Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Athy references in 'A timeline of the War of Independence in County Kildare'

Within the past week the Kildare Decade of Commemoration Committee published a 128-page booklet titled ‘A Timeline of the War of Independence in County Kildare 1919-1922’. It details local incidents as well as some national events to help readers understand the history of those turbulent years. 1919 References to Athy and South Kildare commenced with an entry for 5th January which noted that a large Sinn Féin meeting took place in the Market Square. This occurred 16 days before the Soloheadbeg ambush which is generally regarded as the start of the War of Independence. Art O’Connor, who was elected as M.P. for South Kildare in the December 1918 elections, was welcomed to Athy on 6th April following his release from jail. The large crowd in attendance was addressed by Kevin O’Higgins who had been elected in 1918 as M.P. for Queens County. Public support for those who died during the 1916 Rising was the subject of a poster campaign in Athy, Castledermot, Ballitore and Moone. The poster campaign sought to have Easter Monday observed as a national holiday in memory of those who died in 1916. On 12th May Lady Weldon of Kilmoroney House presided at the formation meeting of a branch of ‘Comrades of the Great War’ held in Athy. Local teacher J.J. O’Byrne, Secretary of Athy Sinn Féin Club, was released from jail on 7th June. He had been arrested on 16th August the previous year for reading the Sinn Féin manifesto in the town square. On July 19th Sinn Féin member John Hayden of Offaly Street arrived back home following his release from jail. Met by Sinn Féin supporters who paraded through the town, those supporters clashed with demobbed World War I soldiers, resulting in rioting in the streets of Athy. Days later the ex-soldiers attacked Bapty Maher’s bicycle shop in Duke Street and destroyed a banner hanging across the street from Bridget Darby’s house in Leinster Street. Eamon Malone of Dunbrin was arrested on November 18th. Malone would later be Commander of the Carlow Kildare Brigade and would marry Kathleen Dooley, whose father Michael Dooley of Duke Street was chairman of Athy’s Sinn Féin Club. Malone was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour and would later lead a hunger strike in Mountjoy Jail. 1920 Ballitore R.I.C. Barracks, which had been evacuated in early March, was destroyed by fire on the night of the 3rd of April. Eamon Malone was welcomed back to Athy on 29th April following his release from jail after 12 days on hunger strike. A crowd estimated at 3,000 was in Market Square to greet Malone and were addressed by Art O’Connor, T.D. for South Kildare. The Customs and Excise Office in Athy was raided by the I.R.A. on the night of 19th May and numerous tax documents removed. On 21st June Castledermot R.I.C. Barracks and Courthouse was burned by the I.R.A. during which operation one I.R.A. man was injured. On 25th August the first Sinn Féin court was held in Athy. Around the same time Fintan Brennan, then living in Monasterevin, was arrested, charged and subsequently imprisoned for three years for possession of rifles. Fintan would later come to live in Athy where he was the District Court officer and a local G.A.A. official who became president of the Leinster Council G.A.A. in the 1940s. 1921 In January 25 prisoners were transferred from the Curragh to Ballylinlar internment camp in County Down. Included amongst them was Bapty Maher of Athy. R.I.C. Sergeant Joseph Hughes, a native of Wolfhill, was shot while onn patrol in Maynooth on 21st February. He died the following day and business premises in Athy were closed by the R.I.C. as his funeral passed through the town. Fairs and markets were proclaimed in Castledermot following damage to roads and bridges in the area. Patrick Moran, who had once worked as a barman in Athy was hanged in Mountjoy on 14th March, as was Frank Flood, whose brother Tom would later live in Athy and represent Athy’s Fine Gael party on Athy’s U.D.C. A curfew was ordered from 9pm to 5am in Athy and the Tuesday market was prohibited due to I.R.A. trenching of local roads and damaging of bridges. The R.I.C. raided the offices of Athy U.D.C. and removed Council minute books and other documents. The Barrowhouse ambush of 16th May resulted in the deaths of William Connor and James Lacey. Three days later R.I.C. Constable Edward Doran, a native of Cardenton, Athy, died of his wounds following an ambush in Kinnity, County Offaly on 17th May. The local I.R.A. attacked the R.I.C. Barracks in Athy which was located in the former cavalry barracks at Barrack Lane. On 22nd and 23rd December houses belonging to Mr. Verschoyle in Kilberry were destroyed by fire and a fire on Christmas Eve destroyed the band room of what was described as ‘Athy War Piper’s Band’. On 10th March 1922 the R.I.C. Barracks at Athy was evacuated. Lieutenant General J.J. O’Connell’s Secretary, Hester Dooley, who would later marry Joe May, was the only woman present as the Curragh camp was taken over by the Irish army following the evacuation of British forces. You can collect a free copy of ‘A Timeline of the War of Independence in County Kildare 1919-1922’ in the local library.

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