Last November, as the Seán Ó Muirthile Historical Society began planning commemorations in Drinagh for Seán Hurley, all they knew was that he had been engaged to marry a Kathleen O’Brien — but little else.
“We knew little about Kathleen, we had no background information such as her year of birth, parents’ names or what county she was from,” explained society officer Margaret Murphy.
But thanks to detailed research and a chance contact from a Cork City man to the Irish Examiner with a letter sent to his uncle in 1916, Seán’s and Kathleen’s families are back in touch.
The couple met while both worked in London, and Seán’s close friend Michael Collins wrote a letter of sympathy to Kathleen from prison after the Rising.
For regular updates on news and features (as well as twitter action action as it may have happened 100 years ago) to mark the revolutionary period follow @theirishrev HERE
Two years later, Kathleen got married, but not before spending the War of Independence and Civil War as an active Cumann na mBan member (on the opposite side to Collins in the latter conflict).
But ever since some contact between the Hurleys and Kathleen’s family for a 1966 memorial in Drinagh, West Cork, six years after Kathleen died, ties had faded out.
It was detail in the letter written in June 1916 by Kathleen’s brother John, then a private in the British army, which confirmed her as being from a family that Margaret and others were starting to focus on as that of Kathleen. While they knew she had married, there was no certainty up to then that she was the same Kathleen they were looking for.
Now, however, Kathleen’s grand-niece Muireann Ní Dhomhnaill has been located and has verified the family history. Kathleen’s photograph has been seen for the first time by descendants of Seán, whose grand-nephew David Hurley was delighted to learn of the find this week.