Thomas Kent funeral: ‘He was a martyr who fought for us and that’s why we’re here today’

They came from as far away as Zambia to pay their respects to patriot Thomas Kent and witness a unique piece of history as he was finally reinterred in his rightful resting place nearly 100 years after being executed by the British.

Nearly 4,000 people attended his state funeral in Castlelyons, Co Cork, yesterday and many believed they should have witnessed the day many years ago, questioning why it had taken so long to bring his remains home.

Bernie Metzger, nee Hallihan, was born in the village but emigrated to Zambia in 1985 and married a German.

She said she timed her visit home to coincide with the funeral. “I wanted to be here,” she said. “It’s a big event for Castlelyons. I grew up with the history of the Kents and Bawnard House. I’m delighted for the family, this should have happened years ago.”

John Mullins was officially there in his capacity as chairman of the Port of Cork, but said he’d have come anyway because of a connection.

“My grandmother, Margaret Corcoran, was on the bridge in Fermoy when Thomas Kent was led over it [by British troops after his capture],” he said. “She was 17 at the time. She joined Cumman na mBan. She was a tough woman, I can tell you. I would have come here for that reason alone.”

Paddy Barry made the trip from Thurles. He was born in the neighbouring village of Rathcormac and knew Kent’s nieces and their brother, also Thomas Kent, who died last year.

“I came here as a mark of respect for the Kents,” he said. “It’s a national scandal that his remains weren’t dug up years ago. If he was a Dub maybe that wouldn’t have been the case.”

Thomas Kent funeral: ‘He was a martyr who fought for us and that’s why we’re here today’

Tim and Marie O’Shaughnessy, from Togher in Cork City, were delighted Kent “got a good send-off”.

They also said it should have happened years ago and believed the catalyst for Kent getting the honour he deserved was the upcoming centenary of the Rising.

Philip Ward came from Belfast with friends, including Lenny Laverty from Downpatrick. The previous day, they had visited Béal na mBláth, where Michael Collins was shot dead.

“I was at Kevin Barry’s funeral in Dublin,” Philip said. “I’ve always had an interest in history and I was always going to come to this state funeral as it’s a piece of Irish history.”

“I think his body should have been exhumed years ago,” Lenny added. “Still, it’s good to see him finally back where he belongs in his home village.”

Father and son Frank and David Farrell travelled from Portlaoise. Frank was a captain in the Reserve Defence Forces for 40 years and has a keen interest in military history.

“I don’t think the people of Ireland realise how important a piece of history this is,” David said. “Thomas Kent fought to have this country free. The pity is we are being run by Europe now.”

Thomas Kent funeral: ‘He was a martyr who fought for us and that’s why we’re here today’

Pat Lehane travelled from Mallow with his wife, Sheila, and described himself as a Fianna Fáil republican.

“I’ve no connection with the Kent family,” he said. “But this is a piece of history. I’m a bit disappointed with the size of the crowd.”

As the funeral cortege, led by 24 garda and army motorcycle outriders, pulled up past a large army guard of honour, Jim Behan maintained Commandant Thomas Kent would have been very impressed with the military involvement.

Across the road, a group of locals had erected large Tricolours and ‘Erin Go Bragh’ flags with not quite the same military precision as the professionals they were looking down on. But, nevertheless, it added to the colour.

Jim made the trip from Cashel. His late father fought in the Old IRA in Eadestown, Co Kildare. “You will never witness anything like this again. I think this State grew up today,” he said.

Timmy Lordan of Newcestown and Billy Piper and Maurice O’Donovan of Bandon, were equally impressed with the military turnout.

“My granduncle, Matt O’Donovan, was shot dead by the Tans at Quarry Cross in Newcestown in 1921,” Maurice said.

“Thomas Kent was a martyr. He fought for us and that’s why we’re here today,” Timmy added.

Dick Mackessy, a member of the Castlelyons 1916 Commemoration Committee, said a special effort had been put into having the village looking well.

There are over 1100 search results found for Thomas Kent in the Irish Examiner archive.  Whether you are a researcher, historian or you simply want to explore your history visit  www.irishexaminer.com/archive

More on this topic

Thomas Kent 'the Forgotten Volunteer no longer'Thomas Kent 'the Forgotten Volunteer no longer'

Live broadcast: Thomas Kent State FuneralLive broadcast: Thomas Kent State Funeral

Executed rebel Thomas Kent to be buried today in State FuneralExecuted rebel Thomas Kent to be buried today in State Funeral

VIDEO: Remains of executed rebel Thomas Kent arrive at Collins BarracksVIDEO: Remains of executed rebel Thomas Kent arrive at Collins Barracks


Lifestyle

Food news with Joe McNamee.The Menu: All the food news of the week

Though the Killarney tourism sector has been at it for the bones of 150 years or more, operating with an innate skill and efficiency that is compelling to observe, its food offering has tended to play it safe in the teeth of a largely conservative visiting clientele, top-heavy with ageing Americans.Restaurant Review: Mallarkey, Killarney

We know porridge is one of the best ways to start the day but being virtuous day in, day out can be boring.The Shape I'm In: Food blogger Indy Power

Timmy Creed is an actor and writer from Bishopstown in Cork.A Question of Taste: Timmy Creed

More From The Irish Examiner