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April 26, 2013


Co. Kildare World War I List

Information wanted!

Kildare Library and Arts Service are compiling a list of men from Co. Kildare who were killed in action, died of wounds, disease or accident during World War I. It is hoped to publish this list towards the end of this year. Anyone with relevant information can contact Kildare Library and Arts Service, Newbridge Library, Newbridge, Co. Kildare (by post) or email Mario Corrigan at localhistory@kildarecoco.ie

Kildare Library and Arts Service are compiling a list of men from Co. Kildare who were killed in action, died of wounds, disease or accident during World War I.


Leinster Leader 12 September 1953
The late Mr. Frank Malone, Digby Bridge, Naas

County Kildare Gaels and the country in general will deeply regret the passing of the late Mr. Laurence F. (Frank) Malone, Digby Bridge, Naas. Deceased had been in failing health for some years past, and he died in the Naas District hospital on Wednesday of last week, to which he had been removed about two weeks previously. The third son of the late T. P. and Annie Malone, he was a member of a well-known and popular County Kildare sporting family, and was only fifty years of age.
His great football career started early – whilst a student attending the Naas Christian Brothers School – where he played with the school teams about 1917-18, having as his fellow players such as Mr. Jack Higgins, the late, the late Mr. Gavin Tyndall, and the late Mr. Jack Mitchell, Mr. P. Malone, his brother, and Mr. Gus Fitzpatrick, Mr. T. Wheeler, Mr. T. McCormack, Naas. He commenced playing with the famed Caragh team in 1920, annexing a senior championship early on. When Caragh amalgamated with Raheens in 1930 he played continuously with the team until his retirement in 1941. During this period he won senior football titles in 1934-’35-’36, playing many sterling games in the full-back position; numerous Leinster leader Cup medals also coming his way, the last being in 1941.
With the Kildare county team his favourite position was left full-back, first donning the All White jersey in 1924, and holding his place consistently until 1931, the halcyon years of Kildare football, when the Short Grass men knew no peers in the football realm, taking two All-Ireland titles, 1927 and 1928, and six Leinster Championships in succession, a feat only equaled by Wexford in the Leinster Province. During the years Frank played on the Leinster Railway Cup teams, securing a Talteann medal in 1928; his last game with the county was in 1934.
A fearless defender
Noted for his high catching and long kicking, he was a fearless defender. On one occasion, in an All-Ireland final he placed a mighty kick over the Long Stand. He travelled with the Kildare team all over the country for tournament and challenge games, and was especially popular in Kerry where his name as well as that of Jack Higgins was a household word.
Off the field of play he was as gentle as a child and his quiet, good humour, amiability and kindness made him innumerable friends amongst all classes and creeds, and in every province in Ireland. His demise at such an early age will sadden all hearts, and to his sorrowing brothers and other relatives, the deepest sympathy is extended.
The funeral
The remains were removed from the District Hospital to Caragh parish Church on Wednesday evening of last week, where they were received by Rev. Father M. Mimnagh, C.C., Prosperous. Old comrades of All-Ireland days, Jack Higgins, Matty Goff, “Gus” Fitzpatrick, Joe Curtis, Wm. Mangan, Dan Ryan, Chr. Higgins and tom Wheeler, carried the coffin into the Church. There was a huge concourse of mourners and sympathizers at the interment in the adjoining cemetery on Thursday morning, following Requiem Mass.
Rev. G. Phelan, C.C., Kilkenny, cousin of the deceased, officiated at the Mass, and recited the last prayers at the graveside.
The chief mourners were: Edward, Patrick and Matthew Malone (brothers); Marjorie, Anne, Thomas and Sheila Malone (nieces and nephew), Rev. G. Phelan, C.C., Kilkenny; H. Farrell, Ballinagappa; Edward, Mary, Katherine and Anne Malone (cousins); the Dunne family (Ballysize); the Coffey family, Caragh; Mr. L. V. Malone, Rhode; Mr. Wm. Reddy, Rhode; the Robinson family, Caragh; Miss Robinson, Urlingford; Mrs. P. Malone, Mrs. Farrell (relatives).
Those in attendance included Mr. Thomas Harris, T.D., Mr. Liam Geraghty, Chairman of the Kildare Co. Board; Mr. T. P. Clarke, Co. Secretary; Mr. Tommy Kelly, Kilcock; Mr. Mick Buckley, Mr. M. Connor, Mr. T. Lawler.

The death of Kildare footballer, Frank Malone, Digby Bridge, Naas, from the Leinster Leader of 12 September 1953


“Go bald-headed for the opposition” – rousing talk at inaugural GAA meeting

It is an oft-quoted truism that the first thing on the agenda of an organisation is the split. It seems to be a particularly Irish trend that no sooner have people congregated in pursuit of some laudable objective than differences are fostered and splits manufactured. Remarkably then there was no split at the inaugural meeting of Naas GAA club 125 years ago this month but there were plenty of references to a person or persons unknown who were alleged to be stirring up opposition to the formation of a GAA club in the county town. 

A feeling that the new branch of the GAA was ready to take on all opposition was intimated at the inaugural meeting by the local curate, Fr. E. Walsh, who was in the chair. In his opening remarks – as reported in the Kildare Observer – to those assembled in the Town Hall he warned that the new club should be “very select” in recruiting members. He cautioned that the “taking in of any members who were not fitted was calculated to do more harm than good.” That there was a political tone to the clergyman’s remarks was indicated by his comment that “The GAA was the one really National association, and they wanted to have no one in it who was not National.” This presumably is a cut at those of the unionist persuasion in the town who might have seen the GAA as another outlet for Fenianism.

Steel was put into the back-bone of the new Naas club by Mr. Seery a representative from the Central Executive of the GAA who told the attendance that he had been informed that there was a spirit of opposition in the town to the formation of a club. His advice was for the members to “go bald-headed for the opposition.” He added that “if the manhood of the town wanted to have anything they would have it in spite of opposition.”  Such rousing talk might seem a long way removed from the business of organising a football team, arranging for training, and getting the basics of a pitch and kit togethefr. However the GAA had an unapologetically patriotic and political ethos and it saw itself as a prime mover of the wider nationalist drive for an independent Ireland.

The game of Gaelic football was not markedly different from any other kind of football and indeed there was some confusion in its early days about the playing rules of Gaelic football. At the inaugural meeting of the Naas club a Mr. Dowling who was described as being “a very distinguished athlete” said he believed that “Gaelic football was played something like association football (soccer).”  Such a comparison would have been regarded as heresy by dyed-in-the-wool GAA men but it pointed up the fact that – without all the political baggage -- Gaelic football in its own right was just another way of bringing a codified set of rules to the age-old sport of kicking a ball around a field.

The inaugural meeting of the Naas club in October 1887 was not the first time that the GAA clarion call  had been heard in the town. Three years earlier the then editor of the Leinster Leader, John Wyse-Power attended the now celebrated foundation meeting of the GAA in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, on 1st November 1884. Wyse-Power’s tenure at the Leader was short-lived and he had left Naas well before the 16th October 1887 when the local branch of the Association was inaugurated.  But here was no shortage of men representative of the upper echelons of Naas society present at the October 1887 meeting with the clergy, doctors, solicitors and high street merchants all prominent. Among those attending the inaugural meeting were Dr. Smith, Messrs. S. J. Browne (solicitor), W. Staples (merchant), James O’Hanlon, P.J. Duncan, J. Nanetti (printer), W. Masterson, J. Donnellan, J. Clarke, M. Gogarty (merchant), Rev. E. Walsh and J.M. Ginnane. The most exotic name is that of Nanetti, a printer in the Kildare Observer newspaper offices in the market square. In later years Nanetti became involved in metropolitan politics in Dublin, was elected the capital’s Lord Mayor, and is immortalised among the menagerie of characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

The proceedings at the first Naas club meeting were monitored by two representatives from the central executive of the GAA – the aforementioned Mr Seery and a Mr Donleavy – showing how the GAA at national level had already established a tight organisational hierarchy. The formation of a branch was proposed by James O’Hanlon and seconded by William Staples and the meeting proceeded to elect the first club officers namely: President;  Fr. E. Walsh CC; Vice- President; S.J.Browne, Secretary: J. M. Ginnane and Treasurer, J O’Hanlon.

The early games were played in fields near the Naas branch of the canal while gymnastic equipment was installed in the Town Hall and, indicating the political character of the early GAA, the club held debates in the Hall on Sunday nights.

The centenary of the Naas club was marked in October 1987 with the unveiling of a plaque which can be seen on the façade of  Naas Town Hall; the 125th anniversary is being marked this week with a meeting in the Town Hall, scene of that rousing inaugural meeting on October 1887. And always to the fore of modern trends Naas GAA, headed by club historian Liam McManus. has embarked on the laudable project of making the texts of its early minute books available on-line for Gaels at home and abroad to see and enjoy. Series no: 301.

The inaugural meeting of Naas GAA from Liam Kenny's Looking Back series in the Leinster Leader


Kildare Observer 6 March 1897
Sale of Ballymany House and Farm

On Monday last Mr. Robert J. Goff held a very successful auction for William Ryan, Esq., of farm, cattle, implements, furniture, etc. Ballymany Farm is situate at the Curragh edge, about 1½ miles from Newbridge, contains 118 Irish acres superior grazing held under judicial agreement at £240 per year. The biddings were very brisk. Commencing at £500 they soon reached £2,200, at which price Mr. Goff declared Mr. Gerald Hurley, of Old Connell, the buyer. Messrs. J. J. Parkinson, Brownstown, James Kelly, Maddenstown, and John Farrell, Loughbrown, were the most prominent bidders. 

An article from the Kildare Observer on the sale of Ballymany House and Farm in March 1897

April 13, 2013



In September 2013 a very unique gathering event takes place which celebrates the unique heritage and story of the Coill Dubh/Blackwood/Robertstown/Timahoe area of Co. Kildare.

This place which is steeped in the tradition of Bord na Mona,offers an insight into a part of our past that should be highlighted and remembered.

The 3 day festival which takes place, starting September12th/14th promises to be a wonderful celebration of past traditions and all things that connect us to the place we call home.
The festival will only be as good as the people who are involved, so we are putting out a call to all those living in these areas to get involved with their stories, photographs and memories of Bord na Mona.
Work has already begun on an exhibition of memorabilia as well as local history events and collections of artefacts. People from far and wide are coming aboard, but we need more local people involved as The Gathering is a peoples project. Willie O' Sullivan and Veronica Bagnall will put the rallying call out to the people of Coill Dubh/Blackwood/Robertstown/Timahoe to become part of this exciting project.

                PLEASE CONTACT
                    Veronica Bagnall

Willie O Sullivan
087 2446755

One of the first people to respond to Coill Dubh's Gathering was former shopkeeper, Edward Ward

To the people of Coill Dubh, 15 March 2013
I, the undersigned, was one of the first twelve people to take up residence in Coill Dubh village. That would be in the year 1952, when it was ready. I rented one of the four shops there and remained in business for the next ten years. I had been in business before then, a half-mile up the road, in Cooleragh, in my own shop. There were difficult times in the early years of Coill Dubh. Workers wages were small then and tenants had to pay rent and tax, which was deducted from the wage packet.
After ten years I realised I was competing with myself, trying to run two shops just a half-mile apart.I then decided to vacate the village shop on which I was paying a substantial rent and operate the business from my own property just up the road. It was not by a stretch of imagination that I was deserting my customers in Coill Dubh, because I arranged with them that if they so desired, I would deliver their goods to their house as before, each day.
The people of Coill Dubh were then, as now, all very nice, decent, respectable people, very co-operative and loyal to each other. Here I would say you would not find a nicer, quieter place to live. it is a lovely, well kept, clean and tidy village, thanks to Brian McGarahan and the team of voluntary workers.
I also wish to emphasise that when Rose and myself decided to retire from business we choose Coill Dubh as our place of retirement because both of us always loved the place. My late wife, Rose, RIP, was one of a family that decided to come and live and work in Coill Dubh. In my time of sadness, when Rose passed away, there were offers  of help from many people, escpecially my neighbours. That is what all the people of Coill Dubh are like. Rose and myself were very happy to be part of that.
With very best wishes for the future of our lovely village and people,
Yours most sincerely,
Edward Ward
136 Coill Dubh,Naas

In September 2013 a very unique gathering event takes place which celebrates the unique heritage and story of the Coill Dubh/Blackwood/Robertstown/Timahoe area of Co. Kildare

April 11, 2013


Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21

James Durney

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1921, the British authorities arrested hundreds of republicans and opened several internment camps throughout Ireland. The first internment camp was at Ballykinlar, in Co. Down, while the volume of arrests was so great that additional camps had to be established at Gormanstown, Co. Dublin, Bere Island and Spike Island, Co. Cork, and at the Curragh, in Co. Kildare. Opened in December 1920 Ballykinlar Camp was situated on the Co. Down coast at the mouth of Dundrum Bay, about three miles from Dundrum village between Downpatrick and Newcastle. Over the following year 2,000 men were interned at Ballykinlar. Around twenty-six men from Co. Kildare were held at Ballykinlar and a new book by Liam Ó Duibhir, Prisoners of War. Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21, contains the names and, most, addresses of the Kildare internees.
Ballykinlar Camp had a reputation for brutality: three prisoners were shot dead, while five died from maltreatment, including Séan O’Sullivan, a native of Tipperary, and a member of Kill Company, IRA. The IRA Officer Commanding Ballykinlar was Maynooth man, and 1916 veteran, Patrick Colgan. He arrived in Ballykinlar in mid-December 1920 and set about organizing the camp along prisoner-of-war lines and was appointed camp commandant. The camp was divided into two compounds and John Fitzgerald, Newbridge, was elected line captain for B Company in the camp. (John Fitzgerald, OC Newbridge Company, IRA, had been elected to Newbridge Town Commission and Kildare Co. Council in 1920.) Some twenty-five Kildare prisoners had been held at Hare Park Camp, the Curragh, until 8 January 1921 when they were brought to Dublin and then transported to Belfast on board a British warship. In Belfast Lough the prisoners were greeted by loyalist mobs and pelted with ‘Belfast confetti’ – iron rivets from the shipyards.
The names and addresses which appear in Prisoners of War. Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21 are as follows:

Ballykinlar No. 1 Compound:
Michael Corry, Naas
Frank Doran, Rathangan
John Fitzgerald, Newbridge
Joe Havlon, Monasterevan
Séan Kavanagh, Mill Street, Maynooth

Ballykinlar No. 2 Compound:
Patrick Colgan, Maynooth
Patrick Devern
Thomas Devern
Patrick Domican, Kill, Straffan
Thomas Domican, Kill, Straffan
Thomas Dunne, Eyre Street, Newbridge
Michael Fay, Celbridge
Pat Fullam, Riverside, Newbridge
Michael Kelly, Williamstown, Carbury
John B. Maher, 23 Leinster Street, Athy
Joseph A. May, Woodstock South, Athy
William (Liam) McGrath, Kilgowan
Joseph Merrick
Joseph Milroy
Richard Murphy, Athy
John O’Sullivan
Thomas Patterson, 11 South Main Street, Naas
Joseph Reidy
Peter Shanahan
Thomas Trainor
James Whyte, 18.1 South Main Street, Naas

Three days later after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, on 9 December 1921, all republican prisoners were released from Ballykinlar. Three special trains brought the men to Dublin, from where the internees made their own way to their home counties. The trains were attacked by loyalist mobs with gunfire, bricks and stones at several locations. The Leinster Leader, 17 December 1921, reported on the release of the Ballykinlar and Curragh Camp internees, remarking that the reception in Athy was ‘a very warmhearted one’. On his return from Ballykinlar John ‘Babty’ Maher was paraded shoulder-high through the streets by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters to his home in Leinster Street. Crowds awaited John Fitzgerald and Tom Dunne at Newbridge railway station, but were disappointed when they did not turn up.
Patrick Colgan, along with Maurice Donegan (Cork), made a daring escape from Ballykinlar in October 1921. The two walked out the main gate dressed in British army uniforms. They got as far as Drogheda where they were arrested at a military/police checkpoint. Patrick Colgan’s witness statement, given to the Bureau of Military History, in 1953, is available to view online at militaryarchives.ie or in hardcopy at Kildare Library and Arts Services, Newbridge Library. Colgan joined the National Army following his release and held various posts until he retired with the rank of major in 1944. Patrick Colgan died, in Kerry, in September 1960, aged sixty-nine.

Around twenty-six men from Co. Kildare were held at Ballykinlar and a new book by Liam Ó Duibhir, Prisoners of War. Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21, contains their names


Recent developments in Irish Genealogy

Sean Murphy

National Library of Ireland
Kildare Street, Dublin 2
Saturday 27 April at 11 p.m.

Donations at the door to CF Hopesource
Charity No: CHY 15596

Recent developments in Irish Genealogy by Sean Murphy in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin, Saturday 27 April at 11 p.m.


Leinster Leader 13 February 1943
Mr. Thomas Daly, Sallins, Co. Kildare

Widespread sympathy had been aroused by the death which took place on Wednesday of last week of Mr. Thomas Daly, Sallins, Co. Kildare. Deceased, who had reached an advanced age, passed peacefully away in his sleep after a long and active life. Formerly a member of the R.I.C. he served in Donegal, Wicklow and Kildare, retiring about 1907. Since than he resided at Sallins, where he enjoyed the esteem and goodwill of all sections of the community. A native of Daingean, Offaly, and member of a well-known and respected family, he was noted for his amiable and kindly thought for his neighbours. Deceased’s eldest son, Mr. Richard Daly, holds an important post as an Assistant Secretary in Mr. McEntee’s Department in Dublin, and another son, Mr. Thomas Daly, is proprietor of a licensed business in Sallins. A third son, Mr. James Daly, is attached to the postal service in Kildare. The deepest sympathy will be expressed with the widow and family on their very sad loss.
The funeral, which took place to Bodenstown, on Friday was very largely attended. Rev. M. Murphy, C.C., officiated at the graveside. The chief mourners were – Mrs. A. Daly (widow), Messrs. Richard, James and Thomas Daly (sons), Misses Mary and Anne Daly and Mrs. Kelly (daughters, Mrs. Fitzgerald, Naas, and Mrs. Loughlin (nieces), Sean and Dominick Kelly (grandchildren), and Misses Victorine and Philomena Kelly (grand-nieces).

Note: ehistory was contacted by Frank Caffrey who informs us that his grandfather, Thomas Daly, joined the RIC in 1876 and that he was pensioned on 1 October 1901, not 1907, as stated in the obituary. He also said that Richard and  Thomas (Jnr.), died respectively in 1946 and 1948. Thomas Daly's widow, Anne, nee McKelvey, died in May 1953.

An obituary for Thomas Daly, Sallins from the Leinster Leader of 13 February 1953


Eyewitness: Civil War

Patrick Dunny and the American Civil War;

Pat Dunny and the Spanish Civil War

James Durney

On 21 March 2013 Liam Dunny, Carlow, paid a visit to Kildare Library and Arts Service, Newbridge  Library, in search of information for his family tree. Liam was looking for an obituary for his uncle, Pat Dunny. Below is a copy of a letter from Thomas Dunny, published in Carloviana. The Journal of the Old Carlow Society, 1967 (donated by Liam Dunny) and Pat Dunny’s obituary from The Nationalist, 4 September 1981. Our thanks to Liam Dunny.

Carloviana. The Journal of the Old Carlow Society, 1967
An Irishman looks at Civil War
The following vivid account of a phase of the American Civil War is given in an extract from a letter written to Thomas Dunny, Esq., of Sleaty by his brother, Patrick and dated Philadelphia, October 22nd, 1861.

“This country is in a sad state at present. I heard of war since I was able to understand anything but never had the luck to be so near it before. Now nothing else is thought of but war. There was hardly anything done since the Battle of Bull Run but reorganizing the Army until a couple of weeks ago. Since then they made two forward movements into the rebel country, driving the rebel pickets before them. Our Commanding General – a good Irish name McClellan – is working very cautiously but surely. He is determined and says he will have no more Bull Run affairs. I expect soon to have some stirring news to send you.
“I suppose you heard all about the Bull Run fight where thousands of fine fellows fell – more than ever will be heard of. But one thing I know you heard nothing of, which is grievous to every Irishman. Two Irish regiments met on that dreadful battlefield – one the 69th of New York – a nobler set of men there was not in the world, with the gallant Corcoran and Meagher at their head. They carried the green flag of Erin all day proudly through showers of bullets. The other Irish regiment was from Louisiana and I suppose as good Irish as anyone and with as much love for Ireland. They opposed the 69th all day to try to win that poor green flag. They took it four times, but four times they had to give it up with severe loss to their ranks. There were more lives lost over that flag than over any object on the field. The fourth time it was taken by the rebels the poor 69th were so worn out with fighting for nine hours without intermission, under an almost tropical sun, that they were not able to retake it. A man in the 69th – a sergeant – when he saw it going cried out at his utmost that the flag of his country was going to the rebels. He leveled his rifle and shot the bearer dead. He and his company made a bayonet charge, rescued the flag and brought it back in triumph.
“You may imagine the joy there was on their return home. As the rail road cars go very slowly through the city there was a good opportunity for all to see it and surely it bore the marks of having been to the war – all tattered and torn and riddled with bullets. But it will be a lasting momento to the men that bore it through that terrific day (the 21st of July 1861).
“At present there is on the Federal side not less than five hundred thousand men in arms, and nearly the same on the rebel side and the two immense armies are drawn in full view of each other. Both sides have reconnoitering parties out and when their pickets meet some of either party fall by the bullets of the sharpshooters. On this day it is reported that the Federal picket was driven in by the rebels and the line is arrayed in battle order waiting for the attack. I will keep you advised of it when it does come.”

Note: The Union and Confederate armies, both consisting largely of raw recruits, met at Bull Run/Manassas Junction on 21 July 1861 in the first major battle of the war. The Union attack failed and demoralized Federal troops streamed back to Washington in complete disorder. However, the victorious Confederates were too disorganized to pursue them.

The Nationalist 4 September 1981
Spanish Civil War veteran dies
A veteran of the Spanish Civil War, Mr. Patrick Dunny of Newbridge, died while on a visit to Spain last week. Mr. Dunny was taken ill in Madrid on Tuesday, August 25, and died shortly afterwards. He was visiting Spain along with another veteran, Mr. Seamus Uas O’Cunnineagain, a solicitor from Enniscorthy, to retrace their steps during the Civil War.
It was his first trip to Spain since he was presented to General Franco during the 36th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in August 1972. Forty five years ago Mr. Dunny was part of the 2,000 strong Irish Volunteer Force led by General Eoin O’Duffy who served with the forces of General Franco in the civil war.
To Franco headquarters
They travelled by ship to Lisbon, Portugal, in October 1936 and from there they proceeded to the headquarters of General Franco at Carceres. They were in action mainly in the mountain areas around Madrid throughout the bitterly cold winter of ’36 and when the volunteer force returned to Ireland were disbanded in July 1937. The Irish force in Spain was known as the 15th Bandera of the Spanish Foreign Legion.
Mr. Dunny, although born in Carlow, had spent most of his working life in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, where he was employed as a Public Assistance Officer with the Eastern Health Board. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, son Patrick, sister, brothers and grandchildren. He would have celebrated his 71st birthday on Tuesday, September 1.

Patrick Dunny was an eyewitness to American Civil War events, while his namesake and relative, Pat Dunny, participated in the Spanish Civil War


Anglo-Celt 23 February 1849

New Journal

Another new journal "The Kildare and Wicklow Chronicle," has been started in the town of Athy by Mr. F. Kearney, lately connected with this office. Those counties were sadly in want of a local organ, but the vacuum is now filled. We wish the Chronicle and its enterprising proprieter every success.

An article from the Anglo-Celt newspaper on the foundation in Athy of a new journal for Kildare and Wicklow

April 04, 2013


A Kildareman’s Last Stand

James Durney

On June 25 1876 Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer rode into history when he and 220 men of the 7th Cavalry were massacred at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. With the 7th Cavalry in the campaign to force all Sioux and Northern Cheyenne back to their reservations were four men born in Co. Kildare – James Martin, James P. McNally, Eugene Owens and James Lawler. James P. McNally and Eugene Owens survived the battle but Corporal James Martin, was killed by Indian warriors as he beat a hasty retreat from the valley fight ordered by his battle-confused commander Major Marcus Reno. James Lawler was not present, having being assigned elsewhere.
The 240,000 Indians who lived on the Great Plains in 1860 belonged to many tribes. Between them there was sometimes fierce enmity, usually arising from cultural differences or disputes over hunting-grounds. The Plains Indians were nomadic and warlike and had lived and hunted there for generations. The Sioux War of 1865-7 broke out on the Plains when the US Army attempted to build the ‘Powder river Road,’ which would have cut across the best hunting grounds of the western Sioux Indians in Montana. The Sioux harassed the soldiers so successfully that the road could not be built and in December 1866 they ambushed and completely wiped out a party of eighty-two soldiers under Captain W. J. Fetterman.
What became known as ‘the Fetterman Massacre’ shocked the US government into taking a fresh look at the Indian problem. In 1867 a peace Commission toured the Plains and submitted a report blaming the Sioux and Cheyenne wars mainly on whites and arguing that the subjugation of the Indians was likely to prove too slow and costly. Impressed by the report Congress endorsed a plan to concentrate all the plains Indians in two large reservations, one in the Black hills of South Dakota, the other in Indian Territory, later to become Oklahoma. But the tribesmen were reluctant to comply and more hard fighting was needed to beat them into submission. By 1875 most of the tribes had been settled on reservations but hardly had the program been completed than the Black Hills gold rush provoked a new confrontation. The Black Hills were home and sacred hunting grounds to the Lakota Sioux and other plains Indians, like the Cheyanne and Arapaho.
The U.S. government, under pressure from the newspapers, businessmen and most of the political establishment, offered to purchase the lands from the Sioux for $6 million, or lease mining rights at $400,000 a year, but the Sioux chiefs turned the offers down. After negotiations failed the government turned a blind eye as prospectors and settlers continued to flood into the Black Hills. When the prospectors were attacked by Indians they demanded protection and the U.S. government deemed that the Indians had broken the Treaty of Laramie and that the lands could therefore be purchased. All Indians were ordered to return to their allotted reservations and those who did not comply were considered to be at war with the U.S. government. On 7 February 1876 the U.S. War Department authorized General Phil Sheridan, commanding the Military Division of the Missouri, to commence operations against the ‘hostile Sioux’. The stage was set for one of the U.S. Army’s most famous defeats. Throughout the spring the U.S. Army gathered for the big campaign. Since the ending of the civil war the Army had been drastically reduced in strength and numbered about 27,000 men. The US Army was beset by poor discipline, bullying, and poor pay (a mere $13 a month for privates), and weakened by desertion, alcoholism and scurvy. Disease killed more men than the Indians. The 7th Cavalry, full of veterans, considered itself an elite unit, and was almost as good as it thought it was. Although recruiting records are not entirely accurate there were around 136 Irish-born soldiers in the 7th Cavalry at this time, of whom 102 travelled with Custer and fought at the Little Big Horn.
The 7th Cavalry was seriously understrength as it left for the Montana Territory with only 597 men instead of a nominal full-strength of 845. A sense of foreboding hung over Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory as Custer’s 7th Cavalry departed to the strains of its regimental tune ‘Garryowen.’ The 7th were expecting a hard fight and many of the men, including Custer, had their hair cropped short, so it would be harder for the Indians to scalp them. Witnesses recalled how the band strained to be heard over the sobbing of women and children.
Among the Irish in the regiment were at least four men born in Co. Kildare – James Martin, James Philip McNally, Eugene Owens and James Lawler. James Martin enlisted on 6 February 1872, at age twenty-four and was sworn in by Captain Samuel Young. His previous occupation was as a labourer, by far the most common occupation among Irish recruits to the U.S. Army. According to his military record James Martin had gray eyes, brown hair, fair complexion and was 5’5” inches tall. His military record also states that he was court-martialed in July 1875. Corporal Martin was assigned to Company G, which was commanded by 1st Lieutenant Donald McIntosh. James Martin’s date and place of birth was given as ‘1847, County Kildare, Ireland.’  Curiously the only James Martin born in Co. Kildare in 1847 was born in Kildare town to Michael and Ellen Martin, who were married in Kildare in 1846. Sponsors were Owen Kilfoyle, of Fennor, and Brigid Maher. Ellen Martin’s parents were James and Elizabeth Purcell. The Martin family seems to have disappeared from the records after this and we can assume they emigrated to America.
The year in which James Martin was born was the worst year of that great calamity which became known as the Famine, or the Great Hunger. Emigration was at its highest then and increased in the following years until over one million had left Ireland destined for the new world of America. With the end of the American Civil War the United States slipped slowly into a recession. The military, as always, was a welcome place for an unemployed Irishman and the vast majority of Irish-born soldiers in the U.S. Army at the time enlisted more by the need for employment rather than martial glory. Most of the Irish recruits to the army had been born between 1841 and 1854 and had arrived in America as part of the exodus triggered by the famine.
James P. McNally was also born in ‘Black ’47.’ He enlisted on 12 November 1872 at the age of twenty-five, in Troy, New York. He was sworn in by Captain Theodore Wint. McNally’s previous occupation was a labourer. According to his military record he had gray eyes, dark hair, ruddy complexion and was 6’ ½”  tall. McNally’s birthplace on his enlistment record was given as ‘Kildare, Ireland’ in 1847. He was assigned to Company I pack train escort. Coy. I was commanded by Carlow-born Captain Myles W. Keogh, a veteran of the Papal Army and the recent civil war.
Another Kildareman assigned to Company I pack train escort was Eugene Owens. He was born in ‘Kildare, Ireland’ in 1848 and worked as a carpenter before enlisting on 15 March 1875, aged twenty-six, in Boston. He had blue eyes, brown hair, fair complexion and was 5’7 ¾” tall. Records point to Owens being from Maynooth, but it is not certain.
James Lawler was born in Co. Kildare in 1838. He enlisted in the 7th Cavalry on 21 December 1869 and re-enlisted on 21 December 1874 after his five-year term was up. Lawler was assigned as a private to Company G but was not present for the Montana campaign as he was on detached service. He was appointed corporal effective from 1 September 1876. James Lawler’s record describes him as having brown eyes, brown hair, dark complexion and 5’5 ¾” tall.
On 25 June Custer and his 7th Cavalry reached a ridge overlooking the Little Big Horn Valley. At about noon on the Rosebud-Little Big Horn divide, Custer halted the regiment and proceeded to assign commands. Major Marcus A. Reno received Companies A, G and M, and Captain Frederick W. Benteen, Companies D, H and K. It is probable that Captain Keogh was given Companies I, L and C, and Captain George W. Yates, Companies E and F. Captain Thomas McDougall’s Company B was assigned as pack train guard. Furthermore, a noncommissioned officer and six privates were detailed from each company to help with company pack mules. This probably saved the lives of James McNally and Eugene Owens.
Before the soldiers, but out of sight, was an Indian camp that stretched for two miles and was inhabited by at least 7,000 men, women and children. Custer was unperturbed by the size of this camp and had often said publicly that the 7th Cavalry could defeat any force of Indians. To prevent the Indians from escaping and breaking camp Custer decided to attack. It was the first of many mistakes. Without waiting for the baggage train of 120 men to catch up Custer divided his force in two ordering Captain Benteen to cover his rear. He further divided his remaining force by ordering Major Reno to attack with Companies A, E and G towards where he thought the Indians were preparing to break camp. Reno’s small force of 140 men rode into a virtual hornet’s nest. Vastly outnumbered the cavalrymen dismounted to form a skirmish line and then beat a hasty retreat as Major Reno lost all cohesion. The retreat became desperate with much of the fighting at close quarters. As the troops fled for their lives they suffered heavy casualties. Four Irishmen were killed somewhere in the course of this retreat, among them Corporal James Martin, of Kildare, who was knocked from his horse and killed. The company commander, Lt. McIntosh, was also killed in the retreat from the valley fight.
The survivors managed to reach the safety of a hill – now known as Reno’s Hill. Looking back over the line of retreat, the troopers could see their comrades, some of whom were still alive, being scalped, mutilated and stripped of their clothes. Captain Benteen’s force arrived on the hill and both groups, despite appeals, refused to make any attempt to rescue those troops or follow Custer into the village. It was just as well for George Armstrong Custer and his 220 men were massacred in the battle which has being forever known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’
The battle on ‘Last Stand Hill,’ took an hour, maybe less. The Sioux and Cheyenne had won an astounding victory. All five of Custer’s companies, 225 men had been killed. Reno and Benteen had lost another fifty-three men killed. Thirty-three of the dead were natives of Ireland, including Capt. Myles Keogh. Born at Orchard House, Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, Myles Walter Keogh had served with the Battalion of St. Patrick, Papal Guard, in Italy in 1860. He left Rome in 1862 and travelled to New York, where he joined the Union Army, serving throughout the civil war. Keogh’s body was the only one not mutilated by Indians. A Catholic medal he had worn in the Papal Army was still on his neck. Indians would have seen religious medals on other troopers, so perhaps Keogh had shown conspicuous bravery in facing his inevitable death. His horse, Comanche, also survived the Little Big Horn fight.
Most of the Indian warriors who told of the battle said they never saw Custer and did not know who killed him. Several warriors claimed to have personally killed Custer. An Arapaho warrior who was riding with the Cheyenne said that Custer was killed by several Indians. ‘He was dressed in buckskin, coat and pants, and was on his hands and knees. He had been shot through the side, and there was blood coming from his mouth. He seemed to be watching the Indians moving around him. Four soldiers were sitting up around him, but they were all badly wounded. All the other soldiers were down. Then the Indians closed around him, and I did not see him anymore.’ On the hill where Custer was found were dozens of bodies, at least twelve of whom were Irishmen.
Three miles south of Custer’s Last Stand the combined companies held out for another scorching day on Reno’s Hill. Reno and Benteen would have their share of blame for the debacle at Little Big Horn; Benteen, an able officer but public in his dislike for Custer, failed to respond to messages sent out by Custer to hurry to join him for the attack; Reno was indecisive, failed to keep a front at the river and failed to send Benteen, his subordinate, forward to a possible relief of Custer, whose battle he could hear.
Indian casualties were light: at least thirty-six warriors killed and around 100 wounded. Perhaps ten women and children were also killed, earlier in the battle. Late in the afternoon of 26 June the exultant Indians withdrew, leaving behind their dead warriors on burial scaffolds, surrounded by a circle of dead ponies to serve the braves in the spirit world. However, the Sioux gained little by their victory. Shortage of food and ammunition forced them to accept defeat before the end of the year.
A year after Custer led it to disaster on the Little Big Horn the 7th Cavalry was brought back up to strength and was involved in the campaign against the Nez Percé Indians in the Yellowstone Park area. James McNally was appointed sergeant from private effective from 1 July 1876 and served with Headquarters Company, 7th Cavalry, from 3 August 1876. He was involved in a skirmish with the Nez Percé Indians at Canyon Creek, Montana, on 13 September 1877. His fellow Kildareman, Cpl. James Lawler, was wounded in the same incident and died two days later. Lawler was buried on the battlefield, but was reinterred in Custer National Cemetery. By clever maneuvering the Nez Percé, under the leadership of Chief Joseph, shook loose from the 7th Cavalry and headed north for Canada. In their three-and-a-half month flight the Nez Percé fought off 2,000 troops, inflicting 180 fatalities, three of whom were born in Ireland.
James McNally was discharged on 12 November 1877 at Fort Abraham Lincoln on expiration of his five year service, as a private of excellent character. It is unknown when he died. Eugene Owens was discharged on 14 March 1880 at Fort Lincoln on expiration of his service, as a private of very good character. Like, his fellow Kildareman, James McNally, it is unknown when or where he died.
Many of the troops and scouts killed in the Battle of the Little Big Horn were buried at the battle site, which later became known as Custer National Cemetery. James Martin’s remains were never identified but Private John Foley, from Dublin, made the gruesome discovery of a severed head under a kettle in an Indian village days after the battle. Foley, who was from Company K, stated that it belonged to a corporal from Company G and as only two corporals from Company G were killed during the valley fight – Martin and a German called Otto Hagemann – it is possible that the severed head was that of James Martin.  In 1926 skeletal remains were discovered in an irrigation ditch along the line of retreat Company G took early in the battle. Workmen discovered a skeleton, minus its skull, accompanied by 7th Cavalry uniform buttons. The dead soldier appeared to be having been decapitated at death as no skull or skull fragments were ever found. The remains of this ‘unknown’ soldier, possibly James Martin or Otto Hagemann, were buried with full military honours, at Custer National Cemetery, later that year.
My thanks to Liam Healy, John and Jean McNally (USA); Mario Corrigan; Liam Kenny and Robert Doyle; and Tom Dunne (USA), for help with this article.

Postscript: In October 2012 John McNally, grandson of James P. McNally, along with his wife, Jean and historian Liam Healy visited Kildare Library and Arts Service, Newbridge Library, to try and trace the birthplace of James McNally.

On June 25 1876 Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer rode into history when he and 267 men of the 7th Cavalry were massacred at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. With the 7th Cavalry were four men born in Co. Kildare


St David’s 1212-2012: eight hundred years at the heart of Naas.

The year 2012 has been a bumper year for centenaries of all kinds.  The spring saw the most hyped centenary of modern times – that of the sinking of the Titanic – threaten to submerge all other candidates for centennial honours. Fortunately once the nautical  commemorative convoy sailed out of sight there was space in the public arena for other historic landmarks to stake their claim. Closer to home the town of Newbridge has this month marked with festivity the bi-centenary of its establishment when a lease signed by the British war department in September 1812 gave the town its modern form and status.  However trumping all of these is a place of worship at the heart of the county town of Naas which this year marks not merely 100, nor even 200, but a whopping 800 years of documented existence.  St David’s Church, hidden to many yet located just a hundred paces from the main street, can be traced in a written record dated to the year 1212.
Thence it is understandable that its congregation and many locals who appreciate the antiquity, sanctity, and tranquility of this old site are excited at the thought of this weekend marking it’s the 800th anniversary of its recorded existence. 
Archaeologists who study stone and structure are confident that a church existed many centuries prior to 1212 on the site. A granite water font is evidence of an early Christian site. Early accounts of the life of St Patrick speak of him spending time to Naas on his mission to bring Christianity to the people of mid-Leinster. Perhaps it was he who established an early stone church on the site. Or another more enigmatic figure may have been involved, St. Corban, a saint whose story is lost in the mists of time.
The Norman barons arrived in Naas in the 1170s following their invasion of Ireland from Wales and enlarged and rededicated the existing church on the site and named it after the patron saint of their home country, St David of Wales.
It is shortly after the Normans – famous for their record keeping - arrived on the scene that the first documented reference to the church occurs when it is listed in 1212 as being in the possession of the Hospitallers of St. John, an order of knights who gave succour to pilgrims on the Crusades. 
Fast forwarding the chronology brings the story to 1606 when St David’s was featured in the Inquisition of James 1 where it had grown to contain three chanceries or side chapels – The Holy Trinity, St Mary’s and St Katherine.
Thomas Drew, an architect writing in 1878, conjectured that the Protestant settlers established in Naas by the Duke of Ormond in 1648 probably altered the church in many respects.  In 1789 – the same year as the French revolution -- the sum of £118.11s3d was expended on the roof. 
So well hidden is St David’s in its sylvan churchyard just yards away from the main street of Naas that the only part of the building visible from a distance is the castle-like tower which at first glance looks to have all the credentials of a fortification from the middle ages. But far from being a mediaeval bastion it might best be described as a landlord’s folly.  Lord Mayo, the extremely wealthy landlord of Palmerstown, wanted to give Naas church a tower which would match the great cathedrals of Dublin . In 1780 he set his men to work with barrow and pulley hauling stones into place. However like many over-ambitious developers, past and present, his project ended prematurely and only got as far as the second storey. Earlier, when things had been going well he had erected a plaque worded in Latin which still exists and translates as “I found this a ruin and I left it a steeple”. Ironically he had found some kind of an existing steeple at St David’s but left an even bigger –albeit picturesque – ruin behind him. A story doing the rounds suggested he had fallen out with the Naas vestry or church committee and had abandoned his tower and headed to Kill where he fulfilled his ambition by commissioning the fine steeple on St. Johns church in the village. 
Today Mayo’s truncated steeple at St David’s accommodates a bell dated to 1674 making it one of the oldest bells in Ireland which is still rung on Sundays. Moulded on the bell is wording in Latin which translates along the lines of “In the church of St. David of Naas I give glory to God.”
Like most old buildings St. David’s harbours many secrets and one of the most surprising was the discovery of a crypt during significant renovations in 1989/90. A sharp-eyed builder noticed some bricks at the base of a wall which when carefully penetrated revealed an L-shaped crypt. Further investigation by an archaeologist revealed a number of coffins within the crypt: three males, a female and a child. Their burial in an impressive crypt suggested that they were from a family of considerable status. In time their remains were sensitively reinterred in Maudlings Cemetery.
On Saturday morning the crypt and the many other treasures of St. David’s will be open as  part of a weekend of church and civic events to mark 800 years of this spiritual gem at the heart of old Naas.  Series no: 298.

St David’s Church, Naas, can be traced in a written record dated to the year 1212, writes Liam Kenny in his Looking Back series no. 298.


Kildare says “No” – loyalist women sign Declaration of 1912

The Lambeg drums will be out in force in later this month as Ulster Unionists mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant by almost half a million men and women of loyalist persuasion.


In September 1912 as the prospect of Home Rule for edged nearer to becoming a reality in the Westminster parliament the unionist leadership organised an effective and cohesive campaign which galvanized opposition to the measure long desired by Irish nationalists.


It was a time of great tension in as the prize of an Irish parliament seemed to be within grasp. The Irish Parliamentary Party under the leadership of John Redmond had with great political skill managed to leverage a commitment from the Liberal Government that a Home Rule Bill would be brought through Westminster which would establish a parliament for . This would be the first time since Grattan’s parliament of the late 1700s that a parliament voted on by Irish people would have a role in the administration of the island of Ireland .  The country would remain within the with the King as head of state but key functions relating to local administration of Irish issues would be in the hands of the parliament of . This might not be the complete independence that Irish republicans had fought for in the unsuccessful rebellions in 1798, 1848 and 1867. However it would represent a huge advance in terms of the Irish people having a say in how the country was run. Dublin rather than Westminster would be nexus of political power in the island.

However the Ulster Unionists were having none of it. In their view an Irish parliament in Dublin would be a disaster for the Protestant community and culture in the northern counties. “Home Rule means Rome Rule” was one of the slogans which highlighted the Unionist opposition to the measure.  To them Home Rule would mean the obliteration of their culture and of the prosperous society that had worked for in Northern Ireland underpinned, in their view, by distinctively protestant values of sobriety and industry.  A parliament dominated by southern Irish Catholics would be feckless and incompetent and would be marred by the jobbery and stroke-pulling which characterised politics in the southern economy which in contrast to the industrial north, was based on little more than small farms and cattle trading.  


The leaders of the Unionist movement including Edward Carson, a Dublin-born barrister, and James Craig, a Unionist MP for East Antrim, set about mobilising opposition in a way that would be quantifiable and cohesive. They decided to draft a document, to be known as the Ulster Covenant, which would leave nobody in any doubt as to the Unionist determination to resist Home Rule. There was a version for women known as “the Declaration” which effectively proclaimed the same resistance albeit in association with the menfolk. The genius of their campaign was the unity of purpose which the mass signing of a common declaration would bring among the Unionist community in . No stone was left unturned in maximising the numbers of Ulster Unionists, men and women, who would be presented with forms for signing the Covenant and Declaration.    


From early September 1912 Unionist activists fanned out from Belfast organising monster rallies at which the Covenant and Declaration would be signed by Unionists throughout . The rallies were surrounded by all the trappings of  loyalism with meeting halls bedecked with bunting while the inevitable fife-and-drum bands whipped up the fervour. As well as the rallies in the northern counties copies of the Covenant and Declaration were sent to loyalist sympathisers of origin throughout the world. Signatures were obtained from Unionists in the and throughout the British Empire wherever men and women of birth were engaged in imperial service. While there were some Unionists living in the southern counties of their numbers were very small and apart from a few hundred in Dublin there were only a handful of signatories across the other counties of the south of . 


However analysis of the thousands of copies of the Covenant documents held in the Public Record Office in  Belfast reveals that there were two residents of County Kildare who signed the declaration to register their opposition to Home Rule.  The two ladies in question were Marie Gordon and Helen Gordon who were resident at Knocknagarm House on the fringe of the Curragh.  Matching their names up with the Census of the previous year  we can learn something more of Kildare’s two Unionist women. Marie (47) and Helen (19) were described as the wife and daughter respectively of Gisborne Gordon who was a horse-breeder and trainer on the Curragh. Being of roots was a qualification for signing the declaration and the census form of 1911 indicates that both women were born in  Co. Down and thus fulfilled the criteria. They had put their names to a Declaration which left no doubt as regards their loyalty to Ulster: “We, women of Ulster, being firmly persuaded that Home Rule would be disastrous to our Country, desire to associate ourselves with the men of Ulster in their uncompromising opposition to the Home Rule Bill now before Parliament … Praying that from this calamity God will save Ireland, we hereto subscribe our names – Marie L Gordon, Helen O’Gordon.” One hundred years ago this month their signatures joined those of 234,000 women which in turn were added to the Covenants signed by 237,000 men to make it abundantly clear to the Parliament in  Westminster that as far as Home Rule was concerned (and a little bit of Co. Kildare) said “NO”.  Series no: 297.



In September 1912 men and woman of Ulster signed a pledge against Home Rule. Two signatures were from women resident in Co. Kildare. Our thanks to Liam Kenny

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