It was Thomas Hardy who wrote: ‘It is better to know a little bit of the world remarkably well than to know a great part remarkably little.’ I was prompted to remember these words on reading Eamon Kane’s recently published book, ‘Diseart Diarmada - Castledermot’. Eamon displays a passion for his own place in his historical account right through the early medieval period to the post medieval period of the village once known as Tristledermot, later Diseart Diarmada and today Castledermot.
The history of this ancient village, far more important in its day than the neighbouring village of Athy, can be readily understood when we view the ancient ruins which are today to be found in Castledermot. That Castledermot was a settlement of importance can be gauged by the remains of the Franciscan Monastery and the remaining remnants of the town walls known as Carlow Gate. St. John’s Tower, the only remains of the priory of the Crouched Friars of 1210, stands proud to remind us of the importance of Castledermot as an ecclesiastical centre which extended even further back than the 13th century. The Romanesque doorway now fronting St. James’s Church is the only remains of the Church of St. Diarmuid founded in the 6th century. The 10th century granite crosses of Castledermot get particular attention in Eamon’s book, as does the neighbouring High Cross of Moone. Indeed Eamon’s detailed description and explanation of the motif and iconography of these wonderful examples of early medieval ecclesiastical sculpture is more than sufficient reason to buy the book.
Eamon, whom I described at the launch of the book as a true Irishman, a proud Gaelgoir and a man of impeachable Republican principles, was not afraid to voice his views when dealing with the Castledermot charter school, the first of its kind in Ireland. The school opened in 1734 with the intention ‘that the children of the Popish and other poor natives of the kingdom may be instructed in the English tongue and in the principles of true religion and loyalty.’ It closed in 1831 which prompted Eamon to describe its closure as ‘another failed attempt at the conquest of Ireland.’
This is the fourth publication in 100 years dealing with the village of Castledermot and it is the most comprehensive account to date, the worth of which will be appreciated by anyone interested in local history.
The recent announcement of the intended retirement of Jack Wall as one of our local T.D.’s no doubt gave cause for much discussion as to his likely successor. A member of the Oireachtas since 1992 when following a lengthy period as chairman of Kildare County G.A.A. Board he was nominated to the Senate. He was subsequently elected to the Dáil in 1997, having been elected as an Athy Urban District Councillor three years previously. Currently he is chairman of the Labour Parliamentary Party. It was Joan Bruton, current leader of the Labour Party who referring to politics as ‘a tough and rough business’ acknowledged that Jack Wall was ‘one of politics true gentlemen who sought always to represent the true interests of the people of South Kildare.’
Jack and myself during my short political career were on opposite sides of the party political divide and we did not always agree on how the best interests of Athy should be advanced. However, I can readily agree with Joan Bruton’s assessment of the Castledermot man who crossed Athy to set up home in Castlemitchell after spending a time following his marriage to Ann in the house in which I now live. I wish Jack well in his retirement and mindful that his cherished wife Ann is no longer with him express the hope that old age will come to him in the company of his many friends.
Finally this week I want to end with the mystery of a World War I medal found some years ago in a drain in Guinness’s brewery in Dublin. The medal had been awarded to Athy born Thomas Lawler who was killed in action in Flanders on 12th November 1915. He had enlisted in Carlow, joining the Royal Engineers, but a note which I made some years ago, long before the medal was brought to my attention, indicates that at the time he enlisted in Carlow he was living in Dublin. His war medal was recently presented to the local Heritage Centre and the presenter, himself a Dublin man, believed that a number of Thomas Lawler’s brothers had also enlisted to fight in World War I. Can anyone help me identify Thomas Lawler’s family and where they lived?