Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Athy family connection with War of Independence

Recently I wrote of the local members of the old I.R.A. who were noted as members of the A Coy of the 5th Battalion Carlow Kildare brigade following the truce of July 1921. There were many family ties between members of the I.R.A. of 1921 and the Cumann na mBan members of that time. Amongst those named were Michael Dooley and John Bradley, the first named a shop keeper of Duke Street, the latter a resident of Offaly Street. The Dooley and Bradley families were connected by marriage as John Bradley’s sister Julia was married to the aforesaid Michael Dooley who was chairman of the Sinn Fein club in Athy. The two members of the Bradley family were joined by several members of the Dooley family in promoting the Irish Republican cause during the Irish War of Independence. The former Julia Bradley, by then married to Michael Dooley, was a member of the Athy branch of Cumann na mBan. Her three daughters were also actively involved in the Republican movement. Kathleen Dooley married Eamon Malone who was for a time Officer Commander of the Carlow Kildare I.R.A. brigade. Her sister Gypsy, who married Bill O’Neill of Newbridge, son of a former station master in Athy, was also a member of the Cumann na mBan. Another sister Hester married local man Joe May who following his arrest by crown forces in November 1920 was incarcerated in Ballykinlar prison camp for almost a year. Hester Dooley before her marriage to Joe May worked in Dublin as secretary to Piaras Beaslai and later General Ginger O’Connell. Joe May’s mother was Mrs. Margaret May of Woodstock Street who was another member of Athy’s Cumann na mBan. Another local family whose members, both male and female, were very actively involved in the Republican Movement was the Lambe family of Upper William Street. Alice Lambe was a member of Cumann na mBan, while her brothers Peter and Frank were active members of the I.R.A. 5th Battalion. Mrs. Julia Dooley, after whose husband Michael the 1934 Council housing estate Dooley’s Terrace was named, was the mother of Paddy Dooley who was first elected to the Dail as a Fianna Fail T.D. for County Kildare in 1959. The Dooley family, extending back over several generations, had possibly the greatest record of involvement in Athy’s municipal affairs than any other family in Athy. That involvement continues to this day with Brian Dooley’s recent appointment as a County Councillor for Athy’s municipal district. Patrick Dooley, brother of Michael Dooley, the Sinn Fein Chairman, was for many years chairman of Athy Urban District Council. It was a position also held by Michael’s son Paddy Dooley, later T.D., and his grandnephew Kieran Dooley. The current County Councillor Brian Dooley’s grandfather Michael was a son of Michael and Julia Dooley. Julia Dooley (nee Bradley) died at her home in St. Michael’s Terrace in August 1957 aged 89 years. Her story and that of the Dooley family as well as that of the Lambes, O’Rourkes, Mays, Bradleys and many other local families, some yet to be identified, is a story of commitment to the cause of Irish freedom in the face of constant harassment by crown forces in the years pre-dating the truce of July 1921. Those families whose members were involved in the I.R.A. or the Cumann na mBan underwent constant unwanted attention by R.I.C., the Black and Tans and the military. The lists of I.R.A. members and Cumann na mBan members included in Eye in the Past No. 1363 were compiled at the end of the truce by or for I.R.A. headquarters in Dublin. One could expect these records to be complete and accurate, but unfortunately they are not. Two omissions I mentioned in that article were the names of Sean Hayden and Eamon Malone. Another omission was that of James O’Keeffe of Ardreigh who later joined the Garda Siochana. He played an active part in the I.R.A. campaign which was later officially recognised, but yet his name is missing from the 1921 list. There may be many others overlooked and my research continues to record as accurately as possible the men and women who were part of the local republican movement of 1919-1921. I am anxious to get background information on Kathleen McDonnell and Rose McDonnell who were listed as Cumann na mBan members in 1921. I would welcome hearing from anyone who can give me information on the McDonnells, or indeed any of those men or women listed as members of the Old I.R.A. or Cumann na mBan in July 1921.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pat Doyle, Peter Smith and Pat Flood

During the past week Athy has lost two men who in years past carried on business in Leinster Street. Pat Doyle, a Wexford man, came to Athy in 1972 when after many years of retailing experience gained while working for various businesses in the south east opened his own drapery shop at No. 28 Leinster Street. Athy’s main street, known in earlier times as High Street, was also the location of Pat Flood’s business which the Monaghan man opened in 1963. That same street in the 1920s and later was home to two of the largest and busiest commercial firms in the town. Duthie Larges and Jacksons provided a range of services and employment opportunities which unfortunately came to an end with the closure of Duthie Larges and the liquidation of the Jackson company. Jacksons extensive premises were sold off in two lots. Chapman & Timoney acquired Jacksons garage which occupied what is now Perrys supermarket, while Pat Flood with two business associates purchased that part of the Jackson premises from where Quinn & Co. subsequently traded. Nine years after Pat Flood’s arrival in Athy Pat Doyle opened his shop in what was previously Charlie Prendergast’s electrical shop. The neighbouring businesses 37 years ago included Des Noonan’s pub, the fashion shop owned by Misses Farrell and Mulhall, Darlings former barber shop (but by then a private residence) and nearby Hannah Nolan’s drapery shop. The changes in the street since then are quite apparent as all those listed businesses have been replaced not only by new owners but also different types of businesses. It’s a very noticeable feature of life in Athy, and possibly of every town in Ireland, that the constant movement of people both in and out of the town provides an everchanging business format on our main streets. The physical streetscape remains unchanged, but the business names change and at times the business models also change. This latter change comes about almost unnoticed but becomes apparent when one reflects on the number of public houses which once lined the streets of Athy supported by a population less than half of its current size. But it is not only the pubs which have closed and re-opened with new businesses. Long established businesses changed hands and new arrivals, such as Pat Flood in the 1960s and Pat Doyle in the 1970s, renewed or created business models to help regenerate the commercial life of the town. Both Pats retired from their business operations some years ago and they did so with the good wishes of the people of Athy. It was a sad coincidence which saw Pat Doyle and Pat Flood die within days of each other. Both were gentlemen of the highest integrity and well liked within the local community. Both Pats endeared themselves to everyone they came in contact with and both extended courtesy and good humour to all throughout their involvement in various aspects of the town’s life. Pat Doyle’s association with the Credit Union and Pat Flood as a founder member of the Lions Club showed commitment and a willingness to work for the community they both joined when setting up business on the south Kildare town’s main street. Another death noticed as I write this Eye was that of Peter Smith, son of Andy Smith, a shopkeeper of Leinster Street many years ago. Peter after retiring from the ambulance service went to live in Wexford and relatively recently returned to this area. His father, Andy Smith, like Pat Doyle and Pat Flood came to Athy to set up business on Leinster Street. He did so in the early part of the last century and during his years in Athy Andy Smith was a stalwart supporter and member of the local GAA club. Indeed, Smiths of Leinster Street was the ‘eating house’ for county teams involved in matches in Geraldine Park during the 1940s and 1950s. The sadness felt by family members and friends when loved ones die is tempered somewhat when the deceased are elderly, as was the case with Pat Doyle, Peter Flood and Peter Smith. The sudden tragic death of Marian Reid following a road traffic accident at Duke Street on Wednesday afternoon brings in its wake untold sadness and a huge sense of loss for her family and friends. This was the third tragedy I can recall in recent years involving the death of a female pedestrian on our main streets. In each case I believe the vehicle involved was a truck which highlights the need to get heavy duty traffic out of the town and onto a bypass road. The loss when loved ones die is in many ways immeasurable and our sympathies go to the families of all those who have died during the past week.

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.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Spanish Flu

During November 1918 more persons, young and old from the town of Athy and the nearby district of Castledermot died of the Spanish flu than at any other time during the flu pandemic of 1918/1919. In Athy 49 persons died during the second last month of the year including three young Blanchfield children of Leinster Street and two even younger Eston children of Meeting Lane. In the nearby rural area of Castledermot there were 18 influenza deaths in November 1918. The first occurred on the third day of the month with the death of David Byrne, a 25 year old labourer from Graney. From then until the 24th of November there was a regular death roll call. John Walsh aged 35 of Castledermot, a baker and Elizabeth Birney aged 71 of Crophill died on the 4th of November. Two days later Catherine Hayden aged 74 a single woman of Levitstown passed away. On November 7th William Finn a 1 year old child of Gurteen, died. Robert Lawler aged 27 of Castledermot, a boot maker died on the 9th of November. Was he I wonder a brother of the Lawler brothers John, Patrick and Peter who had enlisted to fight overseas during World War 1. Robert was a cousin of Ellen Dempsey and Robert Dempsey, brother and sister of Woodlands, Castledermot, both of whom would die from influenza within five days of each other in November. Other Woodland residents to die that November were 26 year old Mary Kelly and 4 year old Lucy Hickey who died on the 10th and 12th of the month. On November, 13th three more locals died. Joseph Cash aged 48 of St. John’s, Joseph Forrestal 19 years old of Skenagan and James McDonald a farmer aged 83 years of Hoberstown. Those few days either side of the armistice day, 11th of November 1918, were the deadlist period of the influenza pandemic in the Castledermot area. Six deaths were recorded in the days immediately before and after the church bells rang out to celebrate the ending of WWI. On November 15th Edward Foster aged 2 of Castleroe and Ellen Dempsey aged 37 of Woodlands died. The next day Andrew Byrne aged 27 of Tankardstown and Mary Halligan aged 73 of Kilkea died. The 19th day of the month saw the passing of William Hegarty a 48 year old land steward from Kilkea followed the next day by the death of Robert Dempsey, a farmer aged 33 years from Woodlands. The last influenza related death recorded in November 1918 was that of Ellen Deegan, a 34 year old single woman from Hallahoise. Influenza related deaths in the Castledermot area during the flu pandemic totalled 30 compared to 65 deaths in Athy. During the pandemic the highest death rate per one thousand of the Irish population was in the 25-35 age group and a similar finding was confirmed in relation to the Castledermot area. The over 65 age group recorded the second highest death rate in that rural area with children under 5 years recording the third highest death rate. The youngest victim of the flu pandemic in Castledermot was five week old Michael Kinsella of Hobartstown who died on the 29th of March 1919 while the oldest victim was 88 years old, Edward Wall described in the death register as a blacksmith. The Foster family of Castleroe lost two young children, the earlier mentioned Edward and his brother Patrick who died on the 2nd of December 1918, while the Dempsey family of Woodland lost an adult son and daughter. When the census of 1926 was taken the population of Castledermot village had fallen to 247, the lowest figure recorded for the village where the population in 1841 was 1,416. Ten years later and following the Great Famine the village population had fallen by 53% to 666 and would continue to fall reaching its lowest population figure of 247 seven years after the flu pandemic. It was not until 2016 that the population of Castledermot again reached its pre-famine level with a recorded population of 1,475. The flu pandemic started in the last year of the Great War during which war 23 young men from the Castledermot area were killed. The lost of life’s from these two catastrophic events cast a shadow over the South Kildare area and the local families who were about to face into a guerrilla war of independence and a brutal civil war.