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July 26, 2013


The Leinster Leader 22 April 1939.




The Roman Catholic Church at Staplestown is amongst the oldest in the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. The date of its construction cannot be fixed with certainty, but there is indirect evidence to show that it was in being in 1750. It replaced a ramshackle "Popish Masshouse" (to borrow the official language of those Penal Times) nearby, on the other side of the stream. When it left the hands of the masons, about 1750, it was a small, low, T. shaped structure, and roofed with thatch.
Forty years later, it plays a part in the local history of the period. On the outbreak of the Rebellion, in May 1798, the Barracks at Prosperous was garrisoned by forty men of the North Cork Militia, and twenty of the Ancient British Cavalry, under the command of Captain Swayne. At 2 o'clock in the morning of May 24, 1798, the barracks was stormed by a strong body of United Irishmen. The attack was short and fierce. Scarcely one of the soldiers escaped alive. By way of reprisal, the chapel of Staplestown was burnt down the following day. If local tradition be true (and I believe it is) the interruption of religious service was of brief duration. When the Rebellion subsided, the work of restoration was quickly taken in hand. The walls were raised by three courses, and the thatched roof was replaced by slate. During the next thirty years the population of thie side of the Clane Parish increased so rapidly that the little church of 1750 proved hopelessly inadequate for their accommodation. Not only was the church packed, but the congregation filled the Chapel yard, and overflowed out on to the road. Old men who were living fifty or sixty years ago, were they living to-day could tell us the same story of over-crowded churches, and overflow congregations, throughout the Dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin. Between the years 1800 and 1830, the population of Ireland increased by over two million. The countryside served by the Chapel at Staplestown, shared to the full in this growth. Hence, we are not surprised to find, from the reports submitted by Father Kearney, to Dr. Doyle (J.K.L.) in 1829, that the church at Staplestown has been "enlarged." But this word does much less than justice to what had been actually done. Accommodation had been more than doubled. Large additions had been made to the nave and transcepts, and each addition was provided with a spacious gallery, entered, at first, from outside, by a stone staircase. The removal of the external plastering, four years ago, revealed some of its past history, and, incidentally, confirmed the accuracy of local tradition. We saw the line of division between the old building and the subsequent enlargements, and the built-up doorways from outside giving entrance to the galleries. And (what I thought was interesting) the three additional courses, by which the original building had been raised, after the burning, in May, 1798, looked as fresh as if they had been there only from last year.
Close on two hundred years of wind and weather, beetles in the woodwork of the roof, a devastating deadly fungus (merulius lachrimans) in the floors and woodwork of the windows, have left this venerable relic of Penal days, in a sorry plight indeed. Its reconstruction has obliged us to replace almost everything except the walls, and entailed an expenditure of well over two thousand pounds. We are now faced with a debt of over £1,200.
May I ask you for support? Help, no matter how small, will be gratefully appreciated.
        L. J. KEHOE, P.P.,
Easter Sunday, 1939.

P.P. ― In connection with this appeal a Sweep on the Irish Derby is being promoted and tickets are obtainable at 1s. each. 1st. prize, £25; 2nd., £15; 3rd., £10; 4th., £5.


An article from the Leinster Leader of 22 April 1939 on the reconstruction debt of Staplestown chapel. Re-typed by Chris Holzgräwe


The Leinster Leader 11 March 1939.




The migrant families from Swinford who have take possession of the three holdings at Sherlockstown, Naas, were busy arranging furniture etc., when visited by a "Leinster Leader" representative on Monday.
Of the three families who have arrived, there are eleven children in the first, ten in the second, and seven in the third.
James McLoughlin, the senior of the party and father of 11 children, expressed great satisfaction with the generous provision made for them by the Government. It would take them some time, he said, before they got used to the new conditions and surroundings, but nothing, he added, could exceed the kindness with which they were received by the people amongst whom they had come to live.
The 28 children are all of the school-going age, and Mr. McLoughlin said their first concern would be to have arrangements made for sending them to school. The nearest school is Sallins.
"I hope," he said, "the teachers there will get an increase of salary for this big increase on the roll."
It is expected that between 30 and 40 holdings will be provided this season for migrants from the congested areas under the Land Ministry's scheme for dealing with urgent cases.
Four families from Swinford and one from Foxford have just been settled on lands acquired by the Land Commission on the Hawksworth-Smythe estate in Westmeath.
Under this phase of the general migration scheme, which is a settled part of the Department's policy, provision is made for special cases caused by chronic congestion.
Every assistance is given to set up the migrants so that they may take full advantage of their new holdings.


Three migrant families from Swinford, Co. Mayo, settled in Sherlockstown in October 1939. An article from the Leinster Leader re-typed by Chris Holzgräwe


The Leinster Leader 28 October 1939




Mr. Harry Beasley, the "Grand Old Man," of the Irish Turf and doyen of gentlemen riders, passed away at his residence, Eyrefield House, Curragh, on Thursday last, 18th October. He was in his 88th year, having been born in 1852 at Salisbury House, Athy. He was the last surviving member of the famous quartet of "Beasley brothers" ― Tommy, John, Willie and Harry ― whose deeds as amateur riders, more especially in the 'chasing field, are writ large in the pages of Turf history in Ireland, England and France. There was a fifth brother, James, who in his young days, rode in public now and again, but he did not continue riding, and eventually adopted a commercial career.
At the baptismal fount, the late "Harry" Beasley was given the name of Henry Herbert Beasley but, for well over sixty years he has been known affectionately to thousands of followers of the "Sport of Kings" as "Harry" Beasley and by that familiar diminutive he will, doubtless, ever be recalled.
It would take a bulky volume to record in full the eventful career of "Harry" Beasley, and to do anything like justice to his notable successes as the leading "Corinthian" of his day is, within the scope of this notice, frankly impossible. The writer once suggested to Mr. Harry Beasley that he should write a book of reminiscences, but, though the suggestion was received with a certain amount of interest, the writer is not aware that Mr. "Harry" ever undertook the task. What a wonderfully interesting book that would have been!
From his association with the late Henry E. Linde (the "Wizard" of the famous Eyrefield Lodge establishment) dates the commencement of Harry Beasley's triumphant Turf career. In 1876, Harry had his first winning ride ― the venue being Baldoyle and the horse was Mr. Livesay's Straffan, in the Hunters' 'Chase. Coincidence stretched out its long arm when in 1935, Baldoyle was the scene of Harry Beasley's last public appearance in the saddle, though on this occasion the mount was not a winning one. It was on Whit Monday, 1935, in the Corinthian Plate at Baldoyle, that this gallant veteran ― then 83 years of age ― donned silk for the last time, his mount being his own mare, Mollie. On that occasion, "Harry" was unplaced but, as he passed the crowded stands he received an ovation V the unstinted tribute to undaunted courage and to the memories of a glorious past.
But it is with the records of Punchestown and Aintree that the name of Harry Beasley is most inevitably associated. At Punchestown he was well-nigh invincible. Year after year he won races at the great Kildare meeting, sometimes on horses deserving of the title "great," often on horses described as "good," and even more often on horses that were merely "average." It was frequently said, with truth, that Harry Beasley could win at Punchestown on practically anything. He had an almost uncanny knowledge of the Punchestown course ― he knew it like the palm of his hand. He never failed to "go the shortest way round" and it was a revelation to watch Harry "stealing" lengths by using his unrivalled and expert knowledge of the tricky Punchestown circuit. He had many wonderful triumphs there, especially in the Conyngham Cup, but it is not unlikely that the Punchestown success which gave him the greatest personal pleasure was his last win at that venue. This was in 1923 when, at 71 years of age, he rode his own mare, Pride of Arras, to victory in the Maiden Plate. The scene after the race will ever be remembered by those present on that occasion. The huge crowd "rose" to the wonderful veteran in a spontaneous tribute unparalleled in Irish racing. A mighty roar of cheering followed Pride of Arras past the post and the scenes of enthusiasm in the paddock when horse and rider returned to scale beggars description. There was a further outburst of almost unrestrained enthusiasm when "Harry" was borne into the reserved enclosure to be congratulated by the then Governor-General, the late Mr. "Tim" Healy, K.C. Nobody relished a joke more than "Tim" and his delight was obvious when "Harry," thanking him for his congratulations, remarked, with a sweep of his arm to indicate the course ― "I'd rather be riding out there than facing you in the law courts."
His victory on Pride of Arras was "Harry's" last winning ride.
At famed Aintree, also, Harry Beasley gained the highest laurels. He rode in thirteen Grand Nationals; though on only one occasion did he succeed in winning the "Blue Riband of Chasing." This was in 1891, when he scored on Mr. W. G. Jameson's Come Away, from Cloister and Ilex. Come Away went lame a few days prior to this "National" and, indeed, won practically "on three legs." In his other Grand National essays, "Harry" was second three times and third once. "Harry" won the Grand Sefton Chase at Liverpool on no less than five occasions ― in 1879, 1880, 1881, 1883 and 1885. He won the Paris Hurdle on Seamon in 1881 and the Paris Steeplechase twice ― on Too Good in 1883 and on Royal Meath in 1890. But, as written earlier in this brief contribution, it would need a book to record fully the feats of Harry Beasley in the saddle.
Deceased owned and bred many useful performers and, until a few years ago he trained his own horses at Eyrefield House. Still strong and virile, he rode out to "exercise" till a couple of years back ― a really wonderful example of a veteran who refused to be conquered by "Anno Domini."
Mr. Harry Beasley married Miss Field, of Shanganagh Park, Shankhill, Co. Dublin, and the three boys born to them ― William, Henry Herbert and Patrick ("Rufus") ― has each made his mark as a jockey. Patrick, who for many years has been riding with marked success in England, recently married Lady Alexandra Egerton.
The passing of "Harry" Beasley may be said to write "finis" to one of the most glorious chapters of Turf history. In that chapter this Irish gentleman, member of a Co. Kildare family with many generations of historical associations, has played a "star" part. His death, widely and sincerely regretted, creates a void which cannot be adequately filled.
The funeral took place (following Requiem Mass, celebrated by Rev. T. Ryan, C.C., in St. Conleth's Parish Church, Newbridge) to the New Cemetery, on Friday morning last. There was a large attendance, including a big number of prominent Irish Turf personalities. Gathered round the grave where, within a few short miles of Punchestown (scene of some of his greatest triumphs), the remains of the great Irish horseman were laid to rest, were the representatives of several generations of sporting folk.
Very Rev. L. Brophy, P.P., V.F., officiated at the graveside, he being assisted by Very Rev. N. Barry, O.P., (Prior, Dominican College, Newbridge), Rev. E. J. Carey, C.F., Curragh Camp, was also present.
Chief mourners were ― Mrs. K. Beasley (widow), William, Henry and Patrick (sons), Mrs. D. Mooney and Miss L. Beasley (daughters); Mrs. H. H. Beasley, Lady Alexandra Beasley (daughters-in-law); Patrick and Timothy Field (brothers-in-law), Elsie Field (sister-in-law), Roderick Mooney (grandson).
The attendance included: ― F. Harold Clarke (Turf Club), Capt. D. Ruttledge, Fred Clarke (Foxrock), Senator J. J. Parkinson, Senator W. Cummins, Capt. J. Vernon (Messrs. R. J. Goff and Co)., F. S. Myerscough (do.), M. de Landre (do.). G. O'Rourke, solr. (Messrs. Brown and McCann), Robert Gannon, Major J. Hannon, Capt. C. Ellison, A.M.S., T. H. Griffin, V.S. R. P. C. Griffin, V.S.; E. Brophy, P. O'Shaughnesy (Hibernian Bank) and Mrs. O'Sullivan, H. W. L. Grennel (National Bank), J. Cosgrove, V.S.; M. Cosgrove, Dr. J. Roantree, J. Mallick, P. Connolly (Turf Club, Curragh), J. T. Tyrrell, Thos. McHale (Clontarf), John Storey (Monasterevan), P. Blacker, Mrs. F. Blacker, W. J. Hilliard, J. A. Mangan, J. W. Osborne, J. T. Rogers, Cecil Brabazon, Aubrey Brabazon, F. W. Maxwell, R. Featherstonhaugh, M. C. Collins and Mrs. Collins, T. Burns and Mrs. Burns, E. M. Quirke, J. Moylan and Mrs. Moylan, John Doyle, C. Burke (Kildare), J. J. Byrne (Kilcullen), J. Morrissey (Secretary, Newbridge Coursing Club), T. Higgins, P. Pallin, T. J. McCabe, P. J. Cox, F. J. Dowling, M. J. O'Connor (Brownstown), Jer. O'Keefe, Eyrefield Lodge; Chr. Sylvester and Mrs. Sylvester, the Misses Brannan (Stepaside), Miss K. Kelly (Newbridge), J. G. Counihan, R. Russell Weller ("Leinster Leader"), T. J. Kearns, T. Sex, C. P. Ryan, F. Corrigan, Sergt. T. Armstrong, G.S.; L. Kelly, J. Whelan, Martin Whelan, R. Holohan, Mrs. Unlaeke, J. Connolloy (Co. Librarian), P. Flanagan, John Kelly (Town Clerk, Droichead Nua), T. O'Neill, A. Moore, Jes. Hunter, T. M. Flood, P. Sheridan, W. White, P. Walshe etc., etc.


An article from the Leinster Leader on the death of Harry Beasley, doyen of the Irish Turf, re-typed by Chris Holzgräwe


Kildare’s Fighting General: Michael Kelly Lawler

James Durney

A recent visit to the Local Studies Department and Genealogy Service, in Newbridge Library by American relatives of Kildare’s fighting Civil War general, Michael Kelly Lawler, has led to this article. The Co. Kildare birthplace of Michael Kelly Lawler has been always a bit of a mystery, but his American relatives maintain he was born in Monasterevan.
Michael Kelly Lawler was born on 16 November 1814 in Monasterevan, Co. Kildare the first child of John Lawler and Elizabeth Kelly. John Lawler was born in Co. Laois (then known as Queens County) in 1786, while Elizabeth Lawler was born in Co. Kildare. The Lawlers emigrated to the New World arriving in New York City in March 1816. After a few months in New York, the Lawlers moved to Frederick Town, Maryland, where their second child, Mary Elizabeth was born.  John Lawler applied for American citizenship on 7 November 1819. Later that month, the family moved to Illinois where two more children, Margaret and Thomas Richard, were born.
On 1 April 1828 John Lawler bought a farm in the Ponds Settlement community in east Ridgway Township between Shawneetown and New Haven, in Gallatin County, Illinois. They were the first Catholic family to settle in the Ponds, on land which is still in the possession of their descendants today. It was largely through the influence of the Lawlers that the first Catholic Church (a log structure) was built in the community.
Despite his less than three years of formal education Michael Kelly Lawler was very well-read. He became a licensed lawyer and a surveyor. On 20 September 1837 he married Elizabeth Hart Crenshaw, at McLeansboro, Illinois. Family tradition has it that this was an elopement, but if that was so, it was soon forgiven as the Lawlers and Crenshaws became very close. Elizabeth’s father, John Hart Crenshaw was the wealthiest landowner in southern Illinois and operator of the Saline salt works in Gallatin County. He gave the young couple 180 acres of land next door to his own Hickory Hill. In the meantime Michael Kelly Lawler had apparently accumulated some 900 acres of land of his own. He built a modest two-room box house with a lean-to kitchen, which was later replaced by a one-and-a-half-storey double log house. The Lawler’s named the log-house ‘Tara Hall.’
Although he was a licensed lawyer there is little evidence of Michael Kelly Lawler practicing law except as an accommodation for his relatives, friends and neighbours. His chief interest was land and he also owned a hardware store in Shawneetown, Illinois. When the Mexican War broke out in 1846 he received an appointment as a captain and was asked by Governor Thomas Ford to organize a company of riflemen. He served in the campaign to take Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in Mexico. After the end of the conflict Lawler returned to his farm, established a thriving hardware store and used his lawyers’ license to help the claims of Mexican War veterans.
In April 1861 the Civil War erupted and the following month Michael Kelly Lawler recruited the 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment for the Union cause. He was appointed as its first colonel, but his time in command of the regiment was controversial, as the men had a reputation for drunkenness and fighting. Lawler was a stern disciplinarian and introduced supervised boxing bouts to resolve disputes among his men. He was court-martialled for excesses in discipline but Lawler had enough political and military clout to be restored to his command. The 18th Illinois went into action at the Battle of Fort Donelson and Lawler suffered an arm wound as he led his men from the front. In November 1862 he was commissioned as a brigadier general and commanded a brigade in the 2nd Division of the XIII Corps. He fought with distinction in the Vicksburg Campaign in 1863 and then served as commander of the 1st Division, XIII Corps in Louisiana. Lawler was plagued with illness for the remainder of the war and mustered out of the army in 1866, though some reports say it was 1864. He returned home and resumed his law practice and farming.
Michael Kelly Lawler died in the summer of 1882, aged sixty-eight and was buried in the Lawler Family Cemetery near Equality, Illinois. A stone and bronze memorial to the Kildareman was erected in his honour in Equality, Illinois. He was also honoured with a marble bust in Vicksburg National Park, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, while Chicago named a street after him and Lawler Park, in Chicago, also bears his name.

Note: My thanks to the Luckett-Lawler family, Illinois, USA.

The Co. Kildare birthplace of Civil War General Michael Kelly Lawler has been always a bit of a mystery, but his American relatives maintain he was born in Monasterevan

July 18, 2013


Sergeant George Lelliott
21st Lancers

Matt McNamara

Matt McNamara, Curragh Local History Group, has sent a link with the background of Sergeant George Lelliott, 21st Lancers, who is buried in the Old Curragh Military Cemetery. Matt said,

‘George had a distinguished career in the British Army travelling around the world at the height of the Victorian empire and died in the Curragh Camp at the young age of 35. I was recently contacted by a Walther Hall who is a Medal Collector and had purchased Georges Medals in an auction and traced him to the Curragh Cemetery from a list on my site. So I took a walk around the cemetery with my son Pete and managed to locate his headstone.’

The article and photographs are on the following link


2836 Sergeant George Lelliott
21st Lancers
(21st Empress of India's Lancers)

The 21st Lancers (Empress of India's) were a cavalry regiment of the British Army, created in 1858 and amalgamated to form the 17th/21st Lancers in 1922. Perhaps its most famous engagement was the Battle of Omdurman, where Winston Churchill, 4th Hussars, rode with the unit.
The regiment was originally raised in Bengal by the British East India Company in 1858 as the 3rd Bengal European Light Cavalry, for service in the Indian Mutiny. As with all other "European" units of the Company, they were placed under the command of the Crown in 1858, and formally moved into the British Army in 1862, when they were designated as hussars and titled the 21st Regiment of Hussars. A detachment saw service in the 1884–5 expedition to the Sudan, with the Light Camel Regiment. In 1897 they were re-designated as lancers, becoming the 21st Lancers, and in 1898 served in the Mahdist War in the Sudan. It was here they fought at the Battle of Omdurman, where members of the Regiment won three Victoria Crosses.
That same year, the regiment was given the title 21st (Empress of India's) Lancers, being named for Queen Victoria, the Empress of India.
George Lelliott was born in 1864. He enlisted in the 14th Hussars between April 1883 and November 1886 and transferred to the 21st Lancers on 1st October 1887 with the rank of Private. The Lancers at this time were based in Colchester, Essex. Muster rolls for the Lancers after 21st November 1887 do not exist so it is not possible to track his exact movements after this date but I assume that he went with the Regiment to India in 1888 and thence to Egypt in October 1896. In any event he is confirmed as having charged with the Regiment at Omdurman on 2 September 1898 as part of “C” Squadron under the command of Captain Doyne. He was by this time a Sergeant. Confirmation of his participation in the Charge can be found in the Appendix of Terry Brighton’s book “The Last Charge”; Sgt Lelliott is also shown on the Omdurman medal rolls as having been at or south of Kerreri Ridge on 2 September 1898, and awarded the Queen’s and Khedive’s Sudan medal, the latter with the clasp “Khartoum.”
Thereafter the only references for Sgt Lelliott are that he participated in a rifle meeting at Abbassiyeh, Egypt between 14-19 August 1899, and his appearance in the Regimental Casualty Register but this is neither dated nor annotated although most likely refers to around the time he died on 21 December 1899. Seeing as how the Regiment did not depart from Egypt to Ireland until November 1899, Sergeant Lelliott must have died very shortly after the Regiment returned to the British Isles and subsequently to The Curragh Camp.
The fact the Sergeant Gerorge Lelliott died so soon after his time in the Sudan and at such a young age of thirty five it would be probable to say that he died of a tropical disease such as Malaria. This we must remember was in the early days of medical science and Sergeant Lelliott is like many buried in The Curragh Military Cemetery, died way before his time.

Headstone of
Sergeant George Lelliott
Curragh Military Cemetery
Sacred to the memory of
Sergeant George Lelliott
21st (E of I) Lancers who departed this life
21st Dec 1899 aged 35 years.
Erected by the Sergeants as a mark of respect and esteem.

A special thanks to Walter Hall for providing the information on Sergeant George Lelliott.

Sergeant George Lelliott, 21st Lancers, who fought at the Battle of Omdurman, in 1898, is buried in the Old Curragh Military Cemetery. Our thanks to Matt McNamara



The War of Independence in Kildare

With its position on the axis between the Curragh camp and Dublin Castle, Kildare was one of the most important, but also the most dangerous counties for the rebels in the struggle for independence.

When the War of Independence began on 21 January 1919, the IRA in Kildare faced a unique situation. One-third of Britain's overall military strength was based in the Curragh alone and the county had a huge population of ex-servicemen and their families with strong ties to the British crown. Fear of reprisals, as well as Kildare’s open plains, which militated against the IRA’s favoured tactic of ambush, would have been a strong deterrent to military engagements. Indeed, the county has often been criticised for a perceived lack of action.

However, in 'The War of Independence in Kildare' James Durney argues that Kildare’s role deserves to be reconsidered. Despite the obstacles, the IRA in the county did operate quite successfully and contributed enough to the IRA’s overall campaign to get a commendation from GHQ and sneaking admiration from the crown forces it opposed. From attacks at Greenhill, Maynooth and Barrowhouse, to the critical role played by agents there in intelligence gathering, the county played an integral part in Ireland’s fight for freedom. The War of Independence in Kildare reveals for the first time the full story of the county's involvement in the struggle for freedom from 1916–21.

Mercier Press is Ireland’s oldest Independent publishing house, based in Cork. The War of Independence in Kildare is published in paperback at €16.99 and is also available in eBook format from all the usual Co. Kildare outlets: Barker and Jones, Naas; The Book Haven, Monread; Farrell's, Newbridge; Eason's, Whitewater, etc.

The War of Independence in Kildare by James Durney will be launched in the Riverbank, Newbridge, at 5.30 on Friday 26 July 2013. Special launch price on the day 15.00 euro!

It is an open event and all are welcome. Please feel free to dress in clothes of the era and bring the children to what promises to be a unique event. There are rumours circulating that the dreaded Black and Tans will arrive in Newbridge to prevent the launch,


The War of Independence in Kildare by James Durney will be launched in the Riverbank, Newbridge, at 5.30 on Friday 26 July 2013





Day 1

9.00 Conference Registration -Tea & Coffee

9.30 Welcome

 John O'Driscoll, Curator & General Manager Strokestown Park House 

9.40 Opening Address

 Tim O'Connor, Chairman of The Gathering Ireland 2013
Session 1

 Chair: Professor Terence Dooley (Department of History, NUI Maynooth)
 10.00 Patrick Fitzgerald, (Mellon Centre for Migration Studies), Irish hunger,
migration and denomination, 1550-1850

 10.25 Jason King (University of Limerick), From Roscommon to Quebec: Irish Famine
orphans as models of
10.50 Lawrence W. Kennedy (University of Scranton), Patrick A. Collins: An
emigrant in the U.S. Congress and Boston City Hall
11.15 Tea & Coffee

Session 2
 Chair: Nollaig Feeney (Roscommon Heritage Officer)

11.30 Bláthnaid Nolan (University College Dublin), From Carlow to Athy to Hobart: Crime
and punishment in nineteenth century Ireland 

11.55 Gerard Moran (NUI Maynooth), 'To the nearest place that was not Ireland':
The Famine Irish emigrants in Provincial Britain

12.20 Brendan McGowan (Galway City Museum), The Famine Irish in Leeds & the
unfortunate case of Patrick Bourke

12.45 Lunch

Session 3

 Chair: Declan Jones (Managing Director, Property Division, Westward
Group of Companies)

2.00 Gail Baylis (University of Ulster), Ireland, photography and Famine memory

2.25 Ciarán Reilly (NUI Maynooth), 'A Mayo man on the Cape': Robert Stanford
and Anti-Irish sentiment in South Africa in the 1840s

2.50 James M. Farrell (University of New Hampshire), Reporting the Irish Famine
in America
3.15 Tea & Coffee

Session 4

 Chair: (Mark O'Brien, Investec Specialist Bank)

3.30 Elaine Farrell (Queen's University Belfast), 'Bad luck to you ... you were the cause of
my killing my child': women transported from Ireland for infant murder

3.55 Gail Gráinne Whitchurch (Indiana University), ''The Colony" to Cleveland:
An autoethnographic case study of an orphan raised at the Achill Mission

Keynote address

 Chair: Professor Marian Lyons (Head of Department of History, NUI

4.30.-5.30 Professor Christine Kinealy (Drew University, New Jersey),

 'Chained Wolves': Young Ireland in Van Dieman's Land
NOTE: The Tye (Tighe) Family Homecoming will take place in Strokestown Park House on
Friday evening, 19 July. For further details of the event & dinner please see

Day 2

Session 1

 Chair: Michael Blanch (Committee for the Commemoration of the Irish Famine

09.30 Damien Sheils (Independent Scholar), ‘Allow me to mingle my tears’: The
impact of the American Civil War on female Famine survivors

9.55 Regina Donlon (NUI Maynooth), Constructing an immigrant profile: using
statistics to identify famine immigrants in Toledo, Ohio, 1850-1900

10.25 Michael Quigley (Independent Scholar), Quebec remembers the Famine

10.50 Tea & Coffee

Session 2

Chair: Pat McCarrick (Botháir) 

11.10 Fidelma Byrne (NUI Maynooth), The mechanics of assisted emigration: the case of
the Fitzwilliam estate, county Wicklow 

11.35 Charles Read (Christ’s College, Cambridge) Famine, economic shocks, and
Emigration in 1840s Ireland

12.00 Jo-Anick Proulx (Visitor Experience Manager, Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial
National Historic Site Parks Canada), Grosse-Île: a new home, a new hope

12.30 Closing Remarks

 Patrick D. Kenny (Executive Chairman, Westward Group of Companies)

Strokestown Park International Famine Conference 2013

In association with CSHIHE, NUI Maynooth & Investec Specialist Bank.
SROKESTOWN PARK HOUSE 12th July 2013 (details below)
Conference Registration Fee is €25 per person (includes light lunch)

Number of delegates:
Total amount enclosed: Payment must be made in euro only

Payment method: Payment must be made by cheque or bank draft only

First name(s):
E-mail or Postal Address(es):

Telephone Number(s):
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Booking Information 

Please send the completed registration form by post only to Strokestown Park, Strokestown Co Roscommon. By 12th July
2013. Cheques and bank drafts should be made payable to Westward Holdings Ltd..

Places will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Payment of conference registration fee must be received to
guarantee a booking. Receipt of payment will be acknowledged by e-mail unless otherwise requested. Refunds for
cancelled bookings will not be made.

Please note that information provided above (name, institutional affiliation & e-mail address only) may be compiled into a
delegates listing to be distributed at the conference. Please tick here if you do not wish your information to be included in the
delegates list .
DIRECTIONS TO Strokestown Park: http://strokestownpark.ie/visitor-info/find-us

Enquiries:e.mail info@strokestownpark.ie / tel. 0719633013

The 3rd Annual International Famine Conference at Strokestown Park House 19-20 July 2013: The Famine Irish. Emigration and new lives


Coill Dubh. Paul Connolly

Reading the Kildare e/history site it is very interesting to see the many testimonials and fond memories expressed by current and former residents of Coill Dubh.This village was revolutionary in its time for the fact that it was created from a green field site and did not organically develop as was the case in most Irish villages. It was a marvellous exercise in integration in its time considering the diverse locations from which all the inhabitants came –  some almost spoke a differentlanguage. It's architecture was also very attractive and very modern in its time. I recall going to Prosperous High School (The Tech) in the late 1950s with some boys and girls from that village, names like Eddie Whealan, Michael Hogarthy (Scorchy) Ms. Cleary, O'Leary, Scanlon. Eddie Whealan emigrated along with his family to New York shortly after finishing school in Prosperous, I think his father was one of the green keepers in the village. Some years later I had the pleasure of meeting Luke Shinnors (senior) and playing football with his sons, Luke, Pete and Richard, when we all moved to Leixlip in the 1970s. Sadly, Luke Senior and Junior have since passed away. It is great to see the positivity and the "Pride of Place" being so well expressed in these articles. It is a pity that we don’t often hear this.
Paul Connolly
Leixlip (Formerly of Donore)

Paul Connolly, of Donore, fondly recalls Coill Dubh and its inhabitants. Our thanks to Paul


Leinster Leader 25th January 1913

Death  of Mr.  J. E.  Medlicott,  J.P.

The death of Mr. J. E. Medlicott, J.P., which occurred at his residence, Dunmurry, Kildare, on Sunday, 12th instant removes one of the oldest and most esteemed gentlemen of the county, and there are many expressions of regret being heard among all classes. Mr. Medlicott, who was a good and considerate employer, took a very great interest in the working of the district, and there were of them very few indeed whom he did not know, as well as their circumstances and needs. This was evidenced on many an occasion when some poor man was charged with a slight offence against the law. A lecture from the Chairman and a small fine generally met such a case, accompanied by a few parting words of advice. Bringing common sense to bear on every matter that came before him in his capacity as a magistrate nobody could find every the slightest fault with Mr. Medlicott in his rulings, and in every instance he was careful to bring out any and every mitigating circumstance in the different cases before him in favour of the accused. The late Mr. Medlicott was spoken of as the oldest magistrate in the County Kildare and he certainly was one of the most considerate and painstaking. The funeral on Wednesday, 15th instant, which left his residence, Dunmurry, was largely attended to the Kildare Cathedral where services were held. The chief mourners were ― Miss Medlicott, Miss Stuart Medlicott, Mrs. Reeves and Mrs Bailey (daughters); Miss Reeves and Miss Hilda Reeves (grand-daughters), Mr Henry Reeves (grandson). The funeral service at the Cathedral was conducted by the Very Rev. the Dean of Kildare, assisted by the Rev. Precentor Adams, who also officiated at the graveside. The coffin was covered with many beautiful wreaths. After the service at the Cathedral the funeral returned to Dunmurry, where the interment took place. Amongst those present at the funeral were ― The Very Rev. Dean of Kildare and Mrs. Cowell, the Rev. Precentor Adams, Rev. R. S. Chaplin, Very Rev. Father Campion, P.P., Very Rev. N. A. Staples, Prior, O.C.C.; Messrs. W. Grove White, J. Whiteside Dane, D.L., R. F. Gannon, J.P., James Coffey, J.P., R. H. Falkiner, W. A. Lanphier, solicitor; Dr. L. F. Rowan, Dr. E. T. Coady, W. Odlum, J. P.; Denis Flood, J. Bergin, Michael Dawson, Rathbride Manor; P. J. McCann, solicitor; Chas. Heffernan, G. H. Fawcett, Patrick Talbot, B. Ennis, T. Kelly, Wm. Watson, P. Hughes, J. Corry, D.C., J. J. O'Driscoll, M.P.S.I.; Samuel Bratton, C.P.S.; Denis Carberry, E. Cosgrove, T. McHugh, M.P.S.I., John Moore, J.P.; P. O'Brien, postmaster; Thomas Harte, J. Nolan, M. Cooper, J. P. Moore, D. Jackson, T. Harris, T. Behan, J. F. Dowling, solicitor,; J. Maunsell, W. Mathews, Joseph P. Kelly, Rathbride; F. M. Gray, A. O'Neill, F. Strath, J. Hackett, Knocknagella; J. McArthur, C. McNabb, N. Hannigan, J. Savage, station-master, G.S.W.R., F. Burke, P. Murphy, etc.

The death of Mr. J. E. Medlicott, J.P., one of Co. Kildare's biggest landowners, as reported in the Leinster Leader 25 January 1913

July 11, 2013


Death in December … 90th anniversary of Curragh executions

With much of the attention regarding the struggle for Irish independence looking ahead to the centenary of the 1916 Rising, events in Kildare 90 years ago this December bring into sharp focus the tragedy of the subsequent civil war (1922-23). Curragh historian Robbie Doyle has a particular interest in the story of the Kildare men who were executed in December 1922  on one of the darkest days of the civil war which had turned brother against brother. His grandfather-in-law Eamon O’Modhráin was an anti-treaty activist and comrade of the men who were captured by Free State troops and executed for being in possession of arms. Copies of letters written by the men hours before their execution have been handed down in the O’Modhráin family and Robbie Doyle has put their poignant sentiments in context to relate the story of that winter of internal strife in Kildare ninety years ago.

Men and women who had fought side by side against British rule, turned their vitriol and their weapons on each other in a bitter conflict that began with the occupation of the Four Courts in the summer of 1922 by forces opposed to the signing and ratification of the anglo-irish treaty signed the previous December.

The outbreak of the civil car forced pro and anti-treaty supporters to choose sides. Supporters of the treaty came to be known as pro-treaty or Free State Army, legally the National Army. The objectors called themselves Republicans but were more commonly known by the Free State government as “irregulars.”

Although most of the fighting took place in Dublin and around Munster, County Kildare was insulated from the bitter divide. The occupation of the Curragh Camp by the Free State Army after British withdrawal made operations difficult for the small column of anti-treaty fighters who operated in the vicinity of Kildare town.

Eamonn O’Modhráin from Ballysax, who had commanded the 6th Battalion of the IRA’s Carlow Brigade (South Kildare/West Wicklow) during the War of Independence (1919-21), objected strongly to the signing of the treaty and was immediately arrested and imprisoned for much of the year-long conflict. However, many of his anti-treaty comrades took up arms against the Free State and operated a guerrilla style war in the environs of Kildare town, concentrating their efforts on disrupting the vital railway network in the district.

In late 1922, the Leinster Leader reported that a column of irregulars were operating in the vicinity of Kildare town, derailing or stealing train engines which would subsequently be used as an obstruction, thereby blocking the line. It was also reported that on November 25th, this anti-treaty fighters had mounted an audacious ambush of Free State troops close to the Curragh Camp.
On December 13th, ten men, allegedly of the same column, were surprised at a farmhouse beside Moore’s Bridge (close to the Curragh Racecourse) by Free State troops. Having been found in possession of rifles, a quantity of ammunition and other supplies, the men were arrested and brought the short distance to the Curragh Camp. During the arrest, one of the captured, Thomas Behan, was killed although the cause of his death remains disputed to this day.

In the following days, seven of the men were tried before a military court and found guilty of being in possession of arms without authority. The Free State government had, only weeks earlier, decreed that such an offence was punishable by death, an attempt by the government of the new state to quell the mounting violence and assert is authority. The executions were duly carried out by firing squad on the morning of December 19th at the Curragh military detention barracks. Although the Free State sanctioned 77 official executions of anti-treaty prisoners during the war, this combined execution of seven men was the largest carried out anywhere in the country - a tragic statistic from County Kildare’s otherwise low key involvement in the nationalist struggles of the period.

The day before their execution, the seven men were allowed to write letters to their families and loved ones. Each letter is a tragic but poignant memorial to the men as they came to terms with their fate. Typed copies of some of the letters were sent to their ex-commander, Eamonn O’Modhráin.

Nineteen year-old Paddy Bagnall wrote to his uncle that he and his comrades were “all to go West together… but it is all for the best, and I hope it sets old Ireland free.” Bagnall finishes a remarkably composed letter for one so young by stating that he was dying happy and bids “good-bye old Kildare.”

Thirty four year-old Paddy Nolan penned a heartbreaking final letter to his mother and father. He hoped that they would bear his death with “the Courage of an Irish Father & Mother.” He tried to ease his mother’s worry by writing that the chaplain in the Curragh, Father Donnelly, had told him that he would go straight to Heaven.

However, the saddest words are often the simplest and Nolan signed off by telling his family that he “had a few pounds in his suit case” and that they could have them and anything else in the house belonging to him. A shorter letter to his younger brothers and sisters asks that they remember him and his comrades on Christmas morning, only a few days away. He also asks that they be good children and always obey their parents.

The other letters written by the men on the eve of their deaths are similar in composition and sentiment to Bagnall’s and Nolan’s. Each is also a terrible reminder of the bitter conflict that scarred a fledgling nation during its turbulent progression from a British colony into an independent nation.

A memorial to the men is located in Market Square in Kildare town. The seven executed were Stephen White (18), Abbey Street, Kildare; Joseph Johnston (18), Station Road, Kildare; Patrick Mangan (22), Fair Green, Kildare; Patrick Nolan (34), Rathbride, Kildare; Bryan Moore (37), Rathbride, Kildare (Leader of the column); James O’Connor (24), Bansha, Co. Tipperary and Patrick Bagnall (19), Fair Green, Kildare.

Regardless of the sides taken during the civil war, the seven men believed they were dying for the cause of Irish freedom and independence. For that reason, their sacrifice in the dark days of December 1921 is worthy of recognition and commemoration in the month of its 90th anniversary.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks to Robbie Doyle for generously sharing the contents of the executed men’s final letters. Series no: 308.

Liam Kenny remembers the seven men from Kildare who were executed in December 1922 in his Looking Back series, no. 308


Digging in … Kildare’s pioneering role in horticultural education 

Wicklow bears the name of being the “Garden County” but when it comes to innovation in horticulture Kildare beats it by the length of a couple of drills. This is one of the perhaps surprising facts to be gleaned by a recently published book on the story of domestic horticulture in Ireland entitled “Rooted in the Soil – a history of cottage gardens and allotments in Ireland since 1750.” The joint authors Jonathan Bell and Mervyn Watson have compiled an attractive history of horticulture which weaves the subject into the larger social trends of the modern era.  In the early 1900s there was an increasing interest in encouraging house-holders to become almost self-sufficient in terms of providing food for their households.  This aspiration was facilitated on the ground by County Committees of Agriculture set up in parallel with the new County Councils elected in 1899. While providing services and advice to the farming industry was a priority for the committees the Kildare County Committee of Agriculture pioneered the concept of horticultural education.

Bell & Watson record that the Kildare County Committee claimed to have appointed the first county horticultural instructor. They quote from a gardening journal of 1907 which noted that since December 1901 Kildare had its own fulltime gardening instructor. The credit for this initiative was given to the redoubtable Stephen J. Brown, a Naas solicitor and councillor who was a tireless promoter of civic initiatives. The report noted that in the person of Stephen J. Brown “ the Kildare Committee of Agriculture is fortunate in possessing a strong and thorough-going educationalist in its chair and one who sees in horticultural education a means whereby the material resources of the people may be increased, rural life made more attractive and the beauty of home surroundings be improved.”  

The pioneering instructor in question – William Tyndall – was to gain national repute for his innovative methods of encouraging the county’s gardeners to adopt the most modern methods of horticulture.  Described as the “senior County Instructor in Ireland” William Tyndall’s first innovation was the establishment of a cottage and garden prize scheme. An amount of over three hundred pounds was made available by the County Committee and to ensure that gardeners in all parts could share in the prize money amounts for prizes were allocated for each of the five electoral divisions in the county as well as for overall county prizes.

The prize-giving scheme led to the formation of a number of horticultural show societies in the county. “Rooted in the Soil” quotes an article written by the aforesaid William Tyndall in a 1908 edition of the “Irish Gardener” journal in which he recorded that “ In 1903 Naas District Horticultural and Industrial Society was formed. Next year a similar society was formed in Athy, and a third at Balyna (Carbury) in 1905 so that including the older society (the North Kildare Cottage Society), the county now possesses four thriving horticultural societies.”

Indeed so successful was the Tyndall approach to popularising domestic gardens that it was used as a model when interest was promoted among city dwellers to cultivate allotments – strips of land on the urban outskirts which could be cultivated for to provide vegetables for their inner city homes. An Irish Times report of 1910 commenting on a horticultural display in Dublin enthused “ we want more of this – the sort of thing which one finds in the country districts catered for by such spirited societies as North Kildare and Naas. “

Closely related to the movement to popularise home growing was the promotion of gardening skills among school children. Again the Kildare County Committee of Agriculture claimed to be pionners in this field through William Tyndall’s practice of giving classes to teachers at a demonstration plot off the Sallins Road outside Naas. From this a prize-giving for school gardens evolved and the local newspapers carry detailed reports of the horticultural inspector’s visits to schools and his comments on the state of their garden plots. The 1907 report of the Kildare committee might as well have been written for 21st century schools when it proclaimed that “Not only is it of vital importance to get county schoolteachers interested in gardening, but a garden, no matter how small, is a most useful addition to a modern school, especially in these days when object lessons from real things and systematic instruction in Nature Study form part of the curriculum of all schools claiming to be efficient and up-to-date.”

The tradition of the school garden lasted well into the 20th century but often depended on the enthusiasms of a green-fingered teacher. However in recent times the value of the school garden has again been recognised and in an admirable scheme the state food agency, Bord Bia, has worked with a number of schools including Scoil and Linbh Iosa in Prosperous to educate the children in the concepts of organic gardening.

“Rooted in the soil” delivers a thorough but readable history with fine illustrations of the role of cottage gardens, allotments, school gardens and horticultural instruction in the life of Ireland’s town and rural dwellers from 1750 to modern times. It is just the kind of book to keep a gardener in touch with the subject over the winter months until the green shoots of spring signal a start to a new outdoor season.

Book reviewed: “Rooted in the Soil – a history of cottage gardens and allotments in Ireland since 1750” by Jonathan Bell and Mervyn Watson and published by Four Courts Press.  Series no: 307.

Wicklow bears the name of being the “Garden County” but when it comes to innovation in horticulture Kildare beats it by the length of a couple of drills, so writes Liam Kenny in his Looking Back series


The Leinster Leader April 24 1971

Unveiling at Tone's grave

The restored Wolfe Tone Memorial and grave will be unveiled at Bodenstown on Sunday at 3.30 p.m. by Mr. Maurice Twomey, an old I.R.A. veteran. This will be followed by a rededication ceremony performed by Venerable Archdeacon B. L. Handy, Clane.
All Republican organisations will be represented and a large contingent from Belfast is expected. Among the attendance will be a great-great granddaughter of Tone, Mrs. Dickason who is travelling from America for this restoration by the National Graves Association. The I.T.G.W.U. Band will be present from 2 p.m. and assembly will begin at 3 p.m. Stewarding will be in the hands of the kildare, Laois and Tipperary branches of the N.G.A.
The estimated cost of the reconstruction work is £5,000 and architect is Mr. Hugo Duffy (Peppard and Duffy, Dublin), who was associated with the late Mr. Lorcan Leonard, architect of the 1916 memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery. The monument, which will replace one blown up in October 1969, is fifty feet by thirty feet and includes a tomb of Irish limestone, and overlooking it on the church walls, a bronze plaque with a silhouette image of Tone and a long quotation from Padraig Pearse from a tribute paid by him to Tone in 1915.
The first sod of the reconstruction work was turned in February by Mr. Charles Wood, Vice-Chairman, N.G.A. The first memorial to Tone was erected by Kildare G.A.A. Board around 1898.
A meeting of County Kildare N.G.A. Branch in Naas on Tuesday night, attended by Mr. Sean Fitzpatrick, National Secretary, and Mr. Eamonn Griffin, Dublin Branch, made final arrangements for the ceremonies. It was unanimously decided to invite Comdt. General Tom Maguire, a member of the original Dail Eireann, as special guest of the Branch. Members were requested to report to the Churchyard at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday to act as stewards.
The ceremonies will conclude with the playing of the French and Irish national anthems.

A report from the Leinster Leader of 24 April 1971 on the unveiling of a restored monument to Wolfe Tone, at Bodenstown

July 02, 2013


The Emperor’s Kildare slaves

James Durney

According to Robert Widders in The Emperor’s Irish Slaves: Prisoners of the Japanese in the Second World War, The Irish History Press (2012), 650 Irishmen and women became prisoners of the Imperial Japanese Army in 1941-2.  Nearly a quarter of them – 148 – died whilst in captivity. Widders mentions several Kildare men in the book: Tom Higgins, Christopher Samuels, Dermot MacDonough, John Caddy, George Sullivan and Paddy Quinn. At least seven Kildaremen died whilst captives of the Japanese: Tom Higgins, Fr. Tom Murphy, John Thompson, Patrick Byrne, James Belford, Patrick Quinn and Christopher Samuels and Widders book sheds new light on two of them.
Japan signed the Geneva Convention in 1929 but by 1941 had completely failed to ratify it. Foreign Minister Tojo then gave a solemn assurance to the Geneva authorities that although his country had not ratified the Convention, they would abide by it absolutely. He also pointed out that Japan had already signed the Fourth Hague Convention in 1907 which dealt with the conduct of war and the treatment of prisoners of war. In fact the only policy of the Japanese government and military authorities was the Bushido principle. The ancient knightly order held that the greatest honour for any Japanese citizen was to die for his Emperor. The greatest dishonour for a Japanese person was to surrender to the enemies of the Emperor, which would bring deep shame on himself and his family. On this basis the Japanese attitude to a prisoner was one of deep contempt.
After invading many countries in the Far East, Japan found themselves with a large amount of prisoners, but did not know what to do with them. Japan had never expected to end up with this many captives so their response was reactive initially and opportunistic later on. As the war altered they decided to use these prisoners as slave labour. Barney Byrne, son of John Byrne, Kilcullen, was captured in Hong Kong at the end of December 1941. He was held in a prison camp in Hong Kong, in which about 500 men died from disease and malnutrition. ‘We were left very much alone in Hong Kong by the Japs,’ he wrote, ‘who gave the internal running of the camp to our own officers who had to supply so many men for working parties per day. But apart from a hellish burst of slavery on the clearing of a new airport for about four months, the two and a half years in Hong Kong were not unduly tough, apart from the dirt, hunger and disease.’
In May 1944 Barney Byrne was sent to the Japanese Islands as a slave labourer. He was lucky to escape the hellish sea journey to Japan as US submarines were wrecking havoc on Japanese shipping. He recalled there were 200 men crammed into a 200-ton tramp steamer. He was to work in a coal-mine, near Tokyo, but had contracted ‘amoebic dysentery from the boat voyage – the luckiest disease I ever got. It kept me cut of that mine for nine months and it’s not a very severe type of illness, but, luckily, exertion causes acute outbursts. Eventually, on Dec. 19th I was sent to Tokyo P.O.W. so-called hospital. I am one of the few people who got cured there before they starved to death.’ At the end of March 1945 Barney went to work in the coal mine. He wrote:
‘From the 29th March to the 16th Aug. I have been working in this mine without a day’s illness or any injury serious enough to earn a day’s excused duty. Nine working days per shift, one day’s rest. Day shift went to work at 6 a.m. returned at about 4 p.m. Night shift at 4.30 p.m. and usually didn’t get back until 4 a.m. rarely back at 2.30 a.m. Often since the air raids started we stayed down until 6 a.m. and changed over with the day shift going down. Some hours, and most of the work, in badly ventilated shafts where you worked stark naked because of the heat…The fare has been miserable for the work we did. The day’s meal typical – Breakfast, a bowl of grain rice 20%; Soya beans 20%; and a rough grain called Korin 60%; and a bean soup for breakfast. Midday – Grain ditto and seaweed soup. To-morrow we have some fresh veg. cucumber and carrot thinnings, all tops no carrot. Tops of carrots go into soup and have a bloody bad flavour. Meat: once per shift, a spoonful per man, if you’re lucky.  Fish we used to get about twice a week, but since the Yanks moved into the sea around here, fish disappeared from the menu. My good condition I attribute to the Soya beans, we have been fed.’ With the surrender of Japan the American air force began dropping supplies into the prison camp and when the Japanese guards left Barney Byrne liberated himself and set off to Tokyo to find the US victors.
POWs from Hong Kong were fed into the Japanese industrial machine via a series of shipments by sea – six in all. The second shipment stands out in that it turned into a major disaster when the convoy was attacked by American submarines and the Lisbon Maru went down with 1,816 POWs on board. The Lisbon Maru was a 7,000 ton freighter and had two eighteen-pounder Quick Fire guns mounted fore and aft. Lisbon Maru sailed from Hong Kong on 29 September 1942 en route to Japan. In addition to the POWs she carried around 700 Japanese troops, but more importantly the ship did not display any markings indicating that it was carrying POWs. In appearance, she was an armed merchantman, and a legitimate target of war. Two days later she was torpedoed by the USS Grouper, off the coast of Zhoushan, China.
The ship did not sink immediately, but the prisoners were locked in the holds as an effort was made to save the vessel. There were at least twenty-two Irishmen amongst the POWs, serving with the Middlesex Regiment. Among them was Christopher Samuels, who was born in Newbridge, in April 1916, the son of a serving British soldier and his English wife. No. 1 hold contained about 300 men, with many from the Royal Navy; No. 2 hold had 1,100 men; N. 3 hold contained the rest, mostly men from the Royal Artillery. Conditions below had been bad enough prior to the submarine attack, but the situation was destined to get worse. The Japanese battened down the hatches above all the holds. No food or water had been issued since the day before and the prisoners were sick, hungry, and dehydrated. Many of the men with dysentery were losing bodily fluids rapidly. An attempt to tow the ship failed, so the Japanese evacuated all their men and blocked the air chutes leading into the holds.
The largest regimental contingent in Number 2 hold came from the 1st Battalion, Middlesex Regiment. There were at least six Irishmen amongst the battalion casualties, including Pte. Christopher Samuels. They died trapped in the holds when the ship sank, or were deliberately drowned by the Japanese afterwards. The Japanese had left a six-man suicide squad onboard to kill anyone who escaped through the hatches. About twenty-four hours after the first torpedoes struck the stricken ship gave another lurch. Lt. Col. Stewart, of the Middlesex, was the senior British officer on board. He gave the order to break out of No. 2 hold. The men forced their way out of the hold, but the Japanese kept shooting them as they climbed out of the hatch.
There was a brief moment of panic in No. 2 hold, as hundreds of desperate men jostled to get onto the two flimsy wooden ladders leading up to the hatch. Col. Stewart was well respected by the men and when he spoke they listened. “Steady, steady the Middlesex! Remember who you are!” Order was quickly restored and the men forced disciplined queues for the ladders enabling many of them to get up on deck. The Japanese suicide squad continued to shoot the prisoners emerging from the hatches, but there was so many, that they couldn’t shoot them all. Some of the men ran across to holds No. 1 and No. 3 and loosened the hatch covers. Hundreds of men now rushed up on deck, but fire was poured on them from the Japanese on patrol boats surrounding the Lisbon Maru. Dozens jumped overboard; some swam to safety on nearby islands; others were shot or bayoneted by the Japanese as they attempted to get into the patrol boats.
The ship suddenly sank entirely as men tried to rescue their comrades still trapped in the holds. The current was swiftly taking men in the direction of some small islands about three miles away. About four Japanese ships were standing by, but made no attempt to assist the prisoners. Ropes were dangled from the ships, and as prisoners tried to climb them they were allowed to get within inches of the deck, and were bayoneted or kicked back over the side. Many drowned in the water or were sent crashing onto the rocks. The more fortunate prisoners were picked up by Chinese fishermen in junks and sampans and taken to the islands. The Chinese treated the prisoners with great kindness, giving them what little food they had and some of their clothing.
Worried now that there were too many witnesses to the slaughter Japanese landing parties went ashore and rounded up most of the prisoners and transferred them to Shanghai. Others were taken aboard Japanese craft, or put down the holds of other ships. On 5 October all the prisoners who had been recaptured were assembled on the dock at Shanghai and a roll call was taken. Of the original 1,816 prisoners, only 1,006 answered their names; 804 had perished. It was learned later that three men had managed to escape, assisted by the Chinese. As the Japanese did not keep records it is not known exactly which men drowned and who managed to survive. Many more survivors died later of hardship and disease. However, it is known that one of those who drowned was Christopher Samuels. As he has no known grave Christopher Samuels’ name is inscribed on the Sai Wan Memorial in Hong Kong.
It had been the intention of the Japanese to let the prisoners all drown, so that they would be able to say that the ship had been sunk by the Americans, leaving them no chance to affect a rescue and giving them a propaganda coup against the Allies. It was only after the Japanese had watched the Chinese rescuing so many prisoners that it was decided that their original plan would not be believed. All the prisoners could have been saved, had the Japanese transferred them at the same time they had evacuated their own troops.
Able Seaman Paddy Quinn, from Co. Kildare, was onboard the HMS Jupiter when it took part in the Battle of the Java Sea in February 1942. Following an inconclusive long-range engagement with a superior Japanese force, the Jupiter hit a mine and sank. The survivors landed on the shore at Java, where some were killed by Japanese troops and the rest rounded up and brought to a prison camp at Batavia. This was a former Dutch Army barracks, called Cycle Camp, which earned a terrifying reputation for brutality largely due to its sadistic commandant, Lieutenant Sonne. The prisoners were used as working parties for the nearby main docks of Batavia, sometimes unloading Red Cross parcels. These supplies were intended for the Allied prisoners, but the Japanese immediately confiscated them. There were nearly 10,000 Allied and Indonesian prisoners at Batavia, but the number was constantly being reduced by the departure of working party drafts to Sumatra, Borneo and Japan. After much brutality and privations a draft of prisoners was moved to the island of Haroekoe, where they were forced to construct a runway with little more than hand tools. Hundreds died from disease, starvation and brutality and in July 1944 the surviving prisoners were moved to other camps. Paddy Quinn died on 19 October 1944, at Muna, in the Celebes Islands. He is buried at Ambon Island Cemetery.
James Belford was captured in Singapore. He was born in 1914, the son of Peter and Brigid Belford of Church Lane, Kildare. In 1933 James travelled to Belfast and enlisted in the British Army, later rising to the rank of Lance Sergeant in the Royal Artillery. He was posted to Malaya soon after. By the late 1930s the British naval base at Singapore Island, off the Malayan peninsula, had twenty-nine garrison artillery pieces, manned by the 9th Coast Regiment, enabling them to repel an invasion from both land and sea, or so they thought. In December 1941 Japan invaded Malaya and quickly swept down the peninsula towards Singapore. At this time Sgt. James Belford was a member of the 9th Coast Regiment. Fighting continued until 15 February 1942 when the Singapore garrison surrendered with the capture of 100,000 British, Australian and Indian troops. Winston Churchill described it as: “The worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.”
George Sullivan was also serving in Singapore. He was a Major in the Royal Army Service Corps, working as a headquarters Staff Officer during the Battle of Singapore. Born in 1889 at the Curragh, George Sullivan joined the British army in 1904 at the age of fifteen. Sullivan went into captivity one week after his fifty-fourth birthday. Around 380 Irishmen were captured when Singapore surrendered. Initially the bulk of Allied prisoners captured at Singapore were held in Changi Barracks. Around 50,000 British and Australian soldiers went into Changi Barracks and the married quarters’ area. In addition to the military personnel there were hundreds of European women and children in Singapore. Many of them were the families of British and Commonwealth servicemen. There were also dozens of non-military Europeans, who were rounded up as well. Fred J. Patton, from Kildare Town, was an Inspector of Police, in Singapore. He spent 1942-45 in a Japanese concentration camp. After the first successful escapes from the prison camp the Japanese took further measures to deter break outs. Sergeant Dermot MacDonough, from Co. Kildare, serving with the 2nd Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, said: ‘We were forced to sign papers undertaking not to attempt to escape, and were given to understand that should one escape ten of his comrades would be executed.’
Allied interdiction of Japanese shipping gave rise to plans to build a railway line from Burma to Siam to help their war effort and thousands of prisoners and local natives were forced to work on this project. As a POW James Belford worked as a slave labourer on the building of the 'Death Railway' from Burma to Siam, an experience made famous in the movie, “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” He was lucky to survive the brutality of the guards and the atrocious working conditions. However, three other Kildare men were not so lucky. John Thompson, Newbridge, Patrick Byrne, Walshestown, and Tom Higgins, Naas, all died working on the railway.
Lance-Corporal John Thompson, Newbridge, was the first Kildareman to die on the ‘Death Railway.’ He was born in 1918 and left Newbridge in 1936, when the new Liffey bridge was being built. He enlisted in the British Army and was sent to the Far East with the 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Lce/Cpl Thompson was captured in Singapore. He was reported missing and for several months his family was unaware of his whereabouts. Then word came that he was a prisoner. John Thompson died from malaria, on 29 March 1943, aged twenty-five. I spoke to John’s sister in Pairc Mhuire, Newbridge, in 1999, and his loss was still keenly felt. That he had died away from his family and had no known grave was something his sister found it hard to live with.
Cholera broke out along the Railway during 1943 with the coming of the rainy season. Cholera always accompanied the rains in Thailand at that time and it spread like wildfire amongst the thousands of unvaccinated debilitated prisoners, whose sanitary facilities provided the perfect medium for infection. Private Tom Higgins, Dublin Road, Naas, was also serving with the 1st Manchesters, in Singapore, when it fell to the Japanese. He died of cholera, on 4 June 1943, aged twenty-six. Most cholera victims were burnt, immediately, and without ceremony. The bodies of Tom Higgins and another prisoner, Andrew Boyd, from Co. Cork, were burned the morning after they died.
Another Kildareman, Sergeant Patrick Byrne, aged thirty-eight, died on 26 September 1943, while a POW in Burma. Patrick Joseph Byrne was the son of Joseph and Mary Byrne, Walshetown, Newbridge, and husband of Nellie Byrne, Kensington, New South Wales, Australia. He had immigrated to Australia where he married and settled in Kensington, New South Wales. He joined the Australian Army and was attached to the Personnel Depot when the Japanese captured him. With thousands of other Allied prisoners Sgt. Byrne was put to work on the Burma-Siam railway line. A base camp and Prisoner-of-War Administration headquarters had been established at Thanbyuzayat, Burma, and it was here that work had ceased on the railway line, which had been intended to link Moulmein with Bangkok in Thailand. The administration headquarters and the nearby hospital, set up in January, were situated close to a railway marshalling yard and workshops, and these were bombed several times between March and June 1943. Numerous casualties occurred among the prisoners and the camp was then evacuated and prisoners, including the sick, were marched to camps further along the line where camp hospitals were set up. For some time, however, Thanbyuzayat continued to be used as a reception centre for the groups of prisoners arriving at frequent intervals to reinforce the parties working on the line to the Thai-Burma border. A cemetery was located close by and 3,771 men who had died while working on the railway are buried there. Among them is Patrick Byrne. How he died is unknown.
When the railway was finished, many of the survivors were picked to be sent to Japan. On 4 September 1944, a Japanese convoy sailed from Singapore to Japan. Two ships, the Rakuyo Maru and the Kachidoki Maru carried Allied POWs. The Rakuyo Maru carried 1,317 POWs (British and Australian) and the Kachidoki Maru a further 900 (all British). James Belford was onboard the Kachidoki Maru, a former American passenger and cargo ship captured at the beginning of the war. The ship was painted battle grey, and flew the Japanese merchant marine flag, which was a red ball in the centre of a white field. It had no Red Cross markings, as Japanese ships rarely displayed the internationally recognised markings indicating that POWs were onboard. It was late summer in the tropics, hot and humid. The Japanese forced the prisoners into the cargo holds and battened down the hatches. Many of them were sick, with malaria and dysentery.
On 12 September the convoy was attacked off Hainan Island, by US submarines, who were unaware that two of the ships carried Allied POWs. Both of the ships carrying POWs were hit, the Kachidoki Maru being struck by two torpedoes fired from the submarine USS Pampanito, one at the stern and the other amidships. The torpedoes blew holes in the hull plates, flooding the entire aft end of the ship. The Japanese crew took the lifeboats. The ship was also carrying Japanese wounded, and a Japanese officer went around with a pistol shooting them. The coverings on the hold were opened, and among the prisoners, it was every man for himself. 244 of the POWs were lost, while 656 survived. James Belford was one of the dead. He was thirty. As his body was never recovered James Belford’s name is inscribed on the Commonwealth Singapore Memorial. Most of those rescued from the Kachidoki Maru were picked up by Japanese trawlers and continued their journey to Japan. All of those who survived the sinking of the Kachidoki Maru jumped within the first ten minutes of the ship being hit. Back home in Kildare Town news of James Belford’s death was not received until the war was over. James’ father, Peter, had died in 1941 and his mother, Brigid, in 1944. Neither of them knew for sure that their son James was dead or alive.
In Thailand, Burma and elsewhere, a clandestine network of radios kept the POWs informed of the progress of the war. The Japanese were aware that wireless sets were being used and constantly sought to locate them. If caught the wireless operators would expect to be interrogated, tortured and then executed. Sergeant John Caddy, from Kildare, recalled, ‘the courage of those British personnel, who, at various camps, maintained a radio news service knowing full well the dire penalties if discovered.’ Sgt. Caddy was serving with the FMSVF (Federated Malay States Volunteer Force) Light Battery.
An Athy-born man, Gerard Whelan, was serving as an officer with the Australian Army when he was captured by the Japanese. Gerard Whelan was the son of Mr. and Mrs. T. J. Whelan, William Street and ‘Holmcroft,’ Athy, and emigrated to the USA and later Australia when he was a young man. He also served with the Australian forces in WWI and was wounded in action. Gerard Whelan died in Sydney, Australia, in September 1964. Peter Whelan, a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C.) was captured in Malaya by the Japanese in 1942. Peter, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Whelan, Kilmoroney, Athy, was released at the end of the war and spent some time in a hospital in Calcutta, India, recuperating from his ordeal.
The remarkable story of a Co. Kildare doctor, who was officially regarded as dead for some years, but in reality, was a prisoner of the Japanese. Dr. Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ O’Neill was serving with the Indian Medical Service with the rank of Colonel in Malaya, when the Japanese troops broke through the centre of the peninsula and routed the defending forces. Dr. O’Neill, who with several colleagues was serving at a post along the Slim River, was subsequently reported killed in action, and a telegram to this effect was received at the family home, Mount Offaly, Athy. In fact he had managed to escape through Japanese lines with two companions, one an officer in the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders, the other an Irish corporal from Donegal, Paddy Mearns. After three months hiding in the dense Malayan jungle, they were captured soon after they had secured a native boat to make the journey to Burma. Brought by rail to Singapore, Dr. O’Neill was subsequently charged with espionage before a military tribunal and later related that he did not understand a word of what his captors were saying during his trial. He was sentenced to one year’s solitary confinement and five years hard labour. Naked in his cell measuring seven feet by five feet, he was subjected to cruelty and extreme deprivation, and later his family, following the joyous re-union, was amazed that he managed to retain his sanity. He was one of 2,000 prisoners held at the notorious Outram Road Prison. After spending a year of solitary confinement in a cell in which the only ‘furniture’ was one block of wood, he was sentenced to 3½ years hard labour. Less than one in ten of the prisoners survived their ordeal.
Despite exhaustive enquiries by the Vatican, the War Office and the Red Cross no information whatsoever could be obtained concerning Jerry O’Neill. His family and friends in Athy attended anniversary Masses for him during the years when he was presumed dead, and his ‘widow’ was granted a pension. News that he was alive was conveyed to Gardai in Athy and the Garda who received the message on the phone ran all the way to the O’Neill home, where he informed Dr. O’Neill’s father, Dr. Jeremiah O’Neill Snr., the then Kildare Co. Coroner, that his ‘dead’ son was alive. The released prisoner was extremely weak when put aboard a hospital ship to Bombay where his brother, Dr. John O’Neill, was also serving with the Indian Army and had also been through the Burma campaign. He was severely wounded and was mentioned in dispatches on a number of occasions.
As the ship berthed, Dr. Jeremiah O’Neill recognised a former colleague, Dr. Vincent Lee, of Carlow town, who had gone aboard. The astonished Dr. Lee, on recovering his composure exclaimed: “But, Jerry, you are supposed to be dead!” Flown to London, Dr. O’Neill immediately telephoned his family and there was great rejoicing when he subsequently arrived home. After spending over a year recuperating, he resumed his service with the Indian army and was the only white officer at Rasmuk. He was to witness some appalling scenes when he remained on after the departure of the British forces. Later he retired from the Indian Medical Service and lived in Co. Wicklow before entering a practice in London. He retired to Dublin, where he died in 1974, aged sixty-eight.
It was not only military servicemen who suffered at the hands of the Japanese. Civilians and members of religious orders also fell victim to the march of the Japanese Empire. Fr. Tom Murphy, of the Columban Fathers, was a missionary in Burma since 1936. Tom Murphy was born into a large family in 1906 and lived at Kilcullen Road, Naas. He was ordained into the Columban Fathers in December 1935 and left for Burma the following year. He was interned by the Japanese in May 1942 when the Imperial Army captured Bhamo, in Burma. He and his fellow missionaries were held for a month, then released and ordered to go to Mandalay, where they were assigned a house in the Agricultural College. Surrounded by Japanese forces they were bombed incessantly by the Allies. The missionaries were moved to the nearby St. John’s Leper Asylum. This was bombed for some time until an American air force major learned of their plight and from that day on not one bomb fell within a mile of the leper asylum. In early 1945 an Allied offensive brought the British back to Mandalay. The interned Columban Fathers found their liberation was the most trying time of all. When the British were moving in to recapture Mandalay, the Japanese placed a large artillery piece in front of the leper asylum drawing the Allied fire. On the morning of 16 March 1945 the priests arose around 5 a.m. and began a round of services. Fr. Tom Murphy was saying the Epistle when a stray shell exploded over the roof. Of the twelve priests in the room several were injured, none seriously, except Fr. Tom Murphy. The Japanese held their fire as a little group brought Fr. Tom to a British outpost. A gun carrier was waiting to transport Fr. Murphy a few miles to an advanced dressing station and thence to hospital. Every care was taken, but after reaching the first dressing station Fr. Tom died through loss of blood. He was laid to rest in the British War Cemetery in Mandalay. In 1984 Naas Urban District Council decided to name newly-built houses, near to the Church grounds on the Sallins Road, as Fr. Murphy Place, in honour of the Columban priest who died so far away from his native town.
Sister M. of the Angels, Good Shepherd Convent, in Rangoon, wrote to Mrs. Francis Downey, formerly Mrs. Orford, Boden Lodge, Brownstown, Curragh, stating that her son was safe and well. The letter stated that the nuns were great friends of her ‘dear boy’ and were extremely indebted to him for many a kindness, chief of which was the re-tiling of one house rendered almost roofless by a severe monsoonal storm. For weeks Mr. Orford and his friend, Mr. Evans, were on the job and spared no pains to make the house watertight. But for him the nuns would have had to call in local labourers who would have charged a good deal more that they could afford. Especially since they lost some £50,000 worth through Japanese destruction.
The decision to send home the released prisoners of war first was delayed for some months. Sister M. hoped that Mr. Orford would be home for Christmas. Nearly all the boys in the army were grumbling at being kept there, ‘but your boy very unselfishly owns that preference should be given to those poor human wrecks who so desperately long to receive the loving care their condition demands … Priests, Nuns, airmen, soldiers were all alike fiendishly tortured and executed and those who escaped can never thank God sufficiently for His mercies to them. We tell the boys they have been saved by the fervent prayers of their loving mothers and wives, and as a reward for their own fidelity to God and, that, indeed, is our firm belief.’
Rev. Brother Justin Lennon, of the De La Salle Order, went to the Far East Missions in 1932 and was based on Penang Island, off Singapore, when the Japanese war machine began its blitzkrieg. Around 2,000 civilians died on Penang from Japanese air attacks, but the Imperial Army suffered no casualties as there had been a secret and sudden evacuation of all Europeans to Singapore. Br. Lennon was taken prisoner at the Community House of the De La Salle Brothers when Penang fell on 19 December 1941. During his three years’ imprisonment he endured very harsh treatment from which his health became impaired. On 6 September 1945, with the unconditional surrender of Japan, all POWs and internees were freed from the camps when British troops returned to Singapore. After his release Bro. Lennon spent some time in Genoa from where he sailed for Ireland. He arrived home in March 1947 and his Community in Kildare and a wide circle of friends were pleased to see Brother Justin had returned to his former good health. He returned to his mother in Moorefield, Newbridge, on a twelve months’ holiday, having spent the last fifteen years in Malaya. A native of Two-Mile-House, Justin was the son of James and Ellen Lennon, and a cousin of Rev. Fr. John Flanagan, A. M. (Rome), Rev. Brother Louie Flanagan (Australia), and nephew of Mrs. Ann Flanagan, ‘Anna Villa,’ Portarlington. After a year in Ireland Bro. Lennon returned to his missionary work.
Another Catholic priest, Rev. Father James Doyle, returned from Japan, in 1946, to spend a year with his mother and family in Teelough, Carbury. Fr. Doyle was interned as a prisoner of the Japanese for 3½ years and was released just before his uncle, Cardinal Glennon, was made cardinal. The joyous occasion was saddened for him by the death of Cardinal Glennon and his brother, Rev. Fr. Doyle, P.P., within a short time of each other. He spent a year with his family at Teelough and began his long journey back to Japan, on 12 October 1947. Fr. Doyle travelled back to Tokyo where he was again to resume his missionary work so tragically hindered by the war. He visited his uncle, Dr. W. P. Glennon, St. Louis and Rev. Henry Byrne, Silver Springs, a class-mate of his own in Edenderry, after arriving in the USA. Like many of the missionaries in the Far East the war was only a chapter in their life and these ‘soldiers of Christ’ returned to the work they had originally set out to do. Few, if any, felt any bitterness towards their former captors, the Japanese.
In contrast military prisoners were not as forgiving. The death rate in Japanese POW camps was 27 per cent, compared with a 4 per cent death rate for Allied POWs held by Germany. According to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, Japan took 132,142 Allied prisoners. About 34,000 of these died in captivity from starvation, illness and outright brutality. Twelve thousand Allied deaths occurred during the building of the Burma-Thailand railway alone. Perhaps 100,000 native labourers also died on this project, but they are rarely even mentioned. In a further twist of cruel fate it took fifty years for survivors of the Japanese POW camps to receive any proper compensation from the British government. Many of the Irish, British, Australian, American and Dutch prisoners were so scarred by their experiences that afterwards they could not discuss them even with their families. Most went to their graves with little fanfare, their experiences rarely recorded. This article may help in recording some of the experiences of the Japanese Emperor’s Kildare slaves.


Dozens of Kildaremen were used as slave labourers by the Japanese Empire - six of them died in captivity


The Leinster Leader May 1 1971

Kildare loses 3 stalwarts

During the past couple of weeks Kildare has lost three of her former Gaelic football greats by the deaths of Michael Casey of Dereens, Caragh, Patrick Byrne of Kilcullen and James Conlan of Roseberry, Droichead Nua.
These men in their different eras gave long and varied service to football in the County and their passing causes a great void, particularly with the older folk in Kildare.
Jimmy Conlan was a member of Kildare's 1919 All-Ireland winning team and regarded as one of the best corner backs operating about that period. With "Ginger" Moran and the late Tom Goulding they formed the ideal full-back combination whose effectiveness can be gauged from the fact that Galway only scored one point against them in the Final.
"Pat" Byrne from Kilcullen also operated in the defence on many Kildare teams around the same period and revealed all the qualities of the first class player, having developed his skills mainly in St. Patrick's Training College, Dublin.
"Mick" Carey, was perhaps lesser known than the former two, but he was for years goalkeeper of the Caragh team which operated in the early years of the century and many after that but for the fact that the County team at that time had Ireland's greatest goalkeeper in Jack Fitzgerald of Roseberry, Mick would surely have "guarded the gap" for the Kildare County. He gave years of service to local club football and in later years when Blacktrench and Caragh teams again became prominent he was always at hand with advice and encouragement.

An article from the Leinster Leader of 1 May 1971 on the passing of former Gaelic football greats Michael Casey of Dereens, Patrick Byrne of Kilcullen and James Conlan of Roseberry


Mutiny in Kildare … the troubled birth of the Garda force

A chase through the streets of Kildare town is just one of the dramatic episodes portrayed in a new book which describes the crisis-ridden attempts to establish a police force in the early weeks of the Irish Free State.  Kildare town is central to the events described in the book titled “The Civic Guard Mutiny” by Dunboyne teacher Brian McCarthy who has studied the formative years of the Garda to doctoral level. Applying first-rate investigatory skills Brian McCarthy pieces together the fast-moving story of how the first attempt at creating a police force was riven by political splits and personality clashes. Shambolic as it was the Kildare Civic Guard mutiny did Irish society a service in the long run in that the Government, alarmed at the thought of armed dissension in its police force, decided that at its second attempt at creating a force it would make sure that the its members would be unarmed. 

The story began in February 1922 when Michael Collins as Minister for Finance in the Provisional Government and his cabinet colleague Eamonn Duggan, Ministe for Home Affairs, established a committee to set about recruiting a police force to replace the armed Royal Irish Constabulary who were withdrawing from barracks throughout the country as a consequence of the Treaty of December 1921.  The RIC had become associated with the worst of the British excesses of the war of independence (1919-21). Although most of its members were Irish and Catholic and saw themselves as doing a normal public service job their repute among the nationalist public was less benign. Their role at evictions in the days of the Land Wars had not been entirely forgotten. And, fairly or not, the association of the RIC  with the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans did nothing to endear them to an Irish public anxious to shake off the trappings of colonial rule.

However the attempt by Collins and company to ensure that the policing vacuum left by the departing RIC would be filled was compromised from the start. They were faced with the classic dilemma of any newly independent state.  They wanted to create a new police force in sympathy with the aspirations of an independent republic. But idealism was not enough to establish a disciplined and competent police force. The only source of such expertise lay in the RIC -- the opponents of the IRA up to a few months previously. Of course many RIC men had resigned their positions and had come over to the IRA during the war of independence. Others had, at personal risk, remained in the RIC but fed information and tip-offs to the IRA. One such agent portrayed in “The Civic Guard Mutiny” is Constable Jeremiah Maher, who in December 1916 was appointed as clerk in the RIC County Inspector’s office at  Naas constabulary barracks. From such a privileged position he is reputed to have fed valuable information to Michael Collins about RIC operations and plans. In July 1920 he resigned his constabulary position and came over to the other side joining the IRA where he was appointed as intelligence officer to Colonel-Commandant Sean Boylan of the Meath IRA. Such was his standing in nationalist circles that Collins invited him to join the organising committee for the Civic Guard and he was appointed secretary to Michael Staines, the first commissioner of the force. 

Despite Maher’s strong record of acting in the nationalist cause the mere fact of having been a member of the RIC was enough to engender hostility among a strongly nationalist cohort of the new police force which began to recruit at a depot in the Royal Dublin Society halls at Ballsbridge from February 1922. Maher was not alone in this regard and as the post-Treaty split deepened the hostility towards ex-RIC men, no matter what their contribution to the nationalist cause, was enough to trigger dissension in the infant Irish police force.  Brian McCarthy enumerates that of the first twelve senior officers appointed to lead the force, no less than eight had served in the RIC.  The dissension came to a head when the 1,100 recruits to the new force were transferred in late April 1922 from the RDS to the Kildare artillery barracks which had been vacated by the British Army.  What followed forms the core of the book with stories of mutiny breaking out on the parade ground to the extent that it took a personal visit from Michael Collins to Kildare Barracks in mid-May 1922 to broker an uneasy peace among the ranks of trainee Civic Guards.

By then a further layer was added to the turbulent situation in that the recruits were beginning to split in line with the political cleavage over the Treaty settlement. Two officers, Superintendent Byrne and  Sergeant McAvinia, who were perceived as being close to Collins were barred from entering the depot at Kildare by anti-treaty recruits. Byrne and McAvinia then turned towards Kildare town in the hope of catching a train escaping the hostile crowd of recruits who had pursued them down town. Unfortunately for them there was no train and they had to double back towards the town and face down their pursuers. Both sides drew revolvers and amid a hail of bullets and stones the pair escaped through a private house, lay low in an old man’s cottage, and eventually found refuge in the Carmelite church at the White Abbey.

This is just one of the dramatic episodes played out in Kildare town (and also on the streets of Newbridge)  depicted in “ The Civic Guard Mutiny” which is published by Mercier Press and has the high quality look and feel which is a Mercier hallmark.

Book reviewed: “ The Civic Guard Mutiny” by Brian McCarthy, published by Mercier, and available in bookshops or by contacting the publishers on 021 4614456. Series no: 306.

In series 306 of his Looking Back column Liam Kenny writes that the first attempt at creating a new Irish police force was riven by political splits and personality clashes


Jubilee Nurse – the forgotten heroine of Ireland’s public health service

For bygone generations of Irish people the face of the health service was the Jubilee Nurse who visited households in rural and urban areas bringing her skills, care and compassion to families where illness, poverty, age or infancy were crippling burdens. Long before there was an organised public health service -- and certainly long before the era of corporate glass-and-steel health centres -- the Jubilee Nurse was a reassuring sight as she pedalled her bicycle, her blue uniform cape flapping in the wind, on her itinerary of house calls. She and her colleagues are the forgotten heroines of Ireland's public health history who managed to deliver home nursing to stricken households in the face of the deadly epidemics of tuberculosis (TB), typhus, typhoid, diphtheria and polio which swept the country.
Their story has now been given richly deserved recognition in a new book entitled “Jubilee Nurse – voluntary district nursing in Ireland, 1890-1974” by Elizabeth Prendergast and Helen Sheridan, two authors whose informed enthusiasm is only surpassed by their engaging writing style which takes the reader right into the lives of the Jubilee Nurses and into the homes of their patients. In a master-class of social history writing the authors weave recollections from interviews carried out with retired Jubilee Nurses together with solid historical research in archives and files meticulously cited and referenced throughout the publication.
But before going further, a word of explanation on the charming name “Jubilee Nurse”. Its origins are to be found in the celebrations surrounding the golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1887. As a practical commemoration of the Jubilee a community nursing organisation known as “The Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute for Nurses” was established by private subscription. The title was invariably abbreviated to “Jubilee Nurse” in popular conversation
A key principle of the Jubilee Nurses scheme was the local committee – officially known as the District Health Association -- which provided the community support for the nurse. There was no little or no government funding and the voluntary committees – generally drawn from prominent ladies in the locality – had to exercise considerable ingenuity in organising fund-raising events such as garden fetes, town hall dances, and parish hall bazaars to maintain the two essentials for each Jubilee Nurse to carry out her duties which were a comfortable cottage to rest after a demanding day of treating the house-bound infirm and a bicycle for navigating the rutted country lanes and unpaved town alleys on her calls to homes urban and rural.
It may come as a surprise to learn of the vitality and longevity of the Jubilee Nurse movement in Co. Kildare. The book “Jubilee Nurses” devotes a particular case study to the District Health Association in Naas, founded by Lady Geraldine Mayo of Palmerstown House near Kill, which maintained a Jubilee Nurse service from 1890 to 1965. The first Jubilee Nurse in Naas was Alice Walshe who came from Drogheda and who ministered in the county town until 1905. The longest serving Naas Jubilee Nurse was Nurse Celia Dillon who retired in 1963 after a remarkable 43 years service to the locality.
Back in the 1890s the nurse's salary was £30 per annum and a furnished house. Other expenses were the costs of the nurse’s laundry, an attendant to keep house for her, and a bicycle for transport. It was left to the doughty fundraisers of the District Nursing Association committee to fund the Jubilee Nurse service. A fixture for the Naas District Nursing Association was the annual fund-raising dance held in the Town Hall in February. The 1929 dance was particularly successful as indicated in a letter from the committee which was published in the Kildare Observer and which read: “Sir will you allow us through our columns to express our gratitude to all those who by gifts, loans and personal service enabled the committee ... to carry the dance to such a successful issue.”
The authors of “Jubilee Nurse” highlight the excellent online archive of the Kildare Observer newspaper – maintained by the Kildare County Library Local History Dept... as a significant source of material for understanding the work of the nurses and the District Nursing Associations in the period between 1890 and 1935.
As well as local newspapers the authors have tenaciously extracted detail from an impressive array of official sources – including the meticulous files of the pioneering Queen's Nursing Institute in London – to compile data on hundreds of Jubilee nurse schemes throughout the country.
Amongst the schemes listed are Athy where Nurse Theresa Brennan served from 1950-66, Carbury which had a Jubilee Nurse scheme during the worst of the TB years from 1930 to 1947, Celbridge & Straffan which had a nurse from 1910-22, Clane 1932-59, Kilcock where Mary Quigley was Jubilee nurse from 1935-60, Kill where Margaret Enright served from 1932-49, and Newbridge where Una Connolly was Jubilee Nurse from 1922-42.
 With such a goldmine of detail “Jubilee Nurse” will evoke memories in many localities of the stoic nurses who brought healing and respite to country cabins and town cottages alike.
The health service has moved on from the era of nurses pedalling their bicycles, their capes flapping in the wind. But “Jubilee Nurse” reminds us of those heroines of the nursing profession who for generations were the first line of defence in the well-being of the nation.
Book reviewed: “Jubilee Nurse – voluntary district nursing in Ireland, 1890-1974” by Elizabeth Prendergast and Helen Sheridan. Copies can be sourced in local bookshops or contact the publishers Wolfhound Press on 01 – 4853749. Series no: 305.

For bygone generations of Irish people the face of the health service was the Jubilee Nurse writes Liam Kenny in his Looking Back series no. 305

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