The first evictions from the Luggacurran estates took place on Tuesday 15th March 1887 when Denis Kilbride, a sub tenant of Lord Lansdowne with a holding of 868 acres, was evicted. Just before the Bailiffs and the R.I.C. men had completed their work under the supervision of the local sub sheriff, William O’Brien M.P. arrived at the scene accompanied by Patrick Meehan of Maryborough. As the policemen withdrew following the completion of the eviction process, some to Luggacurran village but the larger number to Athy, William O’Brien and Denis Kilbride addressed their supporters. O’Brien encouraged the Lansdowne tenants, most of whom were now under threat of eviction, to continue with the Plan of Campaign and to withhold their rents until rent reductions were granted by Lord Lansdowne.
Denis Kilbride who would be later elected Member of Parliament for Kerry and subsequently for Kildare, was a local leader of the Plan of Campaign. Lord Lansdowne who was then acting as Governor General of Canada wrote to his mother on 23rd July 1887: ‘Trench [Lansdowne’s agent] cables that he has just evicted our ringleader at Luggacurran.’
John W. Dunne who leased 1305 acres from Lord Lansdowne was later evicted from Raheenahone, together with his sub tenants. Amongst those evicted during 1887 was Michael Kelly and his family. Kelly was the sub tenant of 22½ acres of Lansdowne’s land for which he paid a yearly rent of fifteen pounds five shillings. Michael Kelly’s family were distinguished from the other Kelly families on the estate by the name, ‘Kelly’s of the Hill’. Michael Kelly had married Ellen Kealy and they had six sons and one daughter. Sadly Ellen died in her forties when her daughter Margaret was just 8 years of age and the youngest son Tommy was only 5 or 6 years old.
The Kelly family following the eviction from Luggacurran went to live in Wolfhill and it was from there that at least one of the Kelly sons attended the Christian Brothers school in Athy. He was Patrick Kelly who was just one year old when the family were evicted. At 17 years of age he enlisted in the Royal Artillery British Army and four years later emigrated to Canada where he joined the Royal Canadian Artillery. Patrick Kelly would go on to have a distinguished career in the Canadian Army.
He transferred to the Canadian Army Pay Corps in Quebec in 1913 and a year later arrived in England with the first Canadian troops sent overseas to serve in the First World War. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1915 and the following year he was sent to France where he was attached to the Canadian overseas base pay office. A year later he returned to England as assistant head of the officers pay branch. Promotion to the rank of Army Captain followed in April 1917 and following the ceasefire of 11th November 1918 he returned to Canada. Appointed a member of the Pay and Allowance Board he subsequently received various promotions and appointments, culminating in his appointment as District Pay Master Military District No. 2 Toronto on the outbreak of World War II.
The young man from Luggacurran was once again sent overseas in October 1939 on promotion as Lieutenant Colonel and appointment as Senior Officer Pay Services Canadian Military Headquarters. Further promotion followed a year later when he was appointed Chief Pay Master of the Canadian Army overseas with the rank of Colonel. Two and a half years later the former Athy Christian Brothers school boy was promoted to the rank of Brigadier and a year later he was awarded the CBE by King George VI in recognition of his distinguished army service during both world wars. On his return to Canada in 1945 Patrick Kelly was appointed Pay Master General of the Canadian Army from which position he retired on 7th January 1947.
Brigadier Kelly was a frequent visitor to Athy during the 1950s and 1960s, always taking the opportunity to visit both Wolfhill and Luggacurran. His Athy base was always the Leinster Arms Hotel and he took enormous pleasure in meeting the people of the area and especially the family members whose predecessors like the ‘Kellys of the Hill’ were evicted from their small farm holdings on the Luggacurran estate during the War of Campaign.
Patrick Kelly died in 1973 and is buried in Clopook cemetery. His only sister Margaret who had married Patrick Burke of Clogh, Castlecomer, came to live with her daughter Stasia and her son Eddie in McDonnell Driver after her husband died. Eddie Burke, grandson of the evicted sub tenant Michael Kelly, had bought Carolan’s shop in Emily Square following the sale of his father’s land holding in Clogh.
Athy and Luggacurran are interlinked by events and people connected with the Plan of Campaign on the Lansdowne estate of the 1880s. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the extended family of ‘Kelly’s of the Hill’ where Kellys, Burkes and Kealys have been found and are still to be found in the Anglo Norman town in the South of County Kildare.