraged. But if the study of the leaders of '98 is of importance, no less worthy of consideration are certain serious events that provided a setting for the revolt, at that time. England's difficulties at the end of the 18th century forced the concession of a native government. Just as England's international difficulties contributed to the victory of 1921.
But England in 1782 took the precaution of placing more than tree-fourths of the power of government in the hands of the hereditary enemies of the people. These were a group of a hundred families, closely related by blood and marriage and social position, an infamous, traitorous group that disbanded and disarmed the National Army at the first opportunity and garrisoned the country with foreign troops. Then when the way was clear and safe they sold the country for bribes into a more soul-destroying slavery than it had been delivered from only two decades before. This narration has an unpleasant resemblance to things that claim our attention in our land to-day. Our National Army has not been disbanded, but the foreign troops are on our soil. Our native government is intact, but a foreign satellite state has been established in the invaded part of our country. This hired British garrison, disguised as Irishmen, for the discrediting of our people, displays the same antiquated policy of disunion that was practiced by their paymaster in the penal times. Sectarian strife is fomented, mutual distrust generated among citizens, civil and religious rights are denied to those who call themselves Irishmen and act as such. This whole situation is not merely irritating to the country, it is a danger as we know from the past ― a danger not merely to be noted and commented on, but to be actively resisted and dealt with without delay.
No other nation in the world would be asked to tolerate such a disturbing condition of things in their midst. France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg; even Russia, whose territories are no longer invaded, demand additional security against the possible revival of German power.
Is it unreasonable that Ireland should at last be freed from the invasion of a power that has treated our people, not merely in ages past, but up to our own day, with a savage brutality that has no parallel in the history of civilised States. This position created and maintained in six of our counties is a pestilence that is contaminating and poisoning the economic, industrial, social and political life of the whole country. It is an act so hostile, that it constitutes England the only serious, real and active enemy we have in the world. There should be no mincing of words about that. Attempts of English spokesmen to evade full and unqualified responsibility in this matter are an exhibition of fraud and make-believe that is beneath contempt, and should be a warning to all those who have any dealings with them. There are many conceivable ways in which approach may be made to the righting of this infamous injustice imposed on our people. If we have the spirit, vision and determination of the men of '98 ― the men we honour in this commemoration, with the opportunities we have, a successful way will soon be found of ending this gross outrage against the dignity and safety of the nation.
At this conclusion, Mr. O'Donoghue, who presided, thanked the various bodies and individuals, who had co-operated so whole-heartedly in making the Commemoration the success that it was. He conveyed his particular thanks to Father Burbage for coming there at great inconvenience to himself, to deliver the oration. They were all aware of Father Burbage's great National record, and his work for Ireland, which had endeared him to the hearts of young and old in every county in Ireland.
Mr. O'Donoghue also complimented the energetic committee, headed by Mr. Padraigh Crowley, for their splendid work in the organisation of the Commemoration and the townspeople for their co-operation in adorning the town. The people of Kildare should feel proud of their record in 1798. They were the first county to throw aloft the banner of rebellion and they were the last county to surrender, and then only on honourable terms. They had fought valiantly and courageously throughout the struggle and even in other counties they had lent a willing hand to banish the oppressors from their land. He hoped that the lessons of '98 would not be forgotten, and that the deeds and exploits of those heroes would be enshrined in their hearts, and that the ideals for which they fought would ever be a beacon light for generations to come.
Also on the platform were Very Rev. P. J. Doyle, P.P.; Very Rev. E. Campion, P.P., Kill; Rev. C. Phelan, C.C.; Rev. G. Brophy, C.C., Naas; An Tanaiste, Mr. William Norton, T.D.; Messrs. T. Harris, T.D., and G. Sweetman, T.D.; Colonel Collins Powell, Commandant Weddick, Senator Michael Smyth, Mr. James Dunne, Kill; Mrs. Higgins, U.D.C.; Messrs. L. McGarr, U.D.C.; J. Taylor, P.C.; John Monohan, J.P. Whyte, Town Clerk, Naas.
A letter of apology, regretting inability to attend was read from Rev. Dr. Irwin, Lucan, one of the patrons of the Commemoration.


A report from the Leinster Leader of 9 October 1948 on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Naas in 1798. Re-typed by Chris Holzgräwe



How the St. Leger Got Its Name

Lady Wake, in her interesting "Reminiscences," mentions her visit to Doncaster races as a young girl in 1818. She writes that the best of the races, called the St. Leger, was in those days always fixed for Monday. Nowadays the first day of Doncaster week is Tuesday, the great race being run on Wednesday.
The St. Leger takes its name from a member of Viscount Doneraile's family, the founder having been Colonel Anthony St. Leger, a nephew of the first viscount. The first race was run in 1776, and the colonel died ten years later.
He was Grimsby's member, and was colonel of the old 86th Foot, now the 2nd Royal Irish Rifles, but he attained considerable notoriety in another direction. He was a very hard-living man, and founded the Hell Fire Club of Ireland, a different affair from that which had its headquarters at Medmenham Abbey, on the Thames.
Colonel St. Leger lived at one time in Co. Kildare, and it is averred that he may be sometimes seen driving in the neighbourhood of Athy in a coach with four horses, the coachman being headless!
The St. Leger family is one of the oldest in the kingdom, a Seynt Leger being among the Normans who came over with the Conqueror. In fact, it is traditionally reported that this warrior had the honour of helping the Conqueror out of the boat when he landed on these shores.
The male line, however, came to an end with the fourth Lord Doneraile, and the present viscount's patronymic is in reality Aldworth.
At the fourth Lord Doneraile's death the estate went to his sister's son, St. Leger Aldworth, who later was created a viscount. The family estates, however, went to Lady Castletown, being left to her by her father, the fourth Lord Doneraile of the second creation.

A story from the Kildare Observer of 10 September 1921 on how the famous St. Leger race got its name. Re-typed by Chris Holzgräwe


Kill History Group

Autumn & Winter 2012

Monday 20th August:  “Kildare Arms and their heraldic interpretation” - Jim Heffernan

Monday 24th September: “Servants in the Big House” - Collette Jordan

Monday 22nd October:   "Peamount: 100 Years - and more" - Michael O’Toole

Monday 26th November: "1912-2012: A feast of centenaries" - Liam Kenny


Monday 28th January 2013:     Annual General Meeting

All meetings take place in the Parish Meeting Room at 8.30 p.m.
(unless otherwise indicated)

The Autumn and Winter schedule for Kill History Group kicks off on 20 August 2012


Cattle farmers stop railway plan to link Clane and Celbridge

Opposition seems to be the default position among many communities when a new scheme (a new line of road being one topical example) is planned for their locality. The pages of the local press are brimming with reports of campaigns and protests against infrastructure of one kind or another.  And such immediate opposition to plans and projects was a feature of bygone years just as much as it is today. A headline in the Kildare Observer newspaper of February 1897 highlights the intriguing prospect of ‘The Proposed Light Railway between Clane and Celbridge.’ However the sub-heading ‘Opposition Meeting’ tells of the almost inevitable backlash before the project got off the drawing boards. The report told of a meeting called by the landowners and farmers of the Clane hinterland who expressed alarm after a prospectus for a light railway linking Celbridge with Clane and Donadea had been published in the press.  Their objections were multiple. Some of their objections were self-centred based on how the new railway might impact on their own convenience. However one of their worries had a degree of substance … that possibility that they as ratepayers would be saddled with having to guarantee the costs of the new tramway if it did not prove a commercial success. This was a prudent objection --- the latter half of the 19th century in Ireland had seen a ‘boom’ in the building and planning of railways and tramways in all parts of the country. By the late 19th century it was apparent that Ireland did not have the population nor the level of industry to provide passenger and freight revenues to support the hundreds of miles of track which had been laid down from the 1840s onwards.  However there was a mechanism known as the ‘Baronial Guarantee’ by which local ratepayers (a category mainly comprised of big farmers and shop-keepers) could agree to subsidise new railways by an extra charge on their rates bills.
It was the possibility of being saddled with a subsidy for a new line of railway connecting Celbridge, Clane and Donadea that the Clane area ratepayers wanted to quosh before it could take hold.
The Chairman of the public gathering in Clane, Edmund Sweetman, set the tone when he introduced the meeting by saying that ‘He was fully convinced that this tramway was in no sense required.’  The new railway was intended to be a form of tramway which would run alongside the existing public road from Clane to Celbridge. Displaying an element of the not-in-my-back-yard form rationale for objection Mr. Sweetman said he would most strongly oppose the section of tramway nearest to Clane running from Richardstown on the Celbridge road. He said the new tramway would make travelling on the road very unpleasant and, in particular, would make it very unpleasant for driving cattle. His fears on the latter point were echoed by another participant at the meeting, Mr. Manders of Millicent who complained that once the tramway is made ‘none of us will be able to drive our cattle to Dublin.’  This line of objection reflects the status of those who attended the meeting. In the main the objectors were the owners of large grassland farms whose business was in rearing cattle  for the English abbatoir market. Drovers were employed to herd the cattle on the road from Clane to the holding pens at Dublin port. Thence the alarm among the cattle farmers that the advent of a tramway would disrupt the practice of herding their livestock along the road.
Mr. Manders also raised the question of the guarantee and warned that the Clane ratepayers should not even hint at being open to guaranteeing the new project because ‘the ratepayers might be called on to work the line if the promoting company failed.’
Another landowner Mr. Samuel Wray was clearly intent on getting his retaliation in early. He owned land near Robertstown and he had come to join the Clane opponents to the project on the basis that if it was built as far as Clane then there would be a temptation to build it on to Robertsown. He said it would be ‘ridiculous to bring a light railway to Robertstown through Allen’ as there would not be the business to support it.
Another participant was brevity personified in expressing his objections. Mr. Samuel Healy said he was against the scheme ‘in toto.’
And that decisive verdict on the scheme from the Clane area farmers may well have stopped the Celbridge & Clane Light Railway in its tracks because the project was never heard of again.  Series no: 256.


Liam Kenny reflects on the railway line that never was in Series 256 from the Leinster Leader of 22 November 2011. Our thanks to Liam


The Civil War in Kildare

As the troubled year of 2011 enters its final weeks it’s a good time to look back on some of the highlights of the history scene in Kildare.  One glimmer of light among the gloom of the departing year has been the almost recession-proof nature of local history activity. From Leixlip to Castledermot, Kildare has a thriving network of local history clubs each contributing to the community with busy programmes of talks and trips.
Local history publishing has remained vigorous too with a number of fine publications  which have put important aspects of the county’s history on the record.  Tony Doohan’s book on Celbridge and the Caragh History Groups ‘Great Book of Caragh’, are just two examples which come to mind.
Undoubtedly a publishing highlight of the year which provoked much discussion was the launch of James Durneys book ‘The Civil War in Kildare.’ At first glance it might seem that the scope for a book on the Civil War in Kildare (1922-23) would be limited as there is a general assumption that the county was free from such blood-thirst. But, not for the first time, James Durney’s indefatigable research has made local historians sit up and take notice of a part of the county’s history which hitherto had been quite overlooked. It’s not the first time that this author has taken on a project on a local or a national scale which has opened the door to a renewed interest in topics which were dismissed as being too recent or too limited by mainstream historians.  His output of books of a consistent quality is all the more remarkable considering that his first eight books have been self-published. Drawing on talents within his own household James Durney produced books with attractive layout, striking covers, and compelling titles which touched a chord with potential readers. An example is the title of his master work on Kildare men who fought in the First and Second World wars ‘Far from the Short Grass’.
His book published this year on the Civil War in Kildare was his first to be issued by a professional publisher, Mercier Press in Cork, who have a strong record of publishing books on 20th century Irish history.  The book traces the trajectory of Kildare’s troubled politics toward the internecine violence of the Civil War. He begins by setting the context of Kildare nationalists emerging from the war of independence having achieved a victory of sorts which saw the British forces evacuating barracks in Naas, Newbridge, the Curragh and Kildare town. However any complacency was ripped apart by the capacity of the Irish to turn on each other.  And despite the perception that the big events of modern Irish history passed Kildare by, James Durney shows that the county was as much embroiled in the nasty civil war as anywhere else in Ireland. The shooting of a British army officer of local birth, Lt. John Wogan Browne, in Kildare town in March 1922 by assailants as yet un-named and the capture and execution of seven Kildare town anti-treaty fighters by Free State Forces are an example of some of the personal stories where the Durney hallmark of weaving the intimate with the epic is to be seen at its best.  A copy of ‘The Civil War in Kildare’ will shake any assumptions that Kildare was too flat and too indifferent to be a part of this nation’s violent birth.
It is said that a picture tells a thousand words and this maxim is proven true in a spectacular manner by another book – just published – from the Mercier stable
‘ Revolution – a photographic history of revolutionary Ireland’ by Padraig Óg Ó Ruarc. This hard-back high quality volume is packed with hundreds photographs – most never seen in public before – which record the extended period of ‘the Troubles’ from 1913 to 1923.  All the iconic events and personalities in the nation-building story of Ireland are covered in this publication which features rare and well-chosen photographs accompanied by long and informative captions. Among the photographs of Kildare interest is one of the old Fenian John Devoy (born near Kill) on a visit to Ireland in 1924. Padraig Ó’Ruairc’s caption points out that Devoy, once the irascible nationalist, seemed to endorse the pro-Treaty government of W. T. Cosgrave although later modified his support by expression suspicion of what he termed the Free State’s ‘imperialist’ policies.
James Durney’s ‘The Civil War in Kildare’ and O’Ruairc’s ‘Revolution – a photograph history 1913-23’ bring home the violent realities which, for better or worse, shaped Irish society for most of the twentieth century. Both are available in any good book-shop … a thought which raises the question – is there such a thing as a bad bookshop?

Liam Kenny in his Looking Back series from the Leinster Leader of November 15 2011 takes a look at the Civil War in Kildare. Our thanks to Liam

August 03, 2012


Leinster Leader, April 1947

Rathangan Notes

After Four Years of War

Mr. Peter Casey, Mullantine, returns to England this week after a short visit to his home. A former member of the 3rd Indian Airborne Division, he served abroad for four years during the war. During that time he was parachuted dozens of time into enemy territory. He was wounded in 1944 after being dropped behind the Japanese lines, and was flown out again with other wounded parachutists. He spent six and a half months in hospital. While abroad he was stationed for a considerable time near Singapore, and it was only on his return home he heard that Capt. J. Shepphard, Rathangan, a pilot on the Singapore-Durban route, used land regularly at the airport. He is a brother of Mr. Jack Casey, who played with Warwickshire against Down in last year’s junior All-Ireland football final.

A Leinster Leader report from April 1947 on the vist of Peter Casey to his home in Rathangan


Kildare Observer 27 August 1921

Naas prisoner reported seriously ill at Rath Camp
On Monday night, Mr. Thos O’Callaghan, Main Street, Naas, received a telegram from Rath Internment Camp which stated that his brother, Mr. L. O’Callaghan, is in a serious condition.
Mr. O’Callaghan, who was arrested on March 26 last, was interned without trial. It is reported that the conditions in the camp are far from satisfactory, and that many of the prisoners are stricken down.

The Kildare Observer of 27 August 1921 reported on the failing health of a seriously ill Naas prisoner in the Rath Camp


‘Come on the Larries’ … a slogan based on an ancient story

‘Come on the Larries’ is a well known catch-cry  whenever the distinctive gold-and-red jerseys of the team which represents the Narraghmore-Ballitore area appear on the playing fields of Co. Kildare.  But who is the ‘Larry’ in question and what is his connection with south Kildare? The source of the dedication is St. Laurence O’Toole, a local man who went on to become one of the great leaders in Irish Christian history.  Consideration of Laurence O’Toole’s exciting life story is timely given that his memorial day, celebrated in the Archdiocese of Dublin, is marked on the 14th of November each year. 
It sometimes comes as a surprise to learn that the Archdiocese of Dublin extends deep into Co. Kildare covering not alone much of the northern part of the county but also extending down its eastern flank extending to the very south.  As a result parishes located in the civil county of Kildare such as of Eadestown, Ballymore Eustace, Kilcullen, Moone, Athy and  Castledermot, among others, come under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dublin. It is Castledermot which is regarded as the birthplace of  Laurence O’Toole, one of only a handful of formally canonised figures of Irish birth. A stone monument with gold lettering stands in the beautiful Mullaghgreelan wood – on the road from Castledermot to Athy – commemorating the saints’ intimate connection with the locality.
 Laurence was born in or about 1128 to parents of some status – his father was an O’Toole, his mother an O’Byrne, both from clans prominent in the countryside west of the Wicklow mountains. But his noble birth did not protect the young Laurence from the chaotic and violent politics of the time. He was taken as a hostage by Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster who was later to earn enduring notoriety as the grasping king who sold out the old Irish kingdoms to the avaricious Normans.
McMurrough eventually released the young Laurence into the care of the monks of St. Kevin’s ancient monastery at Glendalough. He soon developed a deep attachment to religious life and his holiness and talents brought recognition from his confreres. At just 25 years he was elected Abbot of Glendalough, in the line of succession from St. Kevin. Appropriately Kevin and Laurence, although separated by some six centuries, are the joint patron saints of the Dublin Archdiocese. But there was much more in store for Laurence and in 1162 he was appointed Archbishop of Dublin, the first Irish born cleric to be so appointed. For generations previously the bishops of Dublin had been appointed by the Danes  who had ruled the early city. But if Laurence’s elevation marked the end of one kind of invasion it came just as the country was to be hit by another. Within a decade the Norman barons -- of French and Welsh origin -- had landed in Ireland and began a form of colonisation by building castles, establishing baronies, and appointing their own kinsmen as leaders of civic and church life. 
Ireland in the modern era is a cosmopolitan nation but the Dublin of the late 12th century was alos multi-ethnic place with descendants of the Danes, the Normans, and the indigenous Irish living side-by-side, sometimes in conflict, and other times making alliances and marrying into each other’s cultures. Laurence, as Archbishop of Dublin, was a key figure in attempting to broker peace when conflict broke out between the various factions. Even his best efforts were often overwhelmed by the chaos of the time but he succeeded in placing the Archdiocese of Dublin on a firm footing. He was a moderniser bringing in some of the great European monastic orders such as the Cistercians and Benedictines into Ireland. He installed a community of canons in Christchurch Cathedral, the diocesan cathedral. Despite the difficulty of travelling in those times Laurence was a committed European making several trips to the continent including a visit to Rome where Pope Alexander III ordained him as papal representative to the Irish Church. However even Laurence’s repute as a mediator could not cope with the wiles of King Henry II. He set off to meet Henry to try and broker a peace between the king’s barons in Ireland and the indigenous clan chieftains. Henry led him on a wild-goose chase to Normandy in France. Frustrated in his attempts to meet the king, Laurence took ill and died in a monastery at Eu in Normandy. His memory is celebrated there, and in the parishes of the Dublin Archdiocese,  in the 14th day of  November each year. Series no: 254. 

'Come on the Larries,' is the distinctive cry of the St. Laurence's GFC as Liam Kenny reveals who the 'Larry' actually is in his weekly series of Looking Back. Our thanks to Liam


War’s end brings little joy to flu-ravaged Kildare

The end of World War 1 in November 1918 brought a close to four years of industrial scale slaughter. While every generation going back since mankind evolved had seen conflict of one kind or another the war that erupted in 1914 and continued for four blood-soaked years was one of the greatest abominations on the record of human history. No wonder then that the Editor of the Kildare Observer newspaper found it hard to restrain himself in his condemnation of the man whose self-aggrandising ambition he believed to be responsible for the war. In the first editorial after the armistice on 11 November 1918, the Observer’s editor wrote ‘On Monday last, there came to an end the bloodiest and most brutal war the world has ever known. … the abdication of the Kaiser ended the mad career of the greatest bully’ who, he went on to describe, was ‘the greatest tyrant which an age of civilisation and education has produced.’
The Observer editor continues his condemnation of the Kaiser with a language that was to be echoed in our modern era by commentators speaking about the deaths of 21st century warlords such as Colonel Gadaffi of Libya and Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan: ‘ What can be more pitiable than the spectacle of the powerful king of a few days ago flying in fear from the frenzied populace – the people who he lectured, controlled and treated with sneering contempt …?’
The fury of condemnation from the Editor’s desk at the Observer office in Naas did not translate to the wider public as reports indicate a low key reaction in the county to the news of the armistice. Under a heading ‘The Peace news in Naas’ the Observer reported that apart from the Union Jack being hoisted over the Courthouse there was ‘ little outward manifestation of jubilation.’ Groups of soldiers from the local barracks in the county congregated for noisy celebrations ‘ In Kildare and Newbridge the military celebrated the occasion by flag-waving, cheering and other demonstrations of joy.’
The only public body quoted in the issue of 16 November 1918 as responding to the news of the armistice was Newbridge Town Commission chaired by Mr. Thomas O’Rourke which passed ‘a resolution of congratulation to the Allies and of satisfaction at the splendid triumph which had been gained.’
Perhaps the realisation that the end of the war would bring its own set of problems for those on the home front tempered any sense of jubilation among the public. In the same issue the Observer carries a report from the House of Commons in Westminster where Dr. Addison, Minister for Reconstruction, set out the huge scale of unemployment that was likely when the soldiers returned to be demobilised and the civilian workers in the armament factories were made laid off. He said: ‘There would be about one million people (in Britain and Ireland) who would have to change their occupation on the cessation of war manufacture.’  The Government in Whitehall was proposing a a dole scheme which would see men laid off from war production getting 24 shillings a week and women were to receive 20 shillings a week.
Compounding the problem of post-war unemployment was the prevalence of sickness among the population and none more merciless than the flu epidemic which was cutting gaps through the towns of Kildare in the month of November 1918. The Observer reported that in the Athy area four children from the same family had perished within a matter of days and that more than a hundred people were being supplied with hot soup, gruel and milk at the Athy Technical School which had been pressed into service as a communal kitchen. 
Modern day historians who point to political reasons as to why the soldiers returning from the war were not given a celebratory welcome might bear in mind that people living in towns throughout the county were preoccupied with staying alive themselves in the face of sickness and scarcity. The casualties of war were to found everywhere and not just on the battlefields. A poignant note under the heading ‘Soldiers’s children neglected’ brings home the kind of dysfunction being experienced on the home front: ‘ The six children of Mary D., Celbridge, who receives a separation allowance of 35 shillings a week were found lying on the bare irons of a bed, there being no mattress or bed clothes. The magistrates made an order that the children, who are all under 11, should be sent to a certified home until they will be 10 years or age.’
The armistice of November 1918 may have deposed a tyrant but it was clear that the tyranny of deprivation would not so easily be conquered. Series no: 253.

Liam Kenny writes that the end of the war in 1918 brought little comfort to Kildare then in the grip of the Great Flu, article 253 from the Lookin Back series. Our thanks to Liam

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