Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Athy and the War of Independence

Athy Heritage Company is currently preparing an exhibition to be opened in May dealing with the Irish War of Independence and the part played in that struggle by men and women from Athy and district. I have been researching that local involvement ever since I first interviewed the late Patrick Keogh of Churchtown in July 1985. During that interview I was given the names of those men recalled by Patrick as members of the old I.R.A. over 65 years previously. Over the years I have added to and corrected the list, but even now the definitive list of old I.R.A. members from this area awaits further work. The A Company of the 5th Battalion Carlow Kildare I.R.A. Brigade was centred around Athy. The highest rank accorded to a local man was that held by Eamon Malone of Dunbrin who for a time prior to the truce of July 1921 was Commander of the 5th Battalion and later Officer Commander of the Carlow Kildare Brigade. He was arrested in November 1919 and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail where he was elected leader of the I.R.A. prisoners and lead the hunger strike of April/May 1920. Patrick Kane of Kilkenny in his statement to the Military History Bureau referred to Eamon Malone as having a difficult assignment when he was appointed Officer Commander of the Carlow/Kildare Brigade. He had much rebuilding to do, according to Kane, while at the same time the police and the military had orders to shoot him on sight. Eamon Malone was described as a small wiry, courageous man, but rather delicate as he suffered from asthma. He married Kathleen Dooley, eldest daughter of Michael Dooley of Duke Street, after whom the council housing estate opened in 1932 was named. His sister Hesther married another local I.R.A. man, Joe May, who like Malone was arrested by the British military authorities on 22nd November 1920. He was subsequently imprisoned for almost a year in Ballykilnar camp where fellow prisoners included Bapty Maher and Richard Murphy. Eamon Malone had to emigrate to England after the establishment of the Irish Free State and while at home in Dublin for Christmas 1937 he contracted pneumonia and died. Eamon Malone is buried in Barrowhouse. The small local authority housing scheme opened in the early 1990s at Woodstock Street and which adjoins the site of the former military barracks was named Malone Terrace in his honour. Following the truce of 11th July 1921 the A Company of the 5th Battalion included the following members: Michael O’Rourke Peter Lambe Frank Lambe Patrick Hayden William Brown Daniel Maher Thomas O’Rourke James O’Rourke Michael Kehoe Patrick Flanagan Philip Murphy J.B. Maher James Davis Joseph Ratchford John Bradley Frank Canning John Dooley James O’Brien Michael Curtis James McNamara Michael Dooley Michael Dooley Daniel Murphy Joseph Donnelly Leo Davis John Delaney Thomas Germaine William Hoare John Hoare Patrick Day This was also an official list compiled for I.R.A. headquarters following the truce but does not include the names of Eamon Malone or Sean Hayden whom I know were active members of the local I.R.A. There was also an active Cumann na mBan branch in Athy attached to the 5th Battalion and the following were the members in July 1921: Julia Whelan, Kilmoroney Kathleen McDonnell Rose McDonnell Mary E. Malone Mrs. Julia Dooley, St. Michael’s Tce. Mrs. May, Woodstock St. Mrs. O’Neill, Newbridge Alice Lambe, Upper William St. Mrs. John Whelan, Ballylinan Miss Murphy, Maganey Christina Malone I would like to hear from anyone who can give me any information on any old I.R.A. member or Cumann na mBan member, whether or not included in the above lists, bearing in mind that honouring the men and women of this area who were involved in the War of Independence is the responsibility of all of us who today enjoy the freedom they achieved. The A Company based in Athy comprised the 5th Battalion with the B Company in Barrowhouse, C Company in Moone, the D Company in Ballylinan, the E Company in the Moate and the F Company, Castledermot. Information on any of the I.R.A. members in any of those companies would also be most welcome.

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