Cill Dara Shinn Féin Poblachtach

Wicklow: Cuimhneacháin 100 Bliain Knocknadruce

On May 12 a large number of Republicans from Wicklow, Dublin, Monaghan and indeed France, gathered at Knocknadruce, Co Wicklow to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the murder by Free State forces of Niall Plunkett Ó Baoighill, from the Rosses in Co Donegal.
 
Proceedings were chaired by An tUachtarán, Sinn Féin Poblachtach, Des Dalton. Kitty Hawkins recited a decade of the Rosary as Gaeilge. A nephew of Niall Plunkett O’Boyle, Michael O’Boyle, who travelled from France each year for the commemoration, was called on by Des Dalton to say a few words.
 
In the course of his address he said: “Like many before me I am honoured to stand here today to give this oration on the 90th anniversary of the death of Niall Plunkett O’Boyle, a young Republican soldier who was ruthlessly shot down whilst unarmed buy a cowardly Free Stater named McCorley, ironically related to the patriot [United Irishman] Roddy McCorley.
 
“After arrests and escapes, Plunkett eventually came to this part of the country, formed a flying column and carried out many successful missions against the enemies of the Republic. Plunkett was a true son of Ireland, there was nothing else on his mind but the pursuit of national liberation from that cruel foe, England.
 
“He was a man with clear vision and an unbroken determination for lasting freedom from British tyranny. Compromise to Plunkett was treason.
 
“What has that got to say about Adams and his tame lackey McGuinness who have not just compromised but sold out patriotism for their 30 pieces of silver and a shake of Lizzie’s hand?
 
“Plunkett was one of the most active Volunteers against the infamous and murderous criminals, the Black-and-Tans who were honoured in a “ceremony” at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin last August. Is there anything these Quislings at Leinster House will not resort to to curry favour with Lizzie’s government?
 
“A quote from Robert Burns springs to mind: ‘What a parcel of rogues in our Nation.’

“I visited here in the mid-seventies and was privileged to meet Myles O’Reilly. Here was a man who had actually been a comrade of Plunkett and had fought alongside him. He related to me the killing of Plunkett and how he would have been here himself if he hadn’t been arrested just days before.
 
“The cause that he and his brave comrades fought and gave up their young lives for, a free All-Ireland Republic is still to this day being attacked by the modern Free Staters.
 
“However, as my father told me many years ago now, true Republicans will never give up the struggle, and I am proud to see before me today some of those true Republicans he talked about!
 
“With the centenary of a well-known event fast approaching, I would like to finish if I may by quoting a few lines from Easter 1916 by WB Yeats:
 
‘I write it out in a verse –
MacDonagh and McBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.’ ”
 
The main oration was delivered by Pádraig Ó Baoighill, author of Óglach na Rossan, a biography of Niall Plunkett O’Boyle, himself from the Rosses in Donegal, although now residing in Monaghan:
 
“A mhuintir Chill Mhantain agus a phoblachtánaigh go léir tá sé thar chúig bliana fichead ó thugh mé an óráid dheiridh ag comóradh Néill Phluincéid Uí Bhaoighill anseo i gCnoc na dTrús agus tá lúcháir mhór orm a bheith arís inniu le comóradh a dhéanamh ar an laoch chróga sin as Leac Éineach i Rosa Thír Chonaill a thug a bheo ar son saoirse na hÉireann ag geimheal an tighe seo 15ú Bealtaine 1923. Cé go bhfuil mórán dar bpoblachtánaigh dílse anois ar shlí na fírinne tá lúcháir mhór orm go bhfuil mac dearthára do Niall Pluincéid, sin mac Mhíchíl Uí Bhaoighill anseo linn an bealach ar fad as an Fhrainc len’ uncail á chomóradh.
 
“It is now over 25 years since I last spoke at the Neil Plunkett O’Boyle commemoration in Knocknadruce and I am indeed privileged to be back again to honour that patriot from the Rosses who was shot by Free State forces at the corner of this house on May 15, 1923. Since that sunny day over 25 years ago, many dear and faithful Republican comrades have gone to their eternal reward but I am very pleased to have with us a nephew of Neil Plunkett – Michael Boyle all the way from France – to take part in his uncle’s commemoration. Michael has previously visited Knocknadruce as did his aunt Brigid who was a great help to me in America when I wrote the life story of the Rosses patriot – Óglach na Rosann – in 1994, and for a second edition which was published in 1996.
 
“In a space of half a century many young Republicans have come to the fore and as some may not be familiar with the activities of Neil Plunkett O’Boyle, the fight for freedom in 1921, the Black and Tan War and the Civil War which caused the death of this brave soldier, I feel I should again give a short profile of the Rosses volunteer.
 
“He was born in Leac Éineach near Burtonport in the Rosses in Donegal in 1898, a member of a family of three boys and four girls. His father, Niall Mhíchíl Bhig, was a local surveyor and farmer and his mother, Mary Eoghainín Bán was a staunch Republican from the Diamond, Dungloe.
 
“Plunkett attended the local school at Roshine and went to High school in Letterkenny. He went to work for the Derry and Lough Swilly railway, joined Sinn Féin and took a special interest in Irish history. The local Rosses historian, Patrick O’Donnell, a national teacher form Mullaghaduff, had this to say of the young Rosses Republican in the Irish Press (26 April 1954):
 
“ ‘In the long and troubled story of our struggle against oppression many brave men have given their all. Their names are written in letters of gold in the glorious pages of our country’s history. It is but right that a special place should be reserved for the name of Neil Plunkett O’Boyle. He was called ‘Plunkett’ because he thought so highly of Joseph Plunkett, the leader who fought in Easter week. He was known by that name until his death, and it is by that name that he is remembered in his native Rosses until the present day.’
 
“There are so many heroic episodes in Plunkett’s life and initially I will only related to a few and then I will recite the words of a song which I feel covers the important parts of his history. May I state that more songs about Plunkett i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla were written than were of the politicians who were afterwards leaders of the government in the Southern Free State. Most of the songs in English are covered in the book Óglach na Rossan and I have distributed copies of some of them here today, a copy of the Plunkett Column and a photo of Myles Reilly who was with Plunkett in Wicklow.
 
“1918 – Emigration to Glasgow, New Mains Colliery, B. Company, 2nd Batt. Scottish Brigade IRA, supply of arms across the Irish Sea, 5 years imprisonment in Peterhead Jail in Scotland and release due to the Treaty Amnesty 1922, Commandant of the Burtonport Battalion IRA, worked with Charlie Daly, Sean Lehane, Peadar O’Donnell, control of Glenveigh Castle, attack on Meemore, Annagry and Glenties barracks, arrest in Crolly 1922, on the Lady Wicklow ship from Buncrana to Newbridge internment camp, led the escape through a very long sewer tunnel with 160 other prisoners, the most daring escape ever from R-Block Prison, Newbridge, October 1922 and back to Wicklow to take charge of the ‘Plunkett’ Column (October 1922 – May 1923), when he was shot here in Knocknadruce although the ceasefire was in operation.
 
“And this is one of the songs written by the poet Dominic O’Kelly a teacher from Doocharry in Donegal in 1948 which covers many of his crusades:
Comdt. Neil "Plunkett” Boyle
Born 1898 at Lackeenagh near Burtonport
“Killed in Action" by Free State Troops at Mrs Norton's house in Knocknadruce, Valleymount, Co. Wicklow, on the 15th May 1923.
 
He died for his country that freedom might live
And gave to dear Ireland all man has to give.
The blood of such martyrs has hallowed our soil
Not least of whose members was Neil "Plunkett" Boyle.
 
Away up in Wicklow 'mid mountains so tall
Afar from his homestead in dear Donegal
By Irishmen slain, where O'Dwyer did toil
Fell Irish Republican, Neil ‘Plunkett’ Boyle.
 
'Twas down at Lackeenagh he first saw the light
This hero whose fate was for Erin to fight.
In Scotland’s black coalpits he worked for a while
For Rosses air sighing was Neil ‘Plunkett’ Boyle.
 
Explosives he smuggled from Peterhead mine
When caught there at long last, it was not a fine:
From five years’ sentence he did not recoil,
For steadfast and daring was Neil ‘Plunkett’ Boyle.
 
The Truce brought him home and the Treaty came then
Neil stood with the few who were faithfully true men:
When captured by Staters, they treated him vile
To Newbridge Camp prison went Captain Neil Boyle.
 
Another O'Boyle from Glasbeggan named Owen
Was kept till he died in that cold camp alone.
By night and by day did these captives here toil
A-digging a tunnel with Captain Neil Boyle.
 
Now soon he escaped with another eight score
Among them O’Donnell from up by Meenmore:
Brave Frank was sent northward to fight nigh the Foyle
While eastward to Wicklow went Captain Neil Boyle.
 
The Cease Fire order reached Valleymount Glen
Where Neil operated with only twelve men…
Yet sixteen days after the traitor for spoil
Surrounded and captured and shot Commandant Boyle.
 
The day he was buried nigh Kincasslagh shore
Brought Staters with rifles and lorries galore…
To see them parading made Irish blood boil
Around by the coffin of Commandant Boyle.
 
But now they've repented and sorry are they …
'Twas noble the body that lies 'neath this clay:
Oh, Mary Eoghain Bháin sure 'tis proud you should smile
That you were the mother of Commandant Boyle.
 
Full many’s the tombstone here stands o'er a grave,
But none is more worthy of true man and brave
Than that now erect on his own native soil —
To hand down the memory of Neil ‘Plunkett’ Boyle
 
To-day in the Rosses remembrance we keep
Where breezes of freedom blow in from the deep —
All out to continue the struggle and toil
For an Irish Republic like Neil "Plunkett" Boyle.
Dominic O'Kelly
At MacCauley 's Hotel
Letterkenny, 12.1.1948.
 
“It is unbelievable that although the ceasefire was in operation on the May 15, 1923 the Free State forces searched the whole area from Holywood until they came to the last house in Knocknadruce which was Nortons at the time. Nolans lived nearby and were always a great help to members of the ‘Plunkett’ Column. Myles Reilly, a member of the column, was in Blessington Barracks on this particular night but this is how he related the story of that fateful morning:
 
“ ‘It was the dogs barking that alerted Paddy Dunne, a workman from Holywood, to tell Paddy Farrell who was on ‘lookout’ that the soldiers were coming up the lane. An exchange of fire took place and ‘Plunkett’ was afraid that Mrs Norton, her daughter Sarah and the workman would be injured because they had riddled the house with bullets and the holes are yet to be seen. ‘Plunkett’ pulled on his trousers and shirt and went out with his hands up to surrender so that the family would not be injured. He was asked to walk up and stand by the 4’ wall. He was asked was he Seán Plunkett (he used that name) and when he said he was, he was shot through the eye and another bullet to his head. He died instantly.’
 
“There is a more comprehensive report of this episode in the book Óglach na Rossan.
There were many despicable episodes during the Civil War such as Ballyseedy and the shooting of Daly, Enright, O’Sullivan and Larkin in the woods of Drumboe but this was a murderous and unnecessary attack when the ceasefire was in operation. The words of the song ‘Plunkett of the Hills’ shows the evils of the Civil War and the opportunity it gave the British to divide and conquer:
‘You did your best out in the West,
To save our leader true.
But while Irish sons wore British guns
There was nothing you could do.’
 
“On the last occasion I spoke here in Knocknadruce I spent a pleasant evening with the late Dáithí Ó Conaill, his wife Deirdre and a loyal North Antrim volunteer, Frank McGarry in Tutty’s pub in Holywood and naturally we were very dismayed by the actions of the state forces in Knocknadruce in 1923, some who were previously on the Republican side in Belfast. Only a year prior to 1986, a split occurred in the Provisional movement and although that was not welcome, we were all determined that Republican Sinn Féin would carry on the objectives ‘Plunkett’ set out to achieve when he first joined the IRA in the Rosses in 1918, ina dhiaidh sin ba Éire saor agus Gaelacth a bhí mar chuspóir aige do 32-Contaethe na h-Éireann agus lean sé dó sin go deireadh, an Ireland free and Gaelic was his objective to the end.
 
“In honouring an Irish patriot here today I do not wish to dwell on any rancour amongst Irish people as unity among genuine Irish Republicans is necessary to achieve ultimate freedom. However, the names of ‘Plunkett’, Dáithí Ó Conaill, Tone and Pearse, I feel would not concur with the direction former comrades have taken in the acceptance of the British presence in the North, a British Police Board and the sustainability of a Stormont government which was proscribed by a former British Prime Minister.
 
“And we now have Marian Price and Martin Corry interned by another British Minister of State. A new plan is necessary if we are to achieve Plunkett’s 32-county Republic, Gaelic and free. We will have to follow in the footsteps of the United Irishmen, The Young Irelanders, The Fenians, The Men of 1916, Cumann na mBan and all the volunteers men and women who gave their lives for Irish freedom up until this day. They had to repudiate comrades who diverted from that course although we would all welcome an ultimate peaceful solution it cannot be achieved without the freedom from foreign which the heroes of the past desired.
 
“However, Republican Sinn Féin will show the integrity of the Republican movement and by the continuous publication of an excellent paper – Saoirse – and will adhere to Ireland’s right to a sovereign peaceful nation amongst the free nations of the world. Saoirse is a paper that reminds me of An Claidheamh Solais which Pádraig Pearse edited at the beginning of the last century or An tÓglach published in 1918 and should get the support of all Republicans.
 
“The people of Wicklow and Kildare gave great support to the ‘Plunkett’ Column from Kylebeg to Blessington to Dunlavin to Valleymount to Tallaght. Mass was said for Plunkett in Kilbride by Fr Doherty and Mrs Lambert of Lacken, where the column often stayed, accompanied the funeral to the Rosses. I would personally like to thank the people of Wicklow for their great help to me when I was doing research for the book Óglach na Rosann in the eighties especially Kitty Hawkins and family, Myles Reilly, who went around the county with me, his wife Tess and family, the Lambert family of Lacken, Séamas Mooney of Kilbride and Nano Miley at whose grave I spoke in Donard a few years ago, a great, kind woman, who travelled to Donegal to see relations of Plunkett and Dan Magee from the ‘Plunkett’ Column. Many thanks to them all.
 
“Ar mbuíochas daofa uilig agus ar dheis Dé go raibh anamnacha uaisle na n-Óglach ar fad, fir agus mná, a throid ar son saoirse na h-Éireann, an saoirse bhuan sin a chaithfear a chur i gcríoch.”
 
Following the commemoration Mrs Nolan and her family extended their usual generous hospitality to all those who attended, for which we thank them.

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