The Heritage Tour at the 6th annual Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School focused on events in Kilmovee Parish pre and post 1916. Local historian James Reddiough led the tour and recalled events in the area during the War of Independence and Civil War. He based the tour on research he conducted for one of his books which was published in 2005 – The History of the East Mayo Brigade. As part of his research for this book, James interviewed a number of local people, many of whom are no longer with us, including Michael and John McDermott of Aughadeffin, Jimmy Duffy of Shammer, Tom Moffatt of Magheraboy and Seosamh Mac Gabhann. He also recently spoke to Michael Bowens about the Derrylahan Ambush as part of his research for this Heritage Tour.
James Reddiough giving the background to the tour in The Thatched Cottage in Kilmovee Community Centre
Following an introductory talk in ‘Cois Tine’ Heritage Centre, the tour visited the first site – Sraheens Barracks. James explained how a sniping attack took place on the barracks in April 1921. The IRA planned the operation in Culliagh Wood and then moved to a wood opposite the barracks in Sraheens, from where they fired on the barracks one Sunday morning. The RIC returned fire and left the barracks shortly after, at which point the IRA returned and burned it down.
Sraheens Barracks attacked in April 1921 during the War of Independence
The next site visited was the Yan Goulet monument in Kilkelly which commemorates the members of the East Mayo Brigade killed between 1918 and 1923. James outlined how each of the men listed on the monument was killed. When it came to the name Paddy Boland, local singer and musician Paddy Joe Tighe sang The Ballad of Paddy Boland, which recalled Boland’s cruel murder by the Black and Tans during The War of Independence. James Reddiough noted the cruelty of these times at a dark time for the area.
Paddy Joe Tighe singing ‘The Ballad of Paddy Boland’ at ‘The Yan Goulet Monument’ in Kilkelly
The final site for the post 1916 events covered in the tour was Derrylahan, where an ambush took place on 6th September 1922. Here, James Reddiough recalled how the IRA from East Mayo with three of the ambushing party from Northern Ireland, ambushed a Free State Patrol. Most of the gunfight took place around Kearns’ house, which was destroyed by the bullets and subsequently demolished. The plan was to free James Groarke, a Republican leader from Swinford. However, the ambush was unsuccessful in this attempt, with three of the Republicans captured, four wounded and five Free State soldiers wounded. Some of the Republicans fired from behind the wall at Costello’s house and at one stage during the battle a white flag was raised so that the wounded could be removed before the gunfight continued.
The site of the Derrylahan Ambush in September 1922 during the Civil War
At this stage of the Heritage Tour, Peter Nyland and Paul Phillips took over leadership of the tour to talk the group through research they had conducted into the background to the people mentioned in the Kilkelly Ireland song. They explained how the song was the story of emigration of the Hunt family from Urlaur to the USA. The first stop on this part of the tour was at schoolmaster Pat McNamara’s house in Urlaur. Pat McNamara, a teacher wrote letters on behalf of his friend and neighbour Bryan Hunt and the song was based on these letters. Bryan Hunt’s sons emigrated to America from Urlaur in the late 1850s. The letters were written from Bryan (by Pat McNamara) to his son John in America from the years 1858 to 1892, when Bryan died. During all this time, he constantly asked John if he would come home to visit. Sadly, this never happened and Peter Nyland explained how it would have been almost impossible for his son to return at that time. The tour then moved on to Urlaur Community Centre, where Paul Phillips sang each verse of the song and Peter explained the background to the verse, based on a copy of the letters he obtained from Hunt descendants in the United States and a copy of the Hunt Family History which was supplied from Ger Delaney in the South Mayo Family Research Centre in Ballinrobe.
School Teacher Pat McNamara’s house in Urlaur
The final stop on the tour was to Pat McNamara’s grave at Urlaur Abbey where Paul Phillips again sang a few verses of the Kilkelly Ireland song.
Paul Phillips singing Kilkelly Ireland at Pat McNamara’s graveside in Urlaur Abbey cemetery
The tour concluded with a few tunes and some more songs by local musicians and Paddy Joe Tighe in the ‘Cois Tine’ Heritage Centre in Kilmovee. Also on display in the heritage centre was a Cumann na mBan exhibition kindly provided by Mayo County Council.
Cumann na mBan exhibition in the Thatched Cottage in Kilmovee Community Centre
The Summer School Committee would like to thank everyone involved in the tour and the ‘Cois Tine’ Heritage Committee who provided some tea and home baking at the end of the tour.
It was a most remarkable tour and provided a fascinating insight into events in Kilmovee Parish pre and post 1916 and enjoyed by visitors from Australia, USA, UK and Ireland visiting Kilmovee for the Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School.
The 7th Seosamh Mac Gabhann Summer School takes place in Kilmovee from July 2nd to July 7th 2017. Bígí linn!