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September 28, 2012


The transportation of women from Kildare to Van Diemen’s Land in 1849

Anybody who has enjoyed Cathi Fleming’s passionate and engaging talk on the transportation of women and young girls from Co. Kildare to Australia will be delighted to find that her MA Thesis is now published as part of the Maynooth Studies in Local History series. The transportation of women from Kildare to Van Diemen’s Land in 1849 by Catherine Fleming is number 104 of the series.

More women convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land from Ireland in 1849 than in any other year. This is the story of several women found guilty of committing a crime in Kildare who made the arduous journey as the Great Famine raged. One was a married woman convicted of murder; two were young women who deliberately committed the crime of arson in order to be ‘sent out’. The youngest, Elisabeth Curry from Naas, was only thirteen when convicted and sentenced to transportation. Many of these convicts were first-time offenders and contradicted their stereotype as fallen women and hardened criminals. The reader will follow the history of these women from their convictions and sentencing in the court at Naas, to their arrival, following a long and dangerous journey, at their new home in the penal colony at Hobart. For many of these young women, transportation, despite its hardships, presented the opportunity to make a new life, emancipated from the poverty and economic deprivation of a famine-ridden Ireland.


The transportation of women from Kildare to Van Diemen’s Land in 1849 by Catherine Fleming is now published as part of the Maynooth Studies in Local History  series



By James Durney

On 27 July 2006 the South Korean Ambassador to the US delivered a speech at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington. He said:

“I would like today to honour all those who answered the call to defend a country they never knew … and a people they never met. On behalf of the tens of millions of South Koreans who survived the war, our children, grandchildren, and generations to come, I offer my most heartfelt and deepest gratitude.”

While not directing his words to Ireland, Irish veterans of the Korean War can be proud of their contribution to the freedom of yet another small nation.

When North Korea invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950 it began a war that was to last three years, leave millions dead and bring the world to the brink of a third world war and nuclear destruction. Few people in Ireland knew of the Korea which hit the world headlines that summer of 1950. But within weeks hundreds of Irishmen would be fighting and dying on the far side of the world. Thousands of young Irishmen ended up in Korea, few of them of their own free will. Some were recent emigrants, drafted into the US Army, others were in the British Army, which sent three Irish battalions to Korea – the Royal Ulster Rifles, Irish Hussars and Irish Dragoons – while others served with the Australian or Canadian forces. Two men with local connections, John J. Buckley and Jack Shaw, spent nearly three years of their lives as POWs in North Korean hell camps, not very hospitable places as neither the Chinese or North Koreans respected the Geneva Convention and thousands of UN prisoners and European civilians died of hardship and ill-treatment there. Over a dozen Irish soldiers and nine missionaries, including a lay sister from Co. Wicklow, died in these hell camps.

Ironically, two weeks before the war broke out the Leinster Leader carried a report titled: ‘Strange Story of Japanese Sword. Grim period recalled in a Carbury home.’

‘Father James Doyle, a native of Teelough, Carbury, had been ministering in Japan and at the outbreak of the war between Japan and America he was interned in Korea. He was one of the few who survived those long and dreadful years of imprisonment. When the glad day of release came he had shrunk to a skeleton, a mere shadow of his former stalwart self. Months afterwards when he returned to Ireland with his uncle, Rev Dr Glennon, Archbishop of St. Louis, USA, he was still so changed in appearance that his brother, Mr W. Doyle, of Teelough, failed to recognise him. Yet he never had a bad word to say about his captors and was full of praise for the plain Japanese people who had shared their meagre rations with him at great pains to themselves if they had been found out.

At the end of the war Fr Doyle figured in a rather strange ceremony after the Americans had entered Korea. Being the only white man in a place who could speak Korean he took the surrender of the Japanese troops on behalf of the American officer who captured the district. After the surrender a period of unrest and troubles began. The Koreans had turned on any Japanese soldier or civilian they could lay their hands on and slew them without mercy. Living in Korea at the time was an extraordinary figure, a Hindu monk who had lived peacefully all his life in the country. He was hunted by the people and Fr Doyle helped him to elude his pursuers, but only for a time, as things had turned out. A few nights afterwards Fr Doyle received a message to go to a certain part of the city. He went there and found the monk dying. Before his death he told Fr Doyle he was a Buddhist and that he had fasted rigorously for thirty days. It was his dying wish to become a Catholic, which he did before his death, being anointed by Fr Doyle. In the monk’s possession was a large, two-handed sword – the typical weapon of the Japanese soldier – and this he gave to Fr Doyle before he died. The sword now hangs in the peaceful home of Fr Doyle in Teelough, a moving souvenir of God’s strange and merciful ways. Fr Doyle himself is back again in Japan, ministering to the people he loves with a whole-hearted and sincere love. He has tried hard for them since he returned to Japan in 1947, and one result of his labours is a new church that raises its spire above the ruins of the atom-bombed city of Nagasaki.’

On 8 July 1950 the Leinster Leader reported ‘The War in the Far East. Fears of World Conflagration.’ It also carried a report of an ‘Irish priest wounded. Associated Press reports Monsignor Tom Quinlan, wounded in Korea.’ The following month the Leader said ‘while disturbed that the North Koreans were gaining the upper hand predicted that in the long run we may be sure that the Americans will win in Korea,’ adding that ‘They cannot afford to lose.’ While the United Nations had rushed to the aid of South Korea few of the Irish, British or Americans could agree with the antics of the Republic of Korea’s President Syngman Rhee. He was as much a despot as his North Korean counterpart, Kim Il Jung. Shortly after the Royal Ulster Rifles and other British regiments had broken the back of the 1951 Chinese Spring Offensive at the Battle of the Imjin river, Syngman Rhee had denounced Britain by saying ‘the British troops have outlived their welcome in my country. They are not wanted here any longer.’ In some ways most of the UN troops in Korea agreed with him! However, it would be two more long years before they could go home.

Like Fr. Tom Quinlan the two POWs from the Short Grass, John Buckley and Jack Shaw, also survived to tell their tales. Jack Shaw was born in Sallins on 15 December 1931. His father, John, was in the armed flying squad stationed at Naas police barracks. Jack’s mother died on the birth of his brother in 1934. However, in order to look after his family John Shaw, Snr. took a demotion and became a desk sergeant in Rathvilley, County Carlow. He met and married a local woman and the following year was transferred to Mountmellick Garda Station, Co Laois, and the family moved again. Jack Shaw grew up mostly in Mountmellick. He was educated in the national school in Mountmellick and at Portlaoighise Christian Brothers’ School. Jack left his home in Mountmellick in 1949 when he was eighteen and travelled to Belfast to join the British army as he said himself ‘to see the world’. His two paternal uncles had fought with the Royal Ulster Rifles in WWII, so Jack joined what was considered the family regiment.

Jack Shaw wrote: ‘I was taken prisoner on the 3/4 January 1951 in a place called Happy Valley – what a name!  I spent the next two and a half-years as a POW, mostly in Camp 5 in North Korea. It is all 50 years ago now but that long march from where we were captured, just north of Seoul to Camp 5 in North Korea was pretty grim. Paddy May was badly wounded in the battle and just after we were captured they lined us up in a line to march us away from the fighting. It was about 2 a.m. in the morning and very dark. Behind me in line I discovered a friend of mine, Sammy McKenzie, from Cookstown, County Tyrone.  All around us were dead and wounded men, burning tanks, etc, etc.  As we marched away we heard this injured man crying out for help and I do know to this day why, but both Sammy and myself broke away from the column and ran over to a burning tank which we knew always carried stretchers. We   got a stretcher, found the man who was crying out for help and discovered it was Paddy May, from County Cork, a very heavy man if can remember rightly. Anyway, we were very foolish to have done that because the Chinese guards were very jittery and could have shot us thinking we were trying to escape. Not long after we reached some houses and were told to put Paddy down and put our hands on our heads.   I said to myself   ‘Shaw you have three more minutes on this earth.’ But nothing happened.

‘They put us into old Korean houses and sheds and what have you. As there was no medical assistance for the wounded they were put in with us. Beside me was a man from the Ulster Rifles. He was not a friend of mine, but I did know him as Bob Maguire. I think he had done his basic training in the same platoon as me, in Ballykinlar, Co. Down – the spring of 1949. He was badly wounded. He had taken the full magazine of a ‘burp gun.’ One wound in his mouth was bleeding badly. A bullet had gone in his mouth and out under his jaw bone. It was a flesh wound, and I took my field dressing from my belt, and gave it to him and forgot all about it.

‘Then in the summer of 2006, fifty-five years later I received a letter about an old army pal of mine who had died some time ago. His cousin was now clearing his room out, found my address and asked me if would like some old Korean War memorabilia, old photos, newspaper cuttings, etc. One was a 1999 obituary notice from a newspaper with the man’s photo as well, who was an ex-RUR/Korea veteran. I looked at the man’s face, and looked again, the name Maguire, and he had a dimple in his jaw-bone. Happy Valley, 3/4 January 1951, my field dressing. Could this be the same man? I wrote to his old home address, hoping his wife had not moved, and apologised if I was intruding on her private life. However, would she be kind enough to tell me if her late husband, Bob Maguire had an old Korean War wound in his mouth. Had a reply, Yes, Bob had an old wound in his mouth from the Korean War. You could say, I helped save two men’s lives that night, Paddy May and Bob Maguire.’

On 30 December 1952 the Irish Independent carried a story on five Irish POWs who had broadcast messages to their families from Peking Radio. They were Rfn. John Shaw (to Mr. and Mrs. J. N. Shaw, Patrick St., Mountmellick); Lance-Cpl. William Massey (Dublin); Rfn. Jeremiah Bergin (Kilkenny); Rfn. Patrick Ryan (Clonmel); and Rfn. John Sullivan (Kanturk). A reporter who sought further information about the prisoners learned that a letter and photograph of Jack Shaw had been received by his parents. The letter, which arrived shortly before Christmas, stated that he was fit and well. This was the second Christmas Jack Shaw had spent in a POW camp. The parents of Lce.-Cpl. Massey saw a photograph of him taken in a POW camp in which he was boxing with Jack Shaw.

John J. Buckley, of Oldgrange Cottages, Monasterevan, was also captured in January 1951 and spent two and-a-half years in captivity. He had originally joined the Irish Fusiliers and had been sent to the Ulster Rifles as they sought reinforcements for Korea. Buckley had only served four months with the Ulster Rifles when he was captured on 23 January 1951, thirty-eight miles from Seoul, South Korea’s capital. He and the other prisoners were marched northwards through bleak and desolate country in a temperature of 30 degrees below zero. They were forced to occupy dank and infested native houses, with no light or ventilation at the various stops. Marching twenty-five miles a day on raw barley and millet, and at times without food they arrived physically exhausted and mentally depressed at Camp No. 5, near the Yellow River, in March.

As long as prisoners showed a willingness to co-operate they would receive fair treatment. Not all of them, however, proved to be ideal captives. Riflemen J.J. Buckley, John Shaw and J.T. Alexander were three of the most obstinate. ‘We were told,’ John Buckley, said to a Leinster Leader reporter when he returned home in 1953, ‘by the leaders that they would save us from capitalistic slavery and that our standard of living would be improved, because they would re-educate us.’ Buckley had managed to conceal a camera despite numerous searches, until he was betrayed by another prisoner. Arrested as a ‘spy’ he was ordered to confess and when he refused he was beaten around the head with fists and clubs and sent to solitary confinement for two months. 

In Camp 5 there were 1,600 prisoners, and an average of thirty-six dead prisoners were carried out daily. The prison authorities administered aspirin tablets for all diseases, but nobody cared any more whether a man died or lived. ‘I was having trouble of my own,’ said John Shaw, ‘for I fell ill with dysentery. I was given sulphur and aspirin tablets to take and I was later treated in hospital.’ Drinking water for the prisoners was taken from the stagnant Yellow River. In the same river the North Koreans and Chinese washed and bathed.

In the camps the communist did their utmost to convert the prisoners to communism but with little success. Communistic reading matter and three lectures a day were forced on the men. Some of the prisoners read the books for nothing better to do; others pretended to be interested in such beliefs and policy, to gain small privileges, but the Irish were never affected by these communistic tactics. The communists were well acquainted with the Partition of Ireland, but their talks on Partition and the life of James Connolly did not cause a rift between the prisoners. The Irish got along well with their fellow American and British prisoners.
While he was reluctant to dwell on his personal experiences John Buckley told of how a bayonet was thrust at the back of an American prisoner’s neck; he was ill and unable to eat and had kept over his portion of crackers for supper. Two guards beat him up and jumped on his body. The American and other prisoners were held up and then and clubbed with rifles; the guards alleging they had started a riot. John Buckley recalled how he was made to stand to attention for three days with very little clothing in terrible weather and was then thrown into a hole with another prisoner in the hard labour camp, reserved for those who resisted the Communist policy. He and Paddy Neeson, from the Falls Road, in Belfast, were the only two Irishmen in the hard labour camp. They were there for ten months.

‘Some Irish kept to themselves as there were informers in the camp. A bloke called Paddy Neeson, from the Falls Road, and myself used to raid the Chinese hen-house. I used to kill them and pass them to Neeson and then we would get them to Lance Corporal Dick Massey and he would get broth boiled and give them to the sick. Massey was the man who saved a lot of lives in Camp 5. Such a brave man – he was Mentioned in Dispatches.’ He remembered Jack Shaw being picked out by a guard known as the ‘Screaming Skull’ in the camp. Shaw was asked if Taiwan was an integral part of China and when he answered ‘No!’ he was put in the Hole as punishment.

The last few months in the camp were bearable and when peace talks were initiated the prisoners were treated better. At last in July 1953 the barbed wire gates opened. Turkish nuns behind bars waved a goodbye. On 19 August 1953 John Buckley crossed the boundary of Panmunjom into United Nations territory and was taken straight to hospital. He immediately sent a telegram home: ‘released; fit and well; home in two months.’ On 22 August the Leinster Leader carried a report of his release. In September John crossed over from the Royal Military Hospital at Netley, Hants, to his home in Monasterevan. He was described as well and fit when greeted by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Buckley, 661 Grange Cottages, Monasterevan. He was officially thought dead for eighteen months until word reached Monasterevan, a year after his capture, that he was alive and in a North Korean POW camp. His mother always refused to believe John was dead and kept hoping for his return. She saw his photograph in an English magazine as one of a group of captured UN soldiers released by the Chinese for propaganda purposes. Eighteen months after he son’s capture, Mrs Buckley was officially notified that he was alive. Those years of anxiety ended last Sunday when John walked through the gateway of his home. John was then twenty-two and with him was his fiancée, Miss Patricia Reddin, of Mountmellick, Co. Laois. ‘It is good to be home,’ declared John, ‘and I have twenty-eight days’ leave before I report back to finish my last year in the army. I have no plans after that.’

Fifty-five years later Jack Shaw, who knew John Buckley and was with him in Camp 5 said: ‘John Buckley got it right in his description of our time as POWs in Korea.  We all have stories to tell. To sum it up to say is that ‘We Have Been To Hell And Back A 1000 times’ would not be an exaggeration. How any of us got out of that lot was a Miracle. My Granny White and my aunty Ann lived in St Alphonsus Road and had connections with the De La Salle Convent School, in Waterford City.   They told me when I came home (in 1953) that every morning all the little school children used to pray for me to come home safely.   Maybe that is why I did.’

Jack Shaw kept a diary of his time as a POW and on 9 June 1953 he wrote from Camp 5: ‘The happiest day of my life in my 21 years of existence. I was informed the ‘Korean War’ was about to be concluded and I am about to be united with my own beloved father in Ireland again, the best people in the world… The summer of 1953 was very harrowing because the peace/talks in Panmunjom would signal that all was okay and the war was to end on such a date then like I described in my diary on the 9 June. It was supposed to end then, but something happened and the war went on. Our hopes of going home were dashed once again.’ However, on 27 June 1953 the Armistice was signed and the guns fell silent. Within weeks all the UN prisoners were released.

Jack travelled to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Aden and home by Suez and Gibraltar. His father and three of his sisters were at Southampton docks to meet him. He was back in Mountmellick two days later. ‘Now,’ he told a Nationalist reporter. ‘I want to lead a quiet life. And I never want to see Korea again – or a bowl of rice.’

As the historian Edwin P. Hoyt wrote: ‘There was nothing satisfactory about the Korea War, except that it finally ended.’ The war left the Korean peninsula divided and in ruins. The cost of the war was enormous. 1,250,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or captured. 33,629 Americans were killed, 105,785 wounded. The British Commonwealth (Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) lost 1,263 killed and 4,817 wounded. The South Korean Army lost 46,812 killed and 159, 727 wounded. The other UN nations – Belgium, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Holland, the Philippines, Thailand and Turkey – lost 1,800 killed and 7,000 wounded between them. The North Koreans suffered 214,899 killed and 303,685 wounded; the Chinese 401,000 killed and 486,995 wounded. Civilian losses were staggering, 2 million had died and another 3 million were made homeless. It was one of the most devastating conflicts in history.

Around 100 Irish soldiers were killed: two serving with the Australian army and fifty each in the American and British armies. Nine Irish missionaries were murdered or died in captivity, including Sr. Mary Clare from Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. Over a dozen Irish soldiers died in captivity, including Sgt Larry Kavanagh, from Pollerton, Co. Carlow. Jack Shaw remembers Larry Kavanagh dying, along with 1,600 more men in Camp 5, and it has had a lasting effect on him. The war in Korea has had a lasting effect on many more and today the demarcation line in Korea is still one of the world’s flashpoints.

My thanks to Jack Shaw and the late John J. Buckley. This story was unknown to me when I was writing my book and only came to light when Jack Shaw saw his name mentioned in my book – The Far Side of the World. Irish servicemen in the Korean war 1950-53. The two comrades in arms had lost contact with each other for many years and after this they again resumed contact. Sadly, J. J. Buckley died in January 2011.


James Durney writes of some Co. Kildare connections to the Korean War 


Mutiny in the Spring air

The troops were restive. Rumours rippled through the mess halls on the Curragh. There was chatter among the cavalry in Newbridge, among the artillery in Kildare and among the infantry in Naas. The ripples of rumour spread wide. Soon there was gossip in the society salons of Dublin Castle and nervousness in the corridors of power at Westminster. There was mutiny in the air in the spring of 1914. The Kildare Observer newspaper used a more elegant phraseology describing the situation as “l’affaire d’armée” . 
Perhaps the Observer columnist hit the right note … this was a mutiny with manners. This was not the soldiers banging their mess tins off the canteen tables. Nor was it the sailors conspiring to throw the captain overboard as per “Mutiny on the Bounty”.   In fact the episode which rippled through the establishment in spring of 1914 was not, strictly speaking, a mutiny at all. No orders were disobeyed. Rather it was an intimation by a number of senior officers that they would not obey a certain kind of order were it to arrive on their desks. And in the rule-bound system of the British empire even a hint of disobedience at such a senior level was enough to trigger crisis.
The context was, as ever in Ireland, against the background of northern Ireland volatility. The Ulster Unionists were resisting with ferocity any move to bring Home Rule to Ireland. “Home Rule is  Rome Rule” they cried and warned of armed resistance against the Westminster Government if it gave in to the demand by the Irish Parliamentary party for a Dublin-based parliament. The situation was ironic – the Ulster Unionists who professed loyalty to His Majesty were so loyal that they were prepared to resist the writ of His Majesty’s Government.
With a Home Rule Bill making is way through Westminster in spring of 1914 the situation was heading for a collision.  Orders came from London to move troops within the Irish command from the Curragh and Dublin to reinforce the garrisons in Ulster in case the Ulster Volunteer Force, the armed wing of the Unionists, attempted to poach arms. The orders extended no further than the taking of precautions.  But the Commanding Officer of the British Army in Ireland, General Paget, panicked on receiving this nuanced instruction from the War Office and told his officers that the Army would be used to face down the Ulster unionists. Paget inflamed matters further by giving his officers the choice of marching on Ulster or be suspended from their commands.
This was too much for many of the officer class whose social backgrounds were inextricably bound up with those of the conservatives and loyalists. They shared with the Ulster Unionists a conviction that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was an indivisible entity and any attempt to grant Home Rule to Ireland would destabilise the hierarchy of loyalties at the heart of the Empire.
That there was bungling and mis-handling of the situation there was no doubt. General Paget’s over-reaction to the precautionary order from London inflamed matters. But it did not take much to prompt the likes of Brig.General Sir Hubert Gough, commanding officer of the 5th Cavalry Brigade, and the bearer of a family name deeply rooted in the exploits of the British Army throughout the Empire. An enraged Gough travelled to the Curragh to speak to his officers who commanded the Lancers and the Hussars, among the most elite and sought-after officer positions in the army. The Hussars were incensed at the prospect of marching on the Unionists. Dozens of officers made it clear to the high command that they would rather be suspended than be used to enforce Home Rule on their Unionist kin. The situation was exacerbated by the rumours that began to swirl around the nerve centres of the establishment. The Kildare Observer caught the mood of the moment in its last week of March 1914 edition: “There was commotion here on Friday when the news leaked out that General Gough had resigned.” Like any breaking story the cries of the newshounds added to the drama. The Observer reporter wrote of his peers in the wider press: “The lynx-eyed reporters from the metropolis and from England were upon the spot” and adding their accelerant to the flames of rumour.
Soon General Gough took matters into his own hands. He by-passed Paget, his commanding officer, and travelled to London where, in controversial circumstances, he extracted a guarantee from the politicians that his cavalry would not be given orders to crush the Unionists. There were resignations from the Government over the affair but things calmed down among the officer ranks. The humdrum of military routine returned to the Curragh. As the Kildare Observer reported in its first edition for April 1914: “ Nothing startling has occurred to us since our last letter, and after the unusual hustle and extraordinary excitement over the Ulster movement things are again assuming their normal appearance.” Series no: 275.

In series number 275 of his Looking back articles from the Leinster Leader Liam Kenny writes of mutiny in the British Army on the Curragh. Our thanks to Liam


Dodgy dealings investigated by “Mahon” style tribunal in 19th century Naas

The “Mahon” tribunal which investigated the behaviour of some national and local politicians in Dublin has been dominating the headlines and talk shows over the past number of days.  The report depicts a bewildering web of personalities, contacts and payments which led, in some cases, to the enrichment of individuals at the expense of the common good.

But it is far from the first time that a public enquiry has revealed evidence of dodgy dealings in public life.  The county town, Naas, had its own “Mahon” tribunal in 1833 when an inquiry was set up by the Westminster Government to investigate the Corporation of Naas and to examine claims of impropriety and nepotism in the running of the town.

Two inspectors appointed by Westminster, John Colhoun and Henry Baldwin, took evidence in Naas in September 1833.  The thrust of their report was that the Corporation of the town was dominated by one powerful individual, the Earl of Mayo who lived at Palmerstown House, near Johnstown.  They heard evidence that the townspeople were suffering while Lord Mayo helped himself to the tolls and rents and, in a particularly brazen case of irregularity, attempted to have large sections of the common lands of the town signed over to his personal ownership.

Colhoun and Baldwin first took a look at the membership of the Corporation of the town. It was easy to see how the Earl of Mayo monopolised the running of town in his own interests. Of the fifteen members of the Corporation thirteen were either related to Mayo or were his tenants and workman. None of the senior members of the Corporation lived in the town nor appear to have set foot in it from one end of the year to the other. As a result law and order in the town was neglected – Colhoun and Baldwin wrote: “The inhabitants of this district are deprived of the only advantage which commonly results to the public from the existence of a corporation in a small town, namely, the superintendence of a local magistrate.”

If things had been run properly election to the Corporation should have been open to all the property-owners in the town. However Mayo kept a grip on access to the Corporation to ensure that it was only his own kind would take seats on the town’s local authority. He operated on a disturbingly sectarian basis: “There is no modern instance of a Roman Catholic or a Protestant Dissenter (Presbyterian) being a member of the Corporation” said the Inspectors adding that a Roman Catholic freeholder in the town, a Mr. Wilson, had in 1832 attempted to gain nomination to the Corporation but was rejected by the Mayo cabal.

The degree to which the business of the Corporation and the interests of the Earl of Mayo were intertwined took on more tangible forms. The accounts of Naas Corporation and the accounts of the Mayo seem to have been one and the same. The Inspectors quote an example whereby the British Government paid a rent of £55 (a whopping sum in 1833) for the military barracks site to the Corporation of Naas. But in fact the amount was credited to Mayo’s estate receipts.  The fact that the land agent for the corporation was also the land agent for Mayo must go a long way to explain this coincidence of interests.
 Another potentially solid source of income for the corporation was similarly diverted into the Palmerstown coffers. There were seven fairs held in the town in the course of the year. The tolls and customs paid by dealers at the fairs should have been received by the Corporation but, as with the property rentals, were credited to the Mayo accounts. The Inspectors, Colhoun and Baldwin,  in exasperation wrote: “Why the receipts of the tolls of any of the fairs should have been credited to his Lordship instead of to the corporation was not explained.”  

And nineteenth century Naas had its brush with rezoning too. One of the few positive legacies of Mayo might have been the Market House built at the canal in 1813. But even this – otherwise fine building – was the subject of controversy. The old market house had stood in the town’s square: it was in need of refurbishment but instead it was pulled down and Mayo insisted that the new Market House be built at the canal harbour. The relocation devastated trade in the town centre and the shopkeepers told the Inquiry that “from the time of the removal of the market, the town has been declining.”  And there were question marks over whether Mayo had paid for the new Market House – as he claimed on the foundation stone – or whether it had been paid out of income due to the Corporation.

A feature of the modern tribunals such as the “Mahon” tribunal has been their glacial pace of progress caused largely by the difficulties in getting access to the documents of individuals under investigation. And so it was with the “Colhoun & Baldwin” inquiry in Naas in 1833. When they went looking for the Corporation’s accounts and records they found that all papers were “ locked up in his lordship’s house , and that the keys were in the possession of his lordship.”

And that was not the extent of the dodgy dealings between Mayo and the Corporation of Naas. The “Colhoun & Baldwin” report found that the Corporation at one time had at  least 279 acres of land mainly in the Maudlins and Gingerstown districts for the benefit of the town. However in a series of convoluted land dealings some of this had been transferred into Lord Mayo’s estate to add to his already big holdings around his Palmerstown estate.  But to get to the bottom of that saga will take years of investigation … just like the “Mahon” tribunal! Series No: 274

There were dodgy deals and tribunals in 19th century Naas writes Liam Kenny in his Looking Back series No. 274. Our thanks, as always, to Liam

September 22, 2012


Leinster Leader, April 5th 1988

Great Abbot Was Great Irishman

No Irish of our time has exerted greater influence in their world than the late Dom Marmion, the centenary of whose birth occurs this month, and whose cause for Beatification has been introduced in Rome.
    Joseph Marmion (in religion Dom Columba) was born in Dublin in 1858 and ordained in Rome at the age of 22 for the Dublin Diocese.
   His father’s people came from Enfield, Co.Meath, and his grandmother’s home from Clane; they were O’Rourke’s and lived in the present Garda Barracks at Clane.
   Marmion married in there, and some of the family are still well remembered in Clane. There is a field at the back of the barracks still known as Marmion’s field.
   The name Marmion is not uncommon in Meath and often goes as Merriman.
      On returning to Ireland after ordination Fr. Marmion was curate at Dundrum, Co. Dublin, and subsequently became Professor in his old Seminary Holy Cross College, Cloniffe.

Joined Benedictines

In 1886 he decided to enter the Monastic life and got permission from Archbishop McCabe to enter the Benedictine Monastery of Maredsous, Belgium. Here he received the name, Brother Columba.
   For thirty-five years as Benedictine he led a life of exemplary obedience, and though he rose to fame as a theologian, writer, preacher and confessor, he remained to the end a humble, quiet, unassuming, gentle soul.
  In 1909 he was elected Abbot of Maredsous and it is mainly through the weekly conferences which he gave to his monks during the fourteen years of his abbacy that his teaching and spirit have been preserved for us.
   He died in 1923. It was as a tribute to his memory, and to fulfil a long-desired but unrealised ambition that the Benedictine Monks returned to Ireland in 1927.
   Their foundation at Glenstal, was placed under the special projection of Abbot Marmion and SS Joseph and Columba were chosen as its patrons.
During The Terror

Like all genuine exiles, Dom Marmion’s heart never got away from the home country-he suffered as a loyal sun whenever he did. Though out of the country for many years he was deeply grieved at the tragic reprisals of 1916.
  He prayed unfailingly for the Motherland and having gathered his community around him in July, 1921, when Ireland was racked with the Black and Tan terror, he offered solemn Pontifical Mass for his suffering country-men at home.
  It was later learned that as that Mass ended the Truce was signed-it was the afternoon of July 11 1921.
  The civil war broke his heart; he died early in 1923.
    He wrote four books, telling in his simple way what Christ has done for us that He had saved us. These have been hailed by the whole Catholic world as masterpieces of doctrine and devotion. His secret was that everything h wrote he had first lived himself. He is still bringing thousands closer to Christ. Most noteworthy  among the converts on reading his books are some who were avowed Communists, who have declared that until they read him they had not dreamed of the riches of Christianity.

Holy Father’s Hope

Of him the Holy Father has just written “We cherish the ardent hope that the celebration of the Marmion centenary may be instrumental in making the writings of this noteworthy author better known and more widely read; and we fervently pray that through meditation on his teachings, clergy religious and laity-made more vividly aware of their participation in the Sonship of Christ.may receive all the graces they need in order to attain even greater spiritual perfection."


An article from the Leinster Leader of 5 April 1988 on a great Irishman, Dom Columba, who had family connections in Clane


Leinster Leader, March 13th 1948

Film and Radio Star in Naas

Mr. George Formby, the well-known film and radio entertainer, with his wife, visited Naas on Thursday, where, at Lawlor’s hotel, he had a busy time giving his autograph. He recalled that 30 years ago, when apprenticed as a jockey at the Curragh he walked in a downpour of rain from Newbridge to Naas.

Film and radio star George Formby visited Lawlor's hotel, Naas, in 1948


Kildare’s Unionist women in fighting mode

The women of Kildare – or a least a section of them – were on the war path a hundred years ago and woe betide anybody who got in their way. The section of Kildare women involved were, in truth,  a highly select group being the ladies and daughters of the squire’s residences in the county. Their cause: opposition to the Home Rule Bill which had been introduced into the Westminster Parliament in 1912 and seemed certain to grant Ireland a strong measure of self-government while retaining it within the United Kingdom. Since 1800 Ireland had been ruled directly from London and this had proven beneficial for the Unionist (mostly Protestant) section of Irish society. However the prospect of a parliament and a government sitting in Dublin and made up of a nationalist (and largely Catholic) membership was bad news for the country squires and their ilk. No longer would they rule the show locally and they would also be distanced from the Westminster and the UK government. There was a fear too that a Dublin parliament would show undue deference to the Pope in Rome and displace the moral authority of the King.

The prospect of the Home Rule Bill had triggered intense reaction among Unionists and Protestants, most markedly in Northen Ireland where the Unionist affiliation transcended all classes. Shipyard workers joined with the titled elite as one to oppose Home Rule going as far as to form their own armed force, the Ulster Volunteer Force, to defend the Protestant people of the north in case their own government (the British government) attempted to coerce them into an all-Ireland arrangement.

The Unionists in the south of Ireland were in an even more isolated position. While Unionism in the north-east of Ireland spanned all classes and could mobilise huge numbers the southern Unionists were smaller in number and more isolated – many of them owners or staff of country estates which were like islands of Unionism within a population largely made up of Catholic Home Rulers.

A reflection of the mounting alarm of the Unionists in the south of Ireland was the formation of a North Kildare Branch of the Women’s Unionist Association which was convened in the Clements Residence at Killadoon House, Celbridge in late February 1912. There were a number of curious features about the meeting not least that it was chaired by a man. And of the four speeches given to the organisation three were by men. Mr. H.J.B. Clements presided over the meeting of what was ostensibly headlined as a women’s organisation – a fact probably indicating that even in the circles of strong Unionist women there was still an amount of deference to the male gender.

A big campaign of the Women’s Unionist Association was to try and educate English voters about the implications of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland and how it would impact on their Unionist brethren across the Irish Sea. The sole woman to speak at the meeting was a Miss Harrison who said she had travelled to villages in Norfolk and Suffolk to impress on English voters the consequences if the United Kingdom was broken up and the Irish allowed set up their own parliament. The doughty Miss Harrison said it was important that other Irish Unionist women should to to England and promote the campaign against the Home Rule Bill. Making an impassioned plea to the Killadoon meeting she said: “We all should so something to save our country now that this government is trying to force Home Rule on us merely to keep in office.”

The attendance assembled in Killadoon house represented some of the leading figures in Kildare society including Mr. & Mrs. Barton of Straffan House, Baroness de Robeck of Gowran Grange, and Captain Connolly of Castletown.   A motion proposed by Mrs. de Burgh of Naas, and seconded by Mrs. Barton encapsulated the mood of the gathering: “that this meeting … urges all Unionists in north Kildare to join the ranks of the Irish Unionist Alliance and take their part in defending the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

In the years after 1912 there were many upheavals and traumatic twists in the story which saw southern Ireland getting a strong measure of Home Rule and saw the Unionists in the north retaining their status with partition creating a North of Ireland state still fully part of the United Kingdom.  In many ways the southern Unionists were to emerge as losers after the decade of upheaval, their cherished link with the United Kingdom was broken and they found themselves having to accommodate to the realities of an Irish Government, nationalist in tone and Catholic in its loyalties. Series no: 271


Liam Kenny's weekly Looking Back series, no. 271, reflects on the unionist women of Kildare's opposition to Home Rule. Our thanks to Liam


Titled elite publish Kildare’s first journal of history

This Spring marks the 120th anniversary of the first issue of a publication which has been at the centre of local history publishing in Co. Kildare for many decades. The Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society may not be a household name but it has become a valued reference work on the archaeology and history of Kildare and  parts of adjoining counties.
The first issue – Volume 1, No.1, -- was published in the first quarter of 1892.  A list printed in the first edition indicating paid up members to January 1892 suggests that the edition came off the presses in the following month. A slip tipped into the journal carries the following message: ‘The Hon. Secretaries regret the delay in the publication of this number of the Journal, but trust that the difficulties always attendant on the starting of a publication of the kind may be considered as a sufficient excuse for the tardy appearance of this, the first, number of the Journal.’ It is signed: ‘Mayo’ and ‘Arthur Vicars’.  They were a pair typical of the colourful personalities among the elite circles in Kildare society who made up the early membership of the Archaeological Society. The ‘Mayo’ referred to is the Earl of Mayo who resided at Palmerstown House near Johnstown. His house was burned during the Civil War. His co-editor Sir Arthur Vicars was also to be the victim of a house burning but with a more tragic outcome. His residence at Kilmorna near Listowel was raided by the IRA in April 1921, set alight, and Vicars was taken out and shot in front of his wife. Arthur Vicars’ life had already been blighted by a controversy which arose in 1907 when the Irish ‘Crown Jewels’ disappeared from his safe in the Heraldic Office in Dublin Castle. However such notoriety was a long way into the future in 1892 when Mayo and Vicars appended their names to the first Kildare journal as ‘Editors, pro tempore’. 
The Journal gives a good insight into the formation of the Kildare Archaeological Society. It records that a notice was circulated in early 1891 with a view to establishing ‘an Archaeological Society of the County Kildare, on the same lines as other County Archaeological Societies in England and Ireland.’
The inaugural meeting took place at the Earl of Mayo’s house at Palmerstown on 25 April 1891. The committee formed from the meeting to work on the establishment of the embryonic Kildare Archaeological Society reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the elite of county society but it must be stressed that they were people with a genuine and well-informed interest in the history of the county. Indeed were it not for their initiative in setting up a society and publishing a journal in the 1890s a great deal of the historic material relating Kildare might have been lost.
The first President was ‘His Grace the  Duke of Leinster’ while the Vice-President was ‘the Most Rev. Comerford, Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin’ who was a considerable historian in his own right – his three volume history of the Diocese remains a valued reference work to modern times. The inaugural committee comprised Lord Walter Fitzgerald (Carton), the Venerable Maurice de Burgh - Archdeacon of Kildare, the Rev. Canon Sherlock, Rev Denis Murphy S.J. (Clongowes), Thomas Cooke-Trench (Millicent) and George Mansfield (Morristown Lattin). Hans Hendrick Ayler of Kerdiffstown |House was appointed Treasurer and the aforementioned Mayo and Arthur Vicars doubled as Secretaries and Editors. An early project of the inaugural committee was the compilation of a journal so as to record research into Kildare’s historic sites.
The content of the first issue stays close to the county town featuring articles on St. David’s Church- Naas, Killashee Church and Jigginstown Castle. Notes ‘Antiquarian and Historical’ on the parish of Clane were also included as was an article on Kilteel Castle complete with drawings of the castle rendered into etch format for printing. A miscellanea of notes in relation to the bell of Castledermot church, and to the townlands of Graney near Castledermot and the locality of Castlesize near Sallins, complete the selection of material in the first Journal. Also among its content is an intriguing note about the flag of the old Kildare Militia (established in 1794) which was recorded in 1891 as hanging in the hall of Kilkea Castle, then a Fitzgerald residence. It prompts a question on the fate of the flag in later times given the relocations of the Fitzgeralds in the twentieth century. The Journal of the Kildare Archaeogical Society has remained in publication over the past 120 years and is now published on a biennial basis.
Footnote: Calendar dates are the landmarks of history so it is worth a reminder that ‘Leap Year Day, 29  February will this week make its once-in-four years appearance. Series No: 270.


2012 marks the 120th anniversary of the publication of The Journal of the Kildare Archaeological Society from Liam Kenny's Looking Back, series no. 270

September 12, 2012


We were contacted by Nuala and Jack O'Connell ahead of this Sunday's All-Ireland U-21 Final between Kildare and Roscommon to obtain a copy of the newspaper report of the same clash some 43 years ago. On that occasion Kildare emerged victorious and the famous Dermot Earley Senior featured on the Roscommon side. The match was played in Newbridge. It followed on the All-Ireland Intermediate victory against Cork that same year.

NOVEMBER 1st, 1969.
KILDARE   8-5                                                                         ROSCOMMON   4-5
The U-21 hurlers ended a great season for the small ball players at Droichead Nua on Sunday when they scored a great win against Roscommon in the Final of the Special All-Ireland Competition. And so the impressive tally for the hurling teams reads, two outright wins (in Intermediate and Under-21) and the runners-up position for the Under-16's and Minors.
Four goals to spare would indicate a comfortable win, but it was only in the last quarter that the home side gained complete control.
After a bright opening, the Kildare side faded and with the defence making several mistakes, stoppable scores were conceded. It was a new Kildare side that reappeared after the change of ends, and showing wonderful spirit and playing more direct ground hurling, their all-round performance showed vast improvement. Roscommon were a hard determined fifteen but Kildare produced great reserves of courage to counter and eventually subdue the western challenge.
Jimmy Curran had an outstanding game in goal. Seamus Malone, captain, performed with distinction at fullback, while his two corner men, Leonard Cullen and Denis Dalton, at 17 the youngest member of the team, improved as the hour progressed and were really in top gear in the third quarter.
Dermot Early was on the 40 for the losers, and this well-known footballer was a worry to the Kildare defence. Still, Kildare's halfback line of Bobby Reide, sometimes at midfield, and flankers Richard Cullen and Mick O'Connell played some effective defensive work. It was unfortunate that O'Connell had to retire injured near the end.
Incidentally, O'Connell, a brother of Jack, becomes the third member of the family to win All-Ireland medals for Kildare.
Kevin O'Brien was the outstanding man of the side, and his forceful performance ensured midfield dominance. Jack O'Connell, not at home at centrehalf back, came into the game in the vital quarter and helped sway the issue.
All the forwards played their part, with sub Michael Johnson, who scored two goals, adding the necessary spirit. Paddy Campbell, Richie Hayden, John O'Brien, Tommy Lalor, and Sean Carey kept battling away for the hour.
Kildare scorers: Richie Hayden, 2-2. Michael Johnson, 2-0. Bobby Reide, 2-0. Paddy Campbell, 1-1. Tommy Lalor, 1-1. Jack O'Connell, 0-1.
Kildare: Jimmy Curran, St. Dermot's, Leonard Cullen, Ardclough, Seamus Malone, Coill Dubh, Capt., Denis Dalton, Sallins, Mick O'Connell, St. Brigid's, Bobby Reide, Suncroft, Richard Cullen, Ardclough, Kevin O'Brien, Kilcock, Jack O'Connell, St. Brigid's, John O'Brien, Eire Og, Richie Hayden, Coill Dubh, Dick Flanagan, Broadford, Tommy Lalor, St. Dermot's, Paddy Campbell, Eire Og, Sean Carey, Suncroft. Subs: Michael Johnson, Ardclough, Willie Noone, Naas, Ger Byrne, St. Dermot's.
Referee; J. Rankin, Laois.
In the absence of Mr. Jack Conroy, President of the Leinster Council, the trophy was presented to the Kildare captain, Seamus Malone, by Mr. Liam Geraghty, Chairman of Kildare County Board. Mr. Geraghty praised the two sides for their magnificent, sporting performance and said this win was ample compensation for the defeat of the minors and under-16's at the hands of the same county.
Typed by Chris Holzgräwe

We were contacted by Nuala and Jack O'Connell ahead of this Sunday's All-Ireland U-21 Final between Kildare and Roscommon to obtain a copy of the newspaper report of the same clash some 43 years ago. On that occasion Kildare emerged victorious and the famous Dermot Earley Senior featured on the Roscommon side. The match was played in Newbridge.

September 07, 2012


Funeral of Pat Dowling, Prosperous

Leinster Leader 19 March 1983

‘Hard cases’ sobbed uncontrollably; singer Christy Moore was shattered, everywhere there was emotion last week when they buried Pat Dowling, the man who changed the face of Prosperous.
His pub, which became a musical mecca of Leinster and indeed drew patrons from all over Europe, was quiet as the church across the road was unable to hold the multitudes who came to pay their respects. Many were still there as the huge funeral cortege stretched for miles through the narrow country roads to the cemetery at Allen.
“Only God and himself knew all he gave,” said local curate Fr. Pat Dunny who voiced the views of all on Pat’s remarkable generosity not only to his family but to everyone who whom he came in contact. Quiet and unassuming, he never spoke of what motivated him to give without hesitation to individuals, clubs and other groups, whether it be cash donations, trophies, etc.
The local footballers formed a guard of honour, and barmen employed at the pub carried the coffin. At the graveyard it was shouldered by the tug o’war team. Well known Comhalas member Mick Crehan played a lament at the graveside.
It was nineteen years ago the Pat, then a barman at Carrolls in Allenwood, bought the tiny pub in Prosperous. He combined a philantrophic (sic) nature with a good business sense which saw it expand rapidly. It gave life to the local branch of Comhaltas and at one time there were few musicians of note who did not play at The well known Wednesday night sessions.
Photographs on the wall relive many memorable nights of impromptu sessions. Anyone was likely to turn up at Dowlings and they had the best of sound equipment on hand to provide entertainment that drew visitors from at home and abroad. Christy Moore and Donal Lunny were just two of the regulars there.
Pat’s one ambition had been to own his own pub and he put much of his life into running it. He was known to have taken only two holidays – both to the U.S.
The regular Wednesday night sessions continued at Dowlings up to last week. It is understood the pub will remain in the family – Pat himself was single – yet a family member said this week it would never be the same without its proprietor.
Priest and former priests from the parish and from surrounding parishes assisted at the funeral. The attendance included Deputies Paddy Power, Charlie McCreevy and Bernard Durkan. Chief mourners were his brothers, Jim, Arthur, Michael, Sean, Joe and Tom.

The funeral of Prosperous pub owner, Pat Dowling, who died in March 1983




Our local readers need not be told that it was at the Seminary in this comfortable, and as the English critics call it, Quaker Village, in Kildare, that the famous Edmund Burke received his early education. It was then kept by the Shackletons, a well-known and respected family belonging to the Society of Friends, and some members of which are still resident in Kildare. The first of the family by whom the school was originated and under whose charge the future statesman was placed was Abraham Shackleton, and the circumstance of his having been the preceptor of so distinguished a man, together with the fact of his having educated the youths of many of the leading families of Ireland, led to his acquaintance in some cases intimate with several eminent persons, amongst others Crabbe, the poet, and Mrs. Trench, mother of the Dean of Westminster, and whose graphic and interesting “Diaries” have recently been published. Abraham Shackleton was assisted, and we believe succeeded, in the Ballitore School, by his son Richard, who, however, did not long maintain it in its prosperity. Ballitore had been a classical school, but Richard was suddenly seized with conscientious scruples as to the propriety of having the seductive writings of the Pagan poets of Greece and Rome taught to the generous youth under his charge. He accordingly published a statement announcing his determination not to do so for the future. This was the death-blow of Ballitore School, as it rapidly declined, and a year or two afterwards Richard Shackleton relinquished the office of schoolmaster.

The scrupulous Richard had a daughter, Mary Shackleton, who afterwards married one of her father’s pupils named Leadbeater, and who was the son of another, a neighbouring member of the Society of Friends. The literary remains of this lady have now just been published in two interesting volumes issued from Bell and Dalby’s press, entitled, “The Leadbeater Papers, the Annals of Ballitore,” being in fact the reminiscences of an Irish Quaker village in the last century, and some correspondence which the former proprietors of Ballitore School had kept up with old pupils or their friends, who afterwards became famous. Mrs Leadbeater’s book, independently of any extraneous aid, is interesting and curious from the graphic simplicity with which she sketches many of the well-known persons and places in and about Ballitore. There is the minuteness of a photograph in the manner in which she draws some of the characters which lived and moved and had their being in the little Kildare village at the close of the last or beginning of the present century. We will take, for instance that of Joseph Wills, which, possible, some of our patriarchal readers still living may remember, as one of the chief men of the village. Here is Mrs Leadbeater’s amusing portrait of the man:-
Joseph was a man retired from business, who lived upon his income in a genteel, comfortable style, keeping what is called good company and a good table, and attentive to the cultivation of his land and garden, and to the provision of his household. He was elderly, rather low in stature, somewhat corpulent, and his nose large and carbuncled; he wore a gold-laced hat and waistcoat, and moved along the street with slow and stately pace, smoking out of a long, clean pipe. Thus arrayed, he frequently walked into his neighbour’s houses, which opened with latches, and enquired what they had for dinner, at the same time poking his staff into the pot, for they mostly sat in their kitchens in the forenoons. This familiarity was of course not always acceptable. Sarah Fuller’s servant ran in to warn her mistress of his approach; “Here’s Mr. Wills, here’s Mr. Wills!” but she was not quick enough. “Noble intelligence!” retorted Joseph, gravely, as he followed her, He had his singularities, but he was “respectable,” and Elizabeth Shackleton piqued herself on being always on good terms with him.

The happy village of Ballitore does not seem to have been blessed by the presence of an attorney, as we read that persons who had lost any of their goods at any time “sent stoutly to search suspected houses, having previously borrowed Ephraim Boake’s search-warrant, which though long very much the worse for wear, continued in use and esteem for a good share of thirty years”,
We have many pleasant touches of school-boy life at Ballitore. “Our dear honoured Edmund” is, of course, the star of the academy to all time, and his success in his martriculation and scholarship examination is heartily welcomed at his old school. We can hardly suppose, however, that Richard Shalkleton, senior, was a good classical scholar, as we find him asking Burke to procure in Dublin for him “Davison’s Metamorphoses,” a companion volume doubtless to that very incorrect crib, Davison’s translation of Virgil. The care, however, taken of the bodies of the pupils was such that delicate youths were packed off to Ballitore from all corners of Ireland. Here is a sketch of the last of twenty five children:-
Samuel Hudson, another pupil of my father’s was the only surviving child of a family of twenty-five. This boy, who was weak in body and mind, was exceedingly dear to his parents; but, alas! They outlived him also. When his father, a rich Connaught gentleman of rough manners, came to see him at school, the boy ran blubbering into his presence, dropped on his knees and cried out, “Your blessing, father!” The father, struggling with fond parental emotion, replied “You have it, you dog”. When my parents were travelling in Connaught, they accepted an invitation to Hudson’s Bay, the residence of this family. They were welcomed with the greatest kindness, and entertained with the utmost profusion. The fond mother, when walking with Elizabeth Shackleton in a retired part of the demesne, suddenly knelt down, and audibly poured forth her thanks to the gracious Providence who had put it into her heart to place her child under such care.

The future husband of the writer, and a companion, Charles Rawdon, came to school in 1777. We are told of these two boys, “both were amiable, and virtue perhaps appeared more engaging in their beautiful forms, for both were remarkable handsome”.
Ballitore was fearfully wasted in the rebellion of ’98. Orangemen and United Irishmen obtained in turns possession of the devoted village. The village doctor, who had bound up wounds and spent his substance for the sustenance of both parties, was foully slaughtered. Paul Cullen, the grand-uncle of the present Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland was condemned to death by one of the court-martials of the time. His father attended the trial; when he returned, the family anxiously inquired, “What news?” “Good news”, replied the parent sadly. “My child is to die, and he is willing to die!” Elsewhere, we are told that so keenly and successfully did the pigs lie in wait to devour dead men’s bodies, which were everywhere lying about, that “for several months there was no sale for bacon cured in Ireland, from the well-founded dread of the hogs having fed upon the flesh of men”.

The second volume consists of letters from Edmund Burke to Richard Shackleton; and from Crabbe, the poet, and Mrs. Trench to Mary Leadbeater. We subjoin part of a letter from Edmund Burke to his friend Shackleton, who had written a fulsomely laudatory letter upon the orator, which by some chance had got published:-

I feel somewhat mortified at a paper written by you, which some officious person has though proper to insert in the London Evening Post of last night. I am used to the most gross and virulent abuse daily repeated in the papers – I ought indeed rather have said twice a-day. But that abuse is loose and general invective. It affects very little either my own feelings or the opinions of others, because it is thrown out by those that are known to be hired to that office by my enemies. But this appears in the garb of professed apology and panegyric. It is evidently written by an intimate friend. It is full of anecdotes and particulars of my life. It therefore cuts deep. I am sure I have nothing in my family, my circumstances, or my conduct that an honest man ought to be ashamed of. But the more circumstances of all theses that brought out, the more materials are furnished for malice to work upon; and I assure you that it will manufacture them to the utmost. Hitherto, much as I have been abused, my table and my bed were left sacred; but since it has so unfortunately happened that my wife, a quiet woman, confined to her family cares and affectious, has been dragged into a newspaper, I own I feel a little hurt. A rough public man may be proof against all sorts of buffets, and he has no business to be a public man if he be not so, but there is as natural and proper a delicacy in the other sex, which will not make it very pleasant to my wife to be the daily subject of Grub-street and newspaper invectives; and at present, in truth, her health is little able to endure it. It is true that you have said of me then thousand handsome things, which are infinitely beyond anything I have deserved or can deserve; but this is only the language of friendship, which is always interpreted down to its proper level, possibly below it, by the severe scrutiny of the public.
The best letters in the volume are undoubtedly those of Mrs. Trench. Crabbe’s excessive egotism, kindly though it was, is by no means fascinating. We give one or two brief extracts from Mrs. Trench’s correspondence:-
“I have been presented to Buonaparte and his wife, who receive with great state, ceremony, and magnificence. His manner is very good, but the expression of his countenance is not attractive. Curran says he has the face of a gloomy tyrant. Another has compared him to a corpse with living eyes; and a painter remarked to me that the smile on his lips never seemed to accord with the rest of his features. I have the pleasure of sending you a little picture very like him, which may enable you to form your own opinion…..”
We may add, speaking of Ballitore School, that there were, until a few years ago, and possibly may still be, and old school desk or two, religiously preserved, on which the penknife of Edmund Burke, when he was a pupil there, had carved his own great name.

An article from the Leinster Express of 14 June 1862 on Ballitore school and the Shackleton connection


Fightin’ Mike Lawler – Abe Lincoln’s Lilywhite General

“When it comes to just plain hard fighting, I would rather trust old Mike Lawler than any of them,” – Ulysses S. Grant, military commander and 18th President of the United States of America.

The little known story of a Kildare man who rose to General rank with the Union forces in the American Civil War has been brought to light by Robert Doyle, a Baltinglass-native. 
General Michael Kelly Lawler was one of the 150,000 or so Irishmen who fought between 1861 and 1865 in the bloody conflict that was the American Civil War. He was, however, County Kildare’s only general in that war and a very unconventional one at that. A huge man, weighing almost 18 stone, Lawler usually fought in his shirt sleeves and is said to have sweated profusely. His sword belt was too short to fit around his rotund waist so he wore it by a strap from one shoulder. And yet he led from the front, inspiring the men of the 18th Illinois Infantry to become one of the Union Army’s most redoubtable fighting units. General Ulysses S. Grant, commanding President Lincoln’s vast army in the conflict against the Confederate South, was one of the Kildare man’s greatest admirers.
Lawler’s date of birth is recorded as November 14, 1814 but, as of yet, there is no additional information to aid researchers identify what area of the “Short Grass County” he hails from. American records do, however, detail his parents as John Lawler and Elizabeth Kelly and that the family left Kildare for America when Lawler was just two-years old.  The Lawler’s eventually settled in rural Gallatin County, south Illinois.
By the time that the Southern States rose up against Lincoln’s government in 1861, Lawler was already a veteran of one war, having served thirteen years earlier as a captain during the Mexican-American War. Little wonder then that he volunteered to command the recruits being mustered from his local region.
Initially commissioned a colonel, Lawler did not suffer fools and had even less patience with his men’s poor discipline. His 18th Illinois Infantry unit, training locally at Camp Mound City, developed an unwanted reputation for drunk and disorderly behaviour.  Lawler, no doubt growing impatient with army procedures, decided to take matters into his own hands.
In August 1861, Lawler introduced supervised fist fighting into the regiment as a manner of resolving disputes and often threatened to “knock down” any miscreants under his command. He sent a “present” of whiskey laced with a nausea-inducing chemical to some of his men who were in prison for drunkenness. Lawler also appointed a Catholic priest as regimental Chaplin despite the objection of the Protestant majority under his command. Probably his most controversial act occurred in October 1861 when he withheld any objection to the summary execution of a soldier in his ranks who had shot a colleague in a drunken rage.
Lawler was court-martialled for these acts and convicted but was soon restored to command after he successfully appealed the decision. Mike Lawler had many friends in the military that stood as character references, Ulysses Grant included. While not condoning his unorthodox methods, there seems to have been an understanding of his motives among many fellow officers.
Nonetheless, by the time his Illinois men went into combat, Lawler had formed an infantry unit that would become renowned for their fighting capabilities and matching the reputation of their commander. At the Battle of Fort Donelson in 1862, Lawler was wounded in the arm and deafened, some say permanently, by an exploding shell. However within two months, he was back leading from the front and directing his men during the sustained attacks on Vicksburg, a Confederate-controlled fortress city.
Having again narrowly missed death in battle on May 16, 1863, the next day was to be Lawler’s finest moment as he led his men in a gallant and rapid advance on Vicksburg’s entrenchments. Too overweight to run, Lawler rode on horseback in advance of the charge; he and his men moving with such speed that they broke the entire Confederate line resulting in a famous Union victory.
Lawler was soon promoted to Brigadier General but illness plagued him. By 1864, he was declared unfit for duty and returned home. He spent his retired years buying and selling horses; he died in 1882 at the age of 68. General Kelly Lawler is buried in Hickory Hill Cemetery near Equality, Illinois.
Although Michael Kelly Lawler is a relative unknown in his native county, the citizens of the State of Illinois have long remembered his deeds. Lawler Park, near Chicago’s Midway International Airport, is called after the big Kildare man and there is also an impressive memorial of stone and bronze erected to his memory near his Illinois home.
A small group of historians have begun a campaign to inform the Irish public of the deeds and sacrifices that so many from Ireland, like Michael Kelly Lawler, made during the American Civil War and also to highlight places of interest in Ireland connected to that iconic conflict. Further details may be found at: www. irishacwtrail.com


A public health official and amateur historian, Robert Doyle is a native of Baltinglass, County Wicklow. He has studied the Irish who served in the US military during the American Civil War and the Plains Indians Wars for many years and is the co-creator of www.myleskeogh.org. Robert is also a frequent speaker on military history and has written for popular history periodicals including History Ireland and Military Illustrated.

The story of Abe Lincoln's Lilywhite general - Fightin' Mike Lawler by Liam Kenny from the Leinster Leader of 21 February 2012. Our thanks to Liam


A magistrate with a heart of gold

The reporting of court cases has been a feature of newspapers from the time the first paper rolled off the printing press. From a historian’s perspective such documenting of court cases from bygone years can give an unparalleled insight into the social conditions of the time with evidence arising in court which is not available through other historical sources. The court reports in the files of the local newspapers afford us a glimpse into the hardships faced by people in past generations.
And, contrary to popular belief, the court reports also show that while many judges were not notably sympathetic to the people who came before them there was an occasional ‘heart of gold’ among the ranks of the judiciary.
A review of a report from Naas Petty Sessions in a February 1912 edition of the Kildare Observer gives a thought provoking insight into the relationship between the courts, the school system, and parents and their children. Twelve parents were before Major Thackeray, Resident Magistrate, for failing to send their children to school. The school inspector for the district, Miss Hayde, gave evidence of their non-attendance.
Most of the parents pleaded sickness as the reason for their children not being at school. The list of illnesses put forward gives a vivid insight into the kinds of illness prevalent in the child population of a century ago: rheumatic fever, scarlatina, blood poisoning, whooping cough, chilblains, sore eyes, deafness and rash.
One of the parents, a Mrs. C. took a different tack by questioning the value of having her child educated in the first place. She told Major Thackeray that she already had one son who had been “educated” and “he did not make much out of it.” Major Thackeray responded by declaring: “I suppose she thinks that people are over-educated nowadays.”
Another parent tried to get out of the attendance requirement by stating that his child was fourteen years of age but enquiry by the attendance officer revealed that the child was just eleven. The attempt to inflate the child’s age led Major Thackeray (clearly something of a wit on the bench) to observe: “He wants to get to the old age pension quickly!”
While such judicial levity was all very well with offenders facing the first step in the anti-truancy process – that of being served with school attendance orders -- matters took a more serious turn when the court moved on to a case where a young lad was before the court for not complying with such an attendance order handed down at a previous court sitting. And it was here that the judge, for all his witticisms from the bench, showed an admirably humane disposition.
Mr. Boyle, Secretary to the School Attendance Committee, told the court he wanted the boy to be committed to an industrial school. He said that the boy “had no mother and his father was unwilling to control him.” Major Thackeray said he would like to see “this desperate case”.  The boy was brought forward and began to cry – an understandable reaction for a young lad faced with the grim unknown of being sent to an industrial school. Major Thackeray spoke to the boy and asked him would be promise to attend school. When the young lad replied in the affirmative the magistrate made a promise of his own, namely that he would give him five shillings if he stayed in school until June. There was an immediate change in the demeanour of the frightened youngster who, according to the report, “immediately ceased crying and tried to look his best.”  When Mr. Boyle, of the School Attendance Committee, attempted to contest the magistrate’s compassionate handling of the case Major Thackeray declared to the court: “But what chance has he, except that somebody shows him a bit of sympathy, Is he to be branded a villain for life because he doesn’t go to school.?” 
And the judge had precedent to show that his compassionate approach had worked in the past. He told the court that two boys had come before him at the Kildare town court, their parents charged with allowing them breach attendance orders. He recalled his handling of the case: “I told the boys that if they attended school I would give them a present.’ The two young lads never missed a day, and the magistrate was as good as his word and duly gave them Christmas presents at the end of term.
Truly a heart of gold amongst the otherwise forbidding ranks of the judiciary.

Liam Kenny reveals a heart of gold amongst the judiciary in an article from his Looking Back series from the Leinster Leader of 7 February 2012. Our thanks to Liam

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