President Michael D Higgins will visit Skibbereen on June 11 in the first of many commemorative events being organised by people in West Cork anxious to celebrate their native, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
The funeral of O’Donovan Rossa on August 1, 1915, is best remembered for “the fools, the fools” line in the graveside oration of Pádraig Pearse, who would become the iconic figure of the 1916 Rising.
For University College Cork history lecturer Gabriel Doherty, who helped design the commemoration programme, the veteran Fenian’s funeral was in many ways a dry run for the rebellion that would follow 10 months later.But it is O’Donovan Rossa’s life, rather than his funeral, that will be under the spotlight during the summer.
“He should not be reduced to the circumstances of his funeral, he began as a respected nationalist associated with the Fenians, and was raised to iconic status as a consequence of his travails in prison,” said Mr Doherty.
“His part in the ‘dynamite campaign’ of attacks in England by American Fenians was not so popular.
“But his status was very high again before his funeral, he was made a Freeman of Cork City when he came back for a period in 1904 after being banished for 20 years,” Mr Doherty added.
A GAA tournament on June 27 and a commemorative Mass in Staten Island are among events planned in New York, where the Cork-born exile died in June 1915.
A new O’Donovan Rossa biography by historian Shane Kenna will be launched in the village of Reenascreena on July 3, the day before O’Donovan Rossa GAA Club in Skibbereen hosts a tournament of teams of the same name.
The following weekend will see a History Ireland magazine ‘hedge school’ in Reenascreena, followed on July 16 and 17 by an academic conference in Rosscarbery.
A project will be launched to digitise manuscript sources relating to O’Donovan Rossa, an exhibition of newspaper articles about him is planned in Skibbereen, and another of books and artefacts related to him.
Roger McHugh’s play Rossa, winner of an Abbey Theatre Award in 1945, will be staged in Rossmore and Skibbereen for four nights in July.
The weekend before the centenary of his August 1 funeral is marked with a restaging at Glasnevin Cemetery, a new print by Robert Ballagh of the funeral scene will be launched in O’Donovan Rossa GAA club. On the same night, July 24, a parade through Skibbereen will highlight different themes of his life, including a recreation of a procession he organised there in 1863 in support of an uprising in Poland.
“We’re encouraging as many Polish people as possible to participate, to kind of repay the favour,” said Mr Doherty.