The Irish War of Independence Exhibition will open in the Heritage Centre, Athy on Easter Monday at 7.30 p.m. There has been a good response from the public for material to be included in the exhibition which is intended to highlight this areas involvement in the events of post 1916 Ireland. Going through the material I have personally gathered together over many years I “rediscovered” some very interesting items including copies of photographs taken inside Ballykilner Internment Camp in 1920-1921. A number of men from County Kildare were interned in the County Down camp at the height of the War of Independence and amongst them were two Athy men, Joe May of Woodstock Street and “Bapty” Maher who had a bicycle shop in Duke Street.
Both of these young men had links with the Republican movement which were well known to the local RIC. “Bapty” Maher was a friend of Kevin Barry who was executed in Kilmainham Jail on the 1st November 1920. They had corresponded with each other after spending time together as school boys in Belvedere College in Dublin. The Heritage Centre will have on display during the exhibition an original letter from Kevin Barry to “Bapty” Maher who would later marry his sister Sheila Barry.
Following the Truce, Joe May would marry Hester Dooley of 41 Duke Street whose father Michael Dooley was one of the leading members of the local Republican movement and after whom Dooley’s Terrace, built in 1934 is named. Hester Dooley worked for a number of the Dublin based leaders of the Republican movement during the War of Independence including Piaras Beaslai, Oscar Traynor and J.J. “Ginger” O’Connell. Her sister Kathleen who worked in the Post Office married Eamon Malone the young Barrowhouse man, who following his release from Mountjoy Jail was appointed Officer Commanding the Carlow/Kildare Brigade of the IRA. Malone Place opposite St. Dominic’s Park is named after him.
A unique double link with the War of Independence period is found in the persons of Joe and Kally May of Chanterlands. Joe’s father was interned in Ballykilner camp while Kally’s late father Michael Mahon, a native of Newcastle, Athenry was a prisoner in Frongoch in North Wales.
Michael Mahon with his two brothers Peter and Thomas were interned following the Easter Rising of 1916. Michael who was one of the earliest members of the newly established Garda Siochana served as a member of the Gardai in Athy for 21 years. He died suddenly in September 1934, it is believed from delayed after effects of a beating received at the hands of the Black and Tans.
The exhibition in the Heritage Centre opens on Easter Monday at 7.30 p.m. and the official opening will be performed by Joe May. The Monasterevin based Lord Edwards Own re-enactment group will be in attendance to give a visual representation of the difficult times which preceded the signing of the Treaty.
This will be the first ever exhibition held in Athy devoted to the Irish War of Independence and a Cead Mile Failte is extended to everyone to come along to the opening on Easter Monday night.
Two photographs accompany this article. They show groups of men photographed in Ballykilner internment camp in Co. Down. The Athy men, Joe May and Bapty Maher are shown in the first photograph standing next to each other in the right hand side of the middle row.