Local History

Norman Invasion of Ireland

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

The Norman invasion of Ireland was a two-stage process, which began on 1st May 1169 when a force of loosely associated Norman knights landed near Bannow, County Wexford at the request of Diarmait Mac Murchada, the ousted King of Leinster, who sought their help in regaining his kingdom.

On 18th October 1171, Henry II landed a much bigger army in Waterford to ensure his continuing control over the preceding Norman force. In the process he took Dublin and had accepted the fealty of the Irish kings and bishops by 1172, so creating the Lordship of Ireland, which formed part of his Angevin Empire.


In 1155, Pope Adrian IV, the only English pope, issued a papal bull (known as Laudabiliter) that gave Henry II permission to invade Ireland as a means of strengthening the Papacy’s control over the Irish Church.

The Laudabiliter enforced Papal suzerainty not only over Ireland but of all islands off the European coast, including Britain, in virtue of the Constantinian Donation. References to Laudabiliter become more frequent in the later Tudor period when the researches of the Renaissance humanist scholars cast doubt on the historicity of the Donation. Even if the Donation was spurious, other documents such as Dictatus Papae (1075–87) show that by the 12th century the Papacy felt it had political powers superior to all kings and local rulers.

The Norman invasion of Ireland thus had the backing of the Papacy. Pope Alexander III, who was Pope at the time of the invasion, ratified the Laudabiliter and gave Henry dominion over the “barbarous nation” of Ireland so that its “filthy practices” may be abolished, its Church brought into line, and that the Irish pay their tax to Rome.


Above; Diarmait MacMurrough

After losing the protection of Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn, High King of Ireland, who died in 1166, Diarmait MacMurrough was forcibly exiled by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Rory O’Connor. MacMurrough fled first to Bristol and then to Normandy. He sought and obtained permission from Henry II of England to use the latter’s subjects to regain his kingdom. Having received an oath of fealty from Diarmait, Henry gave him letters patent in the following words:

Henry, King of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and earl of Anjou, to all his liegemen, English, Norman, Welsh and Scotch, and to all the nations under his dominion, greeting. When these letters shall come into your hands, know ye, that we have received Diarmait, Prince of Leinster, into the bosom of our grace and benevolence. Wherefore, whosoever, in the ample extent of all our territories, shall be willing to assist in restoring that prince, as our vassal and liegeman, let such person know, that we do hereby grant to him our licence and favour for the said undertaking.

By 1167 MacMurrough had obtained the services of Maurice Fitz Gerald and later persuaded Fitz Gerald’s cousin, Rhys ap Gruffydd Prince of Deheubarth, to release another cousin, Fitz Gerald’s half-brother Robert Fitz-Stephen, from captivity to take part in the expedition. Most importantly MacMurrough obtained the support of the Earl of Pembroke Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow.

The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard Fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until 1169 that the main body of Norman, Welsh and Flemish forces landed in Wexford. Within a short time Leinster was conquered, Waterford and Dublin were under Diarmait’s control. Strongbow married Diarmait’s daughter, Aoife, and was named as heir to the Kingdom of Leinster. This latter development caused consternation to Henry II, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to visit Leinster to establish his authority.


Above; Henry II

Arrival of Henry II in 1171.

Henry landed with a large fleet at Waterford in 1171, becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil. This would mark the beginning of English and later British rule in Ireland. Both Waterford and Dublin were proclaimed Royal Cities. In November Henry accepted the submission of the Irish kings in Dublin. In 1172 Henry arranged for the Irish bishops to attend the Synod of Cashel and to run the Irish Church in the same manner as the Church in England. Adrian’s successor, Pope Alexander III, then ratified the grant of Ireland to Henry, “… following in the footsteps of the late venerable Pope Adrian, and in expectation also of seeing the fruits of our own earnest wishes on this head, ratify and confirm the permission of the said Pope granted you in reference to the dominion of the kingdom of Ireland.”

Henry was happily acknowledged by most of the Irish Kings, who saw in him a chance to curb the expansion of both Leinster and the Normans. He then had to leave for England to deal with papal legates investigating the death of Thomas Becket in 1170, and then for France to suppress the Revolt of 1173–1174. His next involvement with Ireland was the Treaty of Windsor in 1175 with Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair.

However, with both Diarmait and Strongbow dead (in 1171 and 1176 respectively) and Henry back in England, within two years this treaty was unenforcible. John de Courcy invaded and gained much of east Ulster in 1177, Raymond FitzGerald (known as Raymond le Gros) had already captured Limerick and much of the Kingdom of Thomond (also known as North Munster), while the other Norman families such as Prendergast, fitz-Stephen, fitz-Gerald, fitz-Henry and le Poer were actively carving out petty kingdoms for themselves.

In 1185 Henry awarded his Irish territories to his 18-year-old youngest son, John, with the title Dominus Hiberniae (“Lord of Ireland”), and planned to establish it as a kingdom for him. When John unexpectedly succeeded his brother Richard as king in 1199, the Lordship became a possession of the English Crown.



Walter Glynn Doolin, Architect of St. James’ Church Killorglin

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

Walter Glynn Doolin was born in Dublin circa 1850, the son of William Doolin  and his wife Anne Eliza, née Glynn. He attended school at Tullabeg and Castleknock Colleges, then entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he obtained a BA degree and in 1870, a Licentiate in Engineering. He received his architectural training both from his father and in the office of John Joseph O’Callaghan. Walter Doolin went to London where he worked first in the Architects’ Department of the School Board and then as an assistant in the office of William Burges. He had returned to Dublin by the beginning of 1872, when he was living in his father’s house at 204 Great Brunswick Street. In the Post Office Dublin Directory for 1875, Walter G. Doolin’s address is given as ‘204 Brunswick Street, great, and Waterford’, and Waterford continues to be mentioned as one of his addresses in Thom’s Directory until as late as 1893. The cause and precise nature of his Waterford connection is not known; in 1874 he designed a theatre for the city, and he subsequently received a variety of commissions in the area. His many commissions in the Catholic Diocese of Cashel, may have sprung from his friendship with Dr. Thomas H. Kinane, Dean of Cashel, who was parish priest of Killusty Co. Tipperary  in 1881, when Doolin designed a new church for him. Although he always had an office in Dublin, Doolin by 1881 was sufficiently well regarded locally to be asked by the Guardians of the North Dublin Union to assist them in choosing between designs for a new auxiliary childrens’ institution at Cabra, he did relatively little work in the capital.

Walter g doolin interior of st marys church nenagh co. tipp

Above; interior of St. Mary’s Church, Nenagh.

interior of st cartages church waterford

 Above; The interior of St. Cartage’s Church Waterford.


Above; interior of St. James’ Church Killorglin. (Note the similarities)

Described by Butler as ‘an ardent antiquary’, Doolin took part in more than one of the excursions of the English Architectural Association. According to Butler he was ‘a competent classical scholar, a ripe student of English and foreign literature…and in all that pertained to the arts and sciences a thinker of no mean originality’. In his youth he was also a keen athlete, distinguished both as an oarsman and a rifle shot. His obituarists apply the epithets ‘jovial’ and ‘genial’ to him and according to the short memoir in the Building News, his sense of humour ‘was occasionally most entertaining’.


Above; the exterior of St Cartages Church, Lismore.  

Walter G Doolin St Patricks Church Kilkenny

Above; St. Patrick’s Church Killkenny.



Above; The architectural plans of  St. James’ Church Killorglin with a spire.

Doolin died at his home, 11 Pembroke Road Dublin on 10 March 1902 aged only fifty-two, and was buried at Glasnevin cemetery. His wife, Marion (née Creedon) appears to have predeceased him. He left three sons, William, Daniel and Walter, none of whom followed him in his profession. After his death the practice was carried on by his partner, Rudolf Maximilian Butler, who was joined within a few months by James Louis Donnelly, under the name of DOOLIN BUTLER &  DONNELLY. Donnelly had left the practice by the spring of 1908 and Butler dropped the name Doolin circa 1915. Apart from Butler, Doolin’s pupils and assistants included Fred Core, Joseph Francis Delany, James Joseph Farrall, Frederick Jermyn, Jerome O’Connell, Patrick F. O’ Sullivan, George Patrick Sheridan and Michael John Tighe.


Twenty-eight working notebooks kept by Doolin and Butler over the period 1867-1933 are on deposit in the Irish Architectural Archive.(Acc. no. 85/107) About a quarter of these are by Doolin.

Harman Blennerhassett

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

Harman Blennerhassett
Harman Blennerhassett.jpeg

Harman Blennerhassett, from a 1796 miniaturepainted in London
Born October 8, 1764
Hampshire, England
Died February 2, 1831 (aged 66)
Nationality Irish
Occupation Lawyer
Known for Blennerhassett Island
Signature Harman Blennerhassett signature.jpg

Harman Blennerhassett (8 October 1764 – 2 February 1831) was an Anglo-Irish lawyer and politician.

He was born in Hampshire, England, to Conway Blennerhassett and his wife, Elizabeth Lacy. He was the great-grandson of Captain Robert Blennerhassett. At the age of two, he returned to the family’s home in Killorglin which was at the time the  7,000-acre estate known as Castle Conway. As an adolescent, he was sent to Westminster School in London, and later attended Middle Temple of London’s famous Inns of Court. In 1790, he was graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a Bachelor of Laws, and started his practice at the Irish bar. Blennerhassett visited Paris in 1790; inherited the family estate in 1792; joined the secret Society of United Irishmen in 1793, which initially dedicated itself to reform, but later turned militantly radical; and in 1794 married Margaret Agnew, daughter of his sister Catherine and Major Robert Agnew, a career officer in the British army.

Chiefly to escape involvement in the United Irishmen’s planned rebellion against British rule, but also to conceal his incestuous marriage, Blennerhassett emigrated to the United States in 1796. There, on the western Virginia frontier, he bought the upper half of an Ohio River island lying 1 1/2 miles downstream from what is now Parkersburg, West Virginia. It became the site of a European-style estate whose centerpiece was an enormous mansion surrounded by extravagantly landscaped lawns and gardens. For a brief period, the Blennerhassetts’ home became famous as the largest, most beautiful private residence in the American West.

Above; Blennerhassett’s estate on a large island in the Ohio River, a few miles below Parkersburg, W.Va.

The most distinguished of the Blennerhassetts’ many visitors was the former vice president of the United States, Aaron Burr. His three stays on the island resulted in its becoming headquarters for his mysterious 1806-1807 military expedition to the Southwest. Although branded a treasonous plot (supposedly to separate the American West from the Union) by Burr’s enemy, President Thomas Jefferson, the enterprise’s true goal probably was the conquest of Spanish-ruled Texas.

As the result of the president’s call for the arrest of Burr, Blennerhassett, and their ca. 70 followers, the mansion and island were occupied and plundered in December 1806 by local Virginia militia. Blennerhassett fled, was twice arrested, and finally imprisoned in the Virginia state penitentiary. He was only released following Burr’s acquittal at the end of a long 1807 treason trial at Richmond, Virginia. The Blennerhassetts never returned to their island home, which in 1811 was destroyed by fire.

Now forced to earn a living for himself and family, Blennerhassett first settled on a cotton plantation near Port Gibson, Mississippi, where he lost what was left of his once large fortune. Thereafter he unsuccessfully attempted to practice law in Montreal, Canada (1819-1822), and eventually returned to Europe (1824). Here he initially lived with his family at Bath, England, but later relocated in the Channel Islands where he died in 1831. 

The Blennerhassetts’ island mansion was reconstructed 1984-1991 by the State of West Virginia, which now operates the site as a state park, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.


The Blennerhassett’s/Mullin’s of Killorglin

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

Robert Blennerhassett (MP for Tralee)


Robert Blennerhassett (c.1622 – c.1689) was an Anglo-Irish soldier and politician.

Blennerhassett was the son of Captain John Blennerhassett and Martha Lynn. He was probably born at the family estate at Ballycarty Castle, County Kerry. His family, originally from East Anglia, had been granted large estates in Ireland by the Crown as part of the Plantations. He was the brother of John Blennerhassett MP.

Blennerhassett served as an officer in the Cromwellian army during the Irish Confederate Wars, ensuring that his lands remained intact. He was granted a full pardon following the Restoration of the Monarchy. He married Avice Conway, the daughter and heiress of Edward Conway, and a descendant of Henry I. In doing so he came into the possession of Castle Conway in Killorglin, which would subsequently become the manor of the Blennerhassett’s 7,000 acre Kerry estate. He served as the Member of Parliament for Tralee in 1674, as had his grandfather. Blennerhassett then served as High Sheriff of Kerry in 1682. His wife drowned at sea in 1683, and the last recording of Robert Blennerhassett is in 1689.

He had eleven children with Avice Conway. He was the grandfather of Conway Blennerhassett, and the great-grandfather of William Spring, Harman Blennerhassett and Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, 1st Baronet.


Conway Blennerhassett


Conway Blennerhassett (3 October 1693 – 7 June 1724) was a member of the Irish House of Commons.

Blennerhassett was born at Castle Conway in County Kerry, the eldest son of John ‘Black Jack’ Blennerhassett and Elizabeth Cross. He was the grandson of Robert Blennerhassett. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, before entering Middle Temple in London in 1710. He was a practising lawyer and was invested as a member of the King’s Counsel. He served as the Member of Parliament for Tralee from 1723 to 1725.

He married Elizabeth Harman, the daughter of Colonel Wentworth Harman, with whom he had five children. He died prematurely at the age of 30. His grandson was Harman Blennerhassett.


Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, 1st Baronet

Colonel Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, 1st Baronet (1741 – 14 March 1821) was an Anglo-Irish lawyer and baronet.

Blennerhassett was the son of Robert Blennerhassett and Frances Yielding. He was the great-grandson of Robert Blennerhassett MP.

He trained as an attorney and practised law. He was the colonel of the ‘Laune Rangers’ militia regiment of volunteers from 1779 to 1782. Between 1796 and 1797 he was a Justice of the Peace in County Kerry. Blennerhassett resettled his family at Cahirmoreaun, just outside Tralee, renaming both the house and the village Blennerville in his family’s honour. He built a large new family home at Churchtown House, Knockane. In 1800 he was granted permission to hold four fairs a year and one market a week in Blennerville, which providing him with extra income. Blennerhassett established a Church of Ireland school in Blennerville, called the Erasmus Smith School, in 1812. On 22 September 1809 he was created a baronet of Blennerville in the County of Kerry, in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. He was confirmed the right to bear the family coat of arms a year earlier.

Blennerhassett married his first cousin, Millicent Agnes Yielding, the daughter of Richard Yielding, on 31 October 1762. Millicent was killed in an accident in 1801. Together, they had five children:

  • Sir Robert Blennerhassett, 2nd Baronet (26 January 1769 – 21 September 1831), married Rosanna Blennerhassett
  • Richard Francis Blennerhassett (23 May 1772 – November 1827), married Agnes Denny, daughter of Sir Barry Denny, 1st Baronet
  • Arthur Blennerhassett (27 October 1776 – 31 May 1839), married Hon. Helena Jane Mullins, daughter of Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron Ventry
  • Rowland Blennerhassett (26 December 1780 – 12 April 1854), married Letitia Hurly
  • William Blennerhassett (26 December 1780 – 1842), married Elizabeth Blennerhassett

Above; The grave of Sir Rowland Blennerhassett


Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron Ventry

Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron Ventry (25 October 1736 – 11 January 1824) was an Anglo-Irish politician and peer.

Mullins was the son of William Mullins and Mary Rowan. His great-grandfather had settled in County Kerry in 1666, purchasing land at Burnham, near Dingle, and had served as a Member of the Irish House of Commons. Mullins was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, graduating in 1754.

He served as High Sheriff of Kerry in 1759, and in 1760 was made a member of the Privy Council of Ireland. In 1790 he built a new stately home for his family overlooking Dingle harbour, called Burnham Manor. On 18 June 1793, over 4,000 people marched in Dingle to protest against high rents and the establishment of a local militia. Mullins, who assumed responsibility for the town on behalf of the Crown, brought in 70 soldiers from Limerick to break up the demonstration. The riot was quelled when soldiers were ordered to shoot at the crowd, and 14 farmers were killed with many others being injured.

In 1795, Mullins bought Castle Conway from his relation, Harman Blennerhassett. On 7 December 1797, he was created a baronet, of Burnham in the County of Kerry, in the Baronetage of Ireland. He was further honoured when, on 31 July 1800, he was created Baron Ventry of Burnham, in the Peerage of Ireland. This was largely due to the help he and his son, William, had given to Lord Castlereagh in securing the passage of the Irish Act of Union of 1800. Mullins died in 1834, and was succeeded by his eldest son, William Townsend Mullins, 2nd Baron Ventry.

On 7 October 1755, Mullins had married Elizabeth Gunn. They had twelve children:

  • Hon. Theodora Mullins, married Edward Bruce, of Kilvoot, in 1772
  • Hon. Elizabeth Mullins, married Richard Blennerhasset in June 1780
  • Hon. Arabella Mullins (d. December 1821), married Richard McGillycuddy of the Reeks in February 1780, without issue
  • Hon. Charlotte Mullins (d. 29 April 1816), married Richard Pierse Mahoney on 2 May 1792
  • Hon. Catharine Mullins, married James Hozier on 28 December 1784
  • William Townshend Mullins, 2nd Baron Ventry (1761–1827)
  • Townshend Mullins (19 March 1763 – 1799), married Christabella Dayrolles and had one son, Thomas de Moleyns, 3rd Baron Ventry
  • Lt-Col Hon. Thomas Mullins (d. 1823)
  • Hon. Richard Mullins (1766–1850), married Miss Grey and left issue
  • Hon. Helena Jane Mullins (1773–1846), married Arthur Blennerhasset, son of Sir Rowland Blennerhassett, 1st Baronet, in September 1799
  • Maj. Hon. Edward Mullins (1777–1841), married Elizabeth Hillyard in 1805 and left issue
  • Hon. Rev. Frederick Mullins (1778 – 30 December 1833), married Elizabeth Croker and left issue


William Mullins, 2nd Baron Ventry


William Townshend Mullins, 2nd Baron Ventry (25 September 1761 – 5 October 1827) was an Anglo-Irish politician and peer.

Mullins was the son of Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron Ventry and Elizabeth Gunn, the daughter of Townsend Gunn. He served as the Member of Parliament for Dingle between January and December 1800. In this capacity he was instrumental in the securing the passage of the Irish Act of Union of 1800, for which his father was awarded a peerage. He succeeded to his father’s title in 1824 and died three years later. He had been married three times but left no surviving male issue, and was succeeded by his nephew, Thomas de Moleyns, 3rd Baron Ventry.


Killorglin during the 1916 Rising.

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off


Ballykissane Pier – Killorglin

Located on Ballykissane Pier is a monument to commemorate the loss of life of three Volunteers. In 1916 their car plunged into the sea while they were on the way to Cahirciveen in order to set up radio communications with Sir Roger Casement and the German arms ship the Aud. This is their story.

On Monday the 30th of October 1916, six months after the sinking of the Aud, a skeleton was washed onto a bank of the River Laune. Therefor the authorities were not supprised to learn that the man they had been actively seeking for so much time had finally come to the surface after drifting hidden under the summer river brine. Despite the skeleton being fully clothed, the police were still unable to identify the man, as the highly decomposed corpse had no head, only one arm and had both feet missing. Overall the remains were in pretty bad shape.

The trunk wore good quality gentleman’s clothing. When the clothing was searched, two gold half-sovereings and a soaked wad of old bank notes – more then the average amount of cash. The remains were later identified as those of Charlie Monaghan.

The story of these first casualties in the 1916 Rising is intriguing for a number of reasons, not least the great ‘what if’ factor of wondering what might have happened had their mission not ended so tragically arising from a Hardyesque case of wrong directions. On Good Friday 21st April 1916, five men set off from Dublin by train to Killarney, Charlie Monaghan, Donal Sheehan, Con Keating, Dennis Daly and Colm O’Lochlainn. According to the memoirs of Gerry Plunkett, they were to travel by car to Cahirciveen in order to seize control of the wireless station on Valentia Island. From there, the plan was that they would signal to the British Navy that a German naval attack was imminent on the Scottish coast. The purpose of this would be to distract the British naval presence from the Kerry coast , thus facilitating the landing of 2000 German rifles and 10 machine guns at Banna Strand from the U-boat ‘The Aud’. On board the Aud were a small group of Irish Republican’s led by Sir Roger Casement. They were then to liase with Austin Stack in Tralee, so as to ensure that the weaponry was distributed throughout the country to coincide with the Easter Rising in Dublin on Easter Sunday. The men travelling to Kerry from Dublin had each been selected for their particular expertise, Keating originally from Cahirciveen was a radio expert and had been a radio officer on a number of ships. Monaghan was a mechanic and a wireless installation expert, Sheehan had worked at the War Office and knew the Admiralty codes.

On arrival at Killarney the group transferred into two motor vehicles. Sam Windrim who had driven from Limerick City drove the first car, a Maxwell. He collected Denis Daly and Colm O’Lochlainn. Tommy McInerney also from Limerick City drove the second car, a Briscoe Cyclops. His passengers were Con Keating, Charlie Monahan and Donal Sheehan. Since Denis Daly knew the route, McInerney was to follow his tail-lights. However, as is often the case in life, plans began to unravel when a breakdown and a curious RIC officer held up the lead car. Somehow the second vehicle lost sight of the first car just outside Killorglin.
McInerney asked a young girl for directions to Cahirciveen. She told them to take the first turn on the right. Not knowing the road, Thomas mistook the turn which led to the quay. In the darkness he only realised his mistake when the two front wheels of the car went over the unprotected edge into the River Laune which is deep and wide at this point. It is said that in the moonlight, the reflection of the water resembled a continuance of the road. In the ensuing panic the car became unbalanced and fell into the river with its four passengers still on board. Totally disoriented Thomas McInerney started to swim heading in the wrong direction, only for the intervention of local man Thady O’Sullivan, who guided him back to the shore. At this stage it was clear that the three other occupants of the car had somehow become trapped in the vehicle and had sadly in all likelihood quickly drowned. Other local people such as Patrick Begley and his son Michael, an Irish teacher based in Limerick, had made strenuous efforts to rescue the but this proved impossible. Cold and disheartened, the one survivor and the rescuers gathered in the O’Sullivan’s kitchen. McInerney was advised to go to the RIC barracks and report the incident. Whilst away, McInerneys wet overcoat was picked up, and a revolver was discovered in it. Patrick Begley soon realised that there was more to the nights events than at first thought. At that moment the RIC arrived at the cottage, Begley hid the revolver by sitting on it under a cushion.
The RIC had arrested a man in Tralee and were alert to the possibility of some Fenian related activity in the area. McInerney stuck to his story that he had been driving tourists around Kerry and that he did not know the occupants of the car personally. On a wet Holy Saturday morning the bodies of Con Keating and and Donal Sheehan were located by fishermen. No trace of Charlie Monaghan was found until October, some six months later, when his body was discovered on an island in the River. That same morning McInerney tried to retrieve his revolver from Patrick Begley, but Begley said that if the RIC returned it would be better if he was not carrying a weapon. As predicted, they did indeed return and arrested Thomas McInerney. He was transferred after the Rising was suppressed to to the prison camp in North Wales, Frongoch, which was to be the destination of the bulk of those Republicans captured after the Rising. McInerney on release from Frongoch rejoined the IRA and was later killed in County Tipperary.
What we will never know is what would have happened if the unit had succeeded in their mission. Would they have managed to divert the British navy? If they had succeeded in this, then landing the weaponry at Banna would have had a greater chance of success. However to be fair, the arrest of Austin Stack in Tralee would have made distribution well nigh impossible, since he was the key link between the Aud and the local Irish Republican Brotherhood organisation. Nevertheless it is an interesting and little told tale, which is moving for the fact that it illustrates the way in which human error often plays a significant part in determining historical events.




Above; Ballykissane Pier and Monument


Below; Ballykissane Pier as it looks today.



Tom Barry, Irish Republican

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off


Tom Barry

Born 1 July 1897
Killorglin, County Kerry
Died 2 July 1980 (aged 83)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Template:Country data Irish Republic Flag.svg
Service/branch  British Army
Template:Country data Irish Republic Flag.svg Irish Republican Army
Republic of Ireland Irish Defence Forces
Rank Commandant General
Unit Irish Republican Army
Commands held Officer Commanding, 3rd (West) Cork Brigade, Irish Republican Army
Chief of Staff, Irish Republican Army
Operations Officer, Southern Command, Irish Defence Forces
Battles/wars World War I
Irish War of Independence
Irish Civil War

General Thomas (Tom) Barry (1 July 1897 – 2 July 1980) was one of the most prominent guerrilla leaders in the Irish Republics ground forces, the Irish Republican Army, during the Irish War of Independence

Early life

Thomas Bernardine Barry was born in Killorglin, County Kerry. He was the son of a Royal Irish Constabulary policeman. Four years later, Thomas Barry Senior resigned and opened a business in his hometown of Rosscarbery, County Cork. Barry was educated for a period at Mungret College, County Limerick from 25 August 1911 to 12 September 1912. The reason for his short stay is indicated by a reference from the school register of the Apostolic School, Mungret College; ‘Went – Home (ran away) without knowledge of superiors – no vocation’.

In 1915, during World War I, he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery at Cork and became a soldier in the British Army.

In June, in my seventeenth year, I had decided to see what this Great War was like. I cannot plead I went on the advice of John Redmond or any other politician, that if we fought for the British we would secure Home Rule for Ireland, nor can I say I understood what Home Rule meant. I was not influenced by the lurid appeal to fight to save Belgium or small nations. I knew nothing about nations, large or small. I went to the war for no other reason than that I wanted to see what war was like, to get a gun, to see new countries and to feel a grown man. Above all I went because I knew no Irish history and had no national consciousness.

He fought in Mesopotamia (then part of the Ottoman Empire, present day Iraq). He rose to the rank of sergeant. Barry was offered a commission in the Royal Munster Fusiliers but refused it. While outside Kut-el-Amara Barry first heard of the Easter Rising.

War of Independence

On his return to Cork he was involved with ex-servicemen’s organisations. In 1920, Barry joined the 3rd (West) Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which was then engaged in the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921). He was involved in brigade council meetings, was brigade-training officer, flying column commander, was consulted by IRA General Headquarters Staff (GHQ), and also participated in the formation of the IRA First Southern Division. The West Cork Brigade became famous for its discipline, efficiency and bravery, and Barry garnered a reputation as the most brilliant field commander of the war.

The Kilmichael Ambush on 28 November 1920 was, a turning point of the war as theAuxiliaries, previously thought “invincible”, were defeated by an IRA column – a fact which had a very negative impact on British morale.

Crossbarry Memorial, Crossbarry, County Cork. In March 1921, 104 Irish Republican Army volunteers under the command of Tom Barry attacked and later escaped from an encircling manoeuvre by 1,200 British soldiers and Black and Tans.

On 28 November 1920, Barry’s unit ambushed and killed almost a whole platoon of British Auxiliaries at Kilmichael, County Cork. In March 1921 at Crossbarry in the same county, Barry and 104 men, divided into seven sections, broke out of an encirclement of 1,200 strong British force from the Essex Regiment. In total, the British Army stationed over 12,500 troops in County Cork during the conflict, while Barry’s men numbered no more than 310. Eventually, Barry’s tactics made West Cork ungovernable for the British authorities.

“They said I was ruthless, daring, savage, blood thirsty, even heartless. The clergy called me and my comrades murderers; but the British were met with their own weapons. They had gone in the mire to destroy us and our nation and down after them we had to go.”

Civil War

During the negotiations that preceded the Truce that ended the war, the British had demanded that Barry be handed over to them before progress could be made on other matters. Michael Collins refused, although he afterwards jokingly told his fellow Cork men that he had been sorely tempted. Barry opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, because, according to him, it betrayed the Irish Republicand partitioned Ireland. He fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War (1922–1923) and was imprisoned by the Irish Free Stateafter the Battle of Dublin in July 1922. Barry had voiced the opinion that, at the start of the Civil War, while the Republican side was stronger, they should have taken over Dublin and the major cities and forced a new confrontation with the British.

In September of that year, however, he escaped from an internment camp at Gormanston in County Meath and traveled south, to take command of the anti-Treaty IRA Second Southern Division. In November 1922, he led his men in the capture of a string of towns across the province of Munster, including Carrick on Suir, Thomastown and Mullinavat, taking the Free State garrison there prisoner. However, due to a shortage of men and equipment, he was unable to hold these places, evacuating them before National Army reinforcements arrived. After this point, Barry increasingly argued with Liam Lynch, the Republican commander in chief, that the Civil War should be brought to an end, as there was no hope of victory. In March, Barry proposed to the IRA Army executive that a ceasefire should be called, but he was defeated by 6 votes to 5. The anti-treaty campaign was belatedly called off by Frank Aiken in May, after Lynch had been killed in a skirmish with Free State troops. Barry was arrested shortly before Aiken’s order to “dump arms”, on 24 May 1923.

Subsequent IRA career

After the defeat of the Anti-Treaty IRA in the Civil War, Barry was released in 1924. He served as general superintendent of Cork Harbour Commission from 1927 to 1965. In March 1936, Barry was involved in the shooting dead of Vice-Admiral Henry Somerville. Four men burst into Somerville’s family home at Castletownshend, Cork and fired a revolver. Somerville was targeted for recruiting local men to join the Royal Navy.

In 1937, he succeeded Seán MacBride as chief of staff. Barry claimed that they had sabotaged a planned IRA offensive in Northern Ireland. Barry would assert in later life that he opposed both the 1930s bombing campaign inEngland and IRA contacts with Nazi Germany. In fact, in January 1937 he had taken a trip to Germany seeking German support, which was assured to him subject to the condition that the IRA limit its actions to British military installations once war was declared. Financing was to be arranged through the Clann na Gael in the USA. The Army Convention in April 1938 adopted Seán Russell’s S-Plan instead. Barry resigned as chief of staff as a result, but remained in contact with German agents at least to February 1939.

In 1940, Barry was made responsible for Intelligence in the Irish Army’s Southern Command, a position he held, with the rank of Commandant, for the duration of World War II (see The Emergency). In 1941 he was denounced by the IRA for writing for the Irish Army’s journal, “An Cosantóir”. He was an unsuccessful candidate at the 1946 Cork Borough by-election. Barry was supportive of the Provisional IRA campaign but expressed reservations about some of their tactics.


Cover of 1968 edition of Barry’s memoir

In 1949, Barry published his memoirs of the Irish War of Independence, Guerilla Days in Ireland. It describes his Brigade’s exploits such as the ambushes at Kilmichael and Crossbarry, as well as numerous other less known actions which were directed against the British Army, Black and Tans, the Auxiliary Division and the Royal Irish Constabulary. It became a classic account of the war and an influential guide on guerrilla warfare. Barry took part in a fiftieth anniversary commemoration of Kilmichael on 9 August 1970.


He died in a Cork hospital in 1980 and was survived by his wife, Leslie de Barra (née Price), whom he married in 1921 and who was the director of organization for Cumann na mBan and later President of the Irish Red Cross. She died in 1984.


Tom Barry in popular culture

  • Bobby Sands wrote a poem about Barry after his death, entitled Tom Barry. It was published posthumously in the collection Prison Poems.
  • In Ken Loach’s film The Wind That Shakes the Barley the character of Teddy is partly based on him, although Teddy fights on the other side in the Civil War.
  • A stage adaptation of Tom Barry’s war memoir Guerilla Days in Ireland was performed in the ‘Theatre By The Lake’, Gougane Barra, in West Cork in August 2011. It was written and directed byNeil Pearson, and starred Brendan Conroy as Barry.

Castle Conway

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

Castle Conway is a former castle and stately home that was situated in Killorglin. Today only the ruins of one wall remain.

Originally called Killorglin Castle, a defensive structure was first built on the site next to the River Laune by Maurice FitzGerald, 2nd Lord of Offaly. Following the Desmond Rebellions, the castle was seized by The Crown and subsequently granted to Captain Jenkin Conway in 1587 as part of the Munster Plantation. The Conway family were descendants of Henry I and Aoife MacMurrough. This grant was confirmed in 1592. Due to the poor state of the building, the son of Captain Jenkin Conway, also Jenkin, rebuilt the castle in 1613 and named it Castle Conway. The castle passed in marriage to Robert Blennerhassett, a Cromwellian officer in the Irish Confederate Wars. During the wars, the castle had been damaged and it was in ruins by 1682.

Between 1700 and 1710, a new stately home was built by the Blennerhassett family on the site of the ruined castle, including elements of the Medieval structure. By this stage, the family estate surrounding the castle was approximately 7,000 acres, and the Blennerhassetts were able to build a large new house, recorded as having tall chimneys, an important library and demesne terraced gardens leading down to the River Laune. The old chapel was repaired and incorporated into the new building. Castle Conway was inherited by Harman Blennerhassett in 1792, but was sold to his relation, Thomas Mullins, 1st Baron Ventry in 1795. The castle had been largely demolished by 1842, with much of its stone being used in the construction of other Killorglin buildings. The stone ruins of one of the Medieval walls are all that remain of the castle.


Above; The last remaining wall from Castle Conway.

St.Lawrence, Saint of Killorglin

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

Lawrence of Rome

Saint Lawrence

Lawrence before Valerianus
Born c. 225 AD
Osca, Hispania (now modern-daySpain)
Died 258 CE 10 August
Honored in Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion,Lutheranism
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Majorshrine Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome
Feast August 10
Attributes Usually holding a gridiron and wearing a dalmatic
Patronage Rome, Rotterdam, Birgu (Malta),Huesca (Spain), San Lawrenz,Brgy. San Lorenzo, San Pablo City, Philippines (Gozo), Canada, Sri Lanka, comedians, librarians,students, miners, tanners, chefs, roasters

Lawrence of Rome (Latin: Laurentiuslit. “laurelled”; c. 225–258) was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome under Pope Sixtus II that were martyred during the persecution of Emperor Valerian in 258.



Lawrence is thought to have been born in Spain, at Huesca, a town in the Aragon region near the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. As a youth he was sent to Zaragoza to complete his humanistic and theological studies. It was here he first encountered the future Pope Sixtus II, who was of Greek origin. The future Pope was one of the most famous and highly esteemed teachers in Zaragoza, one of the empire’s most renowned centres of learning. Eventually, both left Spain for Rome. When Sixtus became the Pope in 257, he ordained Lawrence as a deacon, and though Lawrence was still young, appointed him first among the seven deacons who served in the patriarchal church; Lawrence is therefore called “archdeacon of Rome”. This was a position of great trust that included the care of the treasury and riches of the church and the distribution of alms among the poor.

St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, notes that Roman authorities had established a norm according to which all Christians who had been denounced must be executed and their goods confiscated by the Imperial treasury. At the beginning of the month of August 258, the emperor Valerian issued an edict commanding that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. Sixtus was captured on August 6, 258, at the cemetery of St. Callixtus while celebrating the liturgy and executed forthwith.

After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. St. Ambrose is the earliest source for the tale that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth. Lawrence worked swiftly to distribute as much Church property to the poor as possible, so as to prevent its being seized by the prefect. On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.” This act of defiance led directly to Lawrence’s martyrdom and can be compared to the parallel Roman tale of the jewels of Cornelia.

On 10 of August, Lawrence, the last of the seven deacons, also suffered a martyr’s death. The 10th of August is also the first day of Puck Fair. This is an example of a Pagan festival converting to that of a religious festival. This was a common practice in the Iron Age/Early Medieval world, as Christianity was starting to take hold. Here in Ireland, everything Pagan including Healing Wells, Ogham Stones and festivals were converted. For example, Healing Wells became Holy Wells, some Ogham Stones had signs of the Cross inscribed into them and festivals with Pagan roots became associated with Saints. However, there is no real connection between St. Lawrence and Puck Fair, although St. Lawrence is the Saint, Killorglin is named after.

Holy Chalice

According to lore, Lawrence was able to spirit away the chalice used during Christ’s Last Supper (the “Holy Grail”) to Huesca, in present-day Spain, with a letter and a supposed inventory, where it lay hidden and unregarded for centuries. WhenSt. Augustine connects Lawrence with a chalice, it is the chalice of the Mass:

For in that Church, you see, as you have regularly been told, he performed the office of deacon; it was there that he administered the sacred chalice of Christ’s blood.

According to Catholic tradition the Holy Grail is a relic sent by St Lawrence to his parents in northern Aragon. He entrusted this sacred chalice to a friend who he knew would travel back to Huesca, remaining in the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, core of spiritual strength for the emerging Kingdom of Aragon. While the Holy Chalice’s exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is accepted by many Catholics that the Chalice was sent by his family to this monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate this chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain.


The Martyrdom of St Lawrence, Tintoretto, oil on canvas, (Christ Church, Oxford)

By tradition, Lawrence was sentenced at San Lorenzo in Miranda, imprisoned in San Lorenzo in Fonte, and martyred at San Lorenzo in Panisperna. The Almanac of Philocalus for the year 354 mentions that he was buried in the Via Tiburtina in the Catacomb of Cyriaca by Hippolytus and Justin the Confessor, a presbyter. One of the early sources for the martyrdom of Saint Lawrence was the description by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens in his Peristephanon, Hymn II.

A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As deacon in Rome, Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church, and the distribution of alms to the poor. St. Ambrose of Milan relates that when St. Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasure as alms. “Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the church’s crown.” The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it (hence St. Lawrence’s association with the gridiron). After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “I’m well done. Turn me over!” From this derives his patronage of cooks and chefs.

Some historians, such as Rev. Patrick Healy, view the traditions of how Lawrence was martyred as “not worthy of credence”, as the slow lingering death cannot be reconciled “with the express command contained in the edict regarding bishops, priests, and deacons (animadvertantur) which ordinarily meant decapitation.” A theory of how the tradition arose is put forward by Pio Franchi de’ Cavalieri. He postulates that it was the result of a mistaken transcription, the accidental omission of the letter “p” – “by which the customary and solemn formula for announcing the death of a martyr – passus est [“he suffered,” that is, was martyred] – was made to read assus est [he was roasted].” The Liber Pontificalis, which is held to draw from sources independent of the existing traditions and Acta regarding Lawrence, uses passus est concerning him, the same term it uses for Pope Sixtus II (martyred by beheading during the same persecution).

Constantine I is said to have built a small oratory in honour of the martyr, which was a station on the itineraries of the graves of the Roman martyrs by the seventh century. Pope Damasus I rebuilt or repaired the church, now known as San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, while the minor basilica of San Lorenzo in Panisperna was built over the place of his martyrdom. The gridiron of the martyrdom was placed by Pope Paschal II in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.



The life and miracles of St. Lawrence were collected in the work, The Acts of St. Lawrence, but this is now lost. The earliest existing documentation of miracles associated with St. Lawrence is found in the writings of St. Gregory of Tours (538–594), who mentions the following:

A priest named Fr. Sanctulus was rebuilding a church of St. Lawrence, which had been attacked and burnt, and hired many workmen to accomplish the job. At one point during the construction, he found himself with nothing to feed them. He prayed to St. Lawrence for help, and looking in his basket he found a fresh, white loaf of bread. It seemed to him too small to feed the workmen, but in faith he began to serve it to the men. While he broke the bread, it so multiplied that that his workmen fed from it for ten days.


The stone on which Lawrence’s body was laid after death, in San Lorenzo fuori le mura

Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church. Legendary details of his death were known to Damasus, Prudentius, Ambrose and Augustine. The church built over his tomb, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, became one of the seven principal churches in Rome and a favorite place for Roman pilgrimages. Devotion to him was widespread by the fourth century. Since the Perseid Meteor Shower typically occurs every year in mid-August, on or near Saint Lawrence’s feast day, some refer to the shower as the “Tears of Saint Lawrence.”

The shrine in Rome containing the gridiron said to have been used to grill Lawrence to death

St Lawrence is especially honoured in the city of Rome, where he is one of the city’s patrons. There are several churches in Rome dedicated to him, including San Lorenzo in Panisperna, traditionally identified as the place of his execution; the part of Rome near the San Lorenzo basilica is called Quartiere San Lorenzo. He is invoked by librarians, archivists, cooks, and tanners as their patron. His celebration on 10 August has the rank of feast throughout the entire Catholic world. On this day, the reliquary containing his burnt head is displayed in the Vatican for veneration.

The Escorial Palace, situated at the foot of Mt. Abantos in the Sierra de Guadarrama, was built by King Philip II of Spain to commemorate the victory of Spanish forces over those of King Henry II of France at the Battle of St Quentin, which took place on the feast of St Lawrence on 10 August 1557. To honour the martyr, the entire floor plan of this imposing edifice was laid out in the form of a gridiron, the means by which St Lawrence was martyred.

French explorer Jacques Cartier gave the name of Saint Lawrence to the widest river estuary in the world. At the mouth of this river is the large Gulf of Saint Lawrence, surrounded by all the Canadian Maritime provinces. Closer to the source of this river are the Laurentian mountains (north of the city of Montreal), the major Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent (borough), as well as the famed Saint Lawrence Boulevard that spans the full 11.25 km width of the island of Montreal. Further upstream, on the south side of the river near its source at Lake Ontario, is St. Lawrence County, New York.

St Lawrence is the patron saint of the monks of Ampleforth Abbey. St Lawrence is also venerated by Anglo-Catholics. A major church in Sydney, Australia, situated in the former civil (land division) parish of St Lawrence, is called “Christ Church St. Laurence”. The Brotherhood of St Laurence also bears his name.



According to Fr. Francesco Moraglia, Professor of Dogmatic Theology, the role of deacon is distinguished by service of the poor. He is destined both to the service of the table (corporal works of mercy) and to the service of the word (spiritual works of mercy). “The beauty, power and the heroism of Deacons such as Lawrence help to discover and come to a deeper meaning of the special nature of the diaconal ministry.”

The Basilica of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr is located in Asheville, North Carolina.

Rescue operation for the miners trapped in the 2010 Copiapó mining accident in Chile was termed Operación San Lorenzo after the saint.

New research shows Killorglin is older then Tralee

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

New research into the medieval origins of Tralee, has discovered that the Kerry capital was first established as a town, as early as 1216 – but only after Killorglin was established a few years earlier.
The information came to light following a report on Tralee’s history, prepared for Tralee Town Council by a Cork historian.
Prior to this new report, researched by Paul McCotter of University College Cork, the earliest evidence of an urban centre in Tralee was April of 1286.
However this new evidence, presented to Tralee Town Council’s monthly meeting last night, shows there were court records of an incorporated borough in Tralee in 1252.
Further research by Professor McCotter, shows many Anglo-Norman towns in Munster were established in the early 1200s, with Kerry towns beginning to be established from 1207 onwards.
He believes that the most likely date for the founding of Tralee town was 1216, with Killorglin already  established before this, and Dingle, Listowel and Ardfert being established later.
Kerry County Council’s Tourism Officer John Griffin says this new information is very exciting, as it gives fresh information and a new insight into Tralee’s early years as an urban centre.

‘The Gorgeous Gael’ Jack Doyle and his wrestling match against the mighty Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue, Puck Fair 1953.

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Local History | Comments Off

Nickname(s) The Gorgeous Gael
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Reach 79 in (201 cm)
Nationality Irish
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 23
Wins 17
Losses 6
Draws 0
No contests 0

Jack Doyle (31 August 1913 in Cobh, Ireland – 13 December 1978 in Paddington, London), known as “The Gorgeous Gael” was a boxer, a Hollywood actor and an accomplished tenor. He was born Joseph Doyle and known to his friends as Joe but changed it to Jack when starting his professional career.

Early years

He was born into a working-class family in Cobh, Co. Cork in 1913. At 6 feet 5 inches, Doyle was always good with his fists and in 1929 he joined the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army based in Wales.

There he quickly excelled at boxing and was famed for his strong hooks that won him the British Army Championship. A sensational record of 28 straight victories, 27 by knockout, brought him to the attention of promoter Dan Sullivan. He turned pro and notched up 10 victories on the trot all inside 2 rounds, making him the hottest thing in the sport.

In July 1933, at the age of 19 he missed out on the British Heavyweight title to the holder, Welshman, Jack Peterson. Witnesses claim that he had done most of his warming up in a pub not far from the bout. Within the opening seconds he knew he was in trouble and decided to take the easy way out. He was disqualified for repeatedly punching low.

Shortly after, his singing voice was discovered by Dr. Vincent O’Brien, voice coach to Count John McCormack and soon his soft tenor voice and handsome looks were selling out the London Palladium and the Royal in Dublin. Jack was subsequebtly signed up by Decca.

In 1934 Doyle travelled to the United States and several records were produced including the popular “South of the Border” a duet recorded with his then wife Movita. But his love for alcohol coupled with his generous nature soon started to take its toll on his health.

Below; Jack weighs in before a match.

Jack Doyle and Harry Staal at Weigh-In

Move to America

He travelled to America in 1934 and soon carried on his high living of gambling, ladies and drink. His good looks and deep pockets opened the party circuit to him. As a result of this, he starred in two movies, Mc Glusky The Sea Rover (1934) and Navy Spy (1937). Later in life he had minor parts in a number of British films.

While in the States he continued to box, taking on one Buddy Baer in August 1935. Like his fight against Jack Peterson, it is said that Doyle had consumed the best part of a bottle of brandy before the bell rang and was in no fit state to stand. He was knocked down loaded in the first round. It was around this time that Jack and Judith Allen, who had been the girlfriend of Buddy Baer’s younger brother and fellow boxer Max, had a whirlwind affair and married. Unfortunately their marriage was also a whirlwind and didn’t last. By the late 1930s Doyle was involved with the actress Movita Castandeda.

Above; Movita in a trailer for Mutiny On The Bounty (1935 Film) and Below; A rare picture of Jack and Movita. 


Return to Ireland

Following a celebrity wedding to Movita in Dublin’s Westland Row Church, they toured both sides of the Irish Sea, selling out music halls and opera houses.

Around this time Jack fought his last professional fight, against a journeyman called Chris Cole in front of 23,000 in Dublin’s Dalymount Park. Arriving late for the bout after a stop at The Clarence Hotel for alcoholic beverages, the inebriated Doyle went down in the first. Movita packed up and moved back to Hollywood, where she went on to marry Marlon Brando.

Shortly after, Doyle found himself residing at Mountjoy Jail in Dublin for knocking out a Garda Detective in a Ranelagh pub. He moved to England and his spiral downwards into alcoholism and bankruptcy continued. He found his friends had deserted him as fast as his bank balance was spent. In his own words as to how his managed to lose everything he was quoted to have said “slow horses and fast women” were his downfall. He odd-jobbed for a while but when he couldn’t afford the rent on his humble flat, he took to sleeping at the homes of friends, in Pimlico London. His only source of income during this time was an allowance he received from Movita.


Above; Jack in his later years.

In 1947 Doyle was imprisoned in Sligo Gaol for issuing a cheque which later bounced. He served four months of hard labour. Jack died in 1978 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. At the time it seemed he would be buried in a pauper’s grave in London however when news of his death reached Ireland, a number of members of the Cork Ex-Boxer’s association decided to act. In conjunction with Cobh undertaker Paddy Barry, they brought Jack’s remains home. Large crowds lined the streets of Cobh as the coffin led by a lone piper and topped with Jack’s trademark – a red carnation – was brought on its last journey. He was buried in the Old Church Cemetery and his grave is visited by thousands of people every year. Shortly before his death, he was interviewed by a journalist who asked him if he had any regrets about not spending his money more wisely. “None at all,” he said, “twas never a generous man who went to hell.”

Below; Jack Doyle’s Funeral procession through Cobh.


Song about Jack Doyle

The popular Irish song “The Contender” written by Jimmy McCarthy around 1983, and performed by many including Finbar Wright, Christy Moore and Tommy Fleming, was a song about Jack Doyle.

The Contender
by Jimmy McCarthy

When I was young and I was in my day
I could steal what woman’s heart there was away
Sing and dance into the dawning
Blaze a trail until the morning
Long before I was the man you see today

And I was born beneath the star that promised all
I could have lived my life between Cork, Cobh and Youghal
But the wheel of fortune took me
From the highest point she shook me
By the bottle live by the bottle I shall fall

But there in the mirror on the wall
I see the dream is fading
From the contender to the fall
The ring, the rose, the matador, raving

And when I die I’ll die a drunk down on the street
He will count me out to ten in clear defeat
Wrap the Starry Plough around me
Let the piper’s air resound me
There I’ll rest until the lord of love I meet

But there in the mirror on the wall
I see the dream is fading
From the contender to the brawl
The ring, the rose, the matador, raving


RTE featured Jack Doyle in their series True Lives in a programme called Jack Doyle, a legend lost in September 2007. A book, foreworded by Barry McGuigan called Jack Doyle: The Gorgeous Gael was released in late 2007.

Below; The grave of Jack Doyle.



Jack V Butty, Puck Fair August 10th, 1953.

Back in Puck Fair 1953, Butty promoted a wrestling match between himself and Jack Doyle in Joe O’ Shea’s Paddock in Langford Street. The wrestling match was timed to take place after the coronation and enthronement of King Puck. By six thirty on that warm evening of Monday August 10th, crowds began to surge towards O’Shea’s Paddock to witness what was billed as ‘The greatest attraction ever’. For the previous week before Puck, this small field became a hive of activity and a ring was erected along with dozens of 9×3 planks to accommodate seating for the spectators. Peter Teahan’s house across from the entrance was engaged for the day, the front downstairs room was used as a booking and pay office with the bedrooms being used as dressing rooms. Only the best would be good enough for the prime actors in the drama that was about to unfold, as described by Radio Eireann that morning. Dan Parker journalist with the New York Times was present to cover the event. From The Express newspaper was Ron Walker along with David Gallop form The Mail. Press and posters announced the forthcoming event two weeks prior to the date and ringside seats were booked at 20 shillings a go!! It was Jack Doyle ‘The Gorgeous Gael’ V Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue, Ireland and Europe’s Strongest Man.

The event was to take place at 7;30 pm and was to be a Ten Round Heavy-Weight Battle. This event was coupled with other super contests such as Norman Steward, heavy-weight champion of Scotland Vs Jerry O’ Sullivan from Caherciveen, and Red Staranoff, ‘Russia’s King of Wrestlers’ Vs Ron Knight, ‘London’s Wonder Boy’. The Programme got off to a punctual start so as to take advantage of the evening light. Stewart was first into the ring followed by that muscular Iveragh man, Jerry O’ Sullivan, better known to his friends and neighbours as ‘Jer John Tade’. This spirited match ended in a draw. Next was the Match of the Titans, Butty was first into the ring where after prolonged cheering he was introduced by the ref to the crowd as follows; ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Michael ‘Butty’ Sugrue (more cheers), six months ago he took up wrestling and placed himself in the hands of the great Freddie Mills (more cheers) in the contest he will be conceding height and weight. He is five feet eight inches tall and weighs in at 13 stone 7lbs, but against that, he has youth on his side. He is only 27 years of age and also has super human strength.

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Above; Butty and Jack pose before the big wrestling match. Notice the cigarette in Jack’s left hand.

The cheers could be heard a mile away as Butty surveyed the scene and waved to one and all. When Jack Doyle arrived in Kerry, he spent a final day training at a secret location. However, he paid a visit to Killorglin on the eve of Puck Fair where he and his minders had a drink or two at Jack Denny Con O’ Sullivan’s bar, and at the request of many people he went on the lower stand of the Puck where he regaled the crowd with his favourite song, ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’. Willie Mangan the resident musician accompanied Jack on the accordion.

When Jack entered the ring he also received a good welcome plus many shouts of wit from the crowd. The ref called order and said; ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the one and only Jack Doyle, star of Film and Stage, Singer, Boxer and now Champion Wrestler. Last week he defeated Two Ton Tony Galento, also Man Mountain Dean, as well as the Basque Champion of Spain. He weighs 17 stone, six feet five inches tall and thirty nine years of age’. The two contestants then posed for some photos, went back to the centre of the ring, a few words from the ref, a hand shake and the contest was on.

For the first minute or so they skipped around avoiding all bodily contact. In response to much urging from the fans, Butty made a dash at the man from Cork and floored him. Here they laid in a bear hug. Suddenly Jack’s nobel head was in an arm lock by Butty and the fans roared for blood. A knee to the back followed by a ‘belt’ of his boot from Butty and the ‘match of the century’ was finished. Down went the Gorgeous Gael. It was all over inside one round. Jack Doyle limped back to his dressing room, a look of real or faked pain on his face. Legend has it that the real fight occurred between the two later that night when it came to dividing the purse!

The third bout of the day started as dusk drifted in. As a result of this, the crowd slowly began to melt away to the pubs and restaurants of the town, regretting the money and time they had spent in the Paddock. However the outcome, this contest and the men who took part and organized the bouts are now part of the history and folklore of Puck.