The casket, which housed O’Donovan Rossa’s remains on an Atlantic crossing from New York to Ireland following his death on Staten Island in 1915, was found on a farm and later stored in a shed for 55 years.
Through a chance conversation, retired Garda Michael O’Sullivan was informed of the existence of the casket which had been stored in a shed since 1915. O’Sullivan would play an important role in the casket’s return to O’Donovan Rossa’s surviving relatives in the village of Reenascreena, outside Rosscarbery.
“I was stationed in Cobh in the 1960s and through the course of my duty I met a local farmer who told me he had the casket of O’Donovan Rossa. When he realised I was from the parish of Rosscarbery, he asked if there were relations of O’Donovan Rossa’s down there and I said yes, they are living in Reenascreena where I come from,” said O’Sullivan.
“I thought the proper place to have the casket was in his ancestral home, Reenascreena, where his parents were from and he said, ‘you can have it.’ I contacted the O’Driscoll’s in the village, their father was a first cousin of O’Donovan Rossa and it remained there at the O’Driscoll homestead for the past 55 years.”
Local pub owners, the O’Driscolls, plan to display the casket in a museum next to a local monument that was erected in 1969 to honor O’Donovan Rossa.
“Many people might not be happy with our current situation in this country but we are streets ahead of what we were a hundred years ago and we owe an awful lot to O’Donovan Rossa for that,” said O’Sullivan.
The centenary of O’Donovan Rossa’s death will be marked by a series of commemorative events in Cork, Dublin and New York in June.