Medals at County Louth museum inspire 2016 Easter Rising centenary exhibit
Blackrock resident’s research uncovers one man’s major contribution to 1916
Rising to the rank of Captain, in 1917, he was OC of ‘H’ Company, 1st Battalion which included in its ranks Kevin Barry, who, in 1920, would become the first republican to be executed by the British since the execution of the 1916 leaders.
Seamus never spoke of his experiences and Kevin realises now there were so many signs of his father’s participation in the Rising that all the family members missed.
“Now, looking back there were little signs there. I can remember going with him and meeting Pearse Beaslai, the TD and author,” Kevin recalls. “I can also remember that our monthly spins in the car would always include a trip to Dunsany Castle. It turns out that Lord Dunsany’s car was requisitioned during the Rising in which Dunsany handed over the car and my father may have been involved.”
On reflection Kevin also remembers his father’s sombre mood around the anniversary of Kevin Barry’s execution on November 1st. “By the 2nd November you could see a big change in him.
“I was named Kevin Barry Michael Kavanagh, obviously after Kevin Barry and Michael Collins and we have a Constance in the family too!”
Kevin has presented his father’s medals to the Museum and hopes to donate other memorabilia which may be in the care of a number of family members.
“My brother had miniature medals but they were taken when his house was burgled. But I’m also checking with other members of the family to see what is in their attics.”
He spoke of his support for the County Museum’s 1916 centenary exhibition which is hoped will launch in September 2014 and build up to Easter 2016.
“I was looking through my father’s medals. They were just sitting in drawers and when I go I know there is no-one who would take a huge interest in them. Also I didn’t want them going to the museums in Dublin, so I contacted Brian Walsh and now they are to be the starting point for this huge 1916 exhibition, which is excellent.”
He is encouraging everyone who has something from that period in history to contact the museum: “If they think about it almost anyone may have a connection to 1916. Have a look in the attic or under the stairs and see what you can find. You could be very surprised. I didn’t know anything about my father until I started looking into it.
“It is fantastic that in the run up to and during 2016 their memories will be kept alive with this exhibition.”
Museum Curator Brian Walsh said he was amazed by Kevin’s father’s life story: “Here is someone who has played a central role in the 1916 rising. He is standing alongside Countess Markievicz, he sang The Soldier’s Song years before it became Amhrán na bhFiann-The National Anthem. He was with the leaders of the 1916 Rising in the GPO and he was OC of Kevin Barry who he named his own son after.
“It’s simply fascinating but similar stories could be held in boxes in attics, sheds and cupboards all over Ireland and beyond.
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