The admiration the public have for Michael Collins seems unending but things are getting a little out of hand in West Cork where road signs to locations associated with the Big Fella’s life are regularly being stolen.
Sadly this means that during the Ireland 2016 commemoration, in honor the centenary of the Easter Rising 1916, the road signs won’t be getting replaced. It was hoped that during a year when then number of tourists visiting the site would be on the up that signs pointing the public towards Collins’ birthplace near Clonakilty and where he was shot, at Béal na Bláth might be replaced.
Chairman of the Béal na Bláth commemoration committee, Dermot Collins, called the news “most disappointing.” He asked that the signs be fast-tracked as visitors are often getting lost while searching for the spot.
He also commented on the fact the situation was being compounded by the fact that the few remaining signs are being stolen. Also A sign pointing to the Big Fella’s birthplace, at Woodfield, west of Clonakilty, was recently knocked down.
Collins said “Some years ago, people used to steal the old wrought iron signs and they’d end up in pubs in America. Then, they started stealing the newer tin signs. It got so bad, we used to put up aeroboard signs a few days before the annual commemoration, but they started disappearing too. Some people were taking them as souvenirs.
“The Government has big plans for commemorations throughout the country and surely one of the most basic things is proper signposts to places like Béal na Bláth and other Civil War and War of Independence sites, which are close by.”
Independence Museum Kilmurry, just two miles from the Béal na Bláth, is set to open this Easter. The museum will have a strong focus on the War of Independence and will feature artifacts connected to Béal na Bláth and the Kilmichael ambush.
Chairman Collins said visitors, Irish and from abroad alike, are struggling to find these historic sites.
He said “This isn’t a good image for the country. People can’t understand why these places aren’t properly signposted. We can’t showpiece our history without them.”
County Council Officials said they had mapped out locations for the new signs and some were ready to be erected on minor roads. However they told the Irish Examiner that to erect signs on the only national road, in West Cork, (N71) they would need permission from the Transport Initiative Ireland (TII). It could be 2017 before new signs are erected.
Fine Gael Councillor Noel O’Donovan told the Examiner he is lodging a motion at the next full county council meeting. He is seeking backing to put pressure on the TII to install the main road signs. He said “”It’s critical they are put up, because they’ll point to areas of national importance.”
The sites in question have major significance and are popular visiting sites for those interested in Irish history and Michael Collins’ life.
On 22 August 1922, during the Irish Civil War, Michael Collins, the Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the National Army, was killed in an ambush here by anti-treaty Irish Republican Army forces while travelling in convoy towards Bandon.
A memorial cross stands at Béal na Bláth, the site of the shooting on a local road, 1km south of the village which was a dirt road when Collins was shot. A small white cross marks the spot where he fell.
Woodfield, near Sam’s Cross, Clonakilty, West Cork, is where Michael Collins was born and grew up. Their family’s home was burned down by the British Army, in 1920. Their home was located behind the sheds are on the site.