It seems a long way from the Congo to Cum a Ciste pass in Iveragh, Co Kerry, but this weekend saw the official unveiling of a plaque to Colonel Patrick Quinlan, a native of the parish of Caherdaniel, who led his troops at the siege of Jadotville 56 years ago.
The memorial created by sculptor Holger Lonze is a bronze relief set on Valentia slate to Colonel Pat Quinlan “of this parish”, who ensured the survival against the odds of the men under him — and whose recognition is long overdue.
The unveiling which included full military honours was led by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Some 40 of the original A Company survive and several veterans and their families, attended, along with politicians and members of the army.
For decades, the heroic achievement when a small company of men survived against jets, jeeps, and mercenaries due to cleverness and Kerry grit was turned into a shameful surrender.
However, recent books and an acclaimed film have given Pat Quinlan the centre stage he deserved. Presidential citations were awarded last year and medals are in the pipeline.
Retired Commandant Leo Quinlan, son of the late Pat, spoke movingly of his father’s legacy.
“The legacy left by Colonel Pat Quinlan is one that the country, army, south Kerry and the Quinlan Family can be justifiably proud of,” he said.
Many of the surviving company’s children call themselves “Congo babies,” believing they would not have been born but for the leadership of his father.
“A different decision would have meant death for everyone and there are many hundreds of Irish men and women living today that would never have been born,” said Mr Quinlan.