Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Continuing Athy's 1916 rebellion commemorations

The third lecture in the 1916 commemoration series takes place this Tuesday, 5th April at 8.00 p.m. in the Community Arts Centre, Woodstock Street.  ‘Looters, Deserters and Crime in Dublin in 1916’ is the title of the talk to be given by Dublin author, Padraig Yeates.  Padraig has written several well received books on different aspects of Dublin’s history, the most recent of which was ‘A City in Civil War – Dublin 1921-24’ which was published last year.

A unique part of the evening’s entertainment will be the playing of the uileann pipes once owned by the 1916 executed leader Eamonn Ceannt.  The pipes have been in the ownership of a local man for almost 40 years or more and are a treasured reminder of the 1916 leader who was executed on 8th May, 1916.  Ceannt’s uileann pipes will be played at the start of Tuesday’s lecture by Tos Quinn who is one of the legendary group of musicians who play traditional music in Clancy’s every Thursday night.  The musical interlude and the lecture promise to give us a very special night in Athy’s Community Arts Centre. 

The final lecture in the 1916 series will take place on Tuesday, 12th April when Francis Devine, author and historian will speak on the topic ‘From Lockout to Rising, the I.T.G.W.U., I.C.A., Liberty Hall in 1916’.  Admission is free to all the lectures and to the other 1916 commemoration events which will be held in Athy during the next few weeks. 

The Heritage Centre stages ‘A step back in time’ exhibition on Saturday, 9th April from 12noon to 4p.m.  This takes place in the Heritage Centre and also in Emily Square and will give a flavour of the sights and sounds of the year when the Rebellion broke out in our capital city.

On 14th April local school children will display their art inspired by the events of 1916 in the Community Arts Centre at 7.30 p.m.  The exhibition will also feature the 1916 Proclamation which the people of Athy will be asked to sign in what I gather is a unique contribution to furthering the ideals of the leaders of the 1916 Rebellion.

The final event in Athy’s 1916 commemorations will be a solemn commemoration to be held in Emily Square on Sunday, 17th April commencing at 3.00 p.m.  Here the 1916 Proclamation will be read after members of St. Michael’s O.N.E. and St. Brigid’s Pipe band have paraded through the town to the assembly point in Emily Square.  An ecumenical service will be held there following which a wreath will be laid at the Town Hall in memory of those men and women who participated in the Easter Rebellion.  It is hoped that a son of Mark Wilson, the Russellstown born man who was part of the Four Courts garrison during Easter week 1916 will join us on Sunday, 17th April to lay the wreath.  The ceremony will conclude with the raising of the Tricolour and the sounding of the last post. 

Last week I wrote of the founding of the Sinn Fein Club here in Athy in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and the execution of its leaders.  The Athy commemoration ceremonies honour not only those who took part in the 1916 Rebellion but also those who in the months and years after 1916 gave of their time and energies to secure the independence of our country.  That the task they had set themselves is not yet finished is no fault of those brave men and women who were members of the IRB, Cumann na mBan or later the reinvigorated Sinn Fein party which was founded as a non military organisation.

When one looks back over Athy’s long history we can see how different generations sought to break the link with England.  Armed conflicts searching back to the Confederate Wars and later still the 1798 Rebellion had Athy folk heavily involved.  The strength of that opposition was considerably weakened over successive generations as poverty and financial dependency compelled many young men to join the British Army.  The Crimean War and the Boer War saw Athy men serving overseas, while the 1914/’18 war saw local church and civic leaders play an active role in encouraging the young men of Athy to enlist in the British Army.

The cause of Irish nationalism reasserted itself in the post 1916 period and Athy through its patriotic men and women such as Bapty Maher, Richard Murphy, Joe May, Eamon Malone and Christine Moloney to name just a few played their part in the armed struggle which we describe as the War of Independence.

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