Thursday, January 29, 1998

Tennis - Helen Wills Moody and Athy

Lawn tennis is a popular game and one which has a history in Athy stretching back into the last century. I have yet to pin-point the exact date when the aficionados of the sport came together to form a lawn tennis club in the town but it has been suggested to me that the relevant date was 1885. If this is true then it was only eight years after a lawn tennis championship was first staged at the Wimbledon Club in London. That tennis had a strong following in Ireland in the latter part of the 19th century is borne out by the success of Irish players in the Wimbledon All-English Championships during the period 1890 - 1896. In 1890 the Mens Single Championship was won by the Monasterevin born Willoby Hamilton who was then twenty-six years old. A keen sportsman, Hamilton had won Irish tennis championships in each of the preceding four years and in addition was an Irish/Soccer International.

In the same year as Hamilton’s single title win the mens double winners were also Irish, as was the lady singles winner. Indeed Irish players figured in many of the Wimbledon finals in the 1890’s with Dr. Joshua Pim emerging as singles champion in 1892 and 1894. Another Irishman Harold Mahony won the mens singles in 1896. He was the last of the Irish winners at Wimbledon.

A second Lawn Tennis Club was started in Athy in 1934. Called the “Geraldine Tennis Club” it acquired grounds in Chanterlands on the Carlow Road. Some of the Members of the Clubs first committee included Joe Hickey, James Tierney, Edward Dooley, Philip Gunn, Tommy Mulhall and William Keyes. From this Tennis Club there was later to develop the Social Club which occupied the former legion hall in St. John’s Lane.

I was reminded of all this when reading of the death of Helen Wills Moody, an American player and eight times winner of Wimbledon who passed away recently in California at the age of ninety-two years. Her lists of successes as a singles player on the tennis circuits of the world were considerable. Seven American Championships between 1923 and 1931, eight English titles between 1927 and 1938 and four successive French titles from 1927 onwards.

Described as a player of unerring accuracy and control she always remained composed on the tennis court. As a baseline player she could drive the tennis ball with more pace and depth off the ground than any of her rivals. As her recent obituary stated “she dominated her matches with both power and precision, cutting down her opponents by directing the ball rhythmically and relentlessly from corner to corner forcing her opponents into mistakes by virtue of her extraordinary command of the court”.

Married in 1929 to American stockbroker Frederick Moody she divorced him in 1937 and two years later married Aidan Roark, an International polo player from Co. Wexford. Aidan was one of two brothers of Violet Roark who was married to David Telford of Barrowford, Athy. David’s father was Stephen Telford who on marrying an Anderson purchased Barrowford House. He was the proprietor of the Athy Tile and Brick Company which operated at Barrowford.

Private lawn tennis parties were an important part of the social scene at the big houses in rural Ireland in the earlier part of the century. This was a tradition which continued until more recent years, and indeed is becoming fashionable yet again. Helen Wills Moody, the most famous tennis player of her day and regarded by many as the best woman player of all time, visited her sister-in-law in Barrowford House in the early 1940’s with her second husband Aidan Roark. Just a few years following her last success in the Wimbledon Finals of 1938 she played on the tennis court at Barrowford in what was her one and only visit to Ireland.

The American tennis star was feted wherever she went, but I have not yet come across any references to her visit to Athy. She was a lady to whom all doors were open. On the continent she partnered the King of Norway in a tennis match, while in England she was presented at Buckingham Palace. She sat for the artist Augustus John, while George Bernard Shaw presented her with a signed copy of
“St. Joan”. She was herself an artist of some merit and in 1929 held an exhibition in London of her own still life’s with sketches of her contemporaries while a similar exhibition in New York was a sell-out.

When Reggie Hannon, now of Dublin whose family has strong ties with Ardreigh, first drew my attention to Helen Wills Moody’s visit to Athy, I knew nothing of the former tennis star. Within weeks I came across a copy of her 1928 book on Tennis which the authoress and Tennis Champion had illustrated herself. Her recent death deprives Athy of its tenuous connection with the world of first class tennis. The heady days of Willoughby Hamilton and his peers are long gone but nevertheless, Lawn Tennis remains a popular club sport in Athy more than 100 years after the first club was started in the town.

Thursday, January 22, 1998

The Gaelicisation of Athy - Success in Glor na nGael Competition

The one time garrison town of Athy has achieved success in the Glor Na nGgael competition for 1997 the results of which have just been announced. The winners of “An Bord Trachtala” prize for the promotion of Irish in Athy joins an illustrious group of past winners.

Reflecting on the town’s success brought home to me its uniqueness especially given the largely un-Irish history of our town. We have become accustomed to hearing of our Anglo-Norman foundation and the subsequent fortification of the town which was located on the “Marches of Kildare”. Indeed the English had a military presence in our town from as early as 1417 right up to 1878. The last regiment stationed in the army barracks in Barrack Street was Prince Charlottes’ 5th Dragoon Guards which itself had an association with Athy going back to 1716. It was that same regiment which last occupied the Army barracks in 1878. It is no wonder then that over time our town became known far and wide as a garrison town.

The Glor Na nGael success has been a long time in the making. While the Black and Tans were still controlling our streets a meeting was called in the local Technical School in Stanhope Place to revive the Gaelic League. Amongst those involved in calling that meeting was Bridget Darby, John Bradley, John Gibbons, Michael Dooley, James Kealy, Tadgh O’Shea, and Misses O’Loughlin, Kealy and Timmons. The meeting elected Michael Dooley of Duke Street as President, Ms. Darby as Treasurer and James Kealy as secretary. Within a short time Irish classes were being held in the town with Jim Tierney of Woodstock Street as the Irish teacher.

This was at a time when a local Justice of the Peace had imposed a fine at the petty sessions in Athy on a teacher in the local technical school who had insisted on signing his name in Irish. The action of the local JP was understandably condemned by the Urban District Council. The local branch of the Gaelic League in its efforts to spread the use of Irish urged the local Council to print its headed notepaper in the Irish language. They also requested that the names of the streets in the town be displayed in Gaelic but all to no avail. No that it was any lack of interest in the native language amongst members of the Council but in all probability a lack of finance dictated their response.

The Athy branch of the Gaelic League continued to hold meetings in the town and for a time used the premises of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Duke Street for that purpose. It organised a Feis in July 1919 which was scheduled to be held in the Gaelic football pitch on the Dublin Road. The efforts of the Gaelic leaguers did not find favour with some of the local men who had served during the 1914/18 war and who had been de-mobbed at the end of hostilities. Without provocation some of these men went on a drunken rampage on the night of the feis destroying bunting and decoration which had been erected in the town. The premises of Ms. Darby in Leinster Street now Conroy’s shop was especially targeted apparently because of her involvement in the Gaelic League. Bridget Darby was a formidable lady who was later to become a Fianna Fail member of Athy Urban District Council and Kildare County Council and who stood on three occasions as a candidate for Dail Eireann.

The advent of the Civil War appears to have brought the work of the Gaelic League in Athy to an end. It was not again to be revived until the late 1940’s when Kevin Meaney and others came together to reform the Irish language organisation. For how long it continued I cannot yet say but no doubt their efforts played some part in fostering the language amongst local men such as Seamus Glespin and John Birmingham. Both men were later to be better known by their Irish names. Seamus Mac Giolla Easpaig wrote the first full length biography of the 1798 Patriot Thomas Russell which was published in Irish in 1957 as “Tomas Ruiseil”. Sean MacFheoreis otherwise John Birmingham published books of poetry in Irish from 1954 onwards. Both these men lovers of their native language and fine writers in Irish are now dead. Their writings remain on as evidence that the work of the Gaelic League in Athy was not without success.
In 1956 Michael O’Neill a young school boy and a native speaker from Co. Kerry who had arrived in Athy a year or two earlier founded Cara an Irish language organisation for young people. As a member of that organisation I remember how enthusiastically we grappled with the finer elements of Irish as we practised the cupla focla with the girls from St. Mary’s. Ceilis organised to help us find our feet in a cultural pursuit which was distinctly Irish were attended with regularity and a joy without the solemnity normally associated with such events.

Paddy Walsh a gaelic speaker from Ring in Co. Waterford who came to Athy in 1950 was one of several people who in the 1960’s and later came together each week in a further revival of the Gaelic League. Others involved with him were Kevin Meaney, Mick Kelleher, Maisie Candy, Dorothy Mullin and Peader O’Mhurchú. Their efforts in keeping the Irish language alive in Athy helped to obtain sixth place in a Glor na nGael competition for the town in the 1960’s.

The most recent effort to restore interest in the Irish language was initiated by Kathleen Robinson when she was President of the local Chamber of Commerce in 1994. Kathleen who like myself has a great love of the Irish language which is unfortunately not matched by our verbal ability in the native tongue organised the first Seachtain na Gaeilge in Athy. The aim was to encourage local shopkeepers to make use of the Irish language for one week in May during the course of their businesses. Advertising signs in Irish coupled with an effort to speak in Irish was to be the aim of the Chamber of Commerce sponsored Seactain Na Gaeilge over the following few years. Each year a perceptible improvement has been noticed in the use of Irish and in 1997 no less than 70 shopkeepers got involved in the competition. The success of Seachtain na Gaeilge owes much to the efforts of Kathleen Robinson and David Murphy who have both spent much energy in the last three years to secure the success achieved this week.

The settlers town of Athy often referred to as a Garrison town has this week earned the right to be regarded as an Irish town one which is proud of its Irish heritage and language.

Thursday, January 15, 1998

Ardellis Ceili Band

I have recently written of the great tradition of music and music making in South Kildare. We have been witnessing a re-awakening of that tradition in recent times in the music of Brian Hughes, Jack Lukeman and David Bradbury. These are all young men whose musical talents are a refreshing re-affirmation of the present generation’s commitment to quality music making. How delightful it is then to be able to acknowledge the musicianship of another local man of an earlier generation whose music is recalled in a CD issued last year. The Ardellis Ceili Band and special guests are featured on a celebratory CD of forty years of dance music and song issued by Chart Records.

Taking its name from the townland of Ardellis the Ceili band formed in 1957 by Fontstown man Brian Lawler has had an interesting and chequered career stretching back five decades. Although born in Dublin Brian lived in South Kildare since the early 1940’s and in Fontstown since 1943. His father was the farm manager in Lambe’s fruit farm in Fontstown and Brian’s brother Dermot now lives there. While a pupil in Athy’s Christian Brothers school Brian developed a keen interest in the playing of the accordion. He got one lesson on the instrument from “Bridge” Behan of the Moate and two formal lessons from Joe O’Neill before embarking on a regime of practice and playing which gave him proficiency and confidence while still in his teens.

In 1956 Brian took up employment in Dublin and late that same year put an advertisement in the evening newspapers for musicians to join a Ceili band he proposed forming. In those pre showband days the Gallowglass Ceili Band based in Naas was the premier musical group in the country and Brian was undoubtedly encouraged by their success. Before the end of the year the nucleus of the band had come together and while still practising got a number of the engagements in Barrys Hotel, Dublin. “The name Ardellis had a nice ring to it” says Brian explaining why he borrowed the South Kildare townland name for his new group. The 1957 line up included Brian and Johnny Hughes of Tipperary on accordions, Freddie Dean on fiddle, Rita Harte on piano and Paddy Dunne on drums.

One of Radio Eireann’s popular programmes was Roy Croft’s “Beginners Please” and in May 1957 the newly formed band travelled to Kilkenny city in a somewhat overcrowded Ford Anglia to audition for the programme. Recording their contribution for “Beginners Please” the Ardellis Ceili Band went out over the Irish airwaves for the first time later that month. A further radio programme followed in September 1957 when the Ardellis provided Irish dance music broadcast live from The Portobello studios in Rathmines. At the beginning of the following year the Ardellis began to play each Monday night at the Irish Club at Parnell Square. Once the quietest night of the week Monday night with the Ardellis in the Irish club soon became the most popular date for ceili dancing in the city of Dublin. Soon Brian Lawler and his small group were playing in venues all over Dublin city and further afield in the provinces. The growing popularity of the Ardellis Ceili Band was marked by further radio broadcasts in February and May 1958. Their big break however, came when they were approached in October of that year by Padraig O’Neill otherwise Paddy O’Brien producer of “Take the Floor” - the most popular radio programme of its day. The band took part in a number of the Sunday night programmes which featured the legendary “Din Joe” including the programme on Christmas night 1958. By now the Ardellis was a household name and throughout 1959 the band travelled three or four nights a week to fulfil engagements. This at a time when the band members were still working in their “day” jobs. The band’s popularity was similar to that of the showbands a decade later but despite their success Brian Lawler decided in 1964 to leave Dublin for Cork city. The Dublin based Ardellis was disbanded and when it was re-formed it was to have Cork based musicians such as Anthony O’Sullivan, John Bennett and Gabriel Frost. I have particular reason to remember John Bennett who was a member of the Cork Senior hurling team deprived my beloved Kilkenny of an All Ireland Championship in 1966. By the mid 1960’s the Irish showbands had replaced the Gallowglass and Ardellis Ceili Bands in the people’s affections. Nevertheless the Ardellis continued to play their music in and around Cork occasionally travelling to Dublin for an Irish Club engagement. In 1970 the band which was then twenty three years on the road recorded its first long playing record with EMI. “Other Side of the Shamrock” was released not only in Ireland but also in England, USA, Canada and Australia and one of Brian’s compositions “One Tuesday April Evening” was subsequently chosen as the theme music for an RTE television programme. The LP was the band’s second recording as they had recorded a single for Columbia in September 1966 with the hurler John Bennett singing the “Winding Banks of the Lee”.

The band took part in the very last “Take The Floor” programme which went out on Radio Eireann in the early 1970’s and had the honour of playing when “Din Joe” called out for the last time “lift the latch, open the door, step right in and take the floor”. A second LP “Bells of Shandon” was released in 1972 but by then ceili band music was on the wane and the Ardellis drifted into semi-retirement. Brian Lawler, however, continued his accordion playing and for five years from 1975 he was accompanist to the well known Cork singer Sean O’Shea.

The Ardellis Ceili Band last performed in April 1997 but now their recently issued CD of Irish music and song gives us an opportunity of enjoying recordings of the band made at different times over those forty years. Their strict tempo ceili music gives what Brian Lawler describes as “tight music” in the distinctive Scottish style and contrasts nicely with the traditional Irish style of the Tulla and Kilfenora Ceili Band. The Ardellis were unquestionably in the first division of Irish ceili music and Brian Lawler whose musical arrangements have bedrocked the band’s performances down the years, despite his protestations is a talented player on the piano accordion. In latter years Brian has become involved in composing and two of his compositions are featured on the recently issued CD. The Ardellis Ceili Band have enriched our Irish musical heritage and have ensured that the South Kildare townland of the name will forever be linked with the music of the Irish people.

Thursday, January 8, 1998

Lawlers of Athy and the Town Chairmanship of Athy

The Lawler Family of Athy have a remarkable record of public service in the town which is unlikely ever to be repeated. Three brothers served as Town Clerks in the town between 1889 and 1942. They were sons of Andrew Lawler and the former Margaret Prendergast of Park House. Matthew Lawler was first appointed Town Clerk on 4th March, 1889 at the annual salary of £13.00 following the earlier resignation of the previous office holder James Muldowney. Athy Town Commissioners was the name of the local authority in those years and it’s Chairman that year was M.J. Minch of Rockfield House.

On 3rd February, 1890 Joseph A. Lawler was appointed Town Clerk at a salary of £12.00 per year. He oversaw the transition in 1900 from Town Commission to Urban Council status and was to remain as Town Clerk until his death on 4th June, 1927. The members of the Town Commission in 1891 were Matthew J. Minch, M.P., Thomas Plewman, Christopher Timmons, Stephen Telford, W.W. Baldwin, Matthew Minch, Michael Anthony, Joseph P. Whelan, Thomas J. Whelan, Peter J. Murphy, Michael Doyle, Michael Lawler, James Nugent, Mark Heffernan and Francis Minchin. This was the era of gas lit streets and in May each year the town’s 47 gas lamps were taken down and packed away until the following winter. The Town Commissioners still operated the Borough Court, a throwback to the days of the Borough Council of Athy which had been abolished in 1840. The Court survived and operated on market and fair days to adjudicate on disputes between traders and customers.

The Commissioners were also responsible for cleaning what was referred to as the Police Barracks lock-up, then located in Whites Castle. Other duties which fell to the Town Clerk and the staff included the prevention of obstructions at the pig fairs and sheep fairs in the town. The Pig Fair was held in Barrack Street, with the Sheep and Cattle Fairs in the Fair Green. The Horse Fair was held on the first Wednesday of each month at Bothar Bui and the upper part of Leinster Street.

One of the interesting responsibilities taken on by the Town Commissioners was their adoption of the Compulsory Education Act in 1898, almost six years after it had been enacted by Parliament. This required compulsory attendance at school by young boys and girls and the Town Commissioners appointed a School Attendance Committee to monitor compliance with the law. It is interesting to note the multi denominational mix in those nominated to the Committee. Heading the list was Mr. M.J. Minch, M.P. and described as a Catholic, followed by Stephen Telford, Presbyterian and John A. Duncan, Methodist. One of the last acts of the Town Commissioners was to pass a resolution in September 1899 protesting against the “unjustifiable war waged against the Boers” and tendering their moral support to “President Kruger and his race in their stand against intrusion”.

On 1st April, 1900 the former Town Commissioner was re-constituted as an Urban District Council and the new body held it’s first meeting on 2nd April with Joseph A. Lawler continuing as Town Clerk. The range of responsibilities of the Urban Council were substantially greater than those of the old Town Commission and the workload of the Town Clerk increased accordingly. Particular attention was paid to public health and in May 1903 the Town Surveyor John Coleman was able to report that since a new system of scavenging was put in place “we have had scarcely a death in Athy”.

John Coleman’s daughter Bridget was to marry Michael Lawler, a brother of the Town Clerk and proprietor of the Hibernian Hotel in Leinster Street. I am reminded of a query from John Perry some months ago regarding a John Coleman of William Street and wonder whether the Town Surveyor who lived in Upper William Street was the person mentioned by John. Mr. Coleman died in May 1910 and was replaced as Town Surveyor by Michael Bradley of Offaly Street whose son John was a local newspaper reporter up to the 1970’s.

During Joseph A. Lawler’s time as Town Clerk the local Council provided the towns first water supply scheme and constructed the first local authority houses in Athy. In 1921 the Town Clerk was receiving a yearly salary of £100 which it was claimed was the smallest such salary in Ireland. The local Council, not anxious to appear parsimonious immediately increased his salary to £300 a year. A married man Joseph continued to live in Park House in the People’s Park where his parents had originally lived. He died on 4th June, 1927 and his widow continued to live in the Park House until her death in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. I remember “Mrs. Lawler” as she was known to us youngsters in Offaly Street who was always attended by her faithful maid Jenny.

On the death of Joseph A. Lawler his brother James W. was appointed Town Clerk in June 1927. The Minister for Local Government wrote to the Council suggesting that the affairs of Athy could be adequately dealt with by a part-time Town Clerk. In deference to his wishes the Council initially appointed Joseph Lawler as a part-time clerk with a salary of £208.00 per year. By now the position was officially titled Town Clerk, Executive Sanitary Officer and Clerk of the Burial Board. Later appointed to the full-time position Joseph A or “Jimmy” as he was known continued as Town Clerk until November 1942 when he retired. His retirement coincided with the appointment of the first County Manager for Counties Kildare and Carlow under the new County Management Act. Jimmy like his late brother was a great GAA fan and was one of the founders of the Young Emmett’s Gaelic Football Club in the town. This Club for young players was started in a successful attempt to revive gaelic football in Athy when an earlier club in the town had faded after some initial success. Jimmy married Essie Cummings of Naas and lived in a fine newly built two story house named “St. Anne’s” in Church Road. They had no children and when Jimmy retired as Town Clerk in 1942 he took up a position as agent for the Duke of Leinster. As the Duke’s employee he lived in 82 Leinster Street which in most recent years was home to the Old Folks Committee. He died in St. Patrick Dunne’s Hospital in Dublin on 13th April, 1957 at the age of 82 years.

Another brother was Michael Lawler, owner of the Hibernian Hotel, now the Oasis Public House. His son Michael who was later employed in Bradbury’s of Leinster Street married Kathleen Watchorn who continues to live in St. Patrick’s Avenue. A daughter of the Hibernian Hotel proprietor married John Watchorn of Crumlin in Dublin in 1933 and it is their daughter Celia Watchorn McDonald who gave me many of the family details for this article.

Don’t forget the Lecture in the Town Hall on Thursday, 5th February at 8.00 p.m. on “Athy and the 1798 Rebellion”.

Thursday, January 1, 1998

Mario Corrigan's Book on 1798 in Kildare 'All that Delirium of the Brave'

“All that Delirium of the Brave - Kildare in 1798” is the title of a book by Mario Corrigan published by Kildare County Council. The author is a member of the County Library services and spent some time in Athy Community Library. In the preface to his work he tell us that “the purpose of this book is to examine the realities behind the rebellion in Kildare 1798”. It is also he claims “an attempt to demythify and break from the seemingly inherent Irish trait of finding some sort of dignity in disaster.”

Having made that statement of intent Mario proceeds to provide us a text full of interesting and thought provoking analysis. In his opening chapter the author gives brief background information on the county without dealing sufficiently with the United Irishmen’s organisational links with the area. It is in the next chapter dealing with Lord Edward Fitzgerald that Mario’s book comes into its own. He analyses Lord Edward’s involvement in the United Irishman and rather succinctly summarises the links between Ireland and France and the influence of Thomas Paine.

Mario offers the view that the 1798 Rebellion was due more to military excesses on the part of the Government forces rather than what he describes as “the exigencies of the United movement”. In County Kildare in particular he claims that the local mens’ participation in the rebellion was primarily a reaction to military repression. It is difficult to agree with this analysis given the nature and extent of the United Irishmen’s organisation in the County prior to 1798. Kildare was one of the most highly organised counties in Ireland for the United Irishmen while Athy was an important centre for that organisation. Throughout 1797 the organisation in Athy and district was active in forming military style groups each intended to take part in a planned rebellion. Every twelve volunteers appointed a sergeant each eight sergeants a captain and a lieutenant, and every eight captains a colonel. Captaincies in the United Irishmen in Athy were held by Denis Devoy, Patrick Kelly and his brother Peter who was a local shopkeeper. James Lynam, publican was also a Captain as was James Walsh a farmer of Skerries, James Murphy a farmer of Ballytore, Edward McDaniel and Patrick Davin both of Fontstown.

An informer of the time John Chanders of Shrowland, Athy swore information that sixteen companies of the United Irishmen were to be found in and around Athy. Meetings were held in various local houses including Peter Kelly’s shop in the town, John Hyland’s house near the Upper Turnpike Gate and William Kelly’s shop on the main street. Plans for a rebellion were in hand almost certainly encouraged by the events in American and France of a few years previously. Raids for arms such as that which took place in the Canal Harbour in Athy on the 7th December 1797 is evidence of the United Irishmen’s determination to be prepared and ready for an armed rebellion. When the rising took place on the 24th May it was part of a planned operation but one which undoubtedly suffered in the planning due to the earlier arrest of the Leinster leaders.

In chapter three the author explores further the affect that the military repression had on the local people. Reference is made to the writing of Patrick O’Kelly a Kilcoo man who published his own history of the rebellion. When martial law was declared the rebels and those perceived to be rebels in Athy were to bear the full brunt of its harsh enforcement by the military based in Athy Barracks. The well known reference to Thomas James Rawson of Glassealy who had local men stripped and tortured in the triangle is used to reinforce Mario’s argument that the rebellion was due to military excesses rather than anything else. He writes “fear of torture, imprisonment or execution could stir men to resistance more easily than any political reteric”. I tend however, to the view that the military repression and excesses in South Kildare area prior to the 24th May served to dampen local enthusiasm for a planned rebellion. There can be no other explanation for the failure of the rebellion to ignite in South Kildare despite the strength of the organisation in the area in the months leading up to 1798.

In the fourth chapter the rising in County Kildare is dealt with in some detail and the author has done well to bring sense and meaning to the many conflicting and sometimes sketchy accounts which have appeared over the years. I cannot understand, why, however it should be claimed that the rebellion in County Kildare “quickly degenerated into a plundering, Defenderist, bandit war”. It would be wrong to indict an entire movement on the basis of the unacceptable behaviour of some. The actions of “Black Top” otherwise John Whelan and his companions who ruthlessly murdered four women at Glassealy in 1798 were not typical of those involved in the rebellion. The United Irishmen was founded in Belfast in October 1791 by young radicals such as Wolfe Tone and Thomas Russell who influenced by the American War of Independence and the French Revolution sought political reforms which would include people of all religious denominations. Its subsequent militarisation did not mean that the United Irishmen lost sight of their primary objectives. That there were excesses by some members of the United Irishmen is beyond dispute. There is not however, adequate evidence to support the writer’s claim that the rebellion in Kildare degenerated into a “bandit war”.

An excellent chronology of the rebellion in County Kildare is included in the book as are poems and songs of Kildare in ’98. I have to admit to being envious of Mario Corrigan’s production which impressed me despite my lack of agreement with some of his analysis. This is a book which will appeal to those who require an analytical rather than a simple descriptive narrative of events in Kildare in ’98. If I can be allowed one little gripe it is to register my dislike of what I see as the deadening hand of academia which is perceptible throughout the text even if not easily understood. How about this in the opening paragraph “if the historian has a hunger for acquiring knowledge he adversely retains a passion to disseminate it multifariously, contritely obvious in the enormous outpourings on emergent mass politicalization in the 18th Century”.

Nevertheless this is a book worth buying and one which anyone in Kildare interested in local history should have on the shelf. It is available to buy in your local library even if it is not in your local bookshop.