St. John’s, Listowel in August 2020
An Gabha Beag
Picture and text from Cathleen Mulvihill of Glin Historical Society
An Gabha Beag , Gunsboro Cross , near Listowel County Kerry.
For it was here on Good Friday, April 15, 1808 that James Nolan, a Whiteboy known as An Gabha Beag, was hanged by British forces for attempting to kill a member of the gentry. He had taken a shot at John Raymond as he was travelling on horseback with fellow members of the gentry, Maurice Cussen, Oliver Stokes and George Church, after whom Church Street in Listowel is named. Nolan was eventually tracked down and captured in December 1807.
As a Whiteboy he had massive support in the area, as the movement was very strong in north Kerry. Of course those who were caught paid the ultimate price. The agrarian organisation that struck fear into the hearts of the landed aristocracy at the time was brutally suppressed by the Crown forces in turn and An Gabha Beag was executed for his part in their rebellion. He went to his death not knowing that 100 years down the road the land would be in the process of repossession by the native peasantry .
Organised by Coolard National School Principal, Maurice Mahony, and relative Christine Nolan, the commemoration proved a celebration of clan, community and memory. And a right grisly folk memory it is too for not only was An Gabha Beag hanged, but he was hanged three times until he eventually gave up the ghost.
Bearded, and with long locks, Nolan – a blacksmith by trade, hence the nickname – was able to conceal a protective collar under his flowing hair, Mr Mahony explained, while recounting the story. He was hanged once, survived, hoisted again and dropped again, and again survived. Intelligence received by the local militia, however, uncovered the collar and on the third drop Nolan’s life was extinguished.
His deeds passed immediately into the stuff of legend, ensuring that 200 years later his relatives and the descendants of his neighbours would come out in force.
Thanks to the work of the organisers, An Gabha’s anvil was there at the event and a special plaque was unveiled by relative Collette Nolan who was among the many Nolan’s gathered there to remember An Gabha Beag.
Lovely Pat MacAulliffe Stucco Work
Harp and Lion, Listowel
Listowel Courthouse 2004
Listowel Courthouse 2020
Tim O’Leary wrote the following on Facebook
The courthouse, built 1880s, has now been refurbished to its old elegance and is the stand out building of Listowel Civic Centre which also includes Council Office/Meeting Chamber, Library, Fire Station, Public Car Park, Electric Car Charger Unit.
June 19 and July 4 1982, Great Times in Ballybunion