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).
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.
On The One Road, James Durney, Leinster Leader, 2001.
Wigs and Guns, Anthony P. Quinn, Four Courts Press, 2006.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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 Lettersis 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.
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.
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 (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)
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
The impact of the First World War on Celbridge.
Irish Times Monday 9th of August 1915.
Trinity collection WW1 Recruitment posters.
Kildare Observer 18/9/1915.
Kildare Observer 14/12/1929 .
Kildare Observer 11/9/1897.
Irish Times June 4th 1915 – letters.
The story of the First World War for Children.
Leinster Leader 23/10/1915.
Census of Ireland
Our Celbridge Roll of Honour– compiled from Kildare.ie, Christchurch Roll of Honour, Kildare Observer and local knowledge
Charles James Sheridan 276580 Royal Air Force 1900 – 1921 Seamus Cummins.
Irish Times 25/3/1915.
War Notes Kildare Observer.
Kildare Observer 18/5/1917.
The story of the First World War for Children.
The Thinker – On the Butte de Warlencourt by Sir William Orpen
New York Times May 26 1964
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.
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.
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,
Chairman, 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.