Monday, November 11, 2013

Edentubber Martyrs- 56 years Today

The Eentubber Martyrs -died 56 years ago today.

  Vol. Paul Smith

Adjutant Paul Smith from Bessbrook, Co. Armagh was the eldest of a family of seven.

An architects apprentice he was said to be of a happy and carefree nature, was widely and deeply read and had a flair for leadership and responsibility.

Slightly built he was described as being' as hard as iron' and had been involved in many daring missions.

For this the British and Stormont authorities had put a price on his head. Paul who had been away from home for over six months died aged 19 years.

Vol. George Keegan

George Keegan came from an impeccable tradition of separatism going back to to 1798. Born under the shadow of Enniscorthy's Vmegar Hill, a fact of which George was extremely proud, he came from a family with a deep rooted Republican tradition being a descendant of a rebel hanged in 1798.

His father Capt. Patrick Keegan was commandant of the North Wexford brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the Tan War (1919-21) and was in the Atheneum in Enniscorthy in 1916 when they were the last group in Ireland to surrender to the British forces.

In 1948 he was also involved in the 150th anniversary commemorations of 1798. His father before him was also involved and was arrested for being a Fenian organiser.

As boyhood friends of the young George, Mick Leary and Bob Kehoe have many fond memories. 'He was a genius in school with a great knowledge of history, dates and facts and was also very talented with his hands. Even as a schoolboy he was politically involved -launching an appeal to save the life of the 'Boy from Tralee', Vol. Charlie Kerins who was to be hanged by the Fianna Fail government in 1944. He was always very mature for his age, had a dry sense of humour and was very cheery going.

All his short life he was extremely popular and had no times for phonies." Mick and Bob continue: "George had great culinary skills too. Whenever his comrades in the Vmegar Hill column were billeted together, he was affectionately given the title 'cook-sergeant'. A baker by trade he was also known to poach the salmon." Through enigmatic in some ways', he was described by those who served with him as 'the ideal soldier perhaps more suited to Tom Barrys column of the Tan War and left an indelible impression on all around him.'

A single man he was last seen in Co. Wexford several weeks before his death at Edentubber, aged 29.

Vol. Paddy Parle

Paddy, from WIlliam St., Wexford town was a founding member of the Parnell G.A.A. Club. A worker in a local printing firm, he loved all things Irish, was a member of Conradh na Gaeilge and was a fluent Irish speaker, having secured a scholarship to Colaiste Charman, outside Gorey in his schooldays -a distinction of which he was very proud.

Paddy was born into a staunch labour family in Wexford in 1930. That influence led him to have a special regard for James Connolly and the working class cause.

He became an apprentice typesetter in the firm of John English and Co., Custom House Quay in the mid forties and remained there until his seven years were concluded. He also worked in Cahills of Dublin and spent a short period in England.

On returning to Wexford in the mid fifties he joined the local IRA. unit on the outbreak of the 'border campaign' and was largely instrumental in organising an active membership. Seven or eight Wexford men became part of the Vinegar Hill column and operated for a few months until arrests etc. put an end to their activities. Also the Chief of Staff of Oglaigh na hEireann of that period was of Wexford background and was fused with the '98 vision.

Paddy was described by a comrade, Labhras O'Donnghaile as the 'life and soul of the group on the border', was good humoured and lifted the spirits of those around him. During the years previous to volunteering for the campaign, he acted as 'Fear an Tl' at the many ceilithe held in the town hall and was a very popular character. Though devoted to the memory of Connolly, he was described by a comrade as being 'cut out in the mould of Pearse and acted out that role without realising it. Besides the cultural aspirations he was a deeply spiritual person and had not truck with vulgar talk etc. and was attentive to his religious upbringing.'

Bob and Mick recall his good humoured nature, cheering all the rest of them up and his flair for singing rebel songs. Bob recalls the last words heard from Paddy on that night in Edentubber -words that would ring prophetically, it was his favourite song, 'Padraig Pearses Farewell' -
'Farewell, farewell my lovely land farewell, When May dawn breaks, The last May I shall see ..." A single man he had been last seen by his brother, two months previously. Died aged 27.

Vol Oliver Craven

Oliver from Newry, Co. Armagh was a labourer and had been a driver before joining Oglaigh na hEireann.

Described as powerfully built and quietly spoken, he was particularly noted for his cool headedness.

On the run and wanted by the Stormont authorities, he had evaded capture several times.

Like the others, he read a lot in his spare time. Also, single, he had been away from home for almost six months and was only 19 when he died.

Michael Watters

Michael who owned the cottage where the bombs exploded was a forestry worker and had lived their alone since the death of his mother two years previously.
   l-r Keegan, Parle, Smith, Craven, and Watters. Photo from An Phoblacht and Text from Edentubber 50th website.

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