Marching in the footsteps of Cork’s 1916 volunteers in Macroom

Carena McCarthy, of Copeen, and her daughter Clara MacCarthy. Picture: Clare Keogh

They marched in their hundreds, retracing the footsteps of the volunteers who took to the roads of Co Cork on Easter Sunday 1916.

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.

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 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 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 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. 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.

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.

Other areas to which Cork Volunteers marched a century earlier also hosted events at the weekend, including Carriganima near Millstreet, where companies from Macroom, Cill na Martra, 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 volunteer companies from Blarney and Mallow districts also attended a commemoration event yesterday.

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.

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