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Tag: Gortagleanna

March 17, Gortaglanna, Ronnie Delaney and Duagh 1958

During the St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2013, Listowel Celtic entertained the crowd by inviting onlookers to take frees against Elmo (AKA Edel O’Connor)

The theme of Dromclough School’s troop was the scourge of emigration. In the group I saw the grandson of returned emigrants reliving the pain of emigration which is ravaging our green and misty isle today as it did in his grandparents time in the 1950s.



Ronnie Delaney Feb 2 1959


I took the following account from the Pres. school yearbook of 1992. In the days before the internet girls used to ask their parents and grandparents to tell them the stories of historical events.

The Martyrs
of Gortaglanna

There was a
mission on in Athea this particular week. 
Con Dee, Paddy Dalton and Paddy Walsh were after attending the mission
on the morning of the 12th May 1921. 
They had Mass, Confession and Communion. 
They had come a couple of miles to Connors cross where they had arranged
to meet Ger Lyons.  As Ger arrived, the
lorries which belonged to the Black & Tans surrounded them.  The only thing the four men had with them was
their rosary beads.  They hadn’t expected
to meet the Tans but it is rumoured that a woman in Athea told the Tans that
she had seen them leaving a while earlier and that they were on the road.  The Tans captured them, beat them up and
threw them into the lorries.  They took
the four men about a quarter of a mile in the direction of Listowel.  They took them out of the lorries and marched
them into a field where there was a fort. 
This field is now known as the “Martyrs’ Field”.  This field was owned by William McMahon of
Kilmorna.  The Black & Tans lined the
four men up and selected a firing party from the Black & Tans.  The Tans were ordered to shoot the four men,
the orders were given and the shots rang out. 
Paddy Walsh, Paddy Dalton and Ger Lyons fell dead.  Con Dee was wounded in the leg.  He turned and ran down the glen as shots rang
out after him.  He kept going on towards
the bog with his leg bleeding heavily until he came to a road.  He had travelled a mile when he was spotted
by a man who had a horse car and rail. 
He put  Con into the horse car and
covered him over and brought him a  mile
or two towards Coilbee and put him into a meadow and hid him in a dyke and
contacted some of the other comrades.

            Con was collected by Donal Bill
O’Sullivan who helped him across about eight fields to Enrights of Ballahadigue
where a doctor was called from Listowel to treat his wound.  He had lost a lot of blood by this time.  Later that night Con Dee was removed in a
pony and trap to a farm between Ballylongford and Lisselton where he was cared
for until his wound healed and he had recovered to health.  Con Dee emigrated to Philadelphia in the late
1920s.  He used to make regular visits to
Ireland and called to the people who cared for him while he was wounded and
would also call to the location where the murders had taken place.  Con Dee died in Philadelphia about ten years

            There is a monument in memory of
these men at Gortaglanna and also the well-known song “The Valleys of
Knockanure” is dedicated to these men. 


This photo from 1917 shows US submarines in Bantry Bay.


Liam Murphy found these photos of Duagh Confirmation 1958 while trawling through the great Kennelly Archive

 Back L to R- ?-Horgan, Thomas Hickey(R.I.P.) Bernie O’Connell, Pat Buckley, J.J. Somers,Ned Murphy, ? Keane. Front L to R- ? Keane, Ned Somers, (R.I.P.) Joe Doran, (May be) Pat O”Loughlin, Me, and Billy Doran.


Con Houlihan,turf cutting and Bord na Mona

One of the pleasing things that happened after the great Con Houlihan died was that many journalists were moved to pen excellent essays mourning his passing.  One of these was a front page paen in The Sunday World by Roy Curtis. I’m going to indulge myself here and quote it in full.

‘He was a humble intellectual, an emperor of the written word who never ceased being a man of the people’

PASSION: Con was a man of big appetites PASSION: Con was a man of big appetites

HE WAS a wordsmith, a gentle and wise colossus, a son of the soil, a great hook-nosed and dishevelled Kerry sage, the most brilliant eyewitness to life’s ebb and flow.

He was a poet, a drinker, a lover of sport, people, nature, art, travel, bars and life. He was an artist who sketched the most vivid, moving portraits: His imagination was his brush, the 26 letters of the alphabet his paint, the newspaper his canvas. He leaves behind sufficient masterpieces to fill every nook and cranny of the Louvre.

He was an insomniac, a man with too much yearning to trouble himself with sleep, an individual whose curious mind could not be sated by the 24 hours in a day. He was shy, his shovel-sized paw covering his mouth as he decanted great nuggets of wisdom in that musical, lilting, difficult-to-decipher Kerry cadence.

He was a humble intellectual, a diffident genius, an emperor of the written word who never ceased being a man of the people. He was a man who made unlikely connections: Among them brandy and milk, his medicine of choice as he wandered on his own daily Homeric odyssey.

He was a daily communicant at pubs that hung like a necklace around the Liffey: Mulligan’s, Cassidy’s, The Palace Bar,Tommy Wright’s, The Regal Inn…

He flicked in his writings from sport to nature, from the claustrophobic chaos of an All-Ireland final’s closing moments to the tranquil idyll of swans residing on the Grand Canal by his beloved Portobello, with effortless grace. He was a font of knowledge and learning; an oasis of insight, sincerity and intelligence in a world increasingly parched of perception, understanding and decency.

He was a perfectionist, a slave to proper grammar, a man who viewed a misplaced comma or semi-colon as an act of vandalism against the English language. He was the back page of the Evening Press, a storyteller whose tales from faraway lands and dispatches from locations exotic and humdrum were at once lessons in geography and history, in sport and in life, in the character of man.

COLOSSUS: Houlihan

COLOSSUS: Houlihan

He was Ireland’s Charles Dickens. He was the behemoth of Burgh Quay and later, the seanachaí of the Sunday World.

He was a bare-footed rugby player, a wild-haired soul unconcerned with sartorial norms, a giant who would adorn his enormous frame with a bedraggled collection of wine jumpers, half-closed anoraks, ill-fitting trousers and unlikely black trainers. He had the look of a man who lived his life in a wind-tunnel.

He was a humungous whale who didn’t have it in him to harm plankton; he was political and passionate; he peered beneath the surface – deeper than almost anybody alive – to where the good in a man resided. He lived on a diet of black pudding, spuds and common sense. He was a teacher.His writings on the Dublin/Kerry rivalry of the 1970s should be on the Leaving Cert English course.

He was for many years my hero and for many more after that my friend. Con Houlihan’s passing leaves a crater in the earth, a great hunger in the lives of those of us who fed for decades at the trough of his erudition.

He was the man who stole my 21st birthday. On the eve of that October day in 1989, he had advised me he would be buying me drink the next day. At nine in the morning! By three o’clock the next afternoon I was asleep, fully-clothed on the sofa of my parents’ house.

There was no talk of recommended units of alcohol in those innocent days, but, had there been, I would probably have consumed my quota until my 30th birthday. I keeled over; Con, his lips barely wet, went on to Inchicore for another few pre-match pints before taking his familiar spot by the Camac river to watch Saint Pats. Later that night he would script another word-perfect portrayal of the


If my father almost disowned me that afternoon, he positively swooned when, on RTE radio, Con praised my writing. Dad kept the recording for the remainder of his life. Because what Con Houlihan said mattered. He was trusted and loved. He was timeless: had he been of concrete and mortar, he would have been a listed building; something precious,that would stand forever, untouched, protected.

His appetites were voracious: For knowledge, for sport, for drink, for life. Though he had been unwell for some time, we thought him indestructible as he sailed towards his 10th decade.

But yesterday, finally, he left us. What remains is imperishable: a legacy of writing that demands – whatever the literary snobs say – inclusion alongside Joyce or Yeats, Casey or Kavanagh. To have read him was an education, to have known him a privilege, to have

drank with him was a liver-thumping thrill.

Our sympathies to Harriet, a lady of infinite patience and kindness. All that is left is to raise a cognac glass filled with brandy and milk to the supreme wordsmith, the sovereign of storytellers, the greatest of Kerry and Irishmen.

Roy Curtis


The great Con Houlihan was laid to rest in his beloved Castle Island on Friday. One of the “gifts” that was brought to the altar to represent him was a sod of turf. Con loved the bogs of his native county and spent many happy hours working at the turf. He also worked for Bord na Mona for a year or two.


Todd Andrews was one of the first to realize the value of Ireland’s peat bogs. The Turf Development Board was set up in 1933 and in 1946 Bord na Mona came into being. People associate Bord na Mona with the blanket bogs of the midlands but for many years BNM ran a turf cutting operation in Lyreacrompane.

The kind of bog with which we are familiar in this part of the county is a cutaway bog. People owned these bogs and others bought turbary rights from them. The sods of turf were cut vertically with a sleán and were laid on the bank to dry. The sods were turned regularly until they were dry and then they were piled into little stooks and eventually brought home and made into a rick or stored in a turf shed to dry further.

This method of harvesting turf is hugely labour intensive. It is still practiced by many private individuals in North Kerry. Turf is still the preferred fuel for heating in many local households.

It was not long before BNM brought in machinery to do the cutting or milling of the peat. Milling cuts the peat from the top of the bog.

This man is bringing home his turf on an ass with two creels or panniers tied across his back. The donkey was a very suitable beast for bog work since he was relatively light and could be brought into even the most soggy bog.

In the 1950s your turf was brought home to you in a lorry.

This man, an employee of BNM is loading sods of turf into a collector. The man had to keep ahead of the machine and had to keep bending and throwing in a back breaking routine.

This photograph is from Lyreacrompane where women were employed to feed the collector. The machine was known as “The Iron Ganger” as it dictated the pace of the work.

Tracks were laid across the bog and the turf loaded into wagons which were pulled by the engine to the centre for loading on to trucks.

During the war there was no coal imported and loads of turf were brought to the Phoenix Park to provide fuel for the city of Dublin. We must remember that the trains ran on steam as well.

All of these photos and many more are hereóna-Heartland/180733458639655


The Races are coming


Military History

This testimony is the statement of a Dr. Enright who attend to Con Dee after he was shot and wounded at Gortagleanna

Gortagleanna, Con Dee and the O’Connor family Springmount.

Around these parts the massacre at Gortagleanna  is still remembered vividly. Folk memory has kept the event alive long after its first awfulness sent shock waves through North Kerry in 1921.

have taken the following account of what happened at Gortagleanna from Gabriel Fitzmaurice via the Moyvane website where there is a comprehensive section devoted to this event.

history buffs it is well worth a read because it reproduces Con Dee’s sworn
testimony as well as the history of the ballad and who sang it.

Here I will give you the bones of the story:

The months
of April and May, 1921 saw a lot of bloodshed in the parish of what is now
Moyvane-Knockanure near Listowel in North Kerry. This was, of course, during
the Irish War of Independence. On Thursday, April 7, Mick Galvin, an IRA
volunteer, was killed by British forces during an ambush at Kilmorna in
Knockanure. The IRA had been lying in wait to ambush a group of British
soldiers who were cycling to Listowel after a visit to Sir Arthur Vicars at
Kilmorna House, his residence.

Vicars had
been Ulster King of Arms and custodian of the Irish Crown Jewels which were
kept in Dublin Castle, the burglary of which in 1907, although Vicars was never
seriously suspected of being involved in their theft, led to his ruin and,
ultimately, to his death.

guilty of negligence and dismissed from his post, ruined socially and
financially with neither position nor pension, Vicars, at the invitation of his
half-brother, George Mahony, came to live in Kilmorna House. When George died
in 1912, he left the estate to Sir Arthur’s sister, Edith, who lived in London.
She decided that Sir Arthur could live out his life in Kilmorna.

remained there during the War of Independence when British Forces and Sinn Fein
activists were matching atrocities. His decision was foolhardy rather than
courageous, and typical of the man who was generally regarded by the local
people as a decent, if eccentric, gentleman. But he was also passing
information on IRA activity to the British army.

Thursday, April 14, 1921, Kilmorna House was raided by the local IRA. One of
the party, Lar Broder, told the steward, Michael Murphy, that they had come to
burn the house. This they proceeded to do. However three members of the Flying
Column led Vicars to the end of the garden and shot him. (One of his
executioners, Jack Sheehan, was himself shot dead by the British army near
Knockanure on May 26). Then on May 12 Crown forces shot dead three members of
the Flying Column at Gortaglanna, Knockanure, a short distance from Kilmorna.

The most famous ballad of the events is Bryan Mac Mahon’s “The
Valley of Knockanure”, written in 1946 – though, in the true spirit of
tradition, its authorship is disputed. Let’s clear this up immediately. On
August 16, 1969, Pádraig Ó Ceallacháin, Republican and retired Principal
Teacher of Knockanure National School, wrote the following testimony:

I, Pádraig Ó Ceallacháin, formerly Príomh-Oide
Scoile of Knockanure NS Co. Kerry hereby affirm that about 20 years ago I
brought to Mr. Bryan McMahon (sic) NT Ashe St. Listowel a few verses of a
traditional ballad on the murdering at Gortagleanna (sic) Co. Kerry in May 1921
of three soldiers of the Irish Republican Army – Jermiah (sic) Lyons, Patrick
Dalton and Patrick Walsh. I also supplied Bryan McMahon with a copy of the
sworn statement of Con Dee the survivor and requested him to rewrite the ballad
and to add whatever verses were necessary so that it would be historically
accurate. This Bryan McMahon did and later supplied me with printed copies of
the ballad in question “The Valley of Knockanure” a copy of which is
affixed herewith.

Signed: Pádraig Ó Ceallacháin
 Date: 16/8/69 
Aibhistín Ua Ceallacháin


In memory of Jeremiah Lyons, Patrick Dalton and Patrick Walsh,
murdered by Crown Forces 
at Gortagleanna, Co. Kerry on 12th May, 1921.

You may sing and speak about Easter Week or the heroes of Ninety-Eight,
Of the Fenian men who roamed the glen in victory or defeat,
Their names are placed on history’s page, their memory will endure,
Not a song is sung for our darling sons in the Valley of Knockanure.

Our hero boys they were bold and true, no counsel would they take,
They rambled to a lonely spot where the Black and Tans did wait,
The Republic bold they did uphold though outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they bravely died in the Valley of Knockanure.

There was Walsh and Lyons and Dalton, boys, they were young and in their pride,
In every house in every town they were always side by side,
The Republic bold they did uphold though outlawed on the moor,
And side by side they bravely died in the Valley of Knockanure.

In Gortagleanna’s lovely glen, three gallant men took shade,
While in young wheat, full, soft and sweet the summer breezes played,
But ’twas not long till Lyons came on, saying “Time’s not mine nor your”,
But alas ’twas late and they met their fate in the Valley of Knockanure.

They took them then beside a fence to where the furze did bloom,
Like brothers so they faced the foe for to meet their dreadful doom,
When Dalton spoke his voice it broke with a passion proud and pure,
“For our land we die as we face the sky in the Valley of Knockanure.”

‘Twas on a neighbouring hillside we listened in calm dismay,
In every house in every town a maiden knelt to pray,
They’re closing in around them now with rifle fire so sure,
And Dalton’s dead and Lyons is down in the Valley of Knockanure.

But ere the guns could seal his fate Con Dee had broken through,
With a prayer to God he spurned the sod and against the hill he flew,
The bullets tore his flesh in two, yet he cried with passion pure,
“For my comrades’ death, revenge I’ll get, in the Valley of Knockanure.”

There they lay on the hillside clay for the love of Ireland’s cause,
Where the cowardly clan of the Black and Tan had showed them England’s laws,
No more they’ll feel the soft winds steal o’er uplands fair and sure,
For side by side our heroes died in the Valley of Knockanure.

I met with Dalton’s mother and she to me did say,
“May God have mercy on his soul who fell in the glen today,
Could I but kiss his cold, cold lips, my aching heart ‘twould cure,
And I’d gladly lay him down to rest in the Valley of Knockanure.”

The golden sun is setting now behind the Feale and Lee,
The pale, pale moon is rising far out beyond Tralee,
The dismal stars and clouds afar are darkened o’er the moor,
And the banshee cried where our heroes died in the Valley of Knockanure.

Oh, Walsh and Lyons and Dalton brave, although your hearts are clay,
Yet in your stead we have true men yet to guard the gap today,
While grass is found on Ireland’s ground your memory will endure,
So God guard and keep the place you sleep and the Valley of Knockanure.


In 1960, Con Dee, the only surviver of Gortagleanna came home from the U.S. on a visit. He called to his old friend, Michael O’Connor of Springmount, Duagh. Fr. Pat O’Connor of South Dakota was also home on holidays at that time. Canon Declan O’Connor is the little boy in the crossed braces on the right of the picture. 

Fr. Pat O’Connor of South Dakota, Bridie Kirby O’Connor and Con Dee

Children Brendan, Valerie, Kevin and Declan O’Connor

Pictured at Gortagleanna, Michael O’Connor, Springmount, Duagh with Con Dee and Kevin and Declan O’Connor in 1960.


Vincent can shed some light on our Babe Jo picture. The hotel is in Galway it would appear, and the young farmers + Babe Jo who liked to accompany them on outings were on their way to view a kind of model farm in Gort.

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