Thursday, August 31, 2000

Irish Soldiers in Battles Overseas

Enlistment in the English Army was for many young men a refuge from the pervasive poverty which was a feature of life in rural Ireland in the 19th century. Other reasons might well explain why Athy men Laurence Fitzsimons, Peter Brennan, James Little and William Knowles joined up in 1798 at a time when the United Irishmen were engaged in an unsuccessful attempt at a national uprising. For whatever reason Athy was for a long time a fruitful source of soldier material for the English army. A manuscript Memo Book dated to the end of the 17th century exhibited at a quarterly meeting of the Kilkenny and South East of Ireland Archaeological Society later the Royal Society of Antiquaries held at Kilkenny on 10th July, 1867 had the following insert.
“In Athy in Ireland lived at the time of Ye revolution Mrs. Munford who had nineteen sons riding at the same time in Captain Wolseley’s Troop not regimented. She lived to bury them all.”

This is one of the earliest records we have of Athy men soldiering in the services of England. Another early reference is that of John McGrath, aged 21 years, a Captain in the Regiment of Clare of the Irish Brigade who was captured at sea by British Forces in 1745. He was part of a French attempt to invade the English mainland, which was successfully repulsed and on his capture he was confined in prison at Hull. His ultimate fate is unknown.

Serving in the English Forces around the same time was another Athy man who like McGrath was also a captain. He was Captain Robert Pearson of the Royal Regiment of Foot who served in France and Flanders under the Duke of Marlborough. McGrath was a Catholic, Pearson was a Protestant and therein lies the explanation why two local Athy men found themselves in opposing Armies at the beginning of the 18th century. Pearson eventually returned to Athy at the end of his Army service and was buried in St. Michael’s Cemetery next to his parents Richard Pearson and Mary Jackson.

An interesting insight into the views held by the Irish American Peter Welsh on those who enlisted in the English Army can be readily gleaned from the letter he wrote on 1st June, 1863 to his father-in-law Patrick Prendergast of Athy.
“I consider an Irishman who voluntarily enlists in the British service merits the utter contempt of his countrymen.”

Contrast this with his views on service in the Army of the Union during the American Civil War.
“Here Irishmen and their descendants have a claim, a stake in the Nation and an interest in it’s prosperity. Irishmen helped to free it from the yoke of Britain and to build on this soil the best and most liberal government in the world ….. Irishmen have rushed by thousand to the call of their adopted country in the present unfortunate struggle. Their blood has stained every battlefield of this War.”

Writing from the camp the 28th Regiment near Falmouth just eleven months before he died Welsh proudly claimed
“I am a colour Sergeant of my Regiment. I carry the green flag of Erin, all the Irish Regiments carry the green flag as well as the National flag ….. I feel proud to bear the emblem of Ireland’s pride and glory and it shall never kiss the dust while I have the strength to hold it.”

In contrast Irishmen in the service of the British Empire were never allowed to show any emblems of their own national identity.

When the Boer War broke out in 1899 a considerable amount of sympathy in Nationalist Ireland lay with the Boers. The local newspaper of 6th January, 1900 reported that some Athy men had raised a Boer flag over the Town Hall much to the embarrassment of the Town Council. While several Athy men were fighting on the English side in the War, the Irish Transvaal Brigade chiefly organised by John McBride and consisting of upwards of 250 Irish and Irish Americans allied themselves with the Boers. Amongst the members of the Irish Brigade was James Crosby of Kildangan. Crosby with the other members of the Irish Brigade took part in the Boer attack on the town of Dundee during which the Irish Fusiliers with the Dublin Fusiliers sought to capture Talana Hill. It was during this military operation that local man Captain George Weldon of Kilmoroney was killed. The battle for the town of Dundee in which Irish on opposing sides fought against each other gave rise to a comical ballad, one verse of which read :-
“On the mountainside the battle raged there was no stop or stay,
Macklin captured Private Burke and ensign Michael Shea,
Fitzgerald got Fitzpatrick, Brannigan found O’Rourke,
Finnegan took a man named Fay and a couple of lads from Cork,
Sudden they heard McManus shout ‘hands up, I’ll run you through’,
He thought it was a Yorkshire Tyke - t’was Corporal Donoghue,
McGarry took O’Leary, O’Brien got McNamee,
That’s how the English fought the Dutch at the Battle of Dundee.”

The Irishman’s involvement in English Wars was not to end with the Boer War and the gathering storm of World War I was but twelve years away. It was however the Spanish Civil War of 1936 which like the Boer War provided the next battlefield where Irish men soldiering in different uniforms fought each other in War.

Late in 1936 two different groups of Irishmen set out for Spain - one headed by General Eoin O’Duffy, the former Garda Siochana Commissioner, was mostly comprised of members of the Blueshirt Movement. They were to fight on the side of General Franco while a smaller group of Irishmen referred to as the International Brigade under the leadership of Frank Ryan were to oppose them under the Banner of Spanish Republicanism. I have not succeeded in discovering the involvement of any Athy men in the Spanish Civil War but County Kildare was represented in Duffy’s Irish Brigade by B. Brogan, Pat Dunny, Peter Lawler and Michael O’Neill while the International Brigade had the services of Kildare man Frank Conroy who was killed at Cordova in December 1936. A total of 59 Irishmen were killed in Spain while serving as members of the International Brigade. Some commentators in reference to the involvement of the two opposing Irish Groups in the Spanish Civil War saw the conflict insofar as the Irish participants was concerned as a continuation of our own Civil War of twelve years previously. Mercifully while the opposing Irish combatants were stationed in relatively close proximity to each other during part of the Spanish War, unlike their soldiering ancestors of the 17th and 18th century they never had to engage each other in battle. Even in death the former leaders of the two competing Irish Brigades cannot be separated. Frank Ryan and Eoin O’Duffy lie only a few yards from each other in the section of Glasnevin Cemetery set aside for those involved in the fight for Irish Independence.

Thursday, August 24, 2000

Thomas McGrath - Athy Soldier

Thomas McGrath born in the Parish of St. John’s, Athy was a 19 old labourer when he enlisted in the 43rd Regiment of Light Infantry in Dublin on the 21st January 1833. The Regiment first raised in 1741 and previously known as the Monmouthshire Light Infantry was based in Beggars Bush Barracks in Dublin during 1832 and 1833. The army surgeon who examined McGrath for the purposes of the customary Medical Examination certified that he found

“no rupture or mark of an old wound or ulcer adhering to the bone. He is free from varicose veins of the leg and has the full power and motion of the joints and limbs. He is well formed and has no Scrofulus Affection of the Glands, Scald Head or other inveterate Cutaneous Eruptions; and he is from any trace of Corporal Punishment. His respiration is easy, and his Lungs appear to be sound. He has the perfect use of his Eyes and Ears. His general appearance is Healthy, and he possesses strength sufficient to enable him to undergo the fatigue to which Soldiers are liable. I consider him fit for his Majesty’s Service”.

The Surgeon further recorded McGrath as a five foot nine inch man of fresh complexion with blue eyes and light brown hair with no distinctive marks.

The Articles of War were then read to the young Athy man. Article one enjoined any member of the forces “who being present at any mutiny or sedition shall use his utmost endeavour to supress the same”. The second Article of War read to McGrath by a Justice of the Peace declared “who shall dessert from our service (whether or not he shall re-enlist therein) shall suffer the death or such other punishment as by a General Court Marshal shall be awarded”. No doubt suitably awed by the seriousness of the occasion, McGrath then took the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity finally receiving the Kings legendary “shilling” which by then amounted to a bounty of three pounds.

Now a fully fledged soldier of the 43rd Regiment, Thomas McGrath was next kitted out and began an army career which was not to end for 46 years. The regiment went to New Brunswick in 1835 and it was one of the Regiments dispatched from New Brunswick to Quebec on horse sleighs in the depth of the winter of 1838/39 on the occasion of the insurrection of Lower Canada. We know from McGrath’s discharge papers that he spent seven years and ten months in North America with his regiment and in all probability took part in that over land trip to Quebec.

McGrath remained in the 43rd Regiment until January 1854 and he was promoted to Corporal after four years and twenty six days service. Another four years and nineteen days as a Corporal saw his promotion to the rank of Sergeant at which he remained for the next thirteen years or so. His army career was not without its ups and downs as evidenced by the entry in his service record which shows that on the 13th November 1837, Corporal McGrath, was arrested tried and sentenced to be reduced to the rank of Private. Further promotion did not come his way until the 1st July 1839 when he regained his former rank of Corporal and two years later his promotion to Sergeant was recorded. He was appointed Colour Sergeant on the 17th February 1847.

McGrath’s discharge papers give an overall conduct rating of “very good” but an addendum relates that he was “once tried by a Court Marshal for being drunk at Tattoo when Orderly Sergeant for the Company”. No further details are given and I wonder whether this was a separate incident to the earlier mentioned one which resulted in him being reduced in the ranks.

The Athy man’s only overseas duty appears to have been spent in North America for even though the 43rd Regiment went to the Cape (South Africa) in 1851 and served in the Kaffir War of 1851-53, no mention of this is made in his discharge papers. McGrath was discharged from the 43rd Regiment in August 1853 on the grounds of “being unfit for further service due to chronic arthritis”. He was then aged just over 39 years of age and received a pension of 2 shillings a day.

The discharge papers show Chatham as the place where the Regimental Board held its proceedings to verify McGrath’s army services although by that stage he already moved closer to Ireland and took up residence in Chester. Chatham is the home of the Royal Engineers and is one of the largest Military bases in England. The Walled Town of Chester stands on the edge of the English border with Wales and in the path of anyone who like McGrath may well have set out on the journey from Chatham to Holyhead with the intention of returning to Ireland. This of course is only supposition, but for whatever reason McGrath found himself in Chester, he made the decision of remaining on the English mainland and retaining his links with the English army. In January 1854, he joined the 1st Cheshire Militia, a part time force which like all other militia corps was staffed by local men usually with the assistance of one or two full time professional soldiers. Within six months McGrath moved from Chester to Welshpool in Central Wales where he enlisted in the Royal Montgomery militia. He was to remain a member of that part time force until his final discharge in January 1879 after a period of 44 years military service. On his final discharge, he was described as a married man with three children and aged approximately sixty five years.

McGrath was but one of the many local men who from the 18th Century onwards enlisted to serve abroad in the English army. Included amongst them was Patrick Dowling of Athy who prior to his enlistment on the 14th December 1849 gave his occupation as “servant”. He joined the 17th Lancers, a Cavalry Regiment and fought in the Crimean War receiving recognition for his involvement in the battles of Alma, Balaklava and Sebastapol. He was killed in the charge of the Light Brigade on the 25th October 1854 and was posthumously awarded a Crimean medal. Interestingly enough, his Crimean medal will be auctioned in Dublin this weekend.

Thursday, August 17, 2000

Athy's Religious Diversity (Contd.)

The Methodist revival ushered in a period of critical examination within the Church of England which many will claim culminated in the Oxford Movement of the 1830’s. During that period several small sects were formed such as the Walkerites, the followers of Rev John Walker of Dublin, the Kellyites, followers of Rev. Thomas Kelly of Athy and the Plymouth Brethren’ founded by a former Church of England Curate John Nelson Darby.

The Kellyites initially operated within the Church of England in much the same way as did the early Methodist Group and like them eventually broke away from the State Church to formalise their own structure. Rev. Thomas Kelly who often preached in the local Church then in Emily Square was an acquaintance of John Nelson Darby and at one time both discussed the possibility of coming together to form an evangelical movement. Darby subsequently left Dublin for Plymouth in England where his Sunday Prayer Group in time evolved into the Plymouth Brethren.

The Church of England Rector during part of Rev. Thomas Kelly’s leadership of the local Kellyites was Rev. Frederick Trench, son of the Dean of Kildare. He was married to Helena, daughter of Lord Arden and her brother John Perceval was an associate of John Henry Newman, John Keble and Edward Pusey of the Oxford Movement which sought to restore High Church Principles within the Church of England. Newman was later to become the first Cardinal of the English Catholic Church after his conversion to Catholicism in 1841, while Keble a poet and a divine was regarded as a brilliant intellect who shunned preferment and instead spent his latter years as a Rector in a country Parish in England.

The Oxford Movement was the Anglo Catholic wing of the Church of England which claimed historical connection with the Catholic Church and sought to revive ceremonial practices in the Church. Keble was a friend of the Trenches and spent a vacation with them in Kilmoroney House during which he officiated in the present St. Michael’s Church at the wedding of one of the Trench’s daughters. Frederick Trench supported the High Church movement and for a while sought to observe the Saints Days and Holy Days by holding services in St. Michael’s Church. This did not find favour with some of his parishioners and Michael Carey, a member of the local Church of England congregation in Athy noted in his diary for February 1851 :-

“The Reverend Trench has taken down all the emblems from his Popish windows and made an apology to his congregation. The Duke and the Bishop condemned them at once. He stated to the congregation that he had not the slightest notion of Puseyism or Popery. My publicly denouncing the pictures and windows before the congregation on that Sunday set them all going”.

Clearly religious diversity was not confined to the different strands of Christian Churches to be found in the town of Athy. Despite Trench’s difficulties with some of his congregation regarding what was viewed as his over zealous adherence to High Church practices, he nevertheless was highly regarded within the Athy Community. His death in November 1860 following an accident at Preston’s Gate at the bottom of Offaly Street was a great loss to his congregation and to the town in general. The following year a beautiful pulpit was erected in St. Michael’s Church in memory of Reverend Trench who had served as Curate and as Rector of the Parish of St. Michael’s for almost 40 years. As an interesting aside on the Trench Family connections, I should mention that Reverend Trench’s wife Helena was a niece of Spencer Perceval the British Prime Minister who was assassinated in the House of Commons on 11th May 1812.

The alignment of St. Michael’s Church is somewhat unusual in so far as the Chancel or Sanctuary is on the West side when traditionally it is to be found on the East of a Church. Presumably, the difficulty of getting access from the Carlow Road around the back of the Church fixed the location of the Sanctuary on the West side. In last week’s article I mentioned that local builder George Cross completed the Church Steeple almost sixteen years after the Church itself had been dedicated. Quite obviously the Architect, Frederick Darley had planned the Church and its steeple so as to give the very handsome grand avenue effect as one approaches St. Michael’s from Church Road. Internally the Church is of a very simple design and as usual in Church of Ireland Church’s in Ireland, due and proper recognition is given in a number of wall plaques to some of the dead of World War I. The four Hannon’s killed in that war are remembered as is another local man who has the unique distinction of being the first officer killed in the Boer War, Captain George Weldon of Kilmoroney.

The remaining four Churches in the town are Catholic Churches. The Church attached to the Convent of Mercy and that attached to St. Vincent’s Hospital are part of the story of Catholic Church building in the town which commenced with the foundation of the Monastery of the Crouched Friars in the first half of the 13th Century. The one link we have with the Medieval village of Athy is the Dominican Order whose ultra modern Church opened in 1965 provides a welcome contrast to the traditional style adopted in the Parish Church built a year previously. These two Churches serve the needs of the Catholic Parishioners of St. Michael’s even though the Dominican Church is not part of the Parish infrastructure. Its passive role in the Parish is one which has evolved over the years and is one which meets the needs of Church goers who align themselves with the Dominican rather than with the Parish Church. This does not of course, indicate any division within the ranks of Catholicism in the town but rather a long standing practise founded on the dividing effect of the River Barrow. It was that same river which saw the town develop on opposite river banks in different ways and at contrasting paces over the centuries.

The Religious Diversity reflected in the different Churches to be found in Athy provides an appropriate back drop for the social diversity of the local community. The once rural town is becoming more and more cosmopolitan as each week goes by, and the expected influx from the overgrown metropolis of Dublin will in time give new life to the local churches which are now somewhat in decline.

Thursday, August 10, 2000

Athy Religious Diversity

The Churches of Athy was the topic chosen for my walkabout on Heritage Sunday. Not many braved the sunshine that afternoon so I feel it appropriate to put on paper the reason why so many Churches are to be found in our small country town. To do so I must unravel the religious diversity which has formed an important element of life in Athy over the last 500 years or so.

That religious diversity is in itself an overlay on the social diversity which existed from the very foundation of the village in the latter part of the 12th century. The original Anglo Norman settlement was founded by French speaking settlers who were Catholics as were the Irish speaking natives of the area. As part of their self sufficiency regime the settlers encouraged the establishment of monasteries in the village to cater for their own needs. Like the Anglo Normans the Monks within the Monasteries of St. John of the Crouched Friars and the Friars Preachers were French speakers. The native Irish who gradually began to converge on the developing village were initially at least not catered for by the local monasteries. The social diversity which resulted may explain why a secular Church was built outside the walls of the village to cater for the native Irish. The remains of that small Church are to be found today in the grounds of St. Michael’s cemetery.

In time the social diversity as between Anglo Normans and Irish became somewhat blurred and the descendants of the original settlers became more Irish that the Irish themselves. This was to change with the Reformation of 1540. The Catholic Institutions were suppressed at that time and in Athy the Dominicans had to leave the town where they had ministered for almost 300 years. The Monastery of St. John’s which had been founded before the Dominicans arrived in Athy in 1253 had gone out of existence sometime prior to the Reformation. With the Reformation started the religious diversity which became a hallmark of life in Athy and the town, perhaps more than many other towns still bears witness to that diversity in the different Churches to be found here.

On the four approach roads to Athy can be found Churches representing the four main Christian Churches in Ireland today. On the Dublin Road is sited the Presbyterian Church, on the Carlow Road the Church of Ireland, the Monasterevin Road has the Catholic Church while a little licence allows us to point to the Methodist Church on our left and the Dominican Church on our right as we enter Athy from the Kilkenny Road.

St. Michael’s Church of Ireland on the Carlow Road was designed by Frederick Darley who was Ecclesiastical Commissioners Architect for the Archdioceses of Dublin for ten years up to 1843, as well as Architect to Trinity College and Architect to the Board of National Education. Some of the buildings designed by him include The Kings Inn Library at Henrietta Street, Dublin, The Great Southern Hotel in Killarney, Barrington’s Hospital in Limerick and a number of Model Schools throughout Ireland including Athy’s Model School. The Church which is one of simple design replaced an earlier Church in Emily Square and fund raising for it’s construction started in November 1833. Dedicated on 15th September, 1841 the Church has a handsome Church steeple which was added on at a later date and completed in time to allow the new Church bell to be rung for divine service for the first time on 22nd March, 1857.

The early forms of the religious diversity which evolved after the Reformation centred on the reformed Church represented by the Church of England and the so called unreformed or Catholic Church. Soon however further fragmentation occurred within the Church of England with the formation of the Society of Friends or Quakers and the development of Presbyterianism. Both these dissenting groups had a presence in Athy, the Quakers from 1671 and the Presbyterians from 1717 at least. The Quakers had a Meeting house built at the corner of Meeting House Lane in 1780 many years after a Quaker meeting had first been established in the town. Their strict code of conduct which forbade the bearing of arms, attendance at races, the payment of tithes, the taking of oaths, the removal of hats in Court and marriage outside the sect marked the Quakers apart from the other Christian groups in the local society. While the nearby Ballitore Quaker Community prospered and continued well into the 19th century the Athy Quakers appeared to have disappeared as a group as early as 1812.

The other early dissenting Group, the Presbyterians, had a Minister in Athy in 1717 and for some years thereafter but nothing is known of them after 1725 until the revival of Presbyterianism in South Kildare from 1851 onwards. In the first six months of that year 17 Scottish Presbyterian families settled in the area on the invitation of the local landlord, the Duke of Leinster. A Presbyterian Minister Rev. John Hall was appointed to Athy the following year and in 1855 work started on the building of the Presbyterian Church on the Dublin Road. The Architect was David Taylor and by the 1870’s the Athy Presbyterian congregation was the second largest in Ireland outside of the Northern counties.

Another group to break away from the Church of England were the Methodists, originally an evangelising group within the State Church. A Methodist Minister was first appointed to Athy one year after John Wesley passed through the town on the 25th of April, 1789. It was the death of Wesley in 1791 which prompted the Methodists to withdraw from the Church of England and call themselves “The Society of People called Methodists”. Itinerant Methodist preachers including Gideon Ousley and Charles Graham visited Athy early in the 19th century and preached in the Square on several occasions prompting Graham to note in his diary “multitudes of Catholics as well as others attended our Ministry in the streets and markets of Athy.” In 1832 Moses Rowe of Wexford reported a high level of participation in Methodist services in Athy and fifteen years later itinerant Preachers Henderson and Huston noted “fifteen conversions and seventeen back sliders restored in Athy”.

Quite obviously Methodism continued to develop as a warrant of approval for the building of a Methodist Chapel in Athy issued in 1813. However, instead of erecting a new building the local Methodists took a lease on the former Quaker Meeting House in Meeting Lane which they continued to use until their own purpose built Church was opened in Woodstock Street in 1872. That Church was built at the cost of £2,200 on a site purchased sometime earlier by Alexander Duncan, a Merchant of Duke Street, Athy. Like the Presbyterian Church on the Dublin Road the Methodist Chapel in Woodstock Street now caters for a much smaller congregation than in former years.

Thursday, August 3, 2000

Public Records Office and Some Athy References

The English certainly do things in style. They have always done so, even if as Colonial Masters they beggared many countries in the process. I was reminded of this during the past week, much of which I spent in the English Public Records Office at Kew Gardens, London. There you will find all of the records so carefully prepared and retained by successive administrations stretching back through the centuries and all now readily available to anyone with the time, patience and interest to flesh out the bones of history. Naturally enough I was interested in checking out certain aspects of Athy’s history but my searches took me into hitherto unknown archival material with some surprising results.

The resources which successive Governments have put into the preservation and maintenance of Public Records in England is in mark contrast to our own miserly efforts in that regard. I have often felt ashamed at the niggardly response of successive Irish Governments including the present incumbents to the financial and staffing needs of such important institutions as our very own National Library and Public Records Office. Ireland has a long and honourable history but the resources we make available to these institutions is minimal and probably eclipsed by the amounts spent on special Ministerial Assistants and Advisers as well as on Public Relations’ Spin Doctors.

The Kew Gardens Archives are readily accessible and a readers ticket is to be had with the minimum of fuss or delay. Armed with a little plastic card I was able to access, if I had the time to do so, any of the millions of historical records retained within the English Archives, many of which relate to our own country. Indeed many of them specifically relate to Athy as for example the 1841 plan of Athy Barracks surveyed and prepared by Captain Tucker and Lieutenant Remington on 31st March, 1841. Described as an Army Barracks occupied alternatively by Cavalry and Infantry it had an Officers Quarters separated by stables and Barrack Rooms from the Soldiers Quarters.

Opposite the stables were to be found Bedding Stores, Barrack Master Stores, Guard Room, Cells, the Cooking Room and the Barracks Sergeant Quarters. A further plan prepared following a survey in 1865 under the direction of a Captain Wilkinson was amended in 1883. It showed the same buildings as in 1841 but with the addition of a Coal Yard and a Forage Barn. The previous Bedding Store had been converted into a Hospital to accommodate 514 patients and some additions had been made to both the Officers and the Soldiers Quarters. The Barracks was still lit internally by candles and externally by oil and in 1883 accommodated three Officers, a Staff Sergeant and 27 non-commissioned Officers and Privates with stabling for 34 horses.

With the closure of the Army Barracks the vacant building was used as a local Police Station, the previous Police accommodation in Whites Castle having been condemned in a report prepared in 1889. The Army Barracks was renovated at a cost of almost £500 prior to the transfer of the local Police and on completion of the work it provided accommodation for 7 married Policemen and their families and 4 single Policemen. Athy’s Town Commissioners were upset at the removal of the Constabulary from their previous central location and began a long and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to have them removed back to White’s Castle from the Barracks in Barrack Lane. The Policy Authorities rejected the Town Commissioners request and in this were supported by the Local Police Inspector who claimed that despite the move to Barrack Lane “the peace of the town was well maintained with no inconvenience to the public”.

Returning to my Searches in the English Public Records Office I was intrigued to come across the file for the “Irish Sailor and Soldiers Land Trust Athy Urban District Scheme”. This file related to the building of the Soldiers houses at the Bleach about which I have previously written. Following the article I was roundly abused by a good lady of the area who took exception to my noting a letter from Major Lefroy of Cardenton in which he condemned the houses “as small and inferior”. Apparently Major Lefroy sought to have bigger and better class houses built for the former Soldiers of World War I. The file which I perused showed that the London Office of the Trust was not prepared to proceed with the Athy Housing Scheme unless Lefroy withdrew his comments. In the end the Irish Trustees expunged his comments from their records and the houses were completed in 1926. The houses described as “wet” houses with electric light were also provided with portable “larders” which were hung outside the houses on brackets.

While the building work was proceeding O’Brien Thomas & Co., Ironfounders of London received an Order for Ranges and Mantel registers from D. & J. Carbery, the Contractors. The London firm refused to supply the material unless payment was guaranteed by the Trust and eventually the Order was placed with them by the O.P.W. Apparently the London Ironfounders would not be satisfied as to the connection between the building firm and Brendan Carbery, Building Contractor, Athy who had sometime before made an arrangement with his creditors. This despite the unqualified reference given for D. & J. Carbery by the O.P.W. “as a firm we have no hesitation in recommending.” The Local Soldiers Trustees were also required to check out the matter and advised that the Contracting Firm was controlled by Daniel Carbery, a brother of Brendan Carbery who had no connection with the firm. The eight houses were built for the sum of £4,665 which included the site purchase, legal fees and the Clerk of Works’ Salary.

Another interesting document held in the London Public Records Office is a list of compensation claims lodged by the residents of County Kildare for damage caused to property during the War of Independence. Claims were lodged by private individuals as well as the Postmaster General in respect of damaged wires and poles, the Canal Company and the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. A reference to a fire in the Courthouse in Celbridge in September 1919 when equipment used in Domestic Economy classes was damaged disclosed that the County Kildare Technical Department was at that stage based in Athy. This of course was the predecessor of the County Kildare V.E.C. I propose to deal at length with the War of Independence Compensation Claims in a future Eye on the Past.