20th Century Celbridge Army Memories of Celbridge Military History People of Celbridge Scoil na Mainistreach World War I

A Man for Others: Captain Hubert Michael O’Connor, 1887-1917.


As the History Squad of 2016 we have decided to tell the story of a local man called Hubert Michael O’Connor. In preparing our school to accept our National Flag we asked pupils to bring in to school any information they might have on relatives who took part in the
Easter Rising of 1916. We first read the name ‘Hubert Michael O’Connor’ in a witness statement of Col. Padraig O’Conchubhair.  Mr. O’ Conchubhair said that he joined the Volunteers in Celbridge where Hubert O’Connor was one of its leading officers. We believe
that Hubert’s life story should be told and his memory kept alive. In researching his story we learned much about the past and came across many questions which we tried to answer. Why would a Volunteer who was in charge of 200 men join the British Army and fight against Germany? Was Hubert O Connor ‘a man for others’? What was it like for Hubert on August 16th 1917, the day he was severely wounded in WW1? Why is very little known about him by the people of Celbridge, his home town?

The Early Years

Hubert was born in Jan. 1887 in a house called The Grove, in Celbridge. This white building still stands and is surrounded by a large housing estate called ‘The Grove.’ His
father Charles was born in Limerick and his mother Marion was from Meath. Charles was a Medical Doctor. The family were Roman Catholic, could all read and write, spoke English and according to the 1901 Census had a female servant called Mary Cuite. Between 1903 and1908, a total of 19 orphans were admitted to the Abbey National School which was situated on the bank of the Liffey, just opposite Hubert’s home. Dublin city, at the beginning of the 20th century, had the largest slums in all of Europe. Orphans came to Celbridge and were looked after locally by families paid to do so. The population of the village stood at 811 in the 1901 census. When Hubert was four years old there was a huge celebration up at the big
house Castletown. Thomas Connolly had ‘Come of age’ and there was a huge party with fireworks and bonfires. Celbridge was a small village with both poor and rich living side by side. There is no evidence that Hubert went to the local Primary School the Abbey but we do know that when he reached 11 years of age he entered Clongowes College, Clane. This was to have a huge affect on his life and beliefs.

Life at Clongowes 1898-1904.

As part of our research, we visited Clongowes College on Feb.4th 2016. There we met Margaret Doyle, History Archivist. She told us about the College, WW1 and Hubert O’Connor. The College, founded by the Jesuits, opened to students in 1814. It is one of
Ireland’s oldest Catholic schools. Hubert, affectionately known as Hugh, started in Clongowes aged 11. His father, Dr. Charles, was the Medical Adviser to the College and also to the girl’s Collegiate College in Celbridge. By this time the family had grown. Hubert now had a younger sister Helen and two brothers Francis and Carl. Hugh was to study at Clongowes and become a vibrant part of its community during the next six years. His fellow students described him as popular, good at rugby and cricket and kind. The whole belief of the Jesuits was to educate a young boy into becoming ‘A Man for Others’. Looking at this boy’s younger life it is clear to see he was on the path to becoming just such a man. Headmaster, Fr. Tomkin wrote, ‘He imbued the school ethos that ‘the highest duty of a gentleman was in every circumstance of life to play the game’.

When Hugh was 15, an important meeting of 3,000 people took place in Celbridge. Patrick Pearse spoke, encouraging all present to learn how to speak the Irish language and urged them to support Irish industries. Dr. O’ Connor, Hugh’s father was elected vice president of the Celbridge Branch of the Gaelic League. Hugh must have been very proud of his Dad. We see that his sister went on to learn how to speak Irish. Did this influence him in joining the Volunteers?

Ms. Doyle told us that John Redmond was a student of Clongowes also. Did this man influence Hugh in future decisions? Like our local man Mr. Redmond went on to attend Trinity College. Mr. Redmond believed Ireland had a right to self-government. He thought that if Irish men joined the British army to fight for Catholic Belgium against the Germans, then when the war was over we would gain Home Rule. Hugh enrolled in Trinity College
when he was seventeen and studied to become a Barrister. He then became part of the Leinster Circuit. Like Mr. Redmond he was interested in politics. Hubert Michael O’Connor contested the East Limerick election in 1910, aged 23 as an Independent Nationalist. He was unsuccessful.

The Irish Volunteers were founded in 1913 in answer to the Ulster Volunteer Force. The U.V.F. did not want Home Rule which John Redmond managed to get passed in the House of Commons in 1912. Hugh was a leading member of the Volunteers in Celbridge which numbered about 200 men. He took part in the Howth gun run and the Kilcoole gun run. About twenty-five rifles and ammunition were taken to Celbridge. The Celbridge Volunteers paraded at Bodenstown where Pearse made his famous address.

With the outbreak of war, Hugh decided to follow the urgings of John Redmond to join up and fight with the hope of gaining Home Rule. The Volunteers were split with the bulk going ‘Redmondite’. Hugh, who was responsible for the rifles and ammunition handed these over to Art O’Connor, who lived in Elm Hall, Celbridge. Hugh enlisted through Trinity College with the Officers Training Corps. The provost of Trinity said he was of fine moral character. He joined the King’s Light Shropshire Infantry, 6th Battalion in Sept. 1914 and was made Captain in 1915. The men were to fight alongside the 60th Division and landed in Boulogne on 22nd July 1915. They served entirely on the western Front. Celbridge had 200 men fighting at the front in 1915 which was a considerably large
part of the male population.

Life at the front consisted of trenches, wire defences and mined dugouts. Conditions never witnessed before existed here. The smells, the mud and the lice made life very difficult. A new type of warfare called ‘siege warfare’ was used. This meant bombard the
enemy trenches first, then charge ‘over the top’. Success was counted in gains of yards rather than miles. In July 1916, at the start of the battle of the Somme, Hugh trained and led a successful raid into the enemy’s trenches. This would have been a terrifying ordeal with hand to hand combat. After the withdrawal he went out into no-man’s-land under heavy gunfire to bring in wounded men. For this gallant action he was awarded the MC for conspicuous bravery. This was written about in the Supplement to The London Gazette, 19th of Augugust 1916. This remarkable action shows his loyalty to his men.

The following year saw Hugh involved with his 6th Battalion in what was to become a slaughter of almost half a million men. This was ‘The Third Battle of Ypres’ or Passchendaele. Conditions led soldiers to call this ‘Hell on earth’. The battle of Langemark
took place on the 16th and 17th of Aug. 1917. It was the second in a list of eight battles. Two days before, the rain poured down for hours. The whole area was a quagmire of mud and broken trees. Corpses lay scattered in the thick Flanders mud. Conditions were so bad that horses and men simply disappeared into water filled craters. On the morning of the 16th fog and battle smoke filled the air and made it hard to see the German troops. Fighting would be
fierce. The 6th Batt. were to attack the village from the right. Hugh, according to his Colonel was in good spirits urging his men forward. They gained their objective and Hugh was organising his men when he was shot in the groin. As he was being carried back to the rear on a stretcher he was hit on the leg. All he wanted to know was how his officers and men were doing. The next day he received the Last Sacraments and died of his wounds. His Col. said he was not in much pain and died peacefully. In his belongings was his pipe cleaner so we know he smoked. He had a rosary, crucifixes and medallions so he must have been religious. He left £157 to his mother and £4 to his soldier servant Pte. Cornelius. He is buried in Dozinghem Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium.
At the start of this essay we asked was Hubert O’Connor ‘A Man for Others’? We believe everything about him shows he was. Playing cricket and rugby in Clongowes, dragging in wounded men from the battle-field, checking were his men all right even as he was dying and finally thinking of his servant in his will are proof of this.
His death had an impact on his family and we are told ‘It would be an exceptionally heavy blow’ for his father. His friends would not forget him. His name is on the Roll of Honour in Trinity, in Clongowes and in the Four Courts. However Ireland was a changed
country after the war and its people were too busy fighting for Independence to mourn such vast numbers of dead. In time he was forgotten among the 310,000 casualties of Ypres. The search for his past was like looking for a needle in a haystack, but we have told his story and will remember him.

“So here while the mad guns curse overhead and tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor
Know that we fools now with the foolish dead
Died not for flag, nor King nor Emperor But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed
And for the secret scripture of the poor.”
By Tom Kettle 1880-1916,
(fellow Volunteer, Barrister and Redmondite).



Primary Sources:
The Clongownian, 1917 and 1918.
The Kildare Observer,1902.
The London Gazette, Aug. 1916.
Bureau of Military History 1913-21. File S-182.
Census of Ireland 1901 and 1911.
Military Award Records of H.M.O’Connor, Kew, England.
Secondary Sources:
On The One Road, James Durney, Leinster Leader, 2001.
Wigs and Guns, Anthony P. Quinn, Four Courts Press, 2006.

20th Century Celbridge Memories of Celbridge People of Celbridge Scoil na Mainistreach

The Dublin Lockout: Its effect on Leixlip and the surrounding area.



In this essay, we will learn more about the past; what living conditions were like at the time and what effect the huge event of the Lockout of 1913-14 had on Co. Kildare. We are interested in History and chose our topic because it is the 100th anniversary this year of the 1913 Dublin Lockout.  Our studies will show us our mistakes in the past, so we can learn from them. As President Michael D. Higgins said, ‘knowledge of history is intrinsic to citizenship’, in other words, if we do not learn from history, it will repeat itself.


Conditions in early 20th century Ireland.

In the first twenty years of the twentieth century, Dublin was a brutal place to be if you were poor or if you were an unskilled worker on a low wage. The city was populated by many thousands of factory workers, without qualifications, who were competing against each other every day for employment.The owners of the factories were very rich and in the last years of the nineteenth century, Irish workers had nobody to defend or look after them.   The conditions many working class people were living in were atrocious. According to a report made to the House of Commons Parliament in London in 1913, about 135,000 people lived in Dublin tenements in areas called ‘slums’.

Children from Summerhill Slums circa 1913

A witness in this report said that she ‘had never seen in London the utter poverty that was in Dublin.’ The 1911 census shows us that infant deaths in Dublin for the years 1901-05 were the highest death rates for babies in Europe. On average, 160 babies died out of every 1,000 that were born in Dublin, compared to London’s 140 out of every 1,000. The tenements were usually large houses in which up to twelve families lived. There was no running water, no electricity and you would have to go outside to a toilet which many of other people in your building used. People living here, in Dublin tenements, were more likely to die or get a serious illness than those living in England or Scotland. T.B. – tuberculosis was everywhere and killed 12,000 people every year in Ireland.

The factory workers finally found a man willing to fight for better hours for them, better conditions for them to work in and fair wages. His name was Jim Larkin. He started organising workers into unions. His union was called the I.T.G.W.U. which means the ‘Irish Transport and General Workers Union’ and it started in 1909.His slogan was, ‘A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.’ James Connolly, who was born in Scotland of Irish parents, returned to Ireland in 1911 and became a leader in the trade union movement with Jim Larkin. James Connolly also founded the Irish Citizens Army. This group was formed, and armed to protect the workers.

The main employer who stood against the trade unions was a man called William Martin Murphy. He owned the Irish Independent and Evening Herald newspapers, the Tramway Company and The Imperial Hotel.

The Dublin Lockout

In 1913, William Murphy called a meeting with other employers and an agreement was made that if a worker joined the union he would be sacked. Trouble between Murphy and the ITGWU began in the summer of 1913. He refused to hire members of the ITGWU in July


and forbade staff in the Tramways Company from joining the union. On August 21st Murphy sacked about 100 workers. This was a direct challenge to the ITGWU. Larkin, with the support of his other directors, started a total withdrawal of workers from their employment on 26th August which was the day of the Dublin Horse Show. From August 1913, workers were ‘locked out’ from their jobs. The factory owners employed non union men and women who broke the picket lines. During the lockout, it often became violent between police and strikers and a number of people were killed. The lockout and its effectspread and reachedour locality of Celbridge, Maynooth, Lucan and Leixlip.

The Lockout spreads to our area

Of all the small villages mentioned above, Leixlip in the early 20th century had the most factories with two mills. The large paper mill in Celbridge closed in 1906 leaving many people unemployed. Many of these millworkers travelled to Leixlip to work in the mills there. Tony Maher, a local historian who was born and reared in Leixlip spoke at lengthto our history group in November 2013 about the effect of the lockout on the workers of Wookeys Mill in Leixlip. His own Grandfather Edward Maher, who owned a general store in the Main Street, would also find himself in dire straits due to the effect of the strikes at the local mill.

Frederick Wookey was the founder and owner of Wookey’s Flock and Linen Mill. The Wookeys were a wealthy family. The rag and bone man would go from place to place collecting old clothes for a couple of pence or a toy and then would sell the clothing to


Wookey’s Mill. Blades were used in the Mill to tear the cotton up into ‘flock’ that was used to stuff mattresses. Workers worked from 6am to 6pm each Monday to Friday with three quarters of an hour break for lunch. The workers also worked on Saturdays from 6am to

2pm. Boys and girls aged 14-16 were paid 3 to 5 shillings per week; women, 4-7 shillings and men 12-16 shillings per week.


Edward Maher outside his Leixlip shop circa 1914

One Sunday, in August 1913, Mr. Wookey was walking past the Mall in Leixlip when he saw one of his workers wearing the red hand badge of the I.T.G.W.on his jacket. He ordered the man to remove the badge or he ‘would let him go.’  The worker replied that he would not wear the badge to work but as it was a Sunday he would not remove it.

The following day, the same man walked out of the Mill along with thirty five other men who refused to leave the union. Mr. Wookey then told twelve women employees, who were not in any union, that he would have no more work for them if they could not persuade the men to leave the I.T.G.W.U. This was a form of blackmail.At this time, in Leixlip, there were two tenements and the people there used to bring their waste down to the Liffey in metal buckets, in the evenings. They were very poor. According to Tony Maher, parents would not allow their children to swim in the Liffey at Leixlip in case they would get ill with gastroenteritis.People who lost their jobs at the Mill would have been evicted from the tenements.  T.B. was in the area and Peamount Sanitorium had opened in 1912. No one wanted the hospital in the area and a mob tried to pull down the scaffolding. The problems with workers at Wookey’s Mill continued. On December 6, The Kildare Observer reported that a number of men and women living in Celbridge and working at Wookeys’ Mill had to be escorted to and from their work by the Celbridge and Leixlip police.

Wookey’s Mill in Leixlip circa 1900

When Frederick Wookey sacked the union men at Leixlip, it had an effect on Tony Maher’s Grandfather Edward and his small shop in Leixlip. The men from the mill were out of work and had no money. Their women went to Edward’s grocery shop and were given credit. Mr. Maher gave them food on credit and they promised to give him the money when they were able.

More and more people were asking for credit as they were in debt. Many poor people could not pay their bill at Edward Maher’s and so the shop went out of business. This was a result  of the Lockout and its effect on Leixlip. The lockout started on the 26th August and ended on the 18th January 1914.  In early January 1914, nearly a thousand dockers went back to work. These members of the union had no money and needed food. This began the end of the lockout. Two days later about 3,000 men signed a document promising never to rejoin the union. In Leixlip eighteen men returned to work at Wookey’s Mill. Some men remained loyal to the union and Frederick Wookey said in the Irish Times that he had no work for them. Immediately after the lockout ended, it looked like the employers had won the battle. The ITGWU may have lost this battle but their ideas and hopes of better conditions for workers passed throughout Ireland.  In the long run, the Union really won the battle because Larkin’s idea of unions became popular across Ireland and gradually, more and more unions started to form


One of the main effects of the Lockout was that it raised awareness of the need to change housing conditions in Dublin. A civic exhibition was held in July 1914. One of the most important things to be discussed was a section on town planning and a competition for a ‘Dublin Development Scheme’. The huge sacrifice of the workers who went on strike finally began to pay off. More attention was now being paid to improving housing, health and sanitary conditions.

While doing this essay we learned many things. Ireland is a much richer country now than it was back then with thousands of people living in tenements. During the time of the lockout TB was spreading like wildfire through these tenements with people living so close to each other. With the help of Peamount Hospital, conditions were getting better and the Government began to take a positive interest in the welfare of the Irish people.

We did not know much about the 1913 Lockout before we started. With the coming of World War One and then World War Two, parts of Irish History, like the Lockout, can become forgotten. This was a huge event because of the amount of people that lost their jobs and the families that suffered.

It is amazing to think that at the very time we are writing this essay one hundred years ago the Lockout was in action! Now that we have studied about this period in the history of Ireland we hope that as a nation we have learned from our mistakes and this episode of history will not repeat itself.


Written by: Scoil na Mainistreach History Squad.


Primary Sources.


Census of  Ireland 1911.


The Kildare Observer 1913.

The Irish Times Feb. 1914.

Parliamentary Papers.

 1913 [Cd 6 909] 42th annual report the local Government Board 1912-1913 H.C. containing a second report on infant and child mortality by the medical officer.

Visual and Oral

Transcript of interview with Mr. Tony Maher. November 2013

Transcript of  interview with Mrs. Ellen Rubotham. January 2014.

Internet Sources

  • Kildare Online Electronic History Journal: Lockout 1913. The effect of the great lockout on Co. Kildare by James Durney




  • Shackleton Mills/1913 Dublin Lockout




  • Dublin Lockout facts for kids


Secondary Sources


The Irish TimesWednesday,September 11, 2013. ‘Locked Out ’.


Abbott, Maureen. The Story of Celbridge Mill 1712-2010 (Celbridge Community Centre 2010).

Cody, Seamus, O’Dowd, John, and Rigney, Peter. The Parliament of Labour, 100 years of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (Dublin, 1986).

Doohan, Tony.A History of Celbridge(Celbridge, 1984).

Lyons, F.S. Ireland since the Famine ( London,1977).

Monaghan, Lucy. Welcome to Celbridge, Historic Town (Celbridge, 2003).

Morrison, George. Revolutionary Ireland, a photographic record (Dublin,2013).

Yeates, Pádraig. Lockout Dublin 1913(Dublin,2000).

Army Castletown Memories of Celbridge Military History People of Celbridge Scoil na Mainistreach

Celbridge Roll of Honour

Celbridge Roll of Honour

By Scoil na Mainistreach History Squad.

We decided to base our essay on the men from Celbridge who fought in the Great War. We started by looking at the list of 29 known dead compiled by historian Fionnuala Walshe. (1) We also looked at the Roll of Honour in Christ Church, Celbridge.

We then began to look for some of these men on the Census, in the Kildare Observer archive and on our old roll books. We were amazed to find ten of the dead in our roll books! This then lead us to ask more questions. How many men from Celbridge actually fought? Had many families sent more than one man? What backgrounds did they have? What made them go in the first place? We decided to compile our own Roll of Honour. We also wanted to find out as much about these men as we could and make sure they were not forgotten.

This is the story of our Celbridge Roll of Honour.


Recruitment in Celbridge

According to newspaper reports, between 200 and 290 men from Celbridge went to fight in World War 1.(2)

They fought for many different reasons. We saw from the census that many of the men were labourers and we thought they went to earn money; this was called taking The King’s Shilling. Many hoped they would be rewarded with Home Rule. Maybe some went because their friends were going and it would be an adventure which would be over by Christmas! Politicians were encouraging them to go and there was a big recruitment campaign (3)

Many enlisted because they were loyal to the U.K. Colonel Claude Cane said:

“Celbridge, I am proud to say, has as good a record as any place of its size in the Kingdom.” (4)


The Dease Family was a wealthy, powerful, Catholic family. Sir Gerald Dease was Chamberlain to the Lord Lieutenant. He was married to Emily Dease (Throckmorton). We think he was a kind and caring man. Once he had a party to celebrate his son William’s marriage. Gerald invited everyone in Celbridge rich or poor it did not matter.

The family was respected around the small village of Celbridge. There is a cross outside the Celbridge church which remembers his death.  Emily and Gerald lived in Celbridge Abbey. When Gerald died she then moved in with her son William to The Cottage, Celbridge. The cottage was more like a mansion than a cottage! She died on the 2/12/1929 aged 87. (5)

We became very interested in Gerald and Emily’s son William Dease. We discovered many Celbridge men followed Major Dease to War. He married  Gertrude Lascelles.(6) Gertrude wrote a letter, in 1915, to The Irish Times and told them that 87 men from Celbridge had enlisted as remounts following her husband Major William Dease.  

She told them that the men, who were promised money to support mothers and smaller brothers or sisters, weren’t getting anything like they expected and on some occasions even nothing! She also said that it was very tough for the families to live with their sons gone fighting in the war. (7)


We thought it was amazing that 87 men from the tiny village of Celbridge had followed Major Dease! We wondered was it loyalty to the Dease family that made them go. When reading the letter we thought Gertrude felt responsible for the men.

Maybe they were impressed by William’s cousin Maurice Dease who was the first person ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WW1. (8)

William’s brother Arthur Joseph Dease was born in Celbridge in 1871. He was a volunteer ambulance driver and awarded a French Croix de Guerre in 1918. Arthur’s Letters is a website that has letters Arthur sent to his Mother during the war.  These letters tell us a lot about life in the war and also how the men felt about fighting.


We noticed that Arthur didn’t really like the Home Rule idea!

He also mentioned multiple times that he was going to meet his brother William in Boulogne. Boulogne was where the Remounts were based. There was also a letter written by Arthur which in summary says that William got a kick in the face by a mule!


The Remounts worked with horses in World War l. They groomed them, they fed them and they selected and trained the horses. (10)

We felt Celbridge lads would be ideal for the Remounts because Kildare is renowned for its horses and horsemen.


 Family Sacrifice


We discovered many other local families who suffered greatly. Three brothers Edward, Patrick and Thomas Dempsey went to the Great War and none of them came back alive. The Dempseys were a very poor family from Long Lane.

Census records indicate their father Edward could not read or write and neither could his wife Ellen. There were 10 children in the family originally but only 8 survived by 1911. The brothers may have enlisted because they thought their mother would have got the allowances. They were farm labourers and able to read and write.(12)



The Dempsey lads went to our school. We found them on our old roll books.



Local historian Georgie Bagnall got in touch with the descendents of the Dempsey family and showed us photos, letters, documents and cards belonging to the men.





The letter is sad because Edward is explaining to his Mam that he couldn’t find out where his brother Thomas was.




Here we see Edward’s family looking for the money owed after his death.

 O’Connor Family

Captain Hubert O’Connor went to fight in the Great War, he also had a brother, Frank, who was in the Belgian army service and a sister who was a Red Cross Nurse.

His family were obviously quite wealthy as he entered Trinity to study law. If he had pursued the profession of law he would have made his mark. He was later associated with the National Volunteers, and probably thought that loyalty would result in Home Rule. He was made an Officer in the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He was awarded a Military cross for Bravery in the Field. He was then promoted Captain and was on leave at home. He went back and shortly after died in action in Ypres (15)


  Coincidental meeting of Celbridge Men

An article entitled “A Soldier Family” was published in the Kildare Observer. It said Thomas Connell was injured from shrapnel wounds on his body. He was treated in a hospital in Paris and was treated by Frank O’Connor brother of Captain Hubert O’Connor.(17)

5 or 6 Connell brothers from Celbridge fought! Their father worked in  Celbridge Mill.



Another article tells Sergeant Richard Connell’s thrilling experience in the trenches


 The Magan Family.

The Magans were a Protestant family who lived in Castletown.

They were an educated family, they could all read and write. The dad, William could also speak Irish and English.(20)

They were working for Major Connolly of Castletown. Frederick was Major Connolly’s groom. He joined the army and was assigned to the King’s Royal Irish Hussars as a private.(21)

His dad William and his brother Alfred also fought in the Great War. His brother, George, for some reason did not enlist. George was an amazing athlete. He was a famous GAA star and played in the all Ireland final for Kildare and they won! He later went on to be a Garda. We thought this was unusual considering his background.(22)

Frederick died in training and had a huge Military funeral in Celbridge.

His remains were brought from Dublin on a gun carriage covered with a Union Jack. The service was held in Christchurch then his remains were placed back on the gun carriage and brought to Donaghcumper and still lies there today. (23)


We came across the sad story of the Buckleys, their mother lost two sons and was left penniless and blind.


The Abels sent 3 brothers John, William and George. John served in the R.A.M.C (Royal Army Medical Corps). William served in the R.W.F (Royal Welsh Fusiliers), George served in the R.M.F (Royal Munster Fusiliers). Their Dad was a grocer in Main Street. William was killed 13/11/1916 and George 22/3/18 aged 19. (25)

An Irish Airman

Charles Sheridan was born in Celbridge on 18th/1/ 1900, one of 12 children. We found his brothers on our roll book. His father was a cobbler. They lived at 35 Main Street but later on they moved to Drumcondra. (27) On the 14/7/18 he enlisted in the RFC and he worked as an Air Mechanic until the end of the war. He reenlisted on 17/2/19. He worked as an experimental pilot in Mendlesham Health Airfield. On the 16/8/1921 his aircraft crashed killing him and the pilot instantly. Charles is buried in Tea Lane Graveyard, walking distance from our school. Charles got a military funeral because he was in the air force and people who died before 1921 and who were in the First World War got a military burial (28)

We noticed that a huge slab was covering his grave. We wondered if his family were afraid that people who opposed British rule would interfere with his grave.

 Christ Church

Christ Church (Church of Ireland) is just inside the gates of Castletown. It has a handwritten and a printed Roll of Honour of all the men from that parish that fought in the Great War.  It also has a stone Celtic cross remembering those who died. The names range from ordinary working men like the Abels and  Magans, to  some of the richest like Maurice Cane of Wolstans. The Reverend of Christchurch at the time was J.W. Crozier. He himself went as the chaplain of the 10th Irish Division and fortunately survived. (29)

John Shaw’s grandsons still live in Celbridge. They let us see John’s medals and buttons and hat-badge. We could tell from the Star medal John was a Gunner in the R.G.A. 1914-1915. He also had a compass ring, we’d never seen one before! We discovered that John played for Meath in The Croke Cup! His grandsons are very involved in Celbridge GAA.

 The Big Houses were well represented by their owners and staff. We wrote about Major Conolly and his groom earlier

Wolstan’s was owned by Colonel Claude Cane .When the war started, being a veteran, he wanted to join up. Sadly, he couldn’t as he was too old.(30)

His son Maurice was born in 1882. He went to Eton and Oxfo

rd. Nowadays the Royals would go to Eton! This shows how rich his family were. His family also owned all the land around St. Wolstan’s and the massive house itself. He enlisted in the Canadian Naval Volunteers and then his Father’s old regiment.

Maurice was a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed firing a machine gun in Flanders 1917. He was married and had one child.(31) There is a beautiful stained glass window in the church in Castletown dedicated to him, paid for by his father.


According to our research we think that Maurice Cane went to war not for the money but because he was part of a military family. We think that the family were loyal to the Crown and wanted to help them in any way possible.

We noticed that Hubert. J O’Connor was also killed in the 3rd battle of Ypres within a week of Maurice Cane, we wondered if they were friends.

The third battle of Ypres took place in 1917. It was known as Passchendale. It began with huge guns shelling German lines. Over 4 and a half million shells were fired. After 2 weeks the shelling stopped and the Allies moved in on the 31st July. The Germans soon counter-attacked. Shells and machine guns were fired at them. To make it worse it started raining. The battle lasted 10 weeks! In November the Allies finally controlled Ypres. (32)

Killadoon is owned by the Clements family. There were two representatives from the family, Henry T.W. and Henry Theophilus. Henry served in India and on the Western Front. He got frostbite and a wounded leg and finished the war as a Colonel. His son Henry Theophilus saw action in France and again in World War 2. They fought with the Royal Field Artillery.(33) The Clements family still live in Killadoon to this day.


Pickering was owned by Lt. Brooke who died Oct. 7th 1914 from wounds while fighting for the Expeditionary Forces. (34)


Richard Maunsell

During our field trip we went to Oakley Park where Richard Maunsell lived. He went to Trinity College and became a barrister.

He enlisted in 1915 as a lieutenant in Kitchener’s Army and in 1917 was awarded an OBE. (35)

His wife Molly was a cousin of William Orpen who was an Official War Artist.





 Donaghcumper was owned by the Kirkpatrick’s, a very wealthy family. Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick  was born  3/2/ 1897 He left school to enlist and was a lieutenant in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He got very badly wounded. He was awarded a Belgian Croix De Guerre He was a Spymaster later in the war and became a high ranking diplomat. We thought he really looked like a spy! We visited his family grave; they were all in the military some way. He died in Celbridge in 1964 and is buried in Donaghcumper.(37)

We were amazed that so many people had joined up from a small village with a population of around 1500. We were also amazed that so many families sent more than one man. We feel like we got to know these men and their families. These men came from different backgrounds rich to poor, Catholic to Protestant and Private to Colonel. We found it a lot easier to find information about the rich and powerful than the poor. We think poorer people went for the money and richer people for political reasons. We hope that this essay and our Roll of Honour will help us remember all the men from Celbridge who fought in The Great War.


















Bibliography and References

  1. The impact of the First World War on Celbridge.
  2. Irish Times Monday 9th of August 1915.
  3. Trinity collection WW1 Recruitment posters.
  4. Kildare Observer 18/9/1915.
  5. Kildare Observer 14/12/1929 .
  6. Kildare Observer 11/9/1897.
  7. Irish Times June 4th 1915 – letters.
  9. com.
  10. The story of the First World War for Children.
  11. Leinster Leader 23/10/1915.
  12. Census of Ireland
  13. Our Celbridge Roll of Honour– compiled from, Christchurch Roll of Honour, Kildare Observer and local knowledge
  14. Register of Abbey Male National School 1873-1905.
  16. War Notes Kildare Observer 7/11/1914.
  17. Kildare Observer December 5th
  18. Kildare Observer October 17th
  19. Kildare Observer March 22nd
  20. Census of Ireland
  21. ie.


  1. Kildare Observer March 13th 1915
  2. Kildare Observer April 6th
  3. ie.
  4. An Irish Airman Foresees his Death WB YEATS
  5. Census 1901
  6. Charles James Sheridan 276580 Royal Air Force 1900 – 1921 Seamus Cummins.
  7. Irish Times 25/3/1915.
  8. War Notes Kildare Observer.
  9. Kildare Observer 18/5/1917.
  10. The story of the First World War for Children.
  11. com
  13. com


  1. The Thinker – On the Butte de Warlencourt by Sir William Orpen
  2. New York Times May 26 1964
  3. Joining the Colours Katherine Tynan


We would like to thank Local Historians Jim Tancred, Georgie Bagnall , James Durney , and Breda Konstantin for all their help. We are also very grateful to Reverend Stephen Neill and John Lougheed for allowing us visit and learn about Christchurch, Celbridge.





































Army Civil War Leixlip Military History People of Celbridge Scoil na Mainistreach

Military Manoeuvres: The Forgotten Battle of Pike’s Bridge 1922.


This picture shows children playing soldiers in Leixlip village.[1] Not so many years later and within walking distance a real battle took place with very tragic results. There were many lives lost including a past pupil from our school Anthony O’ Reilly, who was not much more than a boy .We will tell you about daring plans, failed ambushes, violent battle and terrible consequences. This is the story of the forgotten Battle of Pike’s Bridge.

Setting the scene

The War of Independence began in 1919. The Irish used surprise attacks on British forces in Ireland, this type of warfare was called ‘guerrilla warfare’. In response the British sent over soldiers known as the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries. The most violent day was 21st November when in retaliation for the execution of British spies and Auxiliaries, the Black and Tans fired on the crowd in Croke Park killing 14 people. In July 1921 a truce was called. In October 1921 a group, including Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, went to London to negotiate a treaty. A treaty was signed forming  an Irish Free State made up of 26 counties. Ireland would have its own army, flag and currency but would remain part of the British Empire. TDs would also have to swear allegiance to the British King.

In 1922 a Civil War began between people who supported the Treaty, led by Michael Collins and those who opposed it led by Eamon De Valera. The events in our essay took place in the  villages of Leixlip and Celbridge during this Civil War.[2]

Mayhem in Kildare

The anti-treaty column in our area was led by Patrick Mullaney, a National School teacher in Leixlip.  The day after the Civil War began, Mullaney was arrested and imprisoned in the Curragh. He escaped in August and took command of several brigades in the Meath and Kildare areas.[3]

Mullaney and his men blew up railway lines, bridges and cut telegraph wires so that messages couldn’t pass through. Of course they needed funding to get guns so they got it from sympathisers, collections, and holdups.  They robbed  post offices, mail vans and even shops. They burnt signal cabins in Leixlip, attacked Lucan Barracks, and cut telephone wires. They actually attacked and damaged bridges that they would have used themselves- Celbridge and Louisa Bridge. They attacked Celbridge Workhouse and  later set it on fire. They robbed a postman of his stamps and money.[4]  They left a trail of destruction throughout Kildare.

Baldonnel Aerodrome

Baldonnel was an Irish Free State Army base which held aeroplanes, cars and ammunition. It was a big target for the anti-treaty side. Mullaney had a heroic plan to take over Baldonnel, steal some planes and bomb Leinster House. He had about 30 Free State soldiers from Baldonnel working with him.  According to local historian Jim Doyle, our past pupil Anthony O’Reilly played an important role in this plan, joining the Free State Army to go undercover to see what was going on.  It was planned to get help from Kildare, Meath and Dublin but this did not happen

“One hundred men were promised from the Dublin Brigade but only twenty turned up” [5]

Eamon De Valera and Todd Andrews

It was called off by Dublin Brigade officer Todd Andrews. It was also called off a second time by Andrews. The plan for the third attempt was to steal arms and vehicles and bomb Beggars Bush barracks. Anthony O’Reilly was ready to open the gate to let them in and two pilots were ready to steal two planes but the reinforcements from Dublin didn’t arrive so yet again Todd Andrews called it off…. Again!!  Mullaney was furious and so was O’Reilly.

On the night of the third attempt some of the guards at Baldonnel deserted to Mullaney’s column and Mullaney cried when Andrews called it off” [6]

On his way out O’Reilly stole a Lewis machine gun. [ 7]

Celbridge Men

Five of the men in Mullaney’s column were from Celbridge. They were Thomas Cardwell, John Dempsey, Thomas Kealy, Charles O’ Connor and Anthony O’ Reilly. We found their details in the 1911 census and also in old roll books from our school.

Anthony O’ Reilly was the only one of these men executed and we wanted to learn more about him. Local historian Jim Doyle has done extensive research on O’ Reilly and he came to speak to us.

Anthony O’Reilly was born on 13th June 1902. He was born in Celbridge Workhouse. His mother’s name was Bridget O’Reilly. He had a twin sister Julia Mary who died aged one due to convulsions. [8]

He was fostered by the Mullins family.[9]

He went to the Abbey National School in 1911. We can see from the roll he had regular attendance which could mean good health. The confirmation name he chose was Desmond.[10][ 11]

According to Jim Doyle, local oral accounts tell us that Anthony lived with his mother as he grew older and his nickname was the “County Boy”.

Anthony joined the IRA in his teens and was in a column led by Mullaney during the War of Independence

The Military archives provided this information:

Private Anthony O’Reilly
Service number: VR16188
Enlisted: 4th April 1922
Unit: 3rd Infantry Battalion

Previous old IRA service: member of B Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Meath Brigade.[ 12 ]


Battle of Pike’s Bridge

On the 1st December 1922 Mulanney’s column stole a car  and took over Grangewilliam House. They positioned themselves in the nearby Graveyard , as it was a good vantage point to see  Pike’s Bridge, the road, canal and railway .Meanwhile a Free State army lorry carrying supplies from Lucan to Maynooth broke down on the road leading to Pike’s Bridge. While trying to fix the truck, they came under heavy fire from Mullaney’s column. The soldiers ran towards the canal seeking cover. They then found themselves being fired at by a Thompson gun and they ran over the bridge. Mullaney’s column seeing this, hopped in the stolen car to ambush them. Two of the men from the lorry were forced to surrender, while the other soldier got away.[14]

“We took the best cover we could get… I then saw armed men with rifles. I and two of my companions were surrounded. One of us escaped. I and my companion Sergeant Montgomery were made prisoners” [15]

Some reports of this battle claim that the shooting came from between the graveyard and the house itself but after our trip to the Grangewilliam we found that it would be practically impossible for that to have happened as it was too far away.

The soldiers were brought to Grangewilliam  and were held there. They were offered food. Meanwhile, the soldier that got away ran to Maynooth barracks and met up with Commandant Ledwith. Ledwith sent for reinforcements from Portobello,                                                           Naas, Trim and Lucan.

At around 13:45 Ledwith, with 12 soldiers he had encountered on the Dublin Train, headed towards Grangewilliam.

They reached Grangewilliam and were immediately put under heavy fire. Two men were separated from the group and one of them, Private Joseph Moran, was shot dead. An hour later reinforcements arrived and surrounded Grangewilliam. Mullaney was forced to flee towards Ballygoran where at around 16:00 they eventually surrendered. [16]


It was like a chapter from a Red Indian novel. We crept along under cover until we suddenly saw about twenty men, three of them in uniform…We hesitated…they opened fire…We replied of course and it was all over inside ten minutes.[17]


The column was captured, including Anthony O’Reilly. They all knew their upcoming fate.  Arms and ammunition including 21 rifles, a Lewis machine gun, a Thompson submachine gun and  revolvers were recovered.


Lewis Machinegun as captured during the battle.

Executions and Jail

On 27th September 1922, the Provisional Government granted itself emergency powers so that any person charged with taking up arms against the state or even possessing arms without permission could be tried in a military court and face the death penalty.[19]


Corporal Leo Dowling, Corporal Sylvester Heaney, Private Anthony O’Reilly, Private Lawrence Sheehy and Private Terence Brady were sentenced to death for:

“Treachery on the 1st December 1922 in that they at Leixlip assisted certain armed persons in using force against the National troops.”


This was the first time men from the National Army were executed for deserting  and was  a warning to other men.

 The men were executed on 9th January 1923 by firing squad. They were buried in Kilmainham Gaol.[20]

The rest of the column escaped execution and were released in 1924. Mullaney was fired from his school but the parents organised a strike in protest and he got his job back. He later returned to Mayo.[21]

Graffiti from Kilmainham Jail
Anti-Treaty document commemorating the members lost as a result of the Battle.


Meanwhile around the world

Around this time, many interesting things were happening. We noticed alongside reports on the Leixlip Battle in The Irish Times of December 1922 there was a story about Howard Carter discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt. We thought it was strange that we all knew so much about that and so little about events that took place on our doorstep!


Many  World War II leaders were coming to power.

  • Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the  Communist Party.
  • Hitler  gave a speech to 50,000 national-socialists in Munich.
  • Mussolini  took control of Italy.


The strangest fact in 1922 was that the longest attack of hiccups begins: Charlie Osborne gets the hiccups and continues for 68 years, he dies 11 months after it stops. [25]

Cardwell Tragedy


Less than a week after Thomas Cardwell was arrested for his part in the battle, his family once again were indirectly victims of the Civil War. On 7th December 1922 in Celbridge,  Annie Cardwell  (18), was tragically shot by a lad named Patrick Brady. The incident took place in the Cardwell household when Annie and Patrick were messing around the house with a gun. You see, the Cardwell house was used as an arsenal so there would be some guns locked up and some lying around the house. [27]

“We were pointing the gun at each other and clicking. I put the rifle down behind the door of the room, and Annie and her brother went into the kitchen. When they came back I said I would give her a fright, and I took up the rifle and pointed it at her and it went off. I was thunderstruck when it went off. We were always on the best of terms, and there were no angry words or dispute between us prior to the rifle going off. I immediately went for the priest and doctor. No one regrets the incident as much as I do” [28]

Private Joseph Moran
Service number: VR14685
Enlisted: 4th August 1922 [29]

Joseph Moran was from Kilcock He was shot dead during the battle. He was fired on from  Grangewilliam house.

Moran was shot about an inch under the eye and the exit wound was found, large and jagged in the back of his neck. The bullet travelled in a downward, backward and outward direction.” [30]

His remains were sent to Kilcock on  3rd December  1922 by motor car for burial. [31]

Return of the Bodies

After the Civil War, De Valera put pressure on the government to exhume the bodies of the  executed men. On  31st October 1924  Anthony O’Reilly was buried in Donaghcomper, Celbridge, alongside the Mullin’s family who had fostered him as a child. About 3,000 people attended.[32]

This was a huge crowd for the burial of an orphan in a small village with poor transport links.

“Business was completely suspended in Celbridge, shops were shuttered and windows were  blinded during the period of the interment…. IRA forces were present under Commandant P. Mullaney….” [33]      

Voyage of Discovery

On  17th February 2017 our History Squad went on a field trip looking at locations that featured in our essay. Our first stop was the Workhouse where Anthony O’ Reilly was born. Next  was Louisa Bridge, blown up by the Leixlip Column. Then we looked at Lidl because one report said the ambushed troops   were brought to Walsh’s pub which was on that site.[34] Then we saw the canal and Pike’s Bridge where the battle took place.

We went under the bridge. We thought that it was amazing how little the scene had changed in nearly 100 years. Then we went to Grangewilliam House.

Pike Bridge, Leixlip

We went into the medieval graveyard in the grounds and we think that’s where the first shots were fired.

Our last stop was the graveyard in Celbridge. We found Anthony O Reilly’s grave and the Cardwell’s plot. It was great day and helped us to know where and how everything happened.


We  finish  with a painting called Allegory. It tells us about the Civil War and our story in symbols. We can see destruction, death, despair and disappointment. The Battle of Pike’s Bridge led to the loss of seven young lives. The total death count in The Civil War  has been estimated as 4,000 with  77 executed.[35] Almost a century later people are only beginning to talk about that era. The time has come to talk about all the Forgotten Battle. [36]

Bibliography and References

  1. Richard Moynan, Military Manoeuvers 1891
  2. Unlocking S.E.S.E- Folens
  3. Christopher Lee – A Damn Good Clean Fight
  4. Seamus Cummins – “A shout in the night” (IRA reports)
  5. James Dunne, BMH,WS1571
  6. James Dunne
  7. Jim Doyle – Local Historian
  8. Jim Doyle
  9. The National Archives of Ireland Census of Ireland 1911
  10. Jim Doyle
  11. Abbey National school – Register and roll
  12. Duty Archivist – Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barrack
  13. Irish Independent 2nd December 1922
  14. Christopher Lee
  15. Kildare Observer 16th December 1922 Pg.6
  16. Christopher Lee
  17. Irish Times 2nd December 1922 Pg.7
  18. Irish Times 2nd December 1922
  19. Cahir Davitt, BMH.WS1751, Pg. 32
  20. Irish Times 9th January 1923
  21. James Durney – The Civil War in Kildare (Mercier Press 2011) pg 108
  23. Anti Free State Army Pamphlet
  24. Irish Times 2nd December 1922 Pg.7
  26. The National Archives of Ireland Census Forms 1911
  27. Seamus Cummins
  28. Kildare Observer 16th December 1922 pg.5
  29. Duty Archivist
  30. Kildare Observer 16th December 1922 pg. 6
  31. Duty Archivist
  32. Domhnall ua Buachalla-Rebellious Nationalist, Reluctant Governor by Adhamhnán Ó Súilleabháin
  33. Leinster Leader November 1924
  34. Kildare Observer 16th December 1922 pg. 6
  36. Seán Keating -An Allegory- 1924- National Gallery of Ireland


  • We are very grateful to local historian Jim Doyle for his wonderful presentation to the History Squad on Anthony O’ Reilly.
  • We would also like to thank Anthony Rogers, owner of Grangewilliam House, for allowing us visit and explore his stud farm where most of the events took place in December 1922.




18th and 19th century Celbridge Castletown People of Celbridge Sport


The following article is transcribed from the Kildare Observer, 24 May 1902.


On Monday Prince Henry of Prussia brought his visit to the Marquis and Marchioness of Ormonde at Kilkenny castle to a close. He left Kilkenny by the 11.30 a.m. train, and journeyed by mail to Hazelhatch.  He was accompanied by the Hon. Gerald Cadogan, A. D. C., and Captain Egidy, A. D. C.

At Hazelhatch a Viceregal carriage, which had come down from Dublin early in the day, was in waiting, and Prince Henry on alighting was received by Colonel Sir Gerald Dease and Captain Walter Lindsay.  His Royal Highness and party then drove with Sir Gerald Dease to the latter gentleman’s handsome residence, Celbridge Abbey, and were entertained at luncheon.  After luncheon Prince Henry drove with his host and the Hon Gerald Cadogan across to the grounds of the County Kildare Polo Club in Castletown Demesne.  Here there was a considerable gathering in anticipation of a polo match between a team, for which Prince Henry was to play.  On the grounds of the polo club His Royal Highness was received by Colonel de Robeck, M. F. H., Captain Hall, secretary of the club, and several other members.  Shortly afterwards Her Excellency the Countess Cadogan, accompanied by the Countess of Rossmore, Mrs. Greet, and Miss Farquharson, arrived on the polo ground, having driven from the Viceregal Lodge in open carriages.  Greetings having been exchanged with Prince Henry, the latter joined the Viceregal team and engaged in a very interesting and spiritedly-contested game of polo.  The day was splendidly fine, and the magnificent demesne of Castletown looked exceptionally well.

Later in the afternoon the distinguished visitors were entertained at afternoon tea in Castletown House.

At the conclusion of the polo game Prince Henry drove back to the Viceregal Lodge, in company with the Countess Cadogan and party.

The Polo Match

The going was in the finest condition, the recent rain having a good effect on it. The ground is one of the finest in the Three Kingdoms, both from the extent and surroundings, and the rich woodland of Castletown demesne looked to the best advantage.  The day was splendidly fine, but a strong west wind made it somewhat inconvenient to the onlookers, of whom there was a large gathering of the gentry of the locality and surrounding districts.  Amongst those present were:- Sir Gerald Dease, Colonel Clements, and party; Colonel H. Gore Lindsay, Lady Kathleen Lindsay, Miss Kathleen Lindsay, Mrs. and Miss McNeill, Ballinstown; Miss Johnston, Roselawn; Miss Ponsonby, Ryeville; Mr. and Mrs. Howard, Mr. and Mrs. H. McNeill, Mr. Leycester Penrhyn, Mr. J. Whiteside Dane, Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher, Capt. and Mrs. Steeds, Mr. William, Mrs. and Miss McNeill, Miss Perry, Mr. R. and Miss Maunsell, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Rowley, Col. and Miss Parsons, Mr. Metcalf, Rev. Canon and Mrs. Graham, Misses Bellaney, Mr., Mrs. and Misses Hamilton, Major Hamilton, Capt. Keogh, Col. de Robeck, M. F. H.; Capt. Hall, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. de Burgh, Miss Zoe de Burgh, Miss Lindsay Fitzpatrick, Lady Olivia Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. H. F. Hardy, Mr. and Mrs. Cramer-Roberts, Mr. Maunsell, D.I., Mr. Crane C. I., R.I.C.; Madame Leonie, Miss Broe, Miss C. Broe, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, Mr. Cloonan, the Misses Fennell, etc.

Soon after 4 o’clock the teams lined out as follows:-

Viceregal Team:- Mr. Nash, Prince Henry, Captain Hall, Captain Walter Lindsay (back).


County Kildare:- Mr. Howard, Mr. E. Bellaney, Mr. Leycester Penrhyn, Col. de Robeck, (back).


The Viceregal team opened by getting possession, and had a short advantage, which was nullified by Mr. Howard aided by Colonel de Robeck.  The Kildares then got away to the Viceregal territory, but Prince Henry and Captain Lindsay relieved the pressure in front of the posts, knocking aside.  A lengthened scrimmage followed, and the Kildare team pressed hard, but were not driven off, and the first score went up to their credit.  The visitors again led the way, Captain Hall and Captain Lindsay being most prominent.  The Prince got an opening and made a good effort, but just missed sending through.  On the hit out the Kildares led with a fine gallop down to their antagonists’ quarters and after some light hitting on both sides the second goal was recorded for the home side.  The first bell went soon after.  Resuming on neutral ground, Kildare went away with a rush, and Mr. Penrhyn put on the next goal.  The home team played splendidly now.  Colonel de Robeck got away, but fast riding by the Prince pulled him up close on the lines, and hard riding down the field soon put the home side defending.  Colonel de Robeck, with a fine back stroke, gave relief for a moment, but the Viceregal team could not be got away, and after a fine drive by Prince Henry Captain Lindsay converted.  There was now a general interchange of play on both sides.  A run was made to the Kildare quarters, but some loose hitting brought play away, and the home team put on their fourth goal just at half-time.  The Viceregal now showed in the ascendant, Captain Lindsay doing effective hitting, but broke his stick at the critical point, when the press was relieved and play brought to the opposite quarter.  The onslaught was relieved, and the Viceregal team soon had their opponents defending, but a few good hits brought play to mid-field.  Here a fine rush was made by Kildare, but Prince Henry beat the attack off.  The Viceregal team now attacked, and had the ball over their antagonists’ line three times in succession.  From the hit out relief came, but they renewed the attack and put up the second goal to their credit just as the third interval arrived.  Resuming, the visitors led off, and were on the Kildare line, and Captain Lindsay made a fine rush, but not having a backer, the side lost a good opening.  The attack was continued from the near side quarter, Prince Henry making a good pass, which was taken by Captain Hall and the third goal recorded.  The visitors again led off, and hard playing on both sides followed.  Prince Henry hit a fine back-hander, and Captain Lindsay put up the next goal, and in less than a minute from changing over they put up the fifth goal, leaving the score equal.  Soon after the Viceregal side got away and scored their sixth goal.  They seemed now to have their own way, overriding the Kildares.  The ball was sent twice over the line close by the posts, and it was hard luck the visitors did not score again.  Mr. Nash had a lot to do in keeping off Colonel de Robeck.  The local team were held a long time defending, but they could not ward off the attack, and the seventh goal was scored.  The game soon afterwards ended with the visitors having the better of the argument in their opponents’ lines.


Viceregal………………7 goals

Co. Kildare…………….5 goals

Prince Henry rode ponies placed at his service by Captain Steeds.  He played remarkably well in the latter part of the match, showing great dash and strong driving powers.


From the archives Memories of Celbridge River Liffey Sport

Liffey Descent 1968

Liffey Descent International Canoe Race 1968

The liffey Descent is an annual international multi-discipline canoe race race that takes place on the River Liffey from the K-Club in Straffan, County Kildare to Islandbridge in Dublin. The race attracts paddlers from all over the world who come to take on the challenging 30+ kilometres course, which includes 10 weirs and 1 portage. The race has its roots in the 1960 Dublin Boat Show when paddlers came together to put on a demonstration. In the early years the race began in Celbridge. The below footage of the 1968 Liffey Descent is from the British Pathé archives.


Early Years Memories of Celbridge Sisters of the Holy Faith St. Brigid's Primary School St. Patrick's Convent

Sisters of the Holy Faith Celbridge: 1878 – 1978


Sisters of the Holy Faith Celbridge 1878 – 1978
St. Patrick’s Convent
St. Brigid’S Primary School







The following is transcribed from the Sisters of the Holy Faith centenary booklet published in 1978. Courtesy of the Sisters of the Holy Faith.



The centenary of the coming of the Sisters of the Holy Faith to Celbridge is an occasion for joy in the parish in which they have served with such dedication for the past one hundred years.  Coming at the invitation of Cardinal Cullen in 1878, their arrival heralded the beginning of a new era – an era of spiritual and educational development in Celbridge.


Due praise and appreciation must go to the role played by the many sisters who served in our community down the years.  The spirit of co-operation which has always existed between the Sisters of the Holy Faith and the people has assisted them in their endeavours to provide for the generation of boys and girls who passed through their hands.


For one hundred years they have lived among us – they are part of Celbridge life. By their work and example they have shown that what is essential for life in not knowledge alone but character, integrity, wisdom and courage.  They will help us in the future, as in the past, to meet the challenge of Christian living.


On behalf of all whom they serve and have served with such generosity, I am privileged to offer the Sisters of the Holy Faith in Celbridge or congratulations on their centenary, and our best wishes for the future years,

Mairead Byrne,

Chairman, Centenary Committee


Centenary Committee

Chairman: Miss Mairead Byrne

Hon. Secretary: Ms Bridie Maughan

Asst. Hon. Secretary: Miss Angela Tansey

Joint Hon. Treasurers: Mr. Gay Boylan, Mr. John McCormack

Committee: Father E. Kennedy, Mrs. E. Stanley, Mrs. U. Heffernan, Mrs. K. Walsh, Mrs, M. Coyle, Miss K. Boylan, Messrs. T. Molloy, M. Dunphy, P. Abbott, J. McGarry, D. O’Duffy, J. Murphy


Editor: Louise Darlington

Asst. Editor: Mairead Byrne



The Centenary Committee is indebted to all those who helped in the production of this magazine.  We are especially grateful to those who sent articles for publications; to our photographers; to those who lent photographs; and to our team of distributors.  A special word of thanks is extended to our advertisers who by their support have made this magazine possible.


The Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith – In the Beginning

By Sister M. Ailbe

The establishment of the religious congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith took place in the oratory of Glasnevin Convent.  The centenary of its canonical erection was celebrated in 1967, and this convent remains the mother house to the present day.

Sister Margaret Alyward, Foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Faith, 1810 – 1889.

Let the mind of Christ be in you

By your faith His will Discern,

Let His love inspire your actions

And His poor be your concern.

Margaret’s message in His name,

Spoken once remains the same.

However, today’s affluence is far removed from the poverty of that time – the second half of the nineteenth century – when the Irish people were poor, uneducated, and in danger of loosing the Catholic faith.  The need for such a congregation was very evident and a Waterford woman named Margaret Alyward, and a Vicentian priest – Father John Gowan – were the instruments God chose for the task.  Margaret’s heart was stirred to pity when she saw that the streets of Dublin were cluttered with orphans of the famine, with hapless widows, with the evicted and the destitute.


In 1851 she introduced the Ladies of Charity Association into Dublin, they helped to counteract “souperism” and proselytism.  Then in 1856 she formed St. Brigid’s Orphan Association to combat the sinister activities of other societies and this led to the foundation of St. Brigid’s Orphanage, which is still exclusively administered by the Sisters.  It was Margaret’s conviction that an orphan should grow up in the love of a family circle, so consequently they were not housed in a huge building but were placed, under inspection, in approved Catholic families. She was the pioneer of the boarded–out system which was later adopted, not only in Ireland, but also in England and elsewhere.


Meetings at the orphanage were used as a platform to plead for social reforms, and at that time it was quite astonishing to find a woman addressing a public meeting. Margaret’s sound knowledge of social principles, and her fearless application of them to the problems of poverty and unemployment, set a pattern for our modern welfare departments.  She opened a pawn-shop for the poor and a factory in Dublin, and her group of ladies helped her to supervise the work.  “We must help them to help themselves” was her slogan.


Ecumenism and the religious tolerance of today were non-existent in Margaret’s time, and it was through personal sufferings that she reached her goal.  An example of her concern and tenacity can be seen in just one case history:  A Catholic tradesman named Matthews went to London seeking employment, taking his wife and three children with him.  There his wife reverted to Protestantism and left her husband, taking with her the youngest child.  As he was in ill-health, Matthews brought the two eldest, Henry and Mary, back to Ireland, placing Henry in a boy’s home and Mary in St. Brigid’s Orphanage.  Mary was sent to the care of a nurse in the country.  Mrs. Matthews returned, kept watch and succeeded in snatching the boy, placing him in a Protestant orphanage.  A Catholic friend of the father, fearing for Mary’s safety, moved her with haste without consulting Miss Aylward.  Eventually, she was placed in a convent in Belgium, where she grew up and later became a sister.


Unfortunately, there was not such a happy ending to the case for Margaret Ayward.  Over the next two years she was summoned again and again to the Queen’s Bench (1858-1860) and ordered to produce the child, which she could not do, she was condemned to six months in a criminal prison, where her health suffered from the inhuman conditions and ill-treatment.  On St. Bridgid’s Day 1861, the Primate of Armagh, Dr. Dixon, called to see her I prison.  He presented her with a gift from his Holiness Pope Pius 1X who also sent his blessing on her efforts to help the poor and protect Catholic orphans.


The foundress realized that a priest must be commissioned to take over the work of shaping and training her religious community.  At the request of Cardinal Cullen and Archbishop Dixon, Father Gowan was appointed to the task.  Born in Skerries and ordained in Maynooth in 1840, his first curacy was in Glendalough where he witnessed the distress of his starving parishioners during the famine.  From Glendalough he entered the Congregation of the Missions – the Vincentians.  He travelled most of Ireland as a missionary, and had many opportunities of seeing children lost to the faith in the disorganisation that follow the failure of the potato crop.


In 1856 he met Mary Aylward and discovered in her “a lady of deep spirituality, a strong will, great prudence and an extraordinary power of doing good among the poor”.  He was her spiritual advisor and guide and later looked after her new congregation which was expanding rapidly, until his death in 1897.


The first St. Brigid’s School was opened in 1861 at No. 10 Crowe Street, off Dame Street, Dublin, and was followed by more school – primary, private, secondary and boarding.  It should be noted that no pecuniary aid was received until 1917for “national” (primary) schools.  In October 1878 the community at Celbridge was founded.  The Sisters of the Holy Faith maintain the apostolic spirit of their founders and carry on their work.


Margaret Aylward   adapted her methods to the circumstances of her age, first as a lay pioneer and then as a concentrated religious.  Her spiritual daughters adapt themselves to the requirements of the present day, both in their care of orphans and in accommodating themselves to the demands of modern education.  The congregation also has houses outside Ireland, in Trinidad, California, New Orleans, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia.

Sister M. Sennan with St. Patrick’s Church Choir, 1958.
“A place unsuitable for any good purpose”                                                                                                      

By Lena Boylan  

The following is a brief history of the properties and lands involved in the foundation of the Holy Faith Convent, Celbridge, from its earliest days to the present structures.


Elinor Sadleir or Elinor the Sadler of Celbridge dies in 1718, and for 150 years after her death the house ad garden which she occupied beside the old Mass House in the town of Celbridge was described in deed of sale or letting as Elinor Sadleir’s tenement and garden.  Her name, together with that of Robert Costelloe and Martin Lacy, was eventually lost in the general substitution of “The Brewery Yard” which included part of the holding called Costelloes, the dwelling house offices, forge and garden of Martin Lacy and Elinor Sadleir’s tenement and garden.


Elinor Sadleir’s garden was estimated to contain one acre. It adjoined the grounds of the R.C. church on one side and Martin Lacy’s holding on the other.  Robert Costelloe’s was south of and adjoining Martin Lacy’s and contained two acres Irish Plantation Measure, with certain buildings erected thereon.  The Holy Faith Convent grounds include the greater part of Robert Costelloe’s.   


The entrance to the combined areas which formed The Brewery Yard was through an archway under Elinor Sadleir’s house.  Early maps of Celbridge show the archway to have been under the house now occupied by Mr. Edward Coyle.  The gateway and avenue to the convent was not erected until after 1876, when premises then occupied by James McDermott, a brewer, were demolished.


The brewery in Celbridge was set up in 1794 by George Coyle (his family were old Celbridge residents), who had taken a lease of Elinor Sadleir’s and Martin Lacy’s holdings and erected on “the several lands and premises, a dwelling house, malt house, malt stores, malt kilns, stables, cow houses and bullock houses, sheds, coach houses and distillery”.  A garden at the rere of the premises and an adjoining field were also held by George Coyle, who subsequently sold to Edward Dunne.


Mr. Howard R. Guinness, who visited Celbridge in 1898, has recorded that an old lady named Simpson, who was born in 1823, informed him that when he was a child “a man named Dunne lived in Finey’s house (the house opposite the R.C. church, which was occupied by Richard Guinness in the 1750’s) and worked the brewery yard, making not porter but table beer.”


Mr. Dunne worked the brewery form 1813 until 1825, which establishes that the brewery yard, as set up by George Coyle in 1794, was in some state of production for thirty-one years.  In 1808, when a Michael McDermott was brewer his goods and chattels included 3 troughs, a turning pump, a fan float, 40 hogs and 30 half barrels.


In 1825 Edward Dunne sold out to Jeremiah Haughton of Celbridge Woolens Mills for £1,200 “The Field at the back of the town formerly owned by Widow Duff, together with that piece of ground next the street containing two acres (Costelloe’s),  Elinor Sadleir’s tenement and garden, Martin Lacy’s house, afterwards in the possession of George Coyle, together with the forge, offices, house and garden, then in the actual occupation of said Edward Dunne, and then meared and bounded on the north by Matt Dignam’s land (recently Kings’s Geraghty’s) ad on the east by Laughlin Dignam’s and Lumley’s land (Cotters) and the Rev. Mr. Cllanan’s land 9church grounds) and on the south west by Matt Dignam’s and John Broe’s lands and William Kenny’s holding (Martins and McKenna’s).”


From 1825 onwards the stables, cowhouses, sheds and coach houses were converted into offices and dwellings for Mr. Haughton’s mill workers, which a Valuation Officer described in 1840, as “A Place Unsuitable for Any Good Purpose.”


Into this place in 1878 came the Sisters of The Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin.  This convent was built on Robert Costelloe’s two acres, which was purchased by John Rourke of Beatty Park in 1860 from Anastatia Kenny.  On the land towards the street were two dwelling houses, then occupied by Laurence Mullen and Patrick Walsh, Mullen’s house was described in 1840 as “A dwelling house with a room over a gateway, a stable not lofted, a cowhouse in ruins, a good front, but bad rere, good yard, with liberty of passage thro’ gateway) Martin’s).” Patrick Walsh’s house also had a room over the gateway, a coach house, not lofted, also a good yard and garden, (McKenna’s).  Those two houses were later to be used by the Sisters of The Holy Faith at school rooms.  The house now occupied by Mr. Terr Boylan was also purchased by John Rourke at this period.  Perhaps it was considered as a temporary convent.


In 1868 all tis property was granted in Fee Farm to John Rourke and his heirs for ever. Obviously, John Rourke was acting for the Rev. Robert Wheeler, who conveyed Robert Costelloe’s and the house built by Arthur Baillie (T. Boylan’s) to His Eminence Cardinal Cullen, the Very Rev. Myles Canon McManus and James Rourke and their heirs for ever in 1873.


In 1872 the Rev, Wheller purchased part of the Elinor Sadleir’s tenement and garden containing 2 roods, 28 perches and measuring 25 feet to the street of Celbridge, also part of the garden at the rere of Martin’s Lacy’s former dwelling house containing 19 perches for £400.  The seller was Charles Wolfe Shaw of Belfast, who had inherited the property of Mr. Giles Shaw, Mr. John Haughton’s co-partner in the Celbridge Mills.


In 1878 these latter premises were granted to Alice Keenan of the Sisters of Mercy, Baggot Street Convent, Dublin, by the Rev. Michael Gibney and Mr. James Rourke.  But the Valuation Books recorded that a convent recently completed by not yet occupied.   Later in 1878, Margaret Aylward and Ada Allingham of the Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin, accepted a transfer of all the various properties.  Further acres were subsequently granted to the Holy Faith Sisters.  Mary Frances Kenny, widow of William Kenny, the butcher who was tenant of Robert Costelloe’s holding in 1825, transferred her interest to Michael Rourke, who granted same to the convent.  One acre previously held by Mr. James Broe was also added to Michael Rourke.


Today, the three tenement areas which comprised the Brewery Yard can be easily identified by the different height of the buildings fronting the street.  The lower houses next to the convent gates represent Elinor Sadleir’s, south of these on a different level the houses stand on Martin Lacey’s and further south Martin’s and McKenna’s mark the street frontage or Robert Costelloe’s holding.


Who’s Who? 1968
The Foundation – Arrival in Celbridge

by Sister M. Ailbe

 On 30 June 1873, the Sisters of the Holy Faith opened a house in Kilcullen, Co Kildare.  They did splendid work for he poor of the district for the next five years and then disaster struck …… they were forced to leave as the landlord refused to renew their lease, With permission from Cardinal Cullen, Margaret Aylward purchases houses in Celbridge belonging to Elinor Sadleir, for the purpose of providing schools for the Catholic children of the district.  The sisters taught for some time in the small house in Main street.


The present convent was originally built by the Sisters of Mercy, but they never came to reside there.  Cardinal Cullen gladly offered it to the Sisters of the Holy Faith, as he was very appreciative of the work they had done in Kilcullen and elsewhere, and he wanted them to stay in Co. Kildare. The convent was opened in 23 October 1878.


In 1882 some houses on Main Street together with an area to the rear of those houses, which was once a brewery and had later been converted into stables and dwellings, were acquired by the sisters.   Later those premises were re-conditioned and became St. Brigid’s School. For some years the sisters taught French, English, Music as well as the other subjects.  Painting, crochet and embroidery were also part of the curriculum.  It was only in 1917 that aid from the Stare were receive and so the school adopted the then current curriculum.

Main Street Celbridge today

Many past pupils are living in the district, while others have travelled father afield.  Some have dedicated their lives to God, at and abroad.   All are continuing by the Christian lives, to bear witness to the excellent teachings of the Holy Faith.  On this happy occasion of our centenary, the past pupils have a big share in our prayers and good wishes.

Celbridge before the motorcar.
70 Years Ago – Return to Yesterday

By Martin J. Kelly

The children who presently attend St. Brigid’s Convent School, with its spacious classrooms, grounds and modern amenities, would find it hard to believe that there are some ex-pupils in the district who attended there seventy years ago in vastly different circumstances. One, still blessed with good health, has a clear mental picture of Celbridge village around 1910 when poverty was a fact of life.  “Industry was almost non-existent and while there was considerable employment around the great house of Castletown, Oakley Park, Killadoon and Lyons, wages for men amounted to only nine shillings per week, with working hours far longer than at present.  Those who drew such wages were considered lucky, however, as there was no relief or dole for those out of work. “


In such circumstances the standard of living was low for the vast majority of the people.  Meat was a rare dish in many of the houses.  People made their own clothes and did without many of the things we now consider necessities of life.


The town itself presented a dilapidated appearance – the street was a bed of broken stones leveled by a steam roller, while traffic consisted of horses and carts and occasionally one of the few motor cars in the district.


Prior to the first World War the classrooms were situate in the old buildings acquired by the Sisters when they first came to Celbridge in 1878.  The largest block was at right angles to the street.  One storey high, it was divided into classrooms heated by open fires which often seemed very far away from those at the back room.  Most of the general school work was done on slates while copy book, which then could be bought for a halfpenny each, were available for writing.  A feature of the Convent School in the early part of the century was a kitchen where a cook prepared soup which was served with bread to the pupils on payment of a penny a day.  There was a separate High School where the daughters of the more affluent people of he locality were admitted and taught on payment of a fee. This High School was situated in a small building on the Convent side of the ordinary School.


Pupils of the pre 1914 period were not subject to visits from Inspectors of the Department of Education.  However, Cathecism examinations were conducted by Fr. Dunne, the local Parish Priest.


Soon after the uprising of 1916 and the setting up of a native Irish government, the High School in the Convent was abolished, and great emphasis was placed on the teaching of the Irish language as a separate subject.  There was little change until the 1950’s when an improved economy and the availability of second level education brought about conditions with which we are now familiar.  Those factors also led to the demolition of the Old Convent School buildings in the early 1970’s and their replacement by the present impressive structures.

At Work and Play – St. Brigid’s Today

By Elizabeth Stanley

The first eight classrooms in our modern 16-room complex came into being in 1970, followed seven years later by a further eight.  This Extension was officially opened on 12th May 1978, by the Minister for Education, Mr. J. Wilson, and blessed by his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr. D. Ryan.


Spiritual Needs Catered For

Solid education standards and the spiritual formation of the children is the aim of the school.  Father E. Kennedy, C.C., is chaplain to the school and in liaison with the teachers he organizes class Masses each term.  Three confessors are in attendance on a monthly basis and this affords the children an opportunity of making their Confession to a priest of their choice.  For the past three years the School has facilitated the Maynooth deacons who also take classes once a week and help generally with parochial work.


Each school day begins and ends with a prayer and the children are encouraged to pray for their own special intentions. Preparation for the reception of the Sacraments is also part of their spiritual upbringing; and the school choir sings at the 10A.M. Mass each Sunday.  The Children participate in the Offertory procession in rotation.


More Educational Involvement

Throughout the past decade, since the introduction of the new curriculum, children now play a much more active role in their own education.  The basic skills are still taught, not so much through class-teaching as through individual and group activity.  Thus, each student progresses at his own or her own rate.  The child is given full scope to express his personality and experience the joy of discovery.  They measure objects and estimate areas both in the classroom and outside. They record their findings which are then discussed and later displayed in pictorial or chart form.  Emphasis is laid on the visual as well as the written form of presentation.

In the Infant School the toddlers act out their personal experiences as well as the much-lover nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The infant classroom may appear to be “at play” but in theory they are discovering through “practical play”.  This new thinking in education has resulted in a broader, more flexible programme and the teacher is free to choose topics or situations best suited to the pupils of today.


Civic Pride

During their years in St. Brigid’s the students are encouraged to play a responsible role in society. They are taught to respect property; to observe standards of tidiness in their appearance, in their belongings and in the classrooms and school grounds where they work and play; to appreciate the beauties of nature and to take price in the locality.


The children are encouraged at all times to help the less fortunate.  They participate in the scheme for the distribution of comfort to the aged and infirm at Christmas and Easter, and support the Hold Childhood Missions, while the older children take part in the Post Office Savings Scheme for which they won an award in 1977.


Contented Staff

The school has an excellent head in Sister M. Ailbe, principle since 1973.  She works tirelessly for the benefit of all and is able supported by the other members of the community – Sisters M. Stephanie, Mechtilde, Frances Therese and Gerarda.  Lay staff number seven – Mrs. Elizaveth Stanley, Mrs.  Mary Sheerin, Mrs. Una Heffernan, Miss Angela Tansey, Mrs. Anne Corry, Miss Mairead Gilligan and Mrs, Moya O’ Donoghue.  In addition, two visiting teachers attend each week – Miss Joan Cuthbert who specializes in speech and drama training, and Mrs. Maire Crean who teaches Irish and folk dances. Every pupil takes part in the annual display at the end of the summer term – an event not to be missed!

Presently the school caters for approximately 340 pupils, almost 50%of whom are in the Infant Department.  Consequently, the many facilities – attractive classrooms, library, general purpose room, fully equipped cookery room and spacious playground – are fully utilized and contribute to make teaching in St. Brigid’s Convent School a very pleasant task.




The Future – Whither Celbridge

By Father E. Kennedy, C.C.

Reading the history of Celbridge and looking at some of the older photographs available, it is quite clear that the village has changed radically.  However, the changes which will take place during the coming decades will be even more profound, I have been asked to play the prophet and predict the development of Celbridge in the years to come, particularly in the areas of school and parochial expansion.


House Numbers

There are today 600 “older” houses in Celbridge.  By 1981 an additional 1,000 “new “ houses (300 already sold and occupied) will have been completed and occupied. That implies that Celbridge (without any further development of potential building land in the area) may have 1,550 – 1,650 houses by 1980-1981.  Add to that Straffan, a Chapel of Ease, with 160 – 180 houses in the same period (160 today) and then Celbridge/Straffan parish will have a total of 1,700 – 1,750 houses by 1980 – 1981.





Memories of Celbridge People of Celbridge

Memories of Celbridge






by Karla Lawless

Sponsored by Michael McHale auctioneers

In the early 2000s Karla Lawless produced this wonderful recording of several local people: Seán, Rosie, Pat, Maura, Michael, and Connie . Their recorded memories tell of a Celbridge in the first half of the 20th century, it was not the Celbridge of today. The sprawl of housing estates, the 67 Dublin Bus, and businesses such as Colourtrend did not exist. The interviewees tell of a much quieter rural Celbridge, where the big houses – and at certain times the mill – were still one of the main sources of employment. By capturing these recollections, Karla has passed on a local and national treasure. Thank you.



18th and 19th century Celbridge Early Years Napier Family

A Description of Celbridge 1785: the Napiers, Mr. Bagnal’s School, Molly Dunne, and life as a young officer

A Description of Celbridge 1785: the Napiers, Mr. Bagnal’s School, Molly Dunne, and life as a young officer


Extract taken from Sir Charles Napier, by Colonel Sir William F. Butler (Macmillan & Co, London: 1890)

Lieutenant General Sir William Francis Butler GCB, PC (31 October 1838 – 7 June 1910), from Ballyslatteen, Golden, County Tipperary. He was one of the great 19th century adventure officers. Image: Lieutenant Colonel W. F. Butler. C.B. Taken in 1883 as Queen’s A.D.C. From William Butler an autobiography (London, 1911), p. 250.
The Home at Celbridge
Oakleigh House, Celbridge, County Kildare


TEN miles west of Dublin, on the north bank of the Liffey, stands a village of a single street,”* called Celbridge. In times so remote that their record only survives in a name, some Christian hermit built here himself a cell for house, church, and tomb; a human settlement took root around the spot; deer -tracks widened into pathways; pathways broadened into roads; and at last a ‘bridge spanned the neighbouring stream. The church and the bridge, two prominent land-marks on the road of civilisation, jointly named the place, and Kildrohid or “the church by the bridge” became hence- forth a local habitation and a name, twelve hundred years later to be anglicised into Celbridge. To this village of Celbridge in the year 1785 came a family which had already made some stir in the world, and was destined to make more.


Colonel the Hon. George Napier and his wife Lady Sarah Lennox were two remarkable personages. The one a tall and majestic soldier, probably the finest specimen of military manhood then in the service of King George the Third; the other a lady of such beauty, wit, and grace that her fascination had induced the same King George to offer her all his heart and half his throne. Fate and politics marred this proposed romantic royal union, and the lovely Lady Sarah, after a most unhappy first marriage, became in 1777 the wife of Colonel George Napier, and in the following dozen years the mother of a large family, in whose veins ran the blood of a list of knights and kings and nobles sufficient to fill a peerage all to itself; for on one side the pedigree went back to the best of the old Scottish cavaliers to Montrose, and the Napiers of Merchiston, and the Scotts of Thirlestane; and on the other it touched Bourbon, Stuart, and Medici, and half a dozen other famous sources. It would have been strange if from such parents and with such stock the nest which was built in Celbridge in 1785 did not send forth far- flying birds.


The house in which the Napiers took up their resi-dence in this year stood a short distance from the* western end of the village. It was a solid, square build-ing of blue-gray limestone, three-storied and basemented, with many tall narrow windows in front and rear, and a hall door that looked north and was approached by arched steps spanning a wide stone area surround-ing the basement; green level fields, with fences upon Avhich grew trees and large bushes, spread around the house to north and west, and over the tops of oak and beeches to the south a long line of blue hills lay upon the horizon. Looking south towards these hills the eye saw first a terrace and garden, then a roadway partly screened by trees, and beyond the road the grounds of Marley Abbey sloping to the Liffey, holding within them still the flower-beds and laurel hedges amid which Vanessa spent the last sorrow -clouded years of her life. But to the boys up in the third-story nursery, looking out in the winter evenings to snowy Kippure or purple Sleve-rhue, the loves and wrongs of poor Vanessa mattered little. What did matter to them, however and mattered so much that through a thousand scenes of future death and danger they never forgot it was, that there stood a certain old larch tree in the corner of the pleasure-ground where the peacocks fluttered up to roost as the sun went down beyond the westmost Wicklow hill-top, and that there was a thick clump of Portugal laurels and old hollies where stares, or starlings as they call them in England, came in flocks at nightfall, and sundry other trees and clumps in which blackbirds with very yellow winter beaks flew in the dusk, sounding the weirdest and wildest cries, and cocked their fan-spread tails when they lighted on the sward where the holly and arbutus berries lay so thick.


Colonel George Napier by Walker & Cockerell aquatint photogravure, late 19th century. D31909; Portrait – National Portrait Gallery, London.
Lady Sarah Napier (née Lennox, formerly Bunbury) by Walker & Cockerell aquatint photogravure, late 19th century. D31910 National Portraits Gallery, London.
Colonel George Napier

When Colonel Napier settled at Celbridge he was still in his prime, a man formed both in mind and body to conquer and direct in camp, court, or council; and yet, for all that, a failure as the world counts its prizes and blanks in the lottery of life. He had recently returned from the American War, where he had served with distinction. He had filled important offices abroad and at home, and by right of intellect and connection might look forward almost with certainty to high military command, but he had one fatal bar against success in the career of arms, as that noble profession was practised in the reign of George the Third and for a good many years after he was in political opinion intensely liberal and intensely outspoken. The phrase “political opinion ” is perhaps misleading. Colonel Napier’s liberalism was neither a party cry nor a prejudice. It sprang from a profound love of justice, an equally fixed hatred of oppression, and a wide -reaching sympathy with human suffering that knew no distinction of caste or creed. The selection of Celbridge as the Napiers’ family residence at this period was chiefly decided by the proximity of the village to the homes of Lady Sarah’s two sisters the Duchess of Leinster at Carton, and Lady Louisa Conolly at Castletown indeed only the length of the village street separated the beautiful park of Castletown from the Napiers’ home, and Castletown woods and waters were as free to the children’s boyish sports and rambles as its saloons were open to them later on when the quick-running years of boyhood carried them into larger life. Whatever was beautiful and brilliant in Irish society and there was much of both then met in the Castletown drawing-rooms. They were to outward seeming pleasant years, those seventeen hundred and eighties and early nineties in Ireland. The society that met at Castletown formed a brilliant circle of orators, soldiers, wits, and statesmen, many of whose names still shine brightly through the intervening century. Grattan, Curran, Flood, Charlemont, the Ponsonbys, Parnell, the Matthews, and younger but not less interesting spirits were in the group too; the ill-fated Lord Edward Fitzgerald (first cousin to the Napier boys); young Robert Stewart, still an advanced Liberal, not yet seeing that his road to fortune lay behind instead of before him; and there was another frequent guest at Castletown a raw-boned, youthful ensign, generally disliked, much in debt to his Dublin tailor, but nevertheless regarded by Colonel Napier, at least, as a young man of promise, who, if fate gave him opportunity, would some day win fame as a soldier one Ensign Wellesley, or, as he then wrote his name, Arthur Wesley.


Early Years

When the Napier coach drove into Celbridge with the newly-arriving family in 1785, there was in it a very small boy, Charles by name, the eldest son of the hand-some colonel and his beautiful wife a small, delicate-looking child, who had been born at the Richmond residence in Whitehall just three years earlier. Two other children younger than Charles made up, with the due complement of nurses and boxes, an imposing cavalcade, and for days after the arrival baggage and books these last not the least important items in the family future continued to trundle through the village.


Twelve years go by; 1797 has come. Long ago what an age in childhood seem these few flying years! little Charles has made himself at home in a circle ever widening around the Celbridge nest. He has a fishing- rod, and the river east and west has been explored each year a longer distance. He has a pony, and the mountains to the south have given up their wonders to himself and his four-footed friend. And finally, grandest step of all in the boy’s ladder, he has a gun, and the wood-pigeons of Castletown and the rabbits out in big fences to the west know him as one more enemy added to the long list of their foes.


And how about the more generally recognised factors of boy-training school and schoolmaster 1 Well, in these matters we get a curious picture of army-training in that good old time when George the Third was King. At the age of twelve little Charlie Napier had been nominated to a pair of colours in His Majesty’s Thirty-Third Regiment of Foot. War had broken out with France. Mr. Pitt was borrowing some fifty millions every year, and commissions in Horse, Foot, and Dragoons, in Hessian and Hanoverian Corps, in Scotch Fencibles and Irish Yeomanry and English Militia, were plentiful as black- berries in the Celbridge fields. But though Charles had on many occasions shown himself a little lad of big heart and steady courage in sundry encounters with fish, flesh, and fowl, he was still too young to fight a Frenchman; and besides, it was even then a canon of war that before you are fit to kill an enemy in the field you must be able to write a nice letter to him, and perchance to talk to him in his own language, and to draw little lines and tracings of the various emplacements and scarps and counter-scarps by which you propose to knock his cities about his ears, and otherwise blow him and his off the face of the earth.


Mr. Bagnel’s School

So, instead of proceeding with the Duke of York’s army to Flanders, Charles was sent to Mr. Bagnel’s school in Celbridge village. A very humble and unpretending scholastic institution was Mr. Bagnel’s academy, not much further removed from the hedge-school of the time than the single street of Celbridge was distant from the green hedges around it; and of a very mixed description were the numerous boys who gathered there to receive from Mr. Bagnel’s mind, and frequently also from his hand, the instruction mental and physical which he deemed essential for their future guidance. The boys were chiefly the sons of Dublin merchants or local better-class farmers, and were, with the exception of the Napiers, all Roman Catholics. That Charles and his brothers George and William should soon become the leaders of the school, and the child-champions of its youthful democracy, was not to be wondered at. They represented to the other boys the three most taking and entrancing things of boy life genius, courage, and strength. All three boys were plucky as eagles, but Charles was captain by reason of his superior intelligence ; George was lieutenant on account of reckless daring; William was ensign because of immense strength; and all were beloved because they, the grandsons of a duke, were ever ready to uphold with the weapons of boyhood the rights and freedom of their Catholic comrades against the over-bearing usurpations and tyrannies of a large neighbouring seminary, where the more favoured sons of Protestant ascendancy were being booked and birched.


At ten o’clock every morning the Napier boys pro-ceeded up the village to school, and at three they came down the single street for home. Great was the com- motion when this hour of breaking-up arrived; it was the event of the day for the villagers, and no wonder, for then a strange sight was often to be seen. There were pigs in Celbridge in these days, tall gaunt animals with wide flapping ears that hung over their eyes, and long legs that could gallop over the ground; and it is said that, mounted on the backs of those lean and agile hogs, the Napier boys were wont to career homeward with scholars and pig-owners following in wild pursuit.


“What a terrible training!” I think I hear some worthy parent or pedagogue exclaim, reading this deplorable incident. And yet it is not all so clear this matter of boy-training. Would not the guiding lights of Eton and Harrow and Rugby stand aghast at such companionship, such a scene as this hog race down the village  “Still, somehow or other, when I walk round Trafalgar Square or down Waterloo Place, I seem to miss these great centres of training in the statues of Nelson, Havelock, Franklin, Clyde, Gordon, Lawrence, Napier; and I see beyond the bronze or the marble the boy -hero at his village school one at Foyle, another at Taunton, a third at Celbridge, a fourth at St. Ives, a fifth at Swanscombe until I come to think it is not quite so certain that we know all about the matter. So too, when my mind turns to the subject of military teaching, and I compare the course of school training Charles and William Napier received at the hands of Mr. Bagnel with our modern system of competitive cramming, I am forced to the conclusion that both these brilliant soldiers would have been ignominiously “plucked ” for entrance to Sandhurst or Woolwich; nor does the outside and casual training which these boys underwent show with less disadvantage beside our modern system. How a professor of military history, for instance, would have scorned the tuition in the practice of war conveyed to Ensign Charles Napier by old Molly Dunne as she sat in her cottage porch of a summer evening telling the listen- ing boys about her battles and sieges. She was the Celbridge carpenter’s great -grandmother, and of pro- digious age. She could tell her listeners how she had seen the last real lord of Celbridge ride forth to fight for his king, their own great-great-great-granduncle, at the Boyne, just one hundred years earlier, and how she had seen his body brought back to be laid in the old graveyard of Kildrohid, close to their own gateway. That was a long look back, but Molly’s memory went further off still, for she could tell of wilder times of war and havoc; of how as a little child she had heard people speak of the red days at Drogheda and Wexford, when Cromwell imagined that he had found a final method of dealing with the Irish question. This wonderful old woman, who had seen more of actual war than had many of the generals by whose military knowledge and experience Mr. Pitt just at this moment fondly hoped he was going to stop the French Revolution, was said to be about one hundred and thirty years of age.


The Best Schoolmaster

But Charles Napier and his brothers had the benefit of one outside teacher, the value of whose teaching to them it would not be easy to exaggerate; out of doors and indoors, on the river and the mountain, their father was their best school-master. From him Charles Napier learned a thousand lessons of truth and justice, of honour in arms, of simplicity in life, of steady purpose, of hatred for pomp and show and empty-headed pride, of pity for the poor, of sympathy with the oppressed, of fearless independence of character, which those who care to follow us through these pages will find growing in profusion along the pathway of his life, plants none of which ever withered from the moment they were planted in these youthful days, but many of which were only to blossom into full luxuriance in the autumn of existence. When full fifty years have passed by, we shall find the lessons sown along the Liffey, and amid the Wicklow hills, bearing their rich harvest in distant scenes by the shores of mighty Eastern rivers and under the shadows of Himalayan mountains. It has been said that the house at Celbridge held large store of books, and it may be that in the library a copy of old Massinger was to be found, wherein, if the boys were not allowed promiscuously to read, they had read to them that wonderful picture of the real soldier which the dramatist drew so uselessly for the Cavaliers of his time, so terribly useful for their Roundhead enemies.


If e’er my son

Follow the war, tell him it is a school

Where all the principles tending to honour

Are taught, if truly follow’d ; but for such

As repair thither as a place in which

They do presume they may with license practise

Their lusts and riots, they shall never merit

The noble name of soldiers. To dare boldly

In a fair cause, and for their country’s safety

To run upon the cannon’s mouth undaunted ;

To obey their leaders, and shun mutinies ;

To bear with patience the winter’s cold

And summer’s scorching heat, and not to faint,

When plenty of provision fails, with hunger,

Are the essential parts make up a soldier

Not swearing, dice, or drinking.

Sir Charles James Napier by Richard James Lane, after Comte Hippolyte Caïs de Pierlas
lithograph, 1849 (1843). D22260, National Portraits Gallery, London.
Ensign Charles Napier

At last the time came for Charles to quit home and go out by himself into the world. He had been an officer on that wonderful institution called the Irish Establishment since he was twelve years old, and now he must join the army; so, in the last year of the century, he takes his first flight on the Limerick coach, and arriving in that old city is installed as extra aide-de-camp to the general officer there commanding. He remains at Limerick for a year, where the usual subaltern officer’s drill is duly passed through. He is very often in love; he rides, shoots, breaks his leg jumping a ditch, and altogether feels quite sure that he has thoroughly mastered the military art. Still among these inevitable incidents of a young soldier’s existence we get a glimpse of the nature of the future man coming out clear and distinct. He and his brother George are out shooting; a snipe gets up, Charles fires and the bird drops, but a deep wide ditch intervenes, and in springing across this obstacle the boy falls and breaks his leg. It is a very bad fracture, and the bone is sticking out above the boot. His gun (a gift from his father) has fallen one way, he is lying another. First he draws himself near enough to recover the weapon, then he crawls on to where the snipe is lying, and then when his brother George has come up and is looking deadly pale at the protruding bone, the fallen sportsman cries cheerily out, “Yes, George, I’ve broken my leg, but I’ve got the snipe.” They carry him home on a door, and for two months he is laid up with this shattered leg; but at eighteen a broken heart or leg is soon set right, and early in 1800 we find him impatient to be off to wider scenes of soldiering. He has been run very low by this accident, and his general fearful for his aide- de-camp’s life has written to Colonel Napier, advising leave of absence and rest for the boy. Charles hears of this letter shortly after, and is highly indignant at his general’s action. “I am sure,” he writes to his father, “you will never consent to do anything of the sort” (to apply to the Commander-in-Chief for leave of absence), “which you must think, and which you may be certain I think, would be disgraceful and unbecoming the character of a British soldier. The general would not have done such a thing for himself, and could not have considered much when he proposed it for me.” Just fifty years later we shall see the war-worn old veteran taking leave of the officers of India in words of advice and farewell couched in the same lofty spirit of military duty which is expressed in this boy’s letter. And now the scene changes.


Early in 1801 Charles Napier mounts his little Irish cob and rides away from Limerick to begin the career which was to be carried through such stirring and varied scenes. He rode in a single day from Limerick to Celbridge, more than one hundred miles, on the same horse. We know nothing of that long day’s ride, save the bare fact of its accomplishment; but it requires no effort of imagination to picture this ardent, impetuous boy pushing forward mile by mile, intent upon proving by the distance he would cover that despite what generals might write or doctors might say, he was fit for any fatigue or duty; and as the Irish hill-tops rose before him in fresh horizons we can fancy the horseman’s mind cast far ahead of the most remote distance, fixed upon some scene of European or Egyptian battle, where the great deeds of war then startling all men by their splendid novelty were being enacted before a wondering world. For only a few months prior to the date of this long ride a great battle had been fought at Marengo in Italy, and the air was still ringing with its echoes; then had come the news of Hohenlinden, that terrible midnight struggle in the snow of the Black Forest. Never had the world witnessed such desperate valour; never had such marches been made, such daring combinations conceived, such colossal results achieved. A new world seemed to be opening before the soldier; and France, victorious for a second time over the vast forces of the European coalition, appeared to have given birth to conquerors before whose genius all bygone glory grew pale and doubtful.


And already, amid the constellation of command which the seven years’ aggression of Europe against France had called forth from the great Revolution, one name shone with surpassing lustre. Beyond the Alps, amid scenes whose names seemed to concentrate and combine the traditions of Roman dominion with the most desperate struggles of medieval history, there had arisen a leader in the first flush of youthful manhood, before whom courage had been unavailing, discipline had become a reed, numbers had been brought to ruin, combination had been scattered, the strength of fortress had been pulled down, until the great empire whose name had been accepted as the symbol of military power in Europe, and whose history went back through one thousand years of martial glory, lay prostrate and vanquished at his feet.