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November 29, 2012


Joint Seminar by the History Federations of Ireland
Local History Ireland
Patrick Kavanagh Centre — Inniskeen, Co. Monaghan
Date: Saturday, 1st December, 2012

The Federation for Ulster Local Studies and the Federation of Local History Societies welcome you to this unique seminar to celebrate local history and folklore. The presentations will explore the significance of history at local level which after all is what makes us what we are and identifies our place in the community. The day will centre round the launch of our new promotional leaflet — “Hidden Gems & Forgotten People”. The list of speakers will be headed by Professor Raymond Gillespie, N.U.I. Maynooth who will deliver the keynote address.
Remember “local history is your history”.
Registration Tea/coffee 9.30 — 10.30 a.m.
10.30 — 11.30 “Ordinary People in Ordinary places” — Prof. Raymond Gillespie, N.U.I. Maynooth
11.30 — 12.30 Hidden Gems & Forgotten People — The story of the less exalted in local memory. Pat Devlin FULS and Larry Breen FLHS
12.30 — 12.45 Launch of promotional leaflet by Frank McNally An Irishman’s Diary (Irish Times)
12.45 — 1400 Lunch in the centre — Soup, sandwiches, tea or coffee
14.00 — 15.00 Enriching the story of the past — a framework for researching and preserving local history and archives. Roddy Hegarty, Director Cardinal O’Fiaich Library & Archive, Armagh
15.00 — 16.00 Oral History & Folklore — Collecting and preserving voices of the past: practical guidelines and methodologies. Dr. Ida Milne O.H.N.I. & Eamon Thornton, Millmount Museum.
16.00 — 16.15 Tea/Coffee
16.15 — 16.45 Plenary Session and Discussion with Panel of Speakers
Note: Talks will be of 45 minutes duration followed by question and answer session of 15 minutes.
Cost: €20/£16 includes refreshments & lunch — soup & sandwiches

Names of Attendees:
Cheques to be made payable to either the FULS or FLHS and enclosed with booking form
and sent to either of the following:
Larry Breen, 8 The Paddocks, Naas, Co. Kildare.
Tel 045 897 445, Mob. 087 9841551,
e-mail larrybreen8@eircom.net
Roddy Hegarty, 622 Ballysillen Road, Belfast, BT14 6RP,
Tel. 028 37522981, Mob. 07737407174,
e-mail rhegarty@btinternet.com
All bookings must be received by November 26th, 2012, at the latest .
Inniskeen — How to Get Here
M1 Dublin to South Dundalk
Follow the Carrickmacross R178 for approx. 5 miles.
At Channonrock junction (Conlon's pub) turn right for Inniskeen LP1140.
N2 from Dublin
Exit Carrickmacross.
Left along R178 to Essexford.
Left at Kelly's Pub for Inniskeen.
From Belfast to Dundalk bypass via Newry
Exit for Dundalk town centre
Follow the Carrickmacross R178 for approx. 5 miles.
At Channonrock (Conlon's pub) turn right for Inniskeen LP1140.
N2 from west Ulster
Follow the Carrickmacross R178 for approx. 5 miles.
At Channonrock (Conlon's pub) turn left for Inniskeen LP1140.

A joint seminar by the History Federations of Ireland will take place on 1 December in the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Innniskeen, Co. Monaghan


The History Federation of Ireland



On Saturday 1 December 2012 the Federations will jointly launch a project, in all parts of the island of Ireland, to identify and publish a digest of interesting but lesser known places and people whose personality and achievements merit being recalled to memory.

The Project will be launched at a Seminar to Celebrate Local History and Folklore in the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, Inniskeen Co Monaghan. The seminar starts at 10:00 a.m.

Most communities have a hidden gem, a place of local interest, marking an event or person of local significance. This might be an old tollhouse, a house or place of legend, a ford, a haunted house or hungry field or some important industrial or pre-industrial site, a hidden valley or secret viewpoint. Often local familiarity prevents many of these gems becoming more widely recognised and consequently they remain hidden from the rest of us. However, each one has a story to tell and that story is part of our wider social and industrial history.

In a similar way there have been many people who have contributed significantly to the local area and in some cases to the country or to the wider world, yet remain unrecognised or forgotten by most. They need not have been famous in the celebrity sense but nevertheless there may have an interesting story to tell about them. Many districts for example can lay claim to sportsmen, storytellers, inventors, community activists and other characters of note that are little known outside of their own area.

The project offers an opportunity for local people, whether as individuals or as part of local history projects, to rescue such forgotten personalities and hidden gems from obscurity and allows them to take their rightful place in the story of our island history.

The project is an ongoing one. There is no cut-off date and as the material will be displayed on its own website, www.hidden-gems.eu, it will be continuously updated.

A special leaflet, explaining the project and inviting contributions is available and will be widely available in Libraries and other outlets throughout the island, north and south. It will also be distributed to local historical societies. 

Roddy Hegarty, Chairman of the Federation for Ulster Local Studies said, “It is sometimes too easy to forget the contribution that seemingly ordinary people make to their local communities or to the well-being of the wider society. This project aims to return them to memory and celebrate their endeavours. It also seeks to highlight the lesser known but interesting places in our island that merit recognition. ”

Frank Taffe, Chairman of the Federation of Local History Societies said, “The Hidden Gems Project affords a unique opportunity to identify places and persons lost to memory and to bring them once again to local and national attention.”

Background Note

The Federation for Ulster Local Studies promotes the study and recording of the history, antiquities and folk-life of Ulster, develops co-operation between local historical groups and between these groups and statutory and voluntary organisations. Membership is about 100 Societies. Website: www.fuls.org.uk

The Federation of Local History Societies promotes the interests and represent the views of amateur historians and voluntary museums. Since 1981 membership has grown to about 100 societies. The Federation encourages research in history, archaeology, folk-life and folklore, exchanges information with, and develops mutual support among, affiliated societies and encourages the publication of information of historical interest. Website: http://www.localhistory.ie/

For further information contact:

FULS: John Dooher Tel. 07713636362, Email: johndooher@btinternet.com
FLHS: Larry Breen Tel. (00)35345897445 Email: larrybreen8@eircom.net

On 1 December 2012 the History Federations will jointly launch a project to identify and publish a digest of interesting but lesser known places and people whose personality and achievements merit being recalled to memory.


Times Past

 Jim Collins

A recent walk along the new  Camphill  nature trail by the river reminded me of my childhood and life in Kilcullen Corn Mills.  I saw old car parts  embedded  in the weir to re-enforce  it.   This work was done by my father Jim Collins, The Miller, before the weir broke in 1946 when The Poulaphuca Scheme changed life on the river Liffey for many including the running of the corn mill by electricity.   The car parts he got from Jim Barber whose home and business was where the Ruby Shoes building is beside the Town Hall.  A  photograph  of Jim Barber’s shop is on display  in the Town Hall.
The Barbers were a Church of Ireland family who lived in that premises since the 19th century.   Jim was an expert in all things mechanical but his main business was the sale and repair of bicycles which were a popular mode of transport at the end of the 19th century.   In later life when the water pumping station was built in Barbers garden where the canoe club now stands, Jim became the water supervisor for Kilcullen.   The water was pumped  to  the Moat  located  behind  Dunleas   garage which was the highest point in the town.   It was then fed into water pipes which supplied the town.   Before this supply system was completed in the early 1900’s everybody got their water supply from the spout.   Some stories my father told me about Jim Barber are worth remembering.
In 1921 during the War of Independence the Black and Tans were stationed in the R.I.C.  barracks beside O’Connell’s bar. The Black and Tans would make Jim Barber drive them on patrols to gather information  on the locals but what they did not know was, that at night Jim would drive the local I.R.A. on missions against the Black and Tans and would tell the local I.R.A. what they were talking about.   If he was  found  out  he  would have been executed.
In the early 1930’s De Valera  addressed a meeting in Carlow but on his way back to Dublin his car broke down in Kilcullen.   Jim Barber was sent for, to drive Dev to Dublin.   He had an old French touring car with a canvas and wooden roof so with local supporters Jim set off for Dublin with Dev in the back seat.   Just passed Rathcoole where the roundabout  for Saggart is now located there was a small humped back bridge.  Jim, who had bad eyesight and wore bottle-end glasses hit the bridge at speed and the  canvas and wooden  roof collapsed on top of Dev resulting in another car having to come to the rescue to get Dev the rest of the way to his Dublin  home.
In July  of this year the Leinster Leader printed an item from the civil war times... “ In late 1922 an army armoured car on its way to the Curragh was blown up by an explosive planted in a culvert in the road near Rathcoole in which 2 soldiers were badly injured.  The car following was driven by  Mr Jim Barber  from Kilcullen accompanied by 2  ladies who he was bringing from Dublin.   When the road was cleared of the damaged armoured car Mr Barber continued on his way.”
In the 1930’s Jim Barber drove the post van to deliver the mail to the Kildare train station.  My father, the Miller, needed to collect an account from a racehorse trainer on the Curragh so he asked the post van driver to take himself and his bicycle as far as the Curragh.  A trailer was hitched to the post van, the bike loaded on to the trailer and the two set off.   They passed Donnelly’s Hollow and went round the next bend.  The driver approached the crossroads.   There was plenty of space,  no  traffic and  visability  was good.   Also it must be said... they were sober.   Even though driver Jim was wearing his  thick  lensed  glasses  he  didn’t  see  the  Army  lorry  approaching   from  The Curragh Camp and heading uphill towards the old war cemetery.  He hit the lorry broadside and the two Jims ended up in the Curragh Hospital. Dont say “ He should have gone to Specsavers.”
Next day the army authorities came to the hospital to take statements from the injured men.   When they were finished my father asked about his bicycle which was in the trailer.   The officer said there was no bicycle or trailer, just a wrecked van.   The patients insisted that they had a  trailer with a bike in it.   The scene of the accident was revisited.   A clump of furze was noticed a 100 yds from the crash site.   With army precision the bush was examined and sure enough the lost items were found.   The trailer having broken  away on impact careered across the Curragh  and disappeared into the furze bush.   Bike and trailer were found two days later in perfect condition.

Another story of local interest.....
Mrs Sheelagh Blacker of Castlemartin House had two sons, Ian and Percy.  We all have heard stories of Percy but not of Ian.    Would anyone have a photo of Ian?  He was a Captain in the British Army and was killed at the battle of Monte Cassino north of  Rome in June 1944.   After the war Mrs Blacker went to Italy to bring his body  home to be buried in the family plot in Yellow Bog cemetery.  On seeing where he was buried in the town of St. Francis of Assissi she changed her mind and said   “ Let him lie with his 945 allied comrades who are laid to rest there.”  If  anyone should visit Assissi please take a photo of his grave which is, C 9 in Plot No. 7.  It could be displayed in The Town Hall.

Historical Information from Military Archives.
On  Sept 3rd 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then entered the war on the Allied side.
Progress through Southern Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance.  But the advance was checked for some months at the German Winter position known as the Gustav line.  This line eventually fell in May 1944 and as the Germans withdrew, Rome was taken by the Allies on the 3rd of June.
Many of the burials in this cemetery date from June and July 1944 when the Germans were making their first attempts to stop the Allied advance North of Rome in this region. The site for the cemetery was selected in Sept 1944 and burials were brought in from surrounding battlefields. Assissi  war cemetery contains 945 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

Jim Collins, Kilcullen, recalls times past in his local area. Our thanks to Jim


Tuesdays with Mary
By Nuala Collins
January 2012

The Tuesday afternoons I spent in Mary Maguire’s house in Nicholastown listening to her stories were a wonderful way to pass the Winter evenings before Christmas.  We always finished with tea, perfect service, tray cloth and all – a proper afternoon tea.  Mary couldn’t have me visit on Monday, she works a full day and other days are busy too with visiting her family and other commitments.  She has the energy of one half her age, God Bless her and she’s had her 80th birthday.  Everything about Mary gives the impression that she has had an interesting life to date.  She walks tall and with an air of confidence.   Her father who was used to serving the gentry coached her to speak properly.  Well, he was in the British Army and served in India.  Her mother trained her to behave correctly in any company.  Mother was in service with McCalmonts.

Mary was the only child of Thomas Herbert and Brigid Lally.  She was born on September 29th 1931.  Their home was in Henry Street Newbridge.  Thomas was a Dublin man, born on The Quays and Brigid came from Ahascragh in  Co. Galway.   Thomas’ family were craftsmen and he was a gifted sign-writer.   Later he became chauffeur for Major Mc Calmont.   Brigid was a ladies maid for Mrs McCalmont.  That was how they met.  Shades of “Upstairs Downstairs”!  Mrs McCalmont was a cousin of Mrs Blacker, who featured greatly in Mary’s married life.

School days were spent in Holy Family Newbridge.  Mary’s first job was with in Belfast with Mrs Quinn.  She loved it and remembers living on Alexander Street.   It only lasted 9 months due to unrest in the North.  Then she took up employment in Eccles Street Convent in Dublin and hated that.  She worked in the dining room there.  Next she was with an accountant in Terenure for some time.  Back to Newbridge she came to work in Newbridge Cutlery.   In her late teens she met and married Simon Maguire.   Simon worked in Castlemartin for Mrs Blacker.  They lived for a while with Mary’s parents.  Simon was on the lookout for a house on the Blacker estate and in the early 50’s they  moved  to the front gate lodge at Castlemartin.  Their first child Judy was 6 weeks old.

The story of getting the house is interesting.  Peggy Morrissey who lived with her parents in Castlemartin yard was engaged to be married to a Dublin man.   There was also her sister Phoebe and brother Johnny living in the house.  Peggy went to Mrs Blacker to tell her the good news of her forthcoming wedding and to ask for the gate lodge in which to set up home.  Mrs Blacker said “you can marry and have the lodge but your family will have to leave Castlemartin yard”.  This put Peggy in an awkward position where her family would be out on the road.  She broke off the engagement and never married.  She went in tears to the men in the yard, Simon, Johnny Cole and John McGrath and told them there would be no wedding.  Now the lodge was there for the taking.  So Simon went to Mrs Blacker and got the key of their new home.

The lodge dates from 1820’s and was in poor condition as it was unoccupied for many years.   It is said that Castlemartin House has 28 rooms, while the gate lodge had a kitchen and one room,  no light, no running water, no toilet, no heat, just a small fireplace to cook on and heat the house.  Nothing there “only moonshine” says Mary.  It wasn’t renovated till the 1980’s, long after Mary and Simon had moved to Nicholastown and Castlemartin had changed hands.   In 1967 the estate was left to The Earl of Gowrie by Mrs Sheelagh Blacker, his great aunt.  Four years later Lord Gowrie sold Castlemartin to the O’Reilly family.  It is said locally that Castlemartin is the coldest house in Kildare.   That was the reason Maj Beaumont didn’t buy it, he bought Harristown instead.   Castlemartin at the time of Maguires living in the gate lodge had a vibrant community all of its own.   The Morrisseys and Keoghs lived in houses in the yard.  Keegan’s home was called “the blue door” because it’s one and only door was blue.  Curley Keegan occupied “the back lodge”.  Snells and Tapley lived across the road.  Now Maguires would live in “the front lodge”.  Percy Blacker, one of the two sons of Blackers, and his wife were in the other house at the Kinneagh end of the estate.  Mrs Sheelagh Blacker, widow of Lt. Col. Frederick Blacker, or Madame as Mary calls her, resided in Castlemartin House.  Blackers bought the estate in 1854.  Mary had never lived in the country before her marriage.  Now in Castlemartin she felt very isolated and lonely.  At that time the front lodge was the only house on that side of the Newbridge road between Kilcullen and the second gates of Castlemartin.  No school, sports centre or housing estate across the road.

Mary lived at Castlemartin  lodge for less than twenty years but her memories are vivid of her time there in early marriage and rearing her young children.   Most are not pleasant memories and now she doesn’t even look at the estate as she passes by on the road.  She endured a lot of hardship there.   Cash, or rather lack of it, was always a problem with the owner of the place.  Sheelagh was asset rich and cash poor.  Wages weren’t always paid and Mary would go to “the big house” to collect for Simon who worked on the farm.   If she saw Percy on his way to visit Mother she says she would run “till my last breath was gone” to get there ahead of him or he would have the money gone off the mantelpiece and there would be no money for the Maguires.  If Percy, who was always in need of cash, was not in sight the ritual was less stressful.  Mary would knock on the library door.  Madame would say “enter” and enquire the purpose of the intrusion.  Then according to Mary “she would pay if she had it”.  Once Mary remembers being told “stand out on the step - you are only a labouring man’s wife”.  Two Christmases she remembers having no wages.  But for the generosity of the town business people they would have had a lean time.  Byrnes, Nolans and Orfords were always good for credit till New Year and better days.  The traders of Kilcullen were good to Mrs Blacker too in her later years when times were lean for her. Jim Byrne Junior would bring her a big box of groceries every Saturday.  She’d take the soup and sliced pan for herself and send the rest to Mr Percy.

Mary and Simon experienced two awful tragedies while living in Castlemartin.  They were there only a short time when their second child Mary Carmel died.  She three months old.  Again the kindness of the town’s people is not forgotten by Mary.  She remembers Miss Duffy and Miss Mayne of Byrne’s Drapery lining the little coffin with satin.   Jim Byrne drove the parents with the remains of Mary Carmel in the white coffin on their knees in the back seat of his car to New Abbey Cemetery.  Simon Junior was only fifteen years old when he was knocked down on the road near the house by a motorist.  He and his brother Billy were on their way to serve Benediction in the Parish Church.  He died later in Naas Hospital.  Mary’s big regret is that she was not allowed to see his body before burial.  She says that it helps the grieving if parents say a final “goodbye”.

Mary was always industrious and even with little money the family was never hungry.  Simon sowed the garden patch at the back of the gate lodge with potatoes and vegetables.   Tom McGrath was in charge of the walled garden on the estate but that produce was for the big house.  Mary had a clothes line at the back of the gate lodge but could only have it a certain height because the washing shouldn’t be seen from the road.   Mary knew the best cheap cuts of meat, with a few bones thrown in free, to be had in local butchers Orfords or Nolans.  She even produced her own honey.  She would get a hive from the trees near the house and extract the honey from it.   Fr. Price loved a jar of that.  He used to walk the avenue reading his brievery until he was refused permission to do so.  The nuns from the Convent were allowed to go down to the river bank via The Laurel Walk and have a picnic.  They were never turned back.  Mary often saw them as she went for water to the Pinkeen stream.

Fuel for cooking and heating was a problem too and coal or turf was expensive to buy.  There was lots of firewood in the woods of the estate, some scattered after fallen trees.  Mrs Blacker was very miserly and would not allow it to be taken.  The Maguires would collect some at night and hide it till an opportunity arose to take it home.  They had to watch and listen for Mrs Blacker’s car and run for cover.  Mary told me a story about the plan that the men, Billy Keegan,   Johnny Cole, Tom McGrath and her husband Simon had to cut down a tree to be shared out among the families.  It was Punchestown week 1951.  Lord and Lady Gowrie, relatives of Mrs Blacker were over from Poland for the festival.  When the chauffer driven cars pulled out from Castlemartin with all the occupants sitting inside in their finery ready for the races, the lads got to work.  Anyone old enough to remember, will recall that snow fell that year in April.  Punchestown races were cancelled.  So after a short time Mary heard the cars returning.  Panic stricken, she ran and she could run fast because she was in her early 20’s.  She ran to stop the men.  She had to dig her way through the snow in the big lawn at the side of the house.  She waved her hands frantically and her warning was received.  The sawing stopped.  The men buried themselves in the snow.   As the car doors were slammed shut and the big double door of the mansion opened to let the guests in the boys re-appeared.  They covered the tree and arranged to return next day to share the spoils.  A sigh of relief was released from the gang.  “Nothing for us all” says Mary “but we’d be out on the road if Herself found out”.  It would be funny, if it wasn’t so serious.

I asked Mary about parties and balls in Castlemartin.  She told me of one Christmas, Mrs Blacker allowed her to bring the children to see the big Christmas tree in the front hall before the party.  All the local gentry were invited.  The Dean of Kildare and Mr Ken Urquhart were among the guests.  Jack Snell was in charge of the car parking.   Every year on St. Stephen’s day the Kildare Hunt was invited to the front of the house.  She remembers Paddy Powell and the hunting horn, and trays of drinks at the front door.  Her kids would hide behind the lime trees to watch.  The lime trees are there no more.

In spite of everything Mary has a certain sympathy for Mrs Blacker.  Her description of the woman is that she always looked very old, she was domineering, could be very insulting but Mary adds that that was “part of her upbringing”.  She had no luck with Castlemartin.  Her only other child, her son Ian, who was a captain in the British army, was killed at the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944.  “She was down to her last thread when Ian died,” according to Mary.   She sold the corner house across the road for £800 but got nothing out of the sale because she owed it all to Mr Alfie Brennan.  No luck either with the horses - the mares and foals died on her.  She bought an old black car from Mr Paddy Cox and it was useless, the doors wouldn’t close, she had them tied with twine – that’s what Mary told me.  Mrs Blacker drove a big Vauxhall at one time, and since she was a petite lady and often had to have someone turn the car around for her, no power steering that time and maybe she needed a booster seat!  She had a theory that the more petrol one put in the car, the more it consumed.   So she usually got the petrol pump attendant to put two gallons in the tank and two in a spare can she carried in the boot.  Trouble was that after she used the spare petrol she forgot to refill the can, meaning she got stuck on the road again.  Sheelagh Blacker tried a little enterprise with pigs!  She bought a sort of lorry, well a cab with a small back for carrying things.  She reared the pigs in the back yard and when the bonhams were ready for market in Dublin she loaded them and set off at the crack of dawn.  At Brownstown, on the Naas Road, the back came off the contraption and the baby pigs escaped, along with the profit that was to be made from their sale.  She sat there in the cab, which incidentally had no windows in it, till somebody came along hours later and helped her.  She always travelled with a hot water bottle on her knees and a rug round her feet.  The yard where the pigs were reared is now the location of a swimming pool.  But to Sheela’s credit she reared a special breed of pig and showed them at the R.D.S. show in Ballsbridge, where she won many prizes.  Castlemartin pigs were good.

All that life is in the past now for Mary.  She says it was like moving to a palace when she, her husband Simon and children Judy, Billy, Mary and Elizabeth moved to the old Maguire home in Nicholastown.  Simon is dead 14 years R.I.P.  She enjoys her 14 grandchildren and 7 great-grand-children.  Mary never forgets her deceased children.  She doesn’t like Sundays.  Her son Simon was killed on a Sunday evening, the morning of which Percy Blacker was killed at The Red Cow in Dublin.  That was September 25th 1967.  Mrs Blacker herself had died three weeks earlier.  Mary loves all her neighbours in Nicholastown and I’m sure they love her too.   A few years ago Mary’s granddaughter Leona took her for a drive on the Curragh.  It was an automatic car and Mary had a go.  She managed very well and fancied the idea of buying herself a car.   She had a bit of money saved and considered it for a while.  Then she decided that it would be a better idea to get heat installed in the house instead.  Young at heart...that’s Mary!

Nuala Collins chats with Mary Maguire, of Nicholastown. Our thanks to Nuala for sending in this engaging piece

November 21, 2012



Saturday 24 November 2012 (9.30am-4.00m)
Renehan Hall, Maynooth University (south campus)
Organised by the Department of History, National University of Ireland Maynooth

9.15am Registration
9.30am Welcome & introduction
Professor Marian Lyons (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
9.35am Opening address: The Gathering 2013
Tim O’Connor (Chairman, Board of The Gathering)
10.00-10.20am ‘The global Irish family and its history’
Patrick Fitzgerald (Mellon Centre for Migration Studies, Omagh)
10.20-10.40am ‘Working with the Irish abroad - a perspective from the Department of
Foreign Affairs and trade’
Niall Burgess (Department of Foreign Affairs)
10.40-11.00am ‘The Ireland Reaching Out Programme’
John Joe Conwell (Community Liaison Officer for the Ireland Reaching Out
Q & A
11.20am Coffee
11.4 0-12.00 Searching for your lost ancestors: using transmigration studies
Dr Gerard Moran (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
12.00-12.20 Entrepreneurs, innovators and philanthropists: the Irish imprint on the
American Midwest, 1850-1900
Ms Regina Donlon (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
12.20-12.40 ‘In search of the Strokestown Famine emigrants’
Dr Ciarán Reilly (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
Q & A
1.00pm Lunch & viewing of the Morpeth Roll
2.00-2.20pm The Morpeth Roll: an introduction
Christopher Ridgway (Curator, Castle Howard, York & Adjunct Professor,
Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
Chairperson: Professor Terence Dooley (Centre for Historic Irish Houses &
Estates, Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
2.20-2.40pm Only connect: Ancestry and the Morpeth Roll
Miriam Silverman (Senior Content Manager UK & Ireland at Ancestryco.uk)
Q & A session
2.50-3.30pm Bringing the Morpeth Roll to life: a challenge for local historians
Mario Corrigan (Executive Librarian, Kildare Library & Arts Services)
Chairperson: Professor Raymond Gillespie (Department of History, NUI
3.30-4.30pm Plenary discussion led by Dr Patrick Fitzgerald
Q & A session: What contribution can local historians make to The

This conference will be of interest to local historians, librarians, heritage officers,
genealogists, and all with an interest in studying and or researching Irish emigration.
Registration fee: €25 (light lunch, tea & coffee included)
Advanced booking recommended

For further information, contact the History Department, NUI Maynooth log on to
www.nuim.ie/academic/history Tel. 01-7083729 or email history.department@nuim.ie

On Saturday 24 November 2012 the Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth will host a conference for the Gathering 2013

November 09, 2012


Captain John D. O’Brien, Kildare-born US Army veteran and Wyoming rancher

James Durney

In 1903 Kildare-born John D. O’Brien was mentioned in a volume titled Progressive Men of the State of Wyoming as being among one of the ‘brave defenders of America’s honour’. The biographical sketch said no one in Converse County was more entitled to recognition than the ‘worthy Captain O’Brien, who, after years of danger, privation and gallant army service, is passing his declining years on his pleasant and beautifully located ranch on LaPrele Creek, eight miles west of Douglas, Wyoming’.
John D. O’Brien was born in Kildare c.1838 - an exact date is given in the original article, but it does not match any records in the county - the youngest of nine children. His father, John O’Brien, a marine engineer, died in a shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope in 1841. Mrs. O’Brien then moved to Liverpool and in 1847 left for America with some of her children. She took up residence in New York City where she lived until her death. In 1852, young John O’Brien enlisted in the U.S. Army as a musician and was assigned to the 4th Artillery Regiment. His military assignments included duty in Texas against Comanches and other hostile Indians, and in Florida against scattered bands of Seminoles in the Third Seminole War. At the expiration of his enlistment, he returned to New York City and took employment in the U.S. Custom House. In May 1860 John O’Brien married Anastasia Shea, a native of Kilkenny. Five children – a daughter and four sons – were born to the couple while they lived in NYC.
In January 1863, at the height of the American Civil War, John enlisted in the Union Army. He served with the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment, fighting in the Army of the Potomac, until the end of the war. The 4th Infantry was engaged at such notable battles as Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and the Siege of Petersburg. The 4th Infantry went West to the Wyoming Territory in 1867 and served at Fort Laramie for a time before locating to Camp Sill. After about six weeks they began building Fort Fetterman, an outpost taking its name from Lt. Colonel William Fetterman, who had met his death with eighty of his men in December 1866 in an Indian massacre near Fort Phil Kearny.
While at Fetterman, the O’Briens sixth child, Margaret, was born – the first Caucasian child to be born at the fort. The O’Briens eventually raised a family of sixteen – four died early in life – besides caring for their granddaughter, Elsie, who had lost her mother while still a toddler. Elsie remained with her grandparents through her earliest years, later joining her father, John, who was foreman on the V. R. Ranch, at Uva, Wyoming.
During the summer of 1873 John O’Brien served as orderly sergeant on the Big Horn expedition in 1869 and also accompanied the Yellowstone expedition in 1872. The 4th Infantry was amalgamated with the 30th Infantry to form the 1st Wyoming Infantry in 1874. In May 1877 John O’Brien was discharged ‘with honourary mention’ from the service. He settled down to raise livestock on a ranch six miles south of Fort Fetterman.
In spite of his love for ranching, the military spirit still welled within him and in April 1898, when President William McKinley issued a call for volunteers to serve in the Spanish-American War, John O’Brien enlisted and was commissioned captain of Company F, 1st Wyoming Infantry, on 27 April 1898 – just days before his sixtieth birthday.
The 1st Wyoming Infantry Regiment embarked at San Francisco and arrived at the Philippines on 31 July. They disembarked on 6 August and were immediately engaged in skirmishing duty. The 1st Wyoming was the first regiment to enter Manila and Captain O’Brien engaged in his first guard duty on the wall separating the old city and the new. Following the occupation of Manila, the 1st Wyoming was assigned numerous duties involving frequent battles against insurrectionists with Company F reportedly ‘making many brave charges and doing valiant service’ the most notable being the capture of the old church at Gaudaloupe, which had been occupied by 1,500 Filipinos.
Frequently riding with Captain O’Brien during the campaign was Teddy Roosevelt, destined to become the next president of the United States – and who became a personal friend of the captain. On 7 March 1899 Captain O’Brien was wounded by a bullet, which mutilated his right wrist. He, nevertheless, remained with his company, leading them in ‘numerous gallant engagements’ until 6 July, when orders came to embark on their homeward journey.
Landing in San Francisco in mid-August, the men of Company F mustered out at the Presido on 23 September 1899 and returned to their Wyoming homes. Captain O’Brien returned to his peaceful life on his Wyoming ranch at LaPrele Creek. He suffered a severe case of malaria while in the Philippines and upon returning always slept with a canopy of mosquito netting over his bed. Captain O’Brien also brought back three mischievous monkeys from the Philippines and they lived in a specially constructed monkey house on the ranch. Two died the first winter, but the third lived for several years.
In the early 1900s Captain O’Brien moved from his ranch to a residence in Douglas, where he soon became involved in civic affairs serving as Justice of the Peace, as well as U.S. Commissioner. John D. O’Brien died on 4 August 1915 in Douglas, Converse. He was preceded by his wife, Anastasia, who died in January 1914.

Note: My thanks to Richard James Rielly, Jr., Aztec, New Mexico, for bringing this story to my attention when he visited the Local Studies and Genealogy Department, in Newbridge Library, in July 2012.



In 1903 Kildare-born John D. O’Brien was mentioned in a volume titled Progressive Men of the State of Wyoming as being among one of the ‘brave defenders of America’s honour’.


Centenary of hospital born in controversy

Feelings ran so high in the Celbridge area in 1912 against plans to build a hospital for infectious diseases that a number of local men attacked the new building and pulled down a ward under construction. Such was the controversial origin of the Peamount health care campus  which this month marks the centenary of its establishment in June 1912 by Lady Aberdeen, a tireless campaigner against the menace of tuberculosis (TB) which was ravaging through the Irish population. Wife of the Lord Lieutenant in Ireland she was a woman ahead of her time in terms of mobilising women generally in pursuit of better health and social conditions. She turned her considerable energies towards the scourge of TB which each year in the early 1900s was killing some 12,000 people. While medical science sought a treatment there was an emerging theory that sufferers should be brought to special hospitals known as “sanatoria” which would be located in areas well away from populated centres. The medical thinking was that by removing TB victims to sanatoria it would help stop the spread of this contagious condition.

Lady Aberdeen had in 1907 founded the Women’s National Health Association to bring practical help to communities in the battle against TB. Local committees of the WHNA – including active committees in Naas and Newbridge -- funded public health nurse schemes for their localities and held classes on hygiene and disease prevention. A notable initiative of the WHNA was an education unit in a horse-drawn caravan called Éire that toured parish halls with literature and displays to educate the public about disease prevention.

However Lady Aberdeen realised that while education might help prevent the spread of the disease more critical intervention was needed if the contagious spread of the diseases was to be controlled. After much fund raising she signed a contract on 21 June 1912 to purchase Peamount House and lands located just over the Dublin/Kildare county boundary east of Celbridge as the site for a large sanatorium. The move triggered an almost hysterical reaction among some landowners and public representatives in the Celbridge area.  Motions were passed at the meetings of the Celbridge Board of Guardians and at the Petty Sessions (a local court) protesting against the establishment of a sanatorium at Peamount. There was fear that the sanatorium would become a festering ground for TB which would spread to the surrounding localities of  Celbridge, Rathcoole, Saggart, Clondalkin, Newcastle, Leixlip.

Among the public representatives who spoke out against the sanatorium was Captain Connolly of Celbridge who told the Kildare Observer of July 1912 that “the health of the inhabitants would be seriously endangered, statistics going to show in England in the districts where sanatoria existed tuberculosis increased at such at such an alarming rate as to point to the danger of these institutions becoming nurseries of the disease.” However this criticism was answered by an expert in tuberculosis, a Dr. Flanagan, who said that there was more danger of being infected from being in a railway carriage, a tram car or a public house than there was living in the neighbourhood of a sanatorium.

But the locals -- faced with the primeval fear of an infectious disease stalking their locality – were in no mood to accept such reassurances and some decided to take the law into their own hands.Soon after the property was purchased by Lady Aberdeen in late June 1912 workmen had moved on to the site to build wards to accommodate the TB patients. Peamount House itself was to be the nursing home while the wards would be sleeping accommodation for the TB patients. Work was proceeding well when on a Sunday in July a gang of fifty entered the site and began to demolish one of the newly built wards. The site foreman Thomas Wood was roused from his Sunday afternoon slumber and ran out of his hut to be met with the sight of fifty men with pick-axes, sledge-hammers and ropes, setting about to wreck one of the wards under construction. The men were in the act of pulling down the frame of the ward by fixing a rope to the central beam and a group of about twenty were pulling away until they dragged the whole construction to the ground. The foreman ran back to his hut, fetched his shot-gun, and fired ten shots into the air to try and scatter the mob. However the mob continued to tear down the ward destroying the work of two weeks’ of building. 

Wood reported the incident to Lucan police and in the ensuing investigation three men from Hazelhatch and one, a member of Celbridge Rural District Councillor, were brought before the courts. It became a notorious episode with questions on the Peamount controversy ending up in the House of Commons in London in July of 1912.

However Lady Aberdeen persisted with her vision of providing a first-class sanatorium and Peamount went on to serve the new Irish State well into the twentieth century as a sanatorium deploying the latest medical expertise in the battle against TB. It was not until the early 1960s that TB was reduced to a minimal level and in 1962 the description “Sanatorium” was dropped from Peamount Healthcare’s title.  Today Peamount has over 400 staff delivering in-patient and out-patient support across a range of disciplines including respiratory rehabilitation services, neurological and intellectual disabilities, and day care services for elderly people in the Celbridge, Newcastle, Rathcoole and Saggart catchment areas. Once viewed with alarm, the hospital at Peamount is now a long-cherished place of expert support and treatment for the populations of north Kildare and west Dublin. Series no: 286.

The Sanatorium at Peamount had a controversial beginning, writes Liam Kenny in his Looking Back series of 19 June 2012. Our thanks to Liam

November 08, 2012


Eucharistic Congress tragedy recalled in Kildare and Offaly

The 2012 Eucharistic Congress which begins on Sunday next will inevitably draw  comparisons with the last occasion on which a Congress was staged in Dublin in 1932. The enduring way in which memories of the 1932 Congress have been handed down illustrate the impact which the event had on the Ireland of that time – a raw and impoverished Ireland still healing after the bitter divisions of the Civil War in the previous decade and facing into an Economic War in the 1930s. As if to banish hardship of the time memoirs of the 1932 Congress recall in awed terms the vast congregation which gathered in the Phoenix Park for a Pontifical High Mass, the singing of John Count McCormack in front of that great assembly and the solemn procession down Dublin’s quays to a benediction on O’Connell Bridge.
The newspapers accounts reinforce the almost overwhelming scale of pomp and ceremonial which attended the Congress and the vast infrastructure which was put in place by church and state to facilitate every facet of the ceremonies and assemblies. Indeed so anxious was the Government to indicate its deference to the needs of the Dublin Catholic Archdiocese in organising the event that a special law was passed through the Oireachtas entitled the Eucharistic Congress (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1932, which, under certain conditions, allowed unlicensed drivers and unlicensed cars to operate in the Dublin area so as to facilitate transport to and from the great ceremonies. 
It is not thought that such exemptions from the normal standards were factors in the only tragedy to occur in connection with the Congress when two people were killed outside Leixlip returning home from the ceremonies.  The two were passengers in a vehicle belonging to D.E.Williams, the malting firm in Tullamore, on which more than thirty were taking a lift home from the Phoenix Park in the early hours of Monday morning.
The approach to the Liffey Bridge at the entrance to Leixlip involves a downward hill followed by a sharp right-handed bend over the bridge. The lorry did not make the turn and collided with considerable violence with the parapet. Although the vehicle did not topple over many of the pilgrims were thrown from its open back over the bridge into the Liffey thirty feet below. The fall and impact with the river in the dark of night was a terrible experience and eight of the pilgrims sustained serious injury including the loss of limbs.
The crash startled a sleeping Leixlip, locals roused themselves from their beds, and rushed to help. A makeshift treatment area was set up in the adjacent Salmon Leap premises and the most seriously wounded were conveyed to Jervis Street Hospital while those less seriously injured were ferried to Dr. Steeven’s. For two of the pilgrims – Edward Daly and Patrick Kenaney  – the help was to no avail and they died later on in the day. The news stunned their native Tullamore where their families were inconsolable.
The Tullamore Tribune highlighted a particularly unfortunate sequence of events for twenty-three year old Patrick Kenaney. He had travelled with his parents by car to Dublin and paid a visit to his brother, a member of the Tullamore Boy Scout troop which – like Scouts all over Ireland – was on duty in Dublin City to guide the throngs of visitors from Ireland and overseas. He had decided to travel back to Tullamore not with his parents but on the lorry with his friends from D.E.Williams.
There was a deep sense of loss too for Eddie Daly (28) who was a brilliant player with Tullamore GAA club. Colleagues from the county and town football teams formed a guard of honour when his remains were brought back to the Offaly county town. The funerals of the two deceased brought Tullamore to a standstill and there was a big turnout of civic dignatories led by the chairman of Tullamore town council.
Eighty years later his successor, the Mayor of Tullamore, led a party of relatives of the two men to Leixlip where the Parish Pastoral Council had commissioned a bronze plaque in memory of the two men  as part of its pastoral preparation for the 2012 Eucharistic Congress. The Tullamore delegation was welcomed by the Mayor of Leixlip, clergy and parishioners of the Liffeyside town, on an evening last month when the tragedy was remembered with great sense of occasion. Benediction at the Church of Our Lady’s Nativity, Leixlip, was followed by a procession, escorted by Gardai and Civil Defence personnel, to the bridge where a service of prayer and music took place before the unveiling of an impressive brass plaque on the parapet of the Liffey bridge.
The plaque by Celbridge sculptor Jarlath Daly bears the symbols of the 1932 Eucharistic Congress and of the 2012 Congress. Although the scale and atmosphere of the two Congresses could not be more different – the first vast and triumphal, the latter modest and humble – both are linked by memories of that fateful night in Leixlip eighty years ago. 
 * Appreciation to Mr. Ger Scully, editor of the Tullamore Tribune, for his help in recording the circumstances of the 1932 accident. Series no: 283.

An article from the Looking Back series in Leinster Leader of 5 June 2012 on the anniversary of the Eucharistic Congress tragedy. Our thanks to Liam Kenny

November 01, 2012



The Rogue’s March. A Kildareman in Mexico's San Patricios Battalion

James Durney

In the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 more than 200 American deserters (many of them Irish immigrants) joined the Mexican army to fight against their former countrymen. They formed the St. Patrick’s Battalion (San Patricios) and chose to fight under the Mexican flag. As a result of their actions these men suffered an appalling fate. Among the deserters from the US Army was a young Kildareman, John Little.
Texas was the source of the trouble between Mexico and the United States. In 1835 it was a province of Mexico when it, along with other provinces, rebelled against an increasingly autocratic and centralist Mexican rule. Texas gained its independence after a year-long battle but the peace treaty, signed by General Santa Anna, was tainted by some of its provisions. The border of Texas was pushed from its historic location along the Neuces River much further south to the Rio Grande. The Mexican government viewed this as a land-grab and, claiming that Santa Anna had signed under duress – he was in captivity – rejected the treaty. Texas knew that Mexico would someday reclaim its lost territory, so canvassed for admittance to the United States. Texas was admitted to the US in March 1845, infuriating a bankrupt Mexico, who had been negotiating the sale of California state to the Americans.
As soon as Texas agreed to annexation US President, James K. Polk, sent a naval squadron to the Texas coast and an army of occupation to western Texas to protect the new American state against a threatened Mexican attack. It is possible that Polk sent the large military force to Texas in the hope of provoking an attack by Mexico, after which the US would retaliate by seizing California and other Mexican territory. General Zachary Taylor, a hero of the Seminole Indian War, was commander of the US Army in Texas, which numbered 3,900 men, almost half of which were foreign-born. The Irish totaled 24 percent, Germans were 10 percent, English 6 percent, Scottish 3 per cent, and another 4 percent came from Western Europe or Canada.
The increasing numbers of Irish and German Catholics arriving each year in the United States had awoken a latent anti-Catholicism in American society. No more so was this anti-Catholicism rife than in the US Army. Discipline in the United States Army at the time was savage. Branding with hot irons for infractions like drunkenness were almost daily occurrences. Other cruel punishments ranged from hanging a man by his thumbs for hours, repeatedly throwing buckets of water in a soldier’s face until he had almost drowned, putting a man in solitary confinement in tiny underground cells  for days at a time, to repeatedly throwing bound and tied soldiers into a pond. Added to these punishments were physical assaults by officers, with some men being literally beaten to death. However, the most vile punishment, and the one most hated by the men,  was a process called ‘bucking and gagging,’ where a soldier was tied in a sitting position, with a pole placed under the knees and over the elbows (‘bucking’) and then gagged by stuffing a rag into the man’s mouth. The unfortunate soldier would be left like this for hours, often in the open, with no shade from the sun. In Zachary Taylor’s force the Irish and German immigrants soon realised that they were suffering a disproportionate number of these punishments.
In the Texas camp the soldiers were poorly accommodated and the food was often rotten. The American officer class was almost wholly Anglo-Saxon Protestant and many of them were ‘nativists’ and anti-Catholics. They meted out punishments to the rank and file, but reserved their greatest disdain for the Irish and Germans. In March 1846 the bulk of the troops were ordered to break camp and set off to the disputed territory, advancing as far as the Rio Grande where a new camp was set up on the banks of the river, opposite the Mexican town of Matamoros. Disciplinary action had pushed many men beyond the limit of their endurance and there was even the threat of mutiny and plans to kill some of the most brutal officers. However, with the closeness of Mexico desertion became a more palatable option for many of the men. At the end of March men began to desert in ones and twos and then in more numerous groups, forcing Gen. Taylor to issue an order that any man refusing to swim back across the Rio Grande was to be shot dead. Taylor’s threats had little effect. The Mexicans, through leaflets and other means, enticed more men to desert, and each night former comrades called across the river exhorting their friends to join them in a more just and fairer army.
One of those who answered this call was John Riley, a veteran of the British army, and a native of Co. Galway. He quickly realised that the Mexican army was made up of the poorest and most desperate of the Mexican people, mainly conscripted Indians, and if he was to achieve anything he would have to organise the other experienced soldiers who had deserted. Riley named the group the St. Patrick’s (San Patricios) Battalion and they fought under an emerald flag emblazoned with the Irish harp and shamrock. The Irish-Catholic link had only a superficial meaning to the San Patricios – it gave them a distinctive symbol and provided cohesion for the group. Not all the men were Irish, although it is thought that they made up two-fifths of the unit.
During the two years of war the Mexicans called this unique unit by various names. Officially the unit began as the San Patricio Company, an artillery outfit that was later expanded to two companies. In mid-1847, the Mexican war department reassigned the men as infantrymen and merged the San Patricio companies into the newly created Foreign Legion, which some Britons and Americans called the Legion of Strangers. In 1848, the Mexican president expanded the companies and formed the St. Patrick’s Battalion. The national origin of every San Patricio is not known but at least forty were known to have been born in Ireland. The birthplace and numbers of the others known are: twenty-two born in the United States; fourteen in some other part of Great Britain; fourteen in German states; two in Canada; and one each in France, Italy, Spanish Florida, and Poland.
The war offically began on 24 April 1846 when a Mexican unit attacked an American patrol near Matamoros, giving the United States the excuse it needed to declare war. John Riley and his San Patricios fought for the first time on 3 May when they were involved in the bombardment of their former camp near Matamoros. The Mexican forces evacuated Matamoros on 17 May, and among the San Patricios that marched out of the city was John Little. He was twenty-five and had enlisted in Company C, 2nd Dragoons, US Army, on 1 August 1845 and had deserted on 8 April 1846. John Little’s birthplace was given as ‘Kildare, Ireland.’ The surname Little was quite common in Co. Kildare, with families bearing the name Little in Athy, Donadea, Robertstown, Bodenstown, Ballymore-Eustace and Naas. However, it is not known where John Little was born and there are no records to coincide with his birth in the county, in or around the year 1820.
In September the San Patricios fought gallantly at the siege of Monterrey. Desertions continued in the American forces, and the Mexicans offered deserters who joined the Mexican army, even as a private, 320 acres of land. (Over 9,000 men deserted from the US Army, but only a few hundred of these joined forces with the Mexicans.) The San Patricios played a devastating part in the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847 where for the first time the Americans caught a glimpse of the San Patricios’ green flag. They became a source of inspiration to the Mexicans, but one of hatred for the Americans. At the Battle of Churubusco, in August 1847, the San Patricios lost thirty-five men killed and eighty-five captured, among them John Riley. The San Patricios artillery had inflicted heavy casualties on the attacking Americans and it took great effort and courage on behalf of an American officer, who had to restrain his men from bayoneting the captured deserters.
The captured San Patricios were tried by an American military court, with fifty of them sentenced to death. Extraordinarily, Riley escaped the death sentence. He and five other men, including Kildareman John Little, had deserted their units in April 1846, which was before the official beginning of the war. Under a technicality of US law, the soldiers could not receive the death penalty for desertion, as they had deserted during peacetime. Riley, Little and thirteen other deserters, were given over fifty lashes and branded with a two-inch letter ‘D’ on the face or hip for desertion. The sixteen men who received the death sentence were forced to witness this and then were hung. The Americans hung a further fourteen San Patricios, including one, Francis O’Connor, of Cork, who had lost both legs in the Battle of Churubusco. The surviving San Patricios were held in captivity until the war ended the following year when they were released. The remaining San Patricios were scattered around Mexico and Riley found himself in the village of Tlalnepantla, north of Mexico City, along with around ten soldiers of his former battalion, among them John Little. A local newspaper started a subscription to help the former prisoners and Riley acknowledged the contribution of 232 pesos in a letter to the paper in which he stated he had distributed the money among the following “companions of arms”: William H. Akles, John Bartley, Thomas Cassady, John Hamilton, James Kelley, John Little, John McCornick, Alexander McKee, James Millar, John Murphy, Peter O’Brien, Samuel Thomas, Edward Ward, Charles Williams, and John Wilton.
There are few, if any, records of the San Patricios who remained in Mexico. They had retained the respect of many Mexicans, who responded generously to requests for assistance and paid for many of the San Patricios to return to Europe. Others settled down in Mexico, married and had families. It is thought John Riley returned to Ireland, but there is no proof. What happened to Kildareman John Little is also uncertain. He could have returned to Ireland or settled in Mexico. It would be nice to think he returned to his native county and regaled people with stories of adventures in America and Mexico, but his trail ends in Mexico in 1848.
John Little and his comrades are not forgotten in Mexico, however. While his life in Ireland is unknown John Little is a hero in Mexico. There is a plaque erected on a wall facing the San Jacinto plaza in Mexico City’s suburb of San Angel, which bears the names of seventy-one soldiers of the San Patricios, including John Little. An escutcheon at the top of the plaque depicts an Irish Celtic cross protected by the outstretched wings of the Mexican Aztec eagle, while at the bottom appears the phrase: With the Gratitude of Mexico, 112 Years after Their Sacrifice.

In the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 more than 200 American deserters  formed the St. Patrick’s Battalion (San Patricios) and chose to fight under the Mexican flag. Among them was a young Kildareman, John Little.



Appointment of Mr. Donal Buckley



The following official announcement was issued from Government Buildings about half-past twelve o’clock on Saturday last—
His Majesty the King, on the advice of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, has appointed Domhnall Ua Buachalla, Esq., to the office of Governor-General of the Irish Free State.
It was subsequently stated that at 12 o’clock noon the new Governor-General was sworn in at the residence of his brother, Mr. Michael Buckley, Rock Road, Booterstown. The oaths of office were administered by Chief Justice Kennedy, and there were present as witnesses Mr. Seon Moynihan, Secretary to the Free State Executive Council, and Mr. J. P. Walshe, Secretary to the Department of External Affairs. An official notice to this effect will appear in the next issue of the “Gazette.”
Mr. Walshe visited Buckingham Palace, London, earlier in the week, when, it is understood, he conveyed to the King the advice of the Executive Council regarding the appointment of Mr. Buckley, and his warrant of appointment arrived in Dublin on Saturday morning.
The new Governor-General, who is better known as Mr. Donal Buckley, was in the last Dail, sitting as Fianna Fail representative for his native county of Kildare. He was virtually a silent member, and on the rare occasions on which he intervened in debate he spoke invariably in the Irish language, of which he is a keen student.
A Complete Surprise
The announcement f his appointment on Saturday took the country by complete surprise. It was known on Friday that an appointment would take place immediately, and there was much speculation. Many names had been canvassed, but nobody ever thought of Mr. Buckley. Possibly one reason was that nobody thought that a Republican of Mr. Buckley’s very pronounced convictions would have undertaken to represent the King, even apart from taking the oaths required by the Letters Patent under which his appointment is made.
The oaths stipulated are as follows:—
“I, ———, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to King George the Fifth, his heirs and successors according to law. So help me God”
“I, ———, do swear that I will well and truly serve His Majesty King George the Fifth in the office of Governor-General of the Irish Free State. So help me God.”
It is noted that no public display was made of the swearing-in function, which took place at his brother’s house, in the presence of only a few persons. Rather different was the swearing-in of Mr. James McNeill on the 3rd February, 1929, when he took the oaths at Leinster House. The Chief Justice on that occasion administered the oaths, according to the official announcement, “in the presence of the Vice-President and members of the Executive Council, the Judges of the Supreme Courts and of the High Court, the Speaker of Dail Eireann, the Chairman of Seanad Eireann, the Attorney-General, and other persons there assembled.”
Not Going To London
It would seem that there will be no question of the new Governor-General’s going to London for presentation to the King. This is a usual, but not indispensable, procedure. It seems that there has been at least one instance in which the Governor-General of a Dominion did not go to see the King on his appointment.
What attitude the new Governor-General will take up towards those great functions with which the Governor-General is usually associated remains to be seen. It appears to be certain that he will not occupy the Viceregal Lodge, nor will he continue to reside at his present home near Maynooth. The probability is that he will take a smaller house at a convenient distance from Dublin, and will dispense with many of the formalities with which the office has heretofore been surrounded.
Question Of Salary
The question of the salary has been discussed. There are rumours that he has undertaken the office at a much lower sum than the £10,000 a year stipulated in the Constitution. Without legislation it would not be possible to alter the sum payable to the occupant of the office, nor could the Executive Council legally bargain with him to take less; but there is, of course, nothing to prevent Mr. Buckley’s taking a lesser sum, or even nothing at all, if he were so disposed.
In the event of the Viceregal Lodge falling into disuse, the Minister for Finance will be able to save a substantial portion of the sum of approximately £16,000 voted annually for its upkeep. A further saving will be effected if, as stated, the new Governor-General dispenses with the two Army officers to the services of whom he is entitled as aides-de-camp. The rumour is that, instead of Army officers, he will appoint non-commissioned members of the Civic Guard to attend him.
In regard to all these matters it was authoritatively stated on Saturday night that no decision had been come to by the Governor-General. It is possible even that in regard to the more important matters no final step will be taken pending the return of President de Valera from Geneva.
It is understood that Mr. Buckley will immediately resign from the position to which he was appointed shortly after the new Government came into office as one of the two Commissioners to report on the industries and other matters concerning the Gaeltacht.
How The King Is “Advised”
It is to be noted that in the form of the appointment of Mr. Buckley the Free State Executive Council exercised the rights which they acquired under the report of the Imperial Conference, 1930.
That report set out that the report of the Conference of 1926 declared that the Governor-General of a Dominion is now the “representative of the Crown, holding in all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain, and that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain or of any department of that Government.”
The report adds that “the following statements would seem to flow naturally from the new position of the Governor-General as representative of His Majesty only:—
“1. The parties interested in the appointment of a Governor-General of a Dominion are His Majesty the King, whose representative he is, and the Dominion concerned.
“2. The constitutional practices that His Majesty acts on the advice of responsible Ministers applies also in this instance.
“3. The Ministers who tender and are responsible for such advice are His Majesty’s Ministers in the Dominion concerned.
“4. The Ministers concerned tender their formal advice after informal consultation with His Majesty.
“5. The channel of communication between His Majesty and the Government of any Dominion is a matter solely concerning His Majesty and such Governments  .  .  .  .  .  .  .”
The chief duty of the Governor-General, apart from his social activities, is to give the Royal Assent to bills of the Oireachtas. The first bill to come up for signature by Mr. Buckley will be the Appropriation Bill, which passed through the Senate last week, and must become law by the 30th of November.
Mr. Domhnall Ua Buachalla was born in Maynooth, County Kildare, and is aged 56 years. His father, Cornelius Buckley, was a native of Mallow, and his mother belonged to the Jacob family of Dublin. The late Cornelius Buckley was a native Irish speaker and all his children took a great interest in the language from an early age.
After a brilliant school career with the Jesuits, Mr. Buckley entered business as a general shopkeeper in Maynooth where he quickly established an extensive connection.
His entry into business life marked the beginning of a career that was destined to bring the new Governor-General into the floodlight of Irish history. While still in his teens he mastered the Irish language and then set about to diffuse the knowledge which had thus been gained. The Gaelic League of the County Kildare found him an indomitable worker in its cause and his services were in constant demand at Irish Ireland functions.
He was the presiding genius at many of our Feiseanna and Ceilidhe and his genial presence was always a source of delight and encouragement to the young people.
Mr. Buckley’s activities, however, were by no means confined to the cultural side of the Irish Ireland movement. He was an unflinching supporter of the cause of Irish Independence for which he risked both his life and property.
His first conflict with the military authorities occurred when he was summoned at Kilcock Court for having his name printed in Irish over his shop. When the case came on for hearing Padraic Pearse conducted the defence. Mr. Buckley was fined, but refused to pay. Police raided his shop and seized goods which were put up for public auction. There was a great deal of sympathy for Mr. Buckley amongst the local people and only one man attended the auction. He bought the goods for a small sum and promptly returned them to the owner.
Mr. Buckley established a branch of the Irish Volunteers in Maynooth and drilled in secret at night, keeping in close touch with the leaders in Dublin. Preparations were being made to take part in the 1916 Rising, but owing to the countermanding orders they were taken by surprise.
On Easter Monday Mr. Buckley was working in his shop in Maynooth when the first vague news came through from Dublin that the fight for independence had begun.
He cycled to the city to learn the facts, and on finding that the fighting was really in progress he returned and informed the other Maynooth Volunteers.
They numbered about twenty in all. Mr. Buckley was the only one who had a rifle, the others were armed mostly with shotguns, and one had a revolver. Before leaving for Dublin they went into Maynooth College and received the blessing of its then President, the Rev. Dr. Hogan.
Then they began the historic march to Dublin which was in the throes of the fighting. When they entered the city they first went to Glasnevin near where Volunteers were trying to capture a magazine. In military formation the Maynooth Volunteers marched down the North Circular Road to the Post Office in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
From then until the surrender Mr. Buckley took part in some of the fiercest encounters with the British.
He fulfilled with honour the prophecy of Padraic Pearse: “Buckley is a real patriot, and one of the most determined men in Ireland. When we strike our blow for Irish freedom I am certain he will be with us.”
At the end of that struggle Mr. Buckley was sent to Knutsford Jail for some weeks, and from there he was sent to Frongoch. He was released the following Christmas. Back once more in Maynooth he continued his efforts for Irish with added zeal.
In 1918 Mr. Buckley entered Parliamentary life. He was returned as a Sinn Fein member of Parliament for North Kildare. His victory was regarded as significant, since the defeated Nationalist candidate had represented the constituency for many years.
Mr. Buckley came more or less into the public view when he opposed the acceptance of the Treaty creating the Irish Free State. He was a member of the Dail until 1923, when he was defeated at the general election of that year, but was re-elected as a Fianna Fail member in the general election of 1927. Mr. Buckley was not a prominent member of the Dail in the matter of speech-making, but, being regular in attendance, he was most useful to his party. Most of his speeches in the Dail were delivered in Irish.
Mr. Buckley retired from business a few years ago, leaving the shop premises to his son.
The new Governor-General is a widower. His wife died in 1918, and he resides now with two of his sons at Gleann Ailighe, near Maynooth College. His family includes three daughters and four sons.
Mr. Buckley has led a quiet life since his few days in Dublin. He is the brother of Mr. M. J. Buckley, a former Borough Surveyor of Dublin, who lately was appointed a member of the Free State Housing Board.
Mr. Buckley has led a quiet life since his defeat at the last general election, but recently the Government appointed him as inspector to investigate conditions in the Gaeltacht. He has, of course, resigned that appointment.
A special meeting of the Athy District Council convened for the purposes of tendering congratulations of the Council to His Excellency the Governor-General on his appointment was held on Tuesday night, Mr. P. Dooley, Chairman, presiding. Other members present were:— Miss B. Darby, Messrs. Toomey, Carbery, Doran, Mahon and Murphy.
Miss Darby — I wish to propose the following resolution though I don’t know if the wording will meet the wishes of the other members — “That I offer to Domhnall Ua Buachalla my heartiest congratulations, not so much on the fact that he has been appointed to the position of Governor-General, but on the fact that the Fianna Fail Government have such confidence in him and in his faith and loyalty to the Irish nation, that they have selected him as their trusted champion to man the Bearna Boaghal at this critical period of the nation’s history. Well they know, and all who know him know that the nation’s honour could not be in better hands. Honours and emoluments mean nothing to Domhnall Ua Buachalla compared with his duties to the Irish nation. He is a noble and patriotic Irishman who has fought and worked and suffered and lost for his country, and there are very few who can compare with him.”
Chairman — I take great pleasure in seconding that resolution. I have known Domhnall Ua Buachalla since 1916 and 1918. Mr. Mahon and I were the first pioneers of County Kildare along with him from ’25 to ’28 and have been with him canvassing the whole town of Athy during the election. I have never known his equal as a noble and courageous gentleman, therefore I take great pleasure in seconding this resolution.
Mr. Mahon — I never attended a meeting or supported a resolution that gave me as much pleasure as this resolution of congratulation to Domhnall Ua Buachalla. Miss Darby has put in her resolution my own feelings on the matter. Knowing as I do, he never cared for the limelight, but always cared to be in the darkest corner if it were there he could do the best work for the Motherland. How could any of us knowing him well forget that glorious and immortal Easter Sunday morning of 1916 when Domhnall Ua Buachalla on hearing rumours – as we all did – of the Rising in Dublin to strike for Ireland, got on his bicycle and though a married man with a family and business on his shoulders, rode to the city to find if those rumours were true. Finding the Rising had taken place he returned, and getting a handful of splendid men, including our T.D., Tom Harris, marched to Dublin to take part in the fight there. In every fight after that Domhnall Ua Buachalla has always been to the forefront when told that fight was for national and economic independence. I think if even a greater honour than the Governor-General could be conferred upon him he would be worthy of it, and worthy of the trust of the Executive Council and President de Valera. I hope we can wipe out the stain upon us that let down such a man as Domhnall Ua Buachalla at the last election and if we could to place him with his colleagues selected to represent us in An Dail.
Mr. Doran endorsed the remarks, saying President de Valera had made a very wise selection in recommending such a man for the position of Governor-General.
Mr. Carbery, associating himself with the remarks of the other members, added that Kildare should be the proudest county in Ireland at the present moment.
Mr. Murphy also associated himself with the remarks.
Mr. Mahon said he was with Domhnall Ua Buachalla after the election and more or less apologising for their not electing him, he would never forget the remarks he passed. He (Mr. Mahon) knew he felt it, not because it was any loss of dignity, but the words he used showed the admirable spirit of the man. Domhnall Ua Buachalla said to him — “It is one of the casualties of the road that I am not there and my only regret is I am not there when the fighting is to be done.”
Mr. Toomey endorsed all the remarks made and said when coming down that Mr. Malone asked him to apologise for his absence as he could not attend.
Chairman — He is ill, but he is here in spirit at any rate.
Mr. Lawler (Clerk) remarked that Mr. Tierney asked him to apologise for his absence.
The resolution was then declared carried and it was decided that copies be sent to His Excellency the Governor-General, to the Executive Council and to President de Valera.
At a meeting of the Maynooth Labour Party the following resolution was passed — “That we, the members of the Maynooth Labour Party at this our inaugural meeting take this opportunity of offering to our worthy townsman, Domhnall Ua Buachalla, Esq., our hearty congratulations on the honour conferred on him by the Executive Council in selecting him to be Governor-General of the Irish Free State, and we hope His Excellency will be spared to see the ideal he so bravely fought for accomplished.”

On 3 December 1932 the Kildare Observer carried a report on the appointment of Domhnall Ua Buachalla as the new (and last) Governor General of Ireland


A labour of love …  a poltical centenary

This month marks the centenary of the foundation of the Labour party in May 1912 – the founding motion was passed at an Irish Trade Unions Congress held in Clonmel towards the end of that month.  According to some political scientists that confers on Labour the status of the longest established political party in the country. Tracing the lineage of Irish political parties is not an exact science with changes of name and of organisation complicating the picture. The title “Sinn Fein” dates to 1907 and a candidate under that banner contested elections in 1908. And in terms of an all-island record the Ulster Unionist party can point to origins in the mid 1880s. However in terms of a registered political party contesting elections the centenary of the Labour party is a significant one in the Irish political spectrum.
Colohan, Norton, Bermingham, Stagg and Wall are names which have appeared on ballot papers in County Kildare constituency elections from 1922 to the present day. In doing so the Labour party has a record of electoral success in Kildare virtually unrivalled by any other constituency in the country.  Labour’s first Kildare breakthrough came against huge odds when it contested the turbulent June 1922 elections for the 3rd Dáil. The build-up to the 1922 General Election was dominated by the divisive split in the nationalist movement between Collins and De Valera and the campaign took place against the volatile background of an incipient Civil War. It is remarkable then that Labour, which had been sidelined by Sinn Féin as the national question dominated Irish politics from 1916 to 1921, was able to mobilise a support base which saw two TDs elected in the Kildare-Wicklow constituency – Hugh Colohan and James Everett – who garnered an impressive 35% of the vote.  Hugh Colohan, a bricklayer from Newbridge, who was also an early Labour member of Kildare County Council was to hold his seat until his death in April 1931. He was succeeded in the Kildare constituency in 1932 by a legend in Labour history, William (Bill) Norton, who was to hold the Labour seat for a remarkable thirty-two years. And this was only one of Norton’s achievements on the political record as he also was leader of the Labour party throughout that period and succeeded to Ministerial office in the two coalition governments.  His tenure as Labour leader was not an easy one: almost since its foundation in 1912 Labour had been beset by splits and personality clashes among its leadership, a fractious record which was to dog the party right up to the 1940s and beyond.
A feature of Bill Norton’s tenure as a Kildare TD is that although representing the Kildare constituency for over thirty years he never lived in the county maintaining his residence in Dublin throughout this period. Energetic, confident and pugnacious were words used to describe the long-lived Labour leader and according to one party historian he was characterised as: “a fighting man, so self-confident that he is apt to succeed in the most unlikely places because he cannot anticipate defeat.” His persistence paid off and during his three decades as a Kildare TD he held Ministerial office twice – firstly in Ireland’s first coalition government where he was Tánaiste and Minister for Social Welfare (1948-51) and then in the second coalition (1954-57) when he was appointed Tánaiste again this time with the Industry and Commerce portfolio.  In fact the Ministerial positions held by Kildare TDs in modern times overshadow the fact that the county had high-powered political representation in the 1950s with Norton as Tánaiste and the charismatic Gerard Sweetman (Fine Gael) as Minister for Finance in the Cabinet of 1954-57. There is always pressure on Ministers to be seen to “deliver” for their constituencies and associating particular local developments with constituency TDs is an uncertain business because of the many influences involved. However it is hard not to imagine that Norton and Sweetman had some influence, for example, in steering the Army Apprentice School to Naas in 1954 when there had been suggestions that it would be located in Dublin. Norton died in December 1963 and Labour lost the subsequent by-election. However the seat was regained by his son Pat in the 1965 General Election. It was again lost by Labour in 1969 and for the first full term since 1922 Labour in Kildare was without a TD until the seat was regained by another legend in Kildare politics, Castlemitchell councillor Joe Bermingham who was later Minister of State at the Office of Public Words. From the 1980s onwards Emmett Stagg in North Kildare and Jack Wall in South Kildare have kept the Labour flag flying. And no doubt the current representatives will, in the midst of referendum campaigning, spare a thought for their predecessors who gathered in Clonmel in 1912 and inaugurated the Labour party. Series no: 282.

The Irish Labour Party was founded 100 years ago in May 1912. Series no. 282 from Liam Kenny's Looking Back column in the Leinster Leader 29 May 2012


Brits out! … recalling the British Army’s departure 90 years ago

With impeccable if coincidental timing Newbridge Local History Group last week marked the 90th anniversary of the day on which the British Army pulled out of barracks occupied by them for generations in Co. Kildare. The occasion was a visit last Thursday to the Bord na Mona corporate headquarters which occupies the site and some of the buildings preserved from the days of the British barracks in Newbridge. While the focus of the evening was on the story of Bord na Mona in the town, Newbridge historians recalled that the 16th May also marked the 90th anniversary to the day of the departure of the last remaining units of the British Army from Newbridge and, simultaneously, from Naas, Kildare and the Curragh.
Newbridge Barracks had, at its peak, accommodated 1,000 troopers, their horses and accoutrements. Add another 16,000 personnel at the seven barracks within the Curragh complex, and include the artillery camp at Kildare town and the infantry barracks at Naas, and at one stage the British presence in the county numbered an astonishing 20,000 troops or more making it one of the biggest clusters of military might anywhere in the far flung British Empire.
The withdrawal of the British military machine from Ireland had been made inevitable following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 bringing to an end the War of Independence which had raged since 1919 and which in turn had been inspired by the Rising of 1916.
The departure of the British although fulfilling a long-held ambition of Irish nationalists was had consequences for local people who had made livelihoods serving the needs of the enormous army presence in the county. Shopkeepers in Kildare, hotel owners in Newbridge, and bakers in Naas were among those in the local economy who had benefited from the abundant sterling spend from the soldiers’ payroll.
There were other regrets too as the soldiers moved out. The Kildare Observer newspaper remarked that the only decent fire-engine in the county was that operated by the British Army in the Curragh Camp. The writer lamented: “ It’s removal leaves the entire district – Kildare, Newbridge, Naas – without anything in the nature of a an effective fire-fighting apparatus”. Residents would now be left to the mercies of Newbridge Town Commission and Naas Urban Council whose appliances were described as being “obsolete and of little use in the event of an outbreak.”
Apart from such losses to public services and the local economy arising from the British exit the circumstances of the departure day itself were recorded in the Kildare Observer as befitted a low-key but momentous transfer of power from the 800-year old Dublin Castle administration to that of an independent Irish Free State. The Observer correspondent stressed the significance of the occasion: “Tuesday of the present week (16 May 1922) marked an epoch in the life of Co. Kildare when there was a complete evacuation from the posts which have never previously been unoccupied.” Local people watched as from Monday a constant stream of lorries passed through Newbridge and Naas bringing the troops and their paraphernalia from the Curragh to Dublin Port. The final packing-up was completed on the Tuesday morning and by noon the last lorry of British personnel was leaving the Curragh. As one army moved out, another moved in. The Observer reported: “ At the same time large bodies of the Irish Free State army, marched on the Curragh … the General-Officer Commanding of the Free State Army Lieut-General O’Connell and members of his Headquarters staff formally took over possession from the departing troops.” The handover was low-key and devoid of the sort of ceremonial which usually accompanies military occasions. The only excitement reported was when Lt-General O’Connell climbed the Curragh water tower to raise the tricolour of the new Irish Free State, he found that the British had sawn down the flagpole. Apparently this was not a begrudging act but a customary protocol of a departing army. When a make-shift pole was improvised a “huge tricolour was floated in the breeze to the accompaniment of cheers of the new forces drawn from Irish Army camps in Kilkenny, Dublin and Celbridge”.
The cheer for the tricolour was perhaps the only cheer to be felt on what otherwise should have been a celebratory occasion: the day was wet, the new Irish army too small to fill the vast barrack squares, and the Camp, devoid of the bustle of thousands of men and horses, must have looked somewhat bereft and miserable.

About the same time the handover took place in Newbridge where the last British gunners left for Dublin port and their place was taken by the Free State troops under the command of Comdt. Cronin.  Newbridge barracks was only occupied for a short time into the life of the Irish Free State and its vast property was soon parcelled out to a variety of users – from 1927 the Garrison Chapel was given to Newbridge Town Commission,  from 1931 a large site was transferred to the GAA for St. Conleth’s Park and later in the 1930s sites on the western end of the barracks were provided to accommodate two fledgling industries – Newbridge Cutlery and Irish Ropes – which helped fill the gap in employment left by the departure of the British troops on a momentous day 90 years ago this month. Today the last remaining red-brick building of the Victorian barracks is maintained as a working office by Bord na Mona which in its own way has been central to the twentieth century history of Co. Kildare. But that’s a story for another day. Series no: 281.

On 16 May 1922 the British Army left Co. Kildare forever, so writes Liam Kenny in his Leinster Leader Looking Back article no. 281

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