Tributes paid to Irish Volunteers during 1916 Rising commemorations in Co Cork

Tributes were paid to more than 1,000 Irish Volunteers who marched in Co Cork on Easter Sunday 1916 as weekend events marked the centenary of their long marches around the county, writes Niall Murray of the Irish Examiner.

While no violence took place in Cork, owing to confused orders and the failure of German rifles to materialise, more than 400 marched to Macroom on that day 100 years ago.

Hundreds of walkers who retraced the footsteps of Irish Volunteers from Bandon to Kilmurry, Co Cork. Pic: Clare Keogh

In Kilmurry, where they had all first assembled on Sunday, April 23, 1916, more than 300 people marched into the village on Saturday – the same date 100 years later.

Most of them had walked from Bandon in spring sunshine, in contrast to the driving rain that marked Easter Sunday 1916.

The walkers – many from Bandon Walking Club and Cumann Seanchais na Banndan (Bandon Historical Society) – were joined by locals at Béal na Bláth for the final two-mile leg of their journey. They were retracing the footsteps, and almost matched the numbers of over 350, of Irish Volunteers who marched into Kilmurry a century earlier.

They were led into the village on Saturday by Tom Hales, whose father Tom Hales led companies of the Bandon battalion of the Volunteers on the way to Macroom in 1916.

Noel Howard, chairman of Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA), unveiled a plaque commemorating the assembly of local Volunteers and those of companies from Cork city, east Cork, south Cork, and the Bandon and Kinsale districts. The plaque was blessed by local Church of Ireland and Catholic clergy, Rev Anne Skuse and Monsignor Kevin O’Callaghan.

Earlier, Connie Long handed the National Flag to members of F Company, 12th Battalion, who raised it in the middle of the village. His father Denis J Long commanded the Kilmurry Volunteers company on Easter Sunday, 1916 and was a key figure in local actions during the War of Independence.

Just as they had at Béal na Bláth a century earlier, Cork Brigade commandant Tomás MacCurtain and his vice-commandant Terence MacSwiney arrived by car to deliver orders for the mobilised Volunteers to be dismissed to their towns and villages on reaching Macroom.

Lissarda Scouts walk along with Hundreds of walkers who retraced the footsteps of Irish Volunteers from Bandon to Kilmurry, Co Cork. Pic: Clare Keogh

On this occasion the roles were filled by Pat O’Leary and Diarmuid Cohalan, but Terence MacSwiney’s grandson Cathal MacSwiney Brugha was among the guests at the event.

With strong family connections in the area and as mid-Cork’s first TD, Terence MacSwiney features strongly in exhibits about local involvement in the Irish revolutionary period that will be on display at Independence Museum Kilmurry, due to be opened by KHAA in early summer.

Local historian Michael Galvin told hundreds who assembled in the village that it is quite difficult to fully appreciate the hardship the Volunteers endured on Easter Sunday 1916.

“Young men in their bucolic rural agricultural communities, were suddenly thrown into a military milieu, getting up in the early hours. They then marched long distances on meagre enough rations and poorly equipped, not knowing if they would return home in one piece or at all,” he said.

All 1,000-plus Volunteers who mobilised in Cork on Easter Sunday 1916 were drenched by torrential rain when they eventually arrived home that night or next day.

Some of the other areas to which Cork Volunteers marched a century earlier also hosted events at the weekend, including Carriganima near Millstreet, where companies from Macroom, Kilnamartyra, Ballinagree, Clondrohid and Kilmurry had joined local Volunteers until MacCurtain’s dismiss order arrived.

MacCurtain’s home parish of Mourneabbey was well represented 100 years ago at the mobilisation at Bweeng, where family members of various Volunteer companies from Blarney and Mallow districts also attended a commemoration event today.

Tomás MacCurtain (Diarmuid Cohalan) and Terence MacSwiney (Pat O'Leary) pictured at a ceremony after Hundreds of walkers who retraced the footsteps of Irish Volunteers from Bandon to Kilmurry, Co Cork. Pic: Clare Keogh

At Inchigeela, the destination of companies from Dunmanway and Lyre near Clonakilty, descendants of men who had arrived there took part in a re-enactment walk and historical events.

Elsewhere in Cork, Camden Fort Meagher in Crosshaven hosted a series of seminars, re-enactments and tours over the weekend, and an anchor went on display at Cobh Heritage Centre from the German Aud vessel whose cargo of rifles destined for the 1916 rebels lies on the seabed near the entrance to Cork Harbour.

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