Saturday, December 22, 2012

'We Are To Be Shot in the Morning'

3 teens among 7 IRA 'irregulars' executed 90 years ago in Kildare

'We are to be shot in the morning, 19th December at 8.15…We are dying happy anyway, so good-bye old Kildare.'
         -- Paddy Bagnall, from Hare Park Prison, Curragh Camp, December 18, 1922
By Robert Doyle

Paddy Nolan's final letter home to his parents. Click on the
image to see a larger view.
With much of the attention regarding the struggle for Irish independence being on the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising, events in County Kildare 90 years ago this December bring into sharp focus the tragedy of the subsequent Civil War.

Men and women who had fought side by side against British rule, turned their vitriol and their weapons on each other in a bitter conflict that began with the occupation of the Four Courts in the summer of 1922 by forces opposed the signing and ratification of an Anglo-Irish Treaty.

The outbreak of the Civil War forced pro and anti-treaty supporters to choose sides. Supporters of the treaty came to be known as 'pro-Treaty' or Free State Army, legally the National Army. The objectors called themselves "Republicans," but were more commonly known by the Free State government as “Irregulars.”

Although most of the fighting took place in Dublin and around Munster, County Kildare was no different in terms of the bitter divides. The occupation of the Curragh Camp by the Free State Army after British withdrawal made operations very difficult for the small column of Irregulars who operated in the vicinity of Kildare town.

Eamonn O’Modhrain from Ballysax, who had commanded the 6th Battalion of the IRA’s Carlow Brigade (South Kildare/West Wicklow) during the War of Independence, objected strongly to the signing of the Treaty and was immediately arrested and imprisoned for much of the year-long conflict. However, many of his former command took up arms against the Free State and operated a guerrilla- style war around Kildare Town, concentrating their efforts on disrupting the vital railway network in the area.

Moore's Bridge, where the 7 'irregulars' were captured.
In late 1922, The Leinster Leader reported that a column of Irregulars were operating in the vicinity of Kildare, derailing or stealing train engines, which would subsequently be used as an obstruction, blocking the line. It was also reported that on November 25th, this column took part in an ambush of Free State troops, audaciously close to the Curragh Camp.

On December 13th, 10 men, allegedly the same column, were surprised at a farmhouse beside Moore’s Bridge (close to the Curragh Racecourse) by Free State troops. Having been found in possession of rifles, a quantity of ammunition and other supplies, the men were arrested and brought the short distance to the Curragh Camp. During the arrest, one of the captured, Thomas Behan, was killed although the cause of his death remains disputed to this day.

In the following days, seven of the men were tried before a military court and found guilty of being in possession of arms without authority.  Unfortunately for the convicted, the Free State government had, only weeks earlier, decreed that such an offence was punishable by death. The executions were duly carried out by firing squad on the morning of December 19th at the Military Detention Barracks. Although the Free State sanctioned 77 official executions of anti-Treaty prisoners during the war, this combined execution of seven men was the largest carried out -- a tragic statistic in County Kildare’s history.

The day before their deaths, the seven men were allowed to write letters to their family and loved ones. Each letter is a tragic but very poignant memorial to the men, composed as they each came to terms with their fate. Typed copies of some of the letters were sent to their ex-commander, Eamonn O’Modhrain.

Nineteen-year-old Paddy Bagnall wrote to his uncle that he and his comrades were “all to go West together … but it is all for the best, and I hope it sets old Ireland free.” Bagnall finishes a remarkably mature letter for one so young by stating that he was dying happy and bids “good-bye old Kildare.”

Paddy Nolan, 34. penned a heartbreaking final letter to his mother and father. He hoped that they would bear his death with “the Courage of an Irish Father & Mother.” He tried to ease his mother’s worry by writing that the chaplain in the Curragh, Father Donnelly, had told him that he would go straight to heaven.
Kildare memorial to the 7 who 
were executed.

However, the saddest words are often the simplest, and Nolan signed off by telling his family that he “had a few pounds in his suit case” and they could have them and anything else in the house belonging to him. A shorter letter to his younger brothers and sisters asks that they remember him and his comrades on Christmas morning, only a few weeks away. He also asks that they be good children and always obey their parents.

The other letters written by the men on the eve of their deaths are similar in composition and sentiment. Each is also a reminder of the conflict that scarred the fledgling Irish nation during its progression from a British colony into a sovereign country. 

The men were buried in the grounds of the Detention Barracks, but their remains were later exhumed and lay in state in the courthouse in Kildare Town before being reinterred in Kildare's Grey Abbey Cemetery, in 1924. A gravestone was subsequently erected over their collective grave and a monument erected in the Market Square, in Kildare town.

The seven executed were Stephen White, 18, Abbey Street, Kildare; Joseph Johnston, 18, Station Road, Kildare; Patrick Mangan, 22, Fair Green, Kildare; Patrick Nolan, 34, Rathbride, Kildare; Bryan Moore, 37, Rathbride, Kildare (leader of the column); James O’Connor, 24, Bansha, County Tipperary; and Patrick Bagnall, 19, Fair Green, Kildare. WG

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Day in the Life of Irish Genealogists: Q&A With Nicola Morris, Helen Kelly

At The Wild Geese, we work every day to weave the threads of individual Irish stories into the tapestry of heritage “wherever green is worn.” Whether you are still pulling at strings or have a fully woven view of your own Irish story, a professional genealogist may hold the key to learning more.

Two of our own Heritage Partners, Helen Kelly, of  Helen Kelly Genealogy, and Nicola Morris, of Timeline Genealogy in Ireland, gave us us an insight into their work through an e-mail interview conducted by Preservation Editor Belinda Evangelista

[Uncover your own Irish story with the help of a $300 donation to our campaign to build The NEW Wild Geese.]

The Wild Geese: What started your interests in genealogy?

Helen Kelly
Helen Kelly: Like most professional genealogists, my initial foray into genealogy started because of an innate interest in ‘Who’s Who?’ and in particular, a curiosity about my own origins.

Nicola Morris: It was the detective work that appealed to me, searching back through fragments of records to try and build the story of a family and the telling of the history of Ireland through each family story. 

The Wild Geese: Have you both ever been baffled in your efforts? Hit the proverbial wall.

Kelly: In our professional capacity, our primary work entails Irish family history research, so we are always conscious of the fact that for historical reasons, Irish family history research, for most individuals, can hit the brick wall in the early 1800s.

Morris: The great challenge of being a professional genealogist is that it is our job to solve mysteries, to seek out sources that will get us past that 'brick wall.’ We can't always find the answer, but we will leave no stone unturned in our quest.

Nicola Morris' Timeline Genealogy in Ireland
The Wild Geese: What is your favorite genealogy resource?

Kelly: I have to say that land and property record known as Griffith’s Valuation is my favorite source, particularly in relation to members of the Irish Diaspora, because this source usually leads to identification of the precise birth location of the emigrant ancestor.

Morris: I enjoy working with estate records. These collections vary greatly in what they contain. It is the collections that document tenants and employees on an estate that excite me the most because these can often predate the many other traditional sources. These records can be mined for descriptions of tenants, maps of estates and, on the odd occasion, diaries and letters that breath life into the research.

The Wild Geese: Have you ever gotten teary-eyed over a case? Do you get emotionally involved with your research?

Kelly: All the time! Research becomes very sterile if the genealogist does not enter into the life and times of individuals they ‘meet’ on the paper trail.

Morris: Yes, of course. You cannot help empathizing when you are holding in your hand a death certificate for an abandoned child who died in the workhouse or a census return for a family of 15 living in a one-room cottage. You cannot avoid imagining what their lives were like and the struggles that they overcame. It certainly gives you perspective on the challenges that we face in life today.

The Wild Geese: What is your best advice for those who want to discover their roots?

Kelly: Be aware that as human beings we store a vast amount of personal data in our conscious and subconscious, and that the best starting place is -- not on the internet -- but within the recesses of our minds and in the minds of close family members. So, it is good for those starting research on their family history, to write down all they know about their family, retrieve all family documents in their possession and talk with other family members to ascertain what they know about their family history. Once this basic homework has been completed, they should then systematically go in search of family documents in the various family history repositories in their own area, and in the area where their ancestors emanated from. Many of these documents are available on the Internet, but one must always be aware that the family-history project will also necessitate research in local and national record archives and libraries.

Morris: I agree with Helen. Your family will often hold some of the most valuable clues to your family origins. When undertaking research I would always recommend patience and persistence. Sources can sometimes be time-consuming and tedious to research, but stick with it because there is a great sense of achievement when you do find the information that you are searching for.

The Wild Geese: Do you both talk shop when you get together?

Kelly: Mostly – but we also have downtime and fun discussing a range of topics outside the realm of genealogy!

The Wild Geese: What is a typical day like for a genealogist in Ireland?

Kelly: In truth, there is no such thing as a typical day for a genealogist -- whether in Ireland or elsewhere. Of course, every day has to start by booting up the computer and downloading e-mails. After that, one realizes that no two enquiries are the same -- just as no two individuals or families are the same. As each new day dawns, this diversity inevitably brings with it a sense of fresh adventure as, typically, we head for one of the wonderful record repositories in downtown Dublin, such as the National Archives, National Library of Ireland, etc.

The Wild Geese: What is your own 'Irish story'? Do you have any particularly fascinating ancestors, for instance?

Kelly: In the late 1980s, my interest in genealogy led me to search the history of my own family after being told by a relative that one of my maternal grand-mother’s ancestors was evicted from a large holding in the Midlands of Ireland back in the ‘mists of time.’ Extensive research of extant church registers brought me to the Registry of Deeds, where I discovered that this event really did happen circa 1790. Validation of this piece of ‘family lore’ then led me to an exciting trail of registered deeds back to the early 1700s and to a family pedigree for one branch of the family documented in Hunstanton, in England, in the 16th century.

Morris: My grandmother always spoke about her Italian grandmother and when I started working on our family history, I discovered the Pericho family in Cork and have so far traced them back to 1805 and a looking-glass manufacturer who I believe came from Italy. I have yet to make the connection in Italy. WG

Ready for Helen Kelly or Nicola Morris to dive into your family genealogy? Donate $300 to our campaign and receive a genealogy assessment -- and more!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Wild Geese Twitter QR Code for our Indiegogo Campaign

Visit for more details or launch our campaign page by lining up your smartphone’s camera with the QR code below.  Go raibh mile maith agaibh!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Irish Ancestors Archaeology Chart and NY Irish Limited Edition Print

Our Heritage Partners at Know Thy Place have offered one of their 'archaeology of your ancestors' map as part of an IRISH REWARD PERK BUNDLE from our Indiegogo Crowd Funding Campaign.
People first settled in Ireland over 9000 years ago. There is virtually no corner of the island that hasn’t felt the footsteps of our forefathers. Know Thy Place gives you the opportunity to understand where you live - or where your ancestors were from - in a completely new way, providing you with a beautiful chart to display in your home or workplace.
These Cork-based archaeologists offer custom charts tailored individually for you and your place, as well as generic charts that explore the island of Ireland, its counties and the ancestral homeland of Irish-American Presidents.  
A County Chart is ideal if you have not yet identified your ancestor's townland. Sometimes family names give clues to a possible county or counties - for example the O’Donnells of Donegal and the O’Briens of Clare. These charts examine the significant archaeology of the county, exploring it’s history from the first settlers through to the modern day.  Know Thy Place also creates Custom Charts with more detailed information from your family history.  
Included in this bundle is a sketch of your ancestor by New York artist Maryann Tracy plus a 24" x 33" print of legendary landscape artist Edmund Sullivan's "Next Parish, America".
Edmund Sullivan's "Next Parish, America"

Also included in this Irish Reward Perk Bundle a Wild Geese women's or men's hoodie from our store on CafePress, a pack of Shamrock Seeds from, 3 nods for The Wild Geese Hall of Fame plus your photo and one of your particularly beloved Irish ancestor in the mosaic on our new website!

Please go to our Indiegogo Campaign page and claim your rewards, no contribution is too small and we appreciate your support of and all our amazing Irish Heritage Partners.  For more information on our other Heritage Partner perks visit our Hell's Kitchen Blog