Inniskeen Road – July Evening with a 1916 perspective

‘Is there more’? The astonished woman from Liverpool asked when the re-enactments from Patrick Kavanagh’s ‘Green Fool’ concluded at Lennon’s. Larry McDermott assured her there was ‘much more’. He proceeded to lead the happy hundreds down to Mucker, to Kavanagh’s home where Owen Joe McGahon played the melodeon ‘outside at our gate’. There were no stars in the morning east dancing to his music but people on the road danced and in period costume as well, in keeping with the theme of the weekend. Inniskeen Road – July evening with a 1916 perspective.

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Let’s begin at the beginning. A grey dawn broke on Saturday morning but as the wise wag whispered ‘Rain before seven, bright before eleven’. By 1.30 the Round Tower Church was buzzing as Sinead Mitchell and Geraldine Martin proceeded to enthral the 24 young and eager participants taking part in the ‘Children’s Art Workshop’ What a delightful mess! Mess here is positive, unrestrained creativity. One young girl from Belfast with Inniskeen roots did a stunning likeness of a young Countess Markievicz in full battledress. Plenty of contestants took part in the historical Treasure Hunt around the village, despite the conditions. As the wise wag said ‘If you can’t get wet in July, what chance have you in January’.

In the afternoon the tireless Larry McDermott brought the heritage hungry on a walking tour of the village. Inniskeen has more heritage in one corner than many villages and towns which can only boast of a thousand years or so.  Inniskeen has the priceless rock art at Drumerril, older than the Pyramids of Egypt.

The clock ticked round for 5.30 and Brian Dooley watched as the bicycles and potential cyclists assembled. All the local bikes from Lennon’s were booked. Reinforcements from Trim were called and at 6pm over thirty cyclists – high nellys, period costumes, eager for ecology and casually curious set out to follow Brian. First stop was the Brehon Brew House at Essexford and then by mazy and wizard ways to Dooley’s at Magoney. Ballyrush certainly – Gorteen was a bit far. Let’s say the pelaton was a little strung out for the next stage. The plum wine was tasty! On to Mullaghinshinagh, the most lettered townland in the area after Carrickalisnanarney. More music, more singing, more fun, more tea, more currant bread. Back to the village, some to home, some to more lively activity – there was a dance in the hall.

A man from Newcastle in Co. Down said ‘I won’t be fit for much tomorrow’. ‘Stay up all night and don’t be annoying the bed, turning and twisting on it and keeping it awake’, was the unsought advice he got.

The Round Tower Church of St. Daig, woken from years of slumber was hardly prepared for Sunday morning when at 8.30am the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers began to set up their exhibition. The evening before Paul Derrick of Carrickmacross had set up his 50,000 piece 1916 G.P.O and O’Connell St. with Nelson’s Pillar in situ. The Tricolour acted as a fitting backdrop on the low stage.

The Dublin Brigade set out the most comprehensive range of military materials; it is easily the widest ranging in Ireland.  Mannequins in army wear, every gun from the time, bayonets, bandoliers, bombs and bullets, though they are called ‘rounds’.  Paul Callery and his most informative crew explained everything patiently and with great enthusiasm.
And then the concert. The Kavanagh Centre had produced a wonderful souvenir booklet ‘Poets & Patriots’. No home should be without it. It is the only publication, I know, that contains the National Anthem in full both in Irish and English.

Art Agnew introduced the event. He explained how wonderful and inspiring it was to be present in a monastic setting from which monks travelled to help re Christianise Europe in the 7th and 8th centuries. Our ties with Europe are longer and stronger in so many ways than our links with America and Brexit Britain.

Ava and Conor from St. Daig’s National School read from the school’s 2016 Proclamation.  Oisin O’Byrne, Owen Greene and Art Agnew recited poems from the period but in fairness the singing enthralled the packed church. The Cantemus Chamber Choir directed by Lorraine Cotter led us through the National Anthem, I See His Blood Upon the Rose, the Tricoloured Ribbon, Whack for the Diddle and An Bonnán Bui. Perhaps the most poignant moment was when Maureen Crawley sang ‘Grace’ accompanied in the chorus by the choir and Pippa Brady on guitar. The other choir members were Lorraine Keenan who sang ‘Fornocht do chonac thu’, Orla Drumgoole, Molly McMahon, Grainne O’Gorman,  Patrice Doherty and Pippa Brady. I know that there was singing in the church in the last century but the music from these women made me think of the matins, lauds and vespers that spread out over Inis Caoin all those centuries ago (though it was monks only then).

Collette McGrane from Magheracloone, read a wonderfully detailed letter that her aunt Catherine had written home from Dublin at the time of the Rising.  She worked in the G.P.O., and therefore had a specific interest in developments during the week. She was anxious that her family at home would know that she was safe.

A sombre moment was introduced into the concert when three members of the Black and Tans appeared on stage. These threatening looking individuals were from the Faneside Theatre Group who gave personal testimonies as to their reason for being in Ireland in 1919. (We will be meeting these three actors later).

Onwards and upwards to the main business of the afternoon, the unveiling of the plaque to the memory of the Inniskeen Brigade of the 5th Northern I.R.A.  Matt Kearney explained, before an outside audience of several hundreds, how he felt these men should not fade from our collective memory and he was delighted that Ann Steele, granddaughter of Henry McKeown, O.C. 5th Northern Inniskeen, and Daig Quinn, nephew of Willie Quinn who played such an active part in the Garda Siochana were present to do the unveiling. Oisin O’Byrne gave an inspiring reading of the Proclamation of 1916. Owen Greene read from Matt Kearney’s recent book ‘McMahon’s Burial Vault’ and Kevin McGeough, author of ‘Unsung Heroes’ also spoke.

Background music from Paddy Martin, Owen Joe McGahon and members of the Aughnamullen Pipe Band signalled an end to this section of the day and the next stop was Lennon’s for re-enactments from Tom Lennon, Joe Fee and Martha Kingham who enlivened procedures with their own inimitable take on the 1918 election from ‘The Green Fool’. We were refreshed with tea and lashings of brack from the Inniskeen Active Retired Group which astonished our Liverpool visitors even more.

Looking across Shancoduff and Billy Brennan’s Barn our thoughts went to the Rooney Family. Matthew Rooney is a sad loss to his family and also to the Inniskeen Road Festival organisers. As a mark of respect we did not visit the Barn this year but hope to include it on our trail soon again.

The walk back from Mucker to the village and then on to O’Rourke’s then proceeded through the village, on along the Fane, past Gleneven where Heinz and Rose Lorenz now live and on to natural amphi –theatre.

Brian Dooley explained the background to the hundred faithful followers.  Padraig Pearse was invited to Inniskeen by Fr. Bernard Maguire, P.P., to commemorate the Manchester Martyrs. Padraig Pearse made a speech, Fr. Maguire proposed the vote of thanks but we have added a twist.

Indeed Shaun O’Byrne gave the Pearse speech suitably attired (Martha Kingham take a bow), his voice rang out away over the old mill and it took little imagination to go back 100 years and sense the atmosphere. Owen Greene as Fr. Maguire, proposed the vote of thanks and quoted the Bishop of Limerick denouncing involvement in the World War which he said was between European Royal families and thieving financiers squabbling over possessions and colonies.

Giving it a commemorative flavour, Brian sang the ‘The Smashing of the Van’ and a surprise dimension was added when Ciarán O’Rourke re-enacted his grandfather.  Bernard hoped that Home Rule   would answer Ireland’s problems but that he evidenced at first hand the deep intransigence to it. Bernard himself was interned after 1916 and spent months in Richmond Barracks in Rathmines.

Three young men who were unlawfully imprisoned in Armagh jail following a disturbance in Carrickmacross made an appearance. Eamon Monaghan, Bernard Duffy and Paddy McArdle whom we had seen earlier in the Black and Tans acted the parts of Donnelly, Ross and Quinn, the three young Irish Volunteers.

I met my Liverpool friends again. He said, ‘I have done Glastonbury, got wetter and dirtier but had not the variety and enthusiasm that we had here’.

Now it was time for the burgers in the Community Centre and general relaxation. Then the winners of the best period costumes were announced. Rhona O’Hagan, Dundalk and Rose Lorenz, Inniskeen were joint winners. Some men came close but no cigar!

Thanks to all the helpers and stewards, to the Clogher Historical Society for supplying the safety equipment, the Inniskeen Active Retired Club, and Inniskeen Community Social Club. The Inniskeen branch of the Red Cross.  The many venues that hosted the re-enactments; Lennon’s, Hugh Kirk, Donal Smyth, Dooley’s and McMahon’s Brew House.  The Board of Management of St. Daig’s N.S. for the use of their car park. The staff at the Patrick Kavanagh Centre; Rosaleen Kearney, Margaret Lynch, Fiona McMahon, Liam Kelly and Paddy Martin, Carrickmacross for video-recording the weekend events.

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Patrick Kavanagh Centre

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