« February 2013 | Main | April 2013 »

March 28, 2013


Kildare Rebels, Irish Confederates. Kildaremen in the 6th Louisiana Infantry Regiment

James Durney

When the American Civil War began in April 1861 Irishmen both north and south answered the call to arms. While some 150,000 Irish immigrants served in the Union Army, an estimated 30,000 Irish-born fought for the Confederate Army. Just as the Irish immigrants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia and other northern cities rallied to the Union cause, the Irish who landed at southern ports like New Orleans embraced the cause of the Confederacy. Though less numerous – and destined to be far less famous – than their countrymen who fought for the Union in the fabled Irish Brigade, these Irish rebels wrote an equally stirring story fighting for the Confederate States of America. In the wake of the Irish famine more than a million immigrants arrived on America’s shores, the majority of them settling in the North. However, many landed at Southern ports or found their way south, so that in 1860, the Irish were the largest white ethnic group in the Confederacy, numbering nearly 85,000. Irish units were raised in eight of the eleven states of the Confederacy.
The Confederate Army included dozens of heavily-Irish units, from companies to regiments with colorful Celtic names: Savannah produced the Irish Jasper Greens; Alabama had the Emerald Guards; Carolina raised the Emerald Light Infantry and the Old Irish Volunteers. The 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment from Nashville was largely Irish, while the 1st Virginia Infantry Regiment included Irish immigrants from Richmond. But no state produced as many Irish Confederates as Louisiana, and no city as many as New Orleans, which in 1860 was home to more immigrants from Ireland than any other place in the South.
The Irish of the Confederacy were not fighting to preserve slavery. Few, if any were slave owners, and for the most part were common labourers. They were the underclass of their day – working-class immigrants of little or no formal education, competing for jobs with free blacks and slaves, regarded by ‘native’ Americans as the lowest order of humanity. Yet 4,000 Irishmen from New Orleans volunteered to fight for their newly-adopted home. Two weeks after Confederate guns had fired the first shots of the Civil War against Fort Sumter, a notice appeared in the Daily Picayune, one of New Orleans’ leading newspapers, calling for the formation of Company B, Irish Brigade. The notice ended with the words: ‘Prompt action is now expected of every Irishman in the present crisis.’ It was signed by William Monaghan. Born in Ireland in 1820 Monaghan would eventually command the 6th Louisiana Infantry Regiment, sometimes called the South’s ‘Irish Brigade.’
If a full Irish brigade was actually contemplated, it failed to materialise. Instead, the various companies of Irish volunteers raised in New Orleans were assigned to different Irish regiments, several of which had a strong Irish composition. The 1st Louisiana Volunteers included companies composed mostly of immigrants and bearing such Irish names as the Emmet Guards and Montgomery Guards. The 7th Louisiana Volunteers were more than one-third Irish-born, while the notorious Louisiana Tigers were mainly Irish dock workers. The 10th Louisiana Volunteers fielded five companies dominated by Irish immigrants. But the 6th Louisiana Volunteers was the most thoroughly Irish regiment of them all. Of the 980 men in the regiment whose birthplace is recorded, at least 468 were born in Ireland. Another 100 men, undoubtedly sons of immigrants, bore Irish surnames. According to James P. Gannon, author of ‘Irish Rebels. Confederate Tigers. A history of the 6th Louisiana Volunteers, 1861-1865,’ close to sixty per cent of the regiment was Irish by birth or ancestry.
Of these 468 Irish-born volunteers three are recorded as being born in Co. Kildare. They are: Thomas Cleary, James Farrell and James Valentine. All three were members of Company I, an overwhelming Irish unit raised in New Orleans by its first captain, Joseph Hanlon, who was born in Ireland c. 1823 and worked as a reporter before accepting an officers’ commission at the outbreak of the war. Of the 106 men who served in the company, at least 89 were born in Ireland. Company I fought throughout the war and three men surrendered at Appomattox Court House in 1865.
James P. Gannon’s book contains a meticulously detailed and complete biographical roster of all the soldiers of the 6th Louisiana. The entry for Thomas Cleary states: Private, enlisted 17 March 1862, in New Orleans. On roll at General Hospital, Liberty, Virginia, October 1862 to February 1863. Died at General Hospital No.3, Mobile, Alabama, 6 April 1863 of consumption. Born: Co. Kildare. Occupation: farmer. Resident: New Orleans. Age thirty-five, height 5’7”, gray eyes, dark hair, fair complexion.
James Farrell. Private, enlisted 21 March 1862, in New Orleans. Admitted to Confederate State Army (CSA) General Hospital, Charlottesville, Virginia, 16 April 1862. Died of pneumonia 26 April 1862. Born: Co. Kildare. Occupation: steamboatman. Age thirty.
James Valentine. Private, enlisted 13 March 1862, New Orleans. Present to June 1862. Captured at Strasburg, Virginia, 5 June 1862. POW at Fort Delaware, Delaware. Took oath of allegiance, 10 August 1862. Born: Co. Kildare. Occupation: baker. Age thirty-three.
The 6th Louisiana fought fellow Irishmen of the Union Army at Strasburg, Virginia, in the first week of June 1862 where General Richard Taylor was pleased with the fighting abilities of his New Orleans Irish. ‘They were steady as clocks and as chirpy as crickets,‘ he later recalled. In one of the finest tributes penned to the Louisiana Confederate Irish Gen. Taylor wrote, the regiment ‘was composed of Irishmen, stout, hardy fellows, turbulent in camp and requiring a strong hand, but responding to kindness and justice, and ready to follow their officers to the death’.  The regiment, however, suffered significant loss in numbers during this engagement and at least fifty-two men were captured in the vicinity of Strasburg and Woodstock. Most of the men captured were Irish, among them Private James Valentine. Many of the prisoners, including Private Valentine, took the oath of allegiance to the United States to gain release from prison. Valentine’s age is given as thirty-three in 1862, which would mean he was born circa 1828-9. A search of births in Newbridge Library by genealogist Karel Kiely records two James Valentines – one born in Kilcullen in 1826 and another born in Naas in 1827. It is unknown which of these is the James Valentine of the 6th Louisiana, but the Naas James Valentine was the son of a soldier, which might mean he followed in his father's footsteps.
As many soldiers died from sickness and disease as did in battle during the American Civil War and the other two Kildare rebels, Thomas Cleary and James Farrell, bear testament to this. Again a search in Co. Kildare birth records show that there are no James Farrells born in Co. Kildare in 1828 – the year of James Farrell’s birth based on his age in 1862 – but there are nine James Farrells born in 1831 and four in 1832, mainly in the south of the county. The Louisiana James Farrell could be any of these. In the case of Thomas Cleary the results are easier to make sense of. Again based on Thomas Cleary’s age given at the time of his death, which would show him born around 1828, there are two Thomas Clearys, both born in Co. Kildare, in 1827, one in Monasterevin and one in Castledermot. Either of these could possibly be the Louisiana Thomas Cleary.
The Irish in the South, like those in the North, fought with the state to which they felt they owed their first allegiance to – the community which took them in and gave them a new start as Americans. The Confederate Irish and the 6th Louisiana fared badly during the Civil War. By the time the proud 6th Louisiana reached the trenches of Petersburg in the late winter of 1864, its original complement of almost 1,000 men had been whittled down to less than seventy-five soldiers. About two dozen men were left when General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House in April 1865. A total of 1,146 men were enrolled with the 6th Louisiana during the war – 219 were killed in battle, while another 109 men died of disease, accidents or other non-combat causes, to give the regiment a fatality rate of 29 percent.
As victors and vanquished made their way home after Appomattox, they faced contrasting prospects. Union soldiers returned to a buoyant and prosperous land, while Confederate soldiers went home to a ruined and desolate South. Here the trail of James Valentine goes cold, as we do not know what happened him after the civil war had run its course. Did James Valentine stay in the North after his release or did he return to the South, or eventually return to Ireland? Anybody with any information please contact: localhistory@kildarecoco.ie

Several natives of Co. Kildare fought with the 6th Louisiana Infantry Regiment in America's Civil War


Dublin City Book Fair
Easter Monday 1st April
Tara Towers Hotel
Merrion Road

(Just Past Vincents Hospital on the right)
From 11am. – 5pm.
Admission €2.00.
N.B. On arrival collect your free parking permit at desk if arriving by car.

Dear Booklover,
Our only Bank Holiday Fair of the year takes place as above and we are looking forward to welcoming our many regulars and friends. We expect to have a full house with several dealers exhibiting only on this date.
Our dealers have some very scarce items which you may find interesting, a small few of which are listed below.
Joe Collins Rare Books has in keeping with the times Plunkett, James (James Plunkett Kelly) : The Eagles and the Trumpets and other Stories

Dublin ‘The Bell’ 1954. 76pp 215x140mm original printed wrappers.

This collection of short stories is James Plunkett’s first separate publication It was issued in place of Vol.XIX, No. 9 of "The Bell" magazine. Anthony Cronin, who was associate editor of the magazine at the time and who writes the preface to this collection, praises Plunkett for the realism and modernity that he brings to an Irish fiction which had been lately dominated by the primitive, the romantic and the nostalgic.
Plunkett, James : Big Jim - A Play for Radio

Dublin Martin O'Donnell 1955 70pp 215x135mm original cloth with dust-jacket.
A fine copy of the first edition of an early work by James Plunkett which lays the foundation for the huge critical and commercial success of his novel "Strumpet City".
And a very scarce Dublin printing, 1790, of Aphorisms on Man, by John Caspar Lavater, with the fine engraved plates by P Maguire after William Blake, [who engraved the plates for the first edition of 1788].

Schull Books have a fine first edition copy of “Strumpet City”, a seminal book on Dublin , Big Jim Larkin and the Lockout of 1913 which has been adopted as “One Book for Dublin”

A Kilkenny dealer has on offer a few fairly esoteric items:- 1. The oldest profession in the world
First edition USA 1929
By Wm.J. Robinson M.D.
2. Habit and Health a Book of Golden Hints for middle age
By Guy Beddoes London 1890
3. Homes Made and Marred a Book for Working Men and their Wives
By Lucy Ellen Guernsey, Religious Society London 1873
4. The French Cook, A System of Fashionable and Ecoomicical Cookery
adapted to the use of English Families
By Louis Eustache Ude, London 1829.

Dave Downes of Dublin Bookbrowsers has :-
Two separate interesting cheques with original signatures of Charles Dickens & Michael Collins; 1st edition of Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist SIGNED by Heaney & presented to Richard Murphy who has also SIGNED & annotated the book. Plus the usual great value books at unbeatable prices.

Helen Litton, well known author has just published her latest book “Edward Daly”, Edward Daly is one of the legendary revolutionaries who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising. She traces Edward ‘Ned’ Daly’s life from childhood to commander within The Volunteers, outlining his arrest and execution at the hands of the British. Helen is launching the book at the Book Fair and will be signing copies

Refreshments are available in the HOTEL and we welcome everyone to the Book Fair. Bring along your old books for a valuation (Or simply a list) Valuations are free at the Fair to visitors.
There will be our usual ad in the Fine Art pages of the Irish Times on Saturday so do drop in and bring a friend on Easter Monday for a very pleasant browse and possibly an opportunity to find a little rarity.
N.B Venue is wheelchair friendly, no steps.
Looking forward to seeing all and hope you can make it. Any queries don’t hesitate to contact me, Eddie Murphy at 087-2567908 or Barbara O’Connell at 028-37317 or Jim Vallely at 048-37-526938.

Our website: www.dublincitybookfair.com gives dates for all of 2013.
Eddie and Kay Murphy lyonshillbooks@eircom.net

Dublin City Book Fair, Easter Monday 1st April, Tara Towers Hotel, Merrion Road. From 11am. – 5pm. Admission €2.00.


Leinster Leader 11 February 1911
Famous Kildare Athlete
To visit his native home

The “New York Times” writes:-
Tommy Conneff, the holder of the world’s amateur foot-running records of three-quarters of a mile and one mile, will arrive in New York the latter part of this month. After a short stay he will sail on the Laurentic to, as he expresses it, ”bid ould Ireland the top o’ the morning.” The famous little champion is now an officer in Company B, Twenty-Second Infantry, stationed at San Antonio, Texas.
In a letter to James E. Sullivan, speaking about his intentions, he said in part:- “My enlistment is complete on Jan. 28, and it is my intention to return to my old troop E of Custer’s Horse in the Seventh Cavalry, leaving San Francisco for the Philippine Islands, May 2nd next.
“It’s the call of the East. The glamour of the Southern Pacific, the mirage of enchantment of the Orient, the wanderlust of my race, but it’s all in the service of Uncle Sam and Old Glory, my winning combination.”
Conneff is well and favourably known through his participation in amateur athletics in and about this city from 1888 to 1895, in the international games between England and America, when Conneff won the one and three mile races, being a fitting wind-up to an honourable athletic career.
Conneff’s records, three quarters in 3.02 4.5, made Aug. 21st 1895, and one mile in 4.15 3-5, made the week following, stands out on the books of father Time as strongly now as they did when made, 15 years ago, and although they have been assailed many times by the pick of distance performers both here and abroad, the y look likely to adorn the books for many years to come. As a former member of the Manhattan A.C., and the New York A.c., he did his best work on the cinder path and never once did the authorities have any fault to find with his ideas of amateurism. It is the intention of his many friends to tender him a  banquet upon his arrival here and in a small way show him the regard in which he is held, both because of his great running ability and his qualities as a sportsman.”
The famous Kildare athlete has called off this banquet in consequence of the death of his mother, who passed away at her residence in Clane, Co. Kildare, last December. He returns to his native land under sad circumstances, for he had hoped to arrive before the death of his deeply-loved mother.


A newspaper article from the Leinster Leader of 11 February 1911 on Tommy Conneff, the famous Kildare athlete


Newbridge in the news … sites and lights dominate local agenda a century ago

Bicentenary celebrations are at full throttle in Newbridge this week as the Liffey-side marks its official 200th birthday grounded on a lease signed in September 1812 for the site on which the large military barracks was to be built.  The progressive Newbridge History Group has underway a programme of talks, walks and exhibitions exploring the 200 year history of the town.
There is no record of a previous generation of Newbridge citizens celebrating its centenary in 1912 but a survey of the local papers of that year indicate some of the issues that were on the minds of townspeople at that stage in the town’s evolution.
 An issue of the Kildare Observer of September 1912 reports on a meeting of the Town Commission which was chaired by Mr P Kelly, J.P., with Messrs. John Kelly, James Spaine and E. Wallace in attendance. The first item of business was to respond to a letter from an officer of the Royal Engineers Corps based in the Curragh Camp who had written offering the Town Council the lease of a strip of war department property in Newbridge. The letter read: “Dear Sirs, with reference to your application for the use of a recreation ground, can you kindly say if Newbridge Town Commission would be prepared to enter into an agreement for this as a letting for a period of years, terminable quarterly or half-yearly by notice on either side, and subject to annual rent. Signed: G Wallin, Major, Royal Engineers”.
 The Town Commissioners received the offer favourably and directed the Town Clerk to respond to the Major Wallin and to say that the Commissioners were prepared to take the plot of for a period of years, tenancy terminable by half-yearly notice on either side.
A problem of a more pungent nature confronted the Town Commissioners on the next item of their agenda. A letter was read from Mr O’Neill, Sanitary Officer, drawing attention to the unsanitary condition of the lane at the rear of Rowan Terrace, in which water accumulated and remained. He enquired when the Commissioners intended connecting the locality to the main sewerage. The Commissioners decided on a pragmatic solution to the problem by directing the Town Clerk to procure a sufficient quantity of gravel for the place mentioned and to push on with negotiations with the central Local Government Board for a loan to permanently improve the sewerage in that part of Newbridge.
The Town Commissions clearly had another problem on their hands in terms of the adequacy of the town lighting. The record of the meeting noted that “it was declared that the lamps be put in proper order at once.”
Another local body, the District Council, also turned its attention to services for Newbridge in September 1912. Mr. Doyle a council member moved a motion that the storage capacity of Newbridge reservoir be increased. He said that there was an enormous usage of water in the town and there was no means of increasing the supply. His fellow councillors agreed that plans and estimates should be drawn up for an increased capacity in the supply.
Whatever about the problems with the local utilities Newbridge was clearly a desirable place to live if the tone of an advertisement inserted by Robert J. Goff, Auctioneers & Valuers, is to be believed. The advertisement announced that Goff’s had been instructed “by Mrs. Mary Nickson to auction her Right, Title and Interest in the plot of ground near the Artillery Barracks” and on which a “newly slated two-storied comfortable dwelling house (six rooms) had been erected. “ Goff’s took the opportunity to advise readers that they had “on their books for sale or letting several desirable Residences with or without land, convenient to the Curragh and Newbridge.” The same firm also brought a touch of colonial style to the Newbridge auction market having been favoured with instructions by “Officers who are leaving the Curragh” to sell their house-hold effects ranging from “brass, iron and brass-mounted bedsteads” to a “light running dog cart (to seat four)”  No doubt many of the artefacts and curios sold at auctions such as this are in attics and garden-sheds in Newbridge to the present day.
The Newbridge 200 Festival programme gives impressive recognition to the town’s history. Among the heritage events worth looking out for are an illustrated talk in the Riverbank theatre this Wednesday at 8pm and a history walk on Saturday beginning at the Library at 2pm.  And if all this were not enough the Newbridge History Group have compiled a spectacular exhibition of old images of the town – some never seen in public before – which is on display in the Credit Union throughout festival week. Series no: 296.

Bicentenary celebrations were at full throttle in Newbridge as the Liffey-side marks its official 200th birthday writes Liam Kenny in Looking Back Series no. 296  

March 20, 2013


Naas Local History Group

Spring/Summer Programme 2013

Tuesday 2nd April. Heritage night and presentation of Heritage Cup to Sean English in recognition of Gleann na Greine cottages restoration; followed by talk on Naas Railway by Liam Kenny and Growing up in Gleann na Greine by Ronnie Kinnane. 7.45 pm Naas Community Library. All Welcome.

Sunday 21st April. Punchestown Walking Sunday. We all meet at 3 pm, at the parade Ring, Punchestown Racecourse for a session of nostalgia and stories by Group Members. All Welcome.

Sunday 12th May. History Group member Brian O'Connor is our guide for a visit to Kerdiffstown House to learn about the house and 'The Aylmer and Cardiff Families'connection. Assemble at Kerdiffstown House at 3 pm. All Welcome.

Thursday 23rd May. Celebrating 100 Years of Lawlors. Learn about your local town walk - Poplar Square, Friary Rd, Blessington Rd, Dublin Rd, the Crossings and back to Poplar Square. Led by Group Members. Meet at Lawlor's 7.30 pm. All Welcome.

Sunday 2nd June. Group Member Brian McCabe has organised a trip to the Watch-house at Ladytown. Meet at 3 pm (travel by car). All Welcome.

Saturday 22nd June. Annual Summer history bus outing to Limerick. Details to be finalised.

Tuesday 9th July. Bi-Centenary of the Market House (1813) and 170th annversary of Naas Jail (1833). Walk by Group Members and Guest Speakers. Meet at 7.30 pm. All Welcome.

Saturday 20 July. Visit to Coolcarrigan House and Gardens, courtesy Robert Wilson Wright. Bus pick-up 2.00 pm. Entrance and bus fee.

Further details from Paddy Behan, PRO at 045876365 or 0872853792.

The 2013 Spring/Summer Programme for Naas Local History Group


Leinster Leader 2 March 1963

Met brother on Congo journey
A Curragh N. C. O., who left on Saturday to take up duties with the United Nations Headquarters in the Congo had a re-union with his brother en route. He is Coy Sergt. Pat O'Malley of Camp Headquarters and the brother whom he met is Very Revd. John O'Malley, Parish Priest in Jos, Northern Nigeria.
C/S O'Malley, who is married and resides at Carna, Suncroft, has already done two tours of duty in the Congo. He went first as Coy Sergt. of C Company of the 34th Battalion and on the second occasion was in both the Congo and Tanganyika on administrative duties.
Another Curragh N.C.O. who left at the weekend on his third tour of duty in the Congo is Sergt. Jimmy Carroll of McDermott Barracks. Sergt. Carroll has already served in Africa with the Headquarters Companies of the 32nd and 36th Battalions.


Sgt. Pat O'Malley, Carna, Suncroft, had a re-union with his brother Very Revd. John O'Malley en route to the Congo


Leinster Leader 18 October 1958

Gone to sea
A departure from Naas this week was that of Mr. Liam Spring, 19-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. L. Spring, Fair Green; he left on Tuesday for Liverpool, and there will join his first ship as a radio officer, to which position he qualified recently.

An article from the Leinster Leader of 18 October 1958 on local man Liam Spring's departure from Naas


“Leader” editor embroiled in abortive Rising plan

Newspaper editors are generally people with strong opinions. It is part of the job specification for editors to stimulate public debate on the topics of the week with a few well-chosen editorial paragraphs.  In modern times editors are happy to let the ink do the talking but in years past some editors were not averse to giving substance to their opinions by swopping their typewriters for firearms.   And that was certainly the case for one distinguished past editor of the Leinster Leader, Michael O’Kelly who occupied the editor’s desk for from 1912 to 1916. Michael O’Kelly took over from his brother Seamus who had been editor in 1906-12 and who was also an ardent nationalist but of a more gentle disposition. Seumas O’Kelly expressed his nationalism through plays and poetry and is commemorated by a plaque outside the Leinster Leader premises in South Main Street, Naas, which lauds him as “A gentle revolutionary”. 
Michael O’Kelly was made of stronger stuff and was intimately bound up with revolutionary drilling and propaganda activity in Co Kildare in the years leading up to the 1916 Rising. Although there is no stone plaque for him, his legacy is recalled by the release of the extensive memoir which he recorded for the Bureau of Military History project in the early 1950s and which has now been released on-line courtesy of the Military Archives in Dublin.
His story can be taken up at the point where he admits to having acquired firearms and ammunition: “As the year 1915 closed, the possibility of a rising in the near future was rumoured. At this period a few of us had accumulated a fairly large amount of ammunition which I kept in a safe place in my house.”
He tells of meetings with other Irish Volunteer activists in early 1916. His co-conspirators included Tommy Harris of Prosperous (later to serve many years as a Kildare TD), Donal Buckley of Maynooth, P Colgan also Maynooth, Michael Smyth of Athgarvan, and Pat Dunne of Kill. The liaison with the Volunteer leaders in Dublin such as Pearse, Connolly and Clarke was Dr. Ted Kelly of Maynooth who called to Michael O’Kelly on Ash Wednesday 1916 and told him that the Volunteer leaders had made a plan to trigger an uprising on Easter Sunday.
 Michael O’Kelly set about relaying the message to other members of the Naas Volunteer unit including Thomas Patterson of Main Street, Naas, and Thomas Traynor of Haynestown, near Kill. O’Kelly recalls: “They were both delighted that things were at last coming to a head with regard to the rebellion.”   He had another visit from Dr. Kelly who revealed that Volunteer headquarters in Dublin had a specific plan for the Naas unit – to assist an explosives specialist who would blow up a bridge near Sallins station so as to prevent the British from rushing troops by rail from the Curragh to Dublin when the rising broke out in the capital.
 On Easter Sunday O’Kelly recalls how he, Tom Harris and Dr. Kelly walked to the Dublin Road out of Naas where they were met with a despatch rider who handed over a message confirming that the rising would go ahead in Dublin at noon on Easter Monday. 
O’Kelly’s central role in the preparations for military action around Naas is highlighted when his memoir reveals that Dr Kelly and Tom Harris came back to his house where they were given automatic revolvers and a good supply of ammunition. They agreed to mobilise the men in their sections and to rendezvous at noon on Easter Monday at Bodenstown churchyard – an appropriate location given Wolfe Tone’s iconic status in the republican creed.  At great danger to himself considering that Naas was swarming with RIC men and British soldiers, O’Kelly contacted his lieutenants, Tom Traynor and Tom Patterson and “handed each his automatic”. He told them of the Bodenstown arrangement and said he would precede them to the agreed rendezvous.
However at this point the confusion which dogged the preparations for the Rising and resulted in little or no action outside of Dublin was to manifest itself. When O’Kelly reached Bodenstown he found no sign of any of the other Kildare volunteers: “… having walked in the direction of the historic old churchyard, I returned to the crossroads. Having waited there for some time, I concluded that something went amiss with the arrangements.”
He was to learn later that some of the Kildare volunteers had in fact assembled at a field close to the churchyard, had abandoned the plan to blow up the bridge near Sallins, and had instead made their way to Maynooth from where they trekked along the canal to Dublin to join Pearse and the others in the GPO. As a result there was no Volunteer action in Kildare in support of the Dublin rising.
However this did not mean that Michael O’Kelly and his circle was free from surveillance by the Constabulary. He recalls the dramatic events of the Thursday of Easter week: “The next thing that happened was a sudden descent on my house by a party of Royal Irish Constabulary. Myself and my nephew, Alphie Sweeney, then 15, were placed under arrest and taken to the police barracks.” Ironically the RIC barracks in Naas shared a party wall with the Leinster Leader offices where O’Kelly had composed many a hard-hitting editorial in the cause of Irish nationalism.
Fortunately in modern times editors confine their revolutionary activities to the keyboard of a word-processor but Michael O’Kelly’s memoirs are a reminder of the days when newsmen were expected to be as proficient with the revolver as with the newsroom typewriter. Series no: 294

Liam Kenny in his weekly Leinster Leader column recalls Michael O'Kelly's part in plans for the 1916 Rising

March 08, 2013


First lecture in Spring series

Catholic Central Library

Dear members,

Just a reminder that the first lecture in our spring series takes place next Tuesday 12th March at 6.30pm.

The historian and biographer Thomas Morrissey S.J. will  mark the centenary of the 1913 strike and lockout with an analysis of the events from the perspective of Dublin’s archbishop, clergy and religious.

All are welcome!


Teresa Whitington


Central Catholic Library


The first lecture in the Spring Series takes place in the Catholic Library on 12 March 2013 at 8 p.m.


Terse news items reflect war-time ambush and terror

The editions of the Kildare Observer newspaper in July 1922 were full of the staccato of war time news bulletins – but this time it was not a foreign war as had been the case with the paper’s coverage of local men involved in the Boer War (1899-1902) or the Great War (1914-18). The war reportage in July 1922 was driven by events on the paper’s own doorstep as Ireland was engulfed in a heart-breaking “civil war”. The irony of the description is that the war was anything but “civil” and this conflict differed from the others only in its proximity to home. Otherwise the common currency of war – death, destruction, injury and terror – was as evident in the columns of the Observer in the summer of 1922 as it had been in the columns of the paper during the foreign wars mentioned above.
Terse news items with headings such as “Mine exploded near Blackchurch”, “Ballymore barracks attacked”, “Coolcarrigan House Occupied” and “Capture at Ballitore”  illustrated the kind of news material which the Observer’s reporters and editors now had to deal with in the paper’s own circulation district. For journalistic staff whose experience lay in the relatively calm waters of reporting on county council meetings, racing festivals and garden fetes, the gathering of news in a fast-changing, intensely-violent and highly-emotive situation must have presented its own challenges. However the paper stayed faithful to the finer traditions of the “Fourth Estate” and made sure that the news was presented to its readers no matter what logistical or political difficulties were encountered in the news gathering process.
Some sense of the impact of the outbreak of the war on the circulation of newspapers can be gleaned from the editor’s column of the Observer in early July 1922 when he writes: “Since Wednesday week we (in Kildare) have been practically out of touch with the happenings in the South and West and North of Ireland and almost to an equal extent with occurrences in the city less than twenty miles from us. Papers, morning or evening have come fitfully through from the centre of operations.”
So disrupted was the circulation of national newspapers that a few enterprising Dublin newsboys hired cars to bring papers to Naas where they were paid a premium price by news-starved residents. Indeed an entrepreneurial Maynooth newsboy cycled into Dublin each morning and brought back a bundle of newspapers strapped to his handlebars which he sold for a highly profitable one shilling per copy.
However only the brave set out to travel the roads in July 1922 judging from the reports of ambush and incident as the anti-treaty troops flooded out from the city following the fall of the Four Courts. One of the most dramatic incidents occurred at Blackchurch when a large mine targeting a Free State armoured car was detonated. The Kildare Observer reported that when news reached Naas “a strong force of troops from Naas military barracks was at once despatched by motor lorry to the scene of the ambush.” The attackers had fled abandoning a dug-out and a number of rifles and notably, large quantities of newspapers which had “been seized by the irregulars from passing cars.” There must be few occasions in the history of guerrilla warfare where newspapers were regarded as a sufficiently valuable prize to justify a full scale ambush.
According to the Observer newspaper the damage to the Free State armoured car had been slight but two of the men in the car had been stunned by reason of “their heads coming in contact with the turret of the car when the explosion occurred.” In tactics which would be repeated sixty years later on the byroads of south Armagh, fire was opened on the armoured car after the explosion but was returned by the crew who – despite their concussion – managed to drive off their attackers. It must have been a frightening experience for two motorists who happened to be on the road at Blackchurch at the time of the ambush. One car was being driven by Mr. Barbour of Kilcullen who was driving some ladies to Naas and who had to stop at the spot owing to ignition trouble and the second by Mr. S. Loton, Newbridge who had stopped to assist him.
At least the two motorists had come through the experience without loss to life or vehicle. Somewhat less fortunate on the same stretch of road was Mr. Ernest Simpson, an ex-Quartermaster of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who was motorcycling to Dublin when he was held up by “Irregular forces at Rathcoole.” He was detained for four hours but let go – minus his motorcycle.  The urgency by the anti-Treaty guerrillas to get their hands on transport of any kind is a striking feature of the news items. On a Sunday evening, Mr. Myles Quinn of the Kildare Co Co staff, and Mr. Michael Brown, Sallins  Road, Naas, were out cycling in the Ballymore Eustace district when they were “held up by Irregular forces and their bicycles taken”.
Certainly innocent travel on the roads in the Kildare/Wicklow/Dublin area was no longer safe as the civil war ignited. And this in turn isolated people and communities with the flow of news choked off even between neighbouring areas. It is a credit to the Kildare Observer staff that they managed to keep the columns of the paper full with news from all over the district despite contending with virtual siege conditions. As the long-suffering editor noted: “Never before in our history have we for so long been deprived of news of what was occurring, not only twenty miles away, but, in fact, in the adjoining parish or townsland.”   Series no: 290.

The Kildare Observer reporters were busy during the opening weeks of the civil war - from Liam Kenny's Looking Back series of 24 July 2012


Downed aircraft becomes sightseeing attraction after landing drama

“ Look up, its Aer Lingus” ran the slogan of an advertisement some years ago. Whatever about the chances of sighting an aircraft from the national airline’s fleet the skies over Kildare are always busy. The traffic criss-crossing the airspace over these parts includes passenger jets thundering towards Dublin airport, sport aircraft buzzing into Weston, and Irish Air Corps planes on training missions from Baldonnel. And it was one of the first Air Corps machines which caused a stir in east Kildare ninety years ago this month.
The summer of 1922 was a turbulent time in Ireland: after months of agonizing over whether to accept the Treaty settlement with the British the Irish nationalist movement split triggering a deadly Civil War. The anti-treaty militants occupied the Four Courts in Dublin before being evicted by the pro-treaty troops after a destructive siege in late June 1922. But this was not the end of the trouble. Some of the anti-treaty activists escaped and linked up with compatriots coming from the south who began to assemble in some number in the Slaney valley between Baltinglass and Blessington.

To combat this threat the leadership of the embryonic Irish Free State under Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy set about structuring an army which would be properly organised and equipped. They realised that aircraft were essential to the conduct of operations and succeeded in acquiring a handful of British made aeroplanes for a fledgling Irish air service. It was all done on a shoestring and by mid July there were just three airworthy machines at Baldonnel. It was one of these, a Bristol fighter, which was despatched on 16th July 1922 to carry out the first combat patrol of the Civil War.  The plane was spotted over Naas by an observant Kildare Observer correspondent whose reporting carries a flavour of the novelty of not alone seeing a plane but of seeing a plane in Irish colours: “ On Sunday afternoon about 4.30 a Bristol biplane, with the tricolour painted on both sides, passed over Naas in the direction of the south.” 

That was only the start of the drama because soon the plane was seen again: “A short time later it appeared to be returning, and then was seen to descend in the vicinity of Naas hospital.” The report went on to relate that the descending aircraft landed in a field the property of Mr. Stephen J. Brown at Ballycane (to the east of Naas). However the landing was not smooth: the plane’s undercarriage hit a rut and the machine “turned turtle” coming to rest upside down with its wheels in the air. Of the two-man crew the pilot Comdt. General McSweeney escaped unscathed but his observer Lieutenant Nolan was knocked unconscious. Some people who were in the Ballycane vicinity rushed to the upturned plane to render assistance. Later an armed guard from Naas military barracks secured the stricken craft. Townspeople must have watched in wonder as the following day the plane was towed through the town behind a Crossley tender back to Baldonnel.
The day after the accident the pilot, McSweeney, filed a report on the eventful flight which gives an aviator’s eye view of the early days of the Civil War. Of his mission from Baldonnel on 16th July he wrote: “ I flew over all the roads between Naas to Tullow at a height of  600 feet (very low) looking for road obstructions and movement of troops. I then proceeded to Tullow and remained over it for about 15 minutes. The town was full of men and they were only standing around and there appeared to be no activity of a military nature.”   While there was no sign of anti-Treaty forces on the move McSweeney could see from his aerial vantage point that Tullow was being encircled by road-blocks: “Each entrance to the town at 200 yards distance was blocked by a stone barrier half-way across the road with sufficient space to allow carts to pass.” However his observations had to be abandoned when he noticed a drop in pressure in his fuel lines: “I immediately turned back, using my hand pump to keep up the pressure.” He managed to keep the plane airborne until, approaching Naas, the engine cut out and flying at such a perilously low height he was obliged to steer for the nearest field. All seemed under control until the plane wheels hit a ditch and the machine somersaulted. Of his hapless fellow-crewman he recalled: “Lt. Nolan was pinned underneath, and after I had pulled him out he lost consciousness. At present he cannot move, but the doctor informs me that he will be alright in a day or two.” 
The last word might be left to the Kildare Observer correspondent whose report on the local reaction to the incident conveyed the novelty of aviation in the summer month of July 1922: “On Sunday, and prior to its removal on Monday, hundreds of people from the town visited the scene of the crash, this being the first occasion on which any of them had come in such close contact with the Irish Air Force.”

* Acknowledgments to aviation historians Michael O’Malley, Tony Kearns and Michael Whelan for help with this article. Series no: 288.

Liam Kenny's Looking Back series no. 288 recalls the crash-landing of an Irish air force plane in Naas in the summer of 1922.

March 01, 2013


Naas GAA donate oldest club minutes to HQ

James Durney

On Friday 15 February 2013 the oldest club minutes in the country were officially presented by members of Naas GAA to the GAA Museum, Dublin. After a fine lunch in the clubhouse a large delegation of club members attended Croke Park for an official presentation of the minutes. Museum archivist Mark Reynolds said he was delighted to get the minutes, as they were the oldest club minutes in existence and the second oldest minutes in the GAA, the oldest being Dublin County Board minutes. The archivist said the Kildare minutes were just beaten by Dublin minutes, to which clubman Jackie Bracken remarked that was often so on the field, too.
Naas G.A.A. was founded on 16 October 1887 in the Town Hall, Naas, by James Moran ‘Dents’ Ginnane. It was Ginnane who purchased the minute books and was responsible for the early entries up to his resignation as secretary due to pressure of business on 20 March 1888. However, he remained on the committee until May 1888. The last meeting Ginnane attended was on 11 April 1888.
The Minute Book from 16 October 1887 to 19 November 1889 was transcribed by Liam McManus. The minutes contain paper cuttings from the Leinster Leader and written accounts of the various club meetings and general meetings. Leinster Leader reports of the founding meeting, the first committee meeting on Sunday 23 October, in the Town Hall, and the second committee meeting in the Leinster Leader office on 26 October are pasted into the first page of the Minute Book. The first minutes in Ginnane’s handwriting – transcribed by Liam – were of a meeting on 1 November 1887. After Ginnane’s resignation P. J. Doyle was appointed Honourary Secretary. He lived at South Main Street, Naas, and later at Yomanstown. Doyle was the only person to hold all three positions at the County Board. He was Treasurer in 1887, Secretary in 1888 and Chairman in 1889. It was in Yomanstown that the minutes remained until the early 1950s when they were found as the Doyle family moved to Dublin. The minutes were given to Tom Murphy, who worked at Yomanstown, and he passed them on to Chris Glennon. Chris passed the minutes on to Liam McManus in the late 1980s.
Liam said, ‘Reading old minutes can be tedious and sometimes boring, but these minutes paint a social history of Naas at that time just after the GAA was founded and just before the Parnell split. They tell the story of a club trying to establish itself on the playing field and in the community. The struggle for finance to run the club. The political tendencies of some of its most prominent members as indicated by its name Naas GAA John Dillons. It portrays the conflicts that existed within the club and with other unregistered teams in Naas during the early years of the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is a privilege to have such a tangible link to our past.’
‘Of all the photographs, articles and mementoes that I have uncovered relating to Naas GAA this Minute Book is my most cherished item. Club members have often heard me refer to them as “gold Dust.” I am sad to see them go, but I know the GAA Museum is the right place for them.’

A copy of the Minute Book was donated by Liam to Kildare Collections and Research Services, based in Newbridge Library.

On Friday 15 February 2013 the oldest club minutes in the country were officially presented by members of Naas GAA to the GAA Museum, Dublin.


Presentation of Republican Prisoners Dependent’s Cup to GAA HQ

James Durney

In December 2012 Tom Keogh, Liam McManus and Brendan Woulfe, Naas GAA, presented a Republican Prisoners Dependents Cup to the GAA Museum. The Cup won by Kildare in February 1922 had been in the possession of Naas GAA Club for some time and for years had sat in pride of place in the front window of Keogh’s house in New Row, Naas. Kildare defeated Tipperary 0-5 to 0-1 on 26 February 1922 to win this magnificent trophy, which was competed for the Republican Prisoners Dependents Fund. About 12,000 people attended the game, which was played in very wet conditions. The ball was thrown in by Alderman Mrs. Kathleen Clarke, widow of Tom Clarke, executed in 1916. Kathleen Clarke was also an elected T.D..
Sean O’Neill, of the Dublin County Board, refereed and Transport Workers and Irish National Foresters brass and reed bands and the O’Toole Pipers played stirring selections. Several wounded IRA soldiers were in attendance on the touch line.
Tipperary were favourites to win having beaten Waterford in the Munster Championship, but Kildare with Larry Stanley back after suspension, proved too strong for them. George Higgins, Naas, was captain of Kildare. He was a brother of Jack Higgins and was most unlucky not to win an All-Ireland medal. George came on the Kildare team in 1920 after they had won the All-Ireland in 1919. He captained the team in 1922, but was dropped after the Leinster Final in 1927. He would always say he was two games away from an All-Ireland medal.
The Tipperary team failed entirely to reproduce their winning formula and were outplayed for three-quarters of the game by Kildare – in fielding and technique. Kildare threw away a few certain scores and according to the Kildare Observer with the possible exception of Mick Buckley and Albie O’Neill there were no outstanding performers. However, the Leinster Leader said Tom Wheeler gave a really remarkable display in his first match. Tom ‘Towe’ Wheeler was reputed to be the youngest inter-county player in Gaelic history when he played in this match. The Kildare Observer said: ‘Kildare undoubtedly have regained prestige by their exhibition and are unquestionably robust and clever footballers, who once the Tipperary initiative failed practically took over complete control and both made and anticipated movement in an excellent manner. The losers made a great rally towards the close, but it lacked concentration and came too late.’
The silver cup was presented by Irish National Assurance Company Limited to the Sports Committee of the Republican Prisoners Dependents Fund as a prize in a fundraising match. The final score was Kildare 0-5; Tipperary 0-1. Mrs. Kathleen Clarke presented the Cup to the Kildare captain, George Higgins.
The following were the teams: Kildare – George Higgins (capt.), P. Slevin (goal), James Moran, Mick Buckley, Albert O’Neill, Joe Loughlin, Larry Stanley, George Mangan, Paul Doyle, P. J. Farrell, E. O’Neill, Tom Goulding, Jim McHugh, P. Condron, Mick Gannon, Tom Wheeler.
Tipperary – J. Skelly (capt.), M. Tobin, R. Lanigan, M. Arrigan, J. Doran, W. Vaughan, T. Powell, J. McNamara, W. Ryan, T. Ryan, T. O’Connor, A. Carroll, J. Ryan, Gus McCarthy, E. Cummins.

In December 2012 Tom Keogh, Liam McManus and Brendan Woulfe, from Naas GAA, presented a Republican Prisoners Dependents Cup to the GAA Museum

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2