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The South East Meath 1798 Bi-centenary committee was formed in Swans of Curraha on the
19th February 1997. The principal objective of the committee was to commemorate in a meaningful
and lasting way, the sacrifices and courage of the United Irishmen, who confronted and challenged
British tyranny and misgovernment in Ireland two hundred years ago. Looking to the east , the
United Irishmen saw the success of the French peasantry in the overthrow of the monarchy. To the
west, the settlers of the New World readily rejected British efforts to make America, England. In
doing so they declared American independence. Thus setting the foundations of modern democracy.

On the 16th December 1796 a huge French invasion force of 35 ships carrying 12,000 troops
arrived undetected by the British Navy at Bantry Bay. The French planned to invade Ireland and with
the help of The United Irishmen eject Britain from Ireland and set up an Irish Republic. The French
hesitated to land and a sudden change in the weather forced the French fleet to return home.

England never had such good fortune. In realising her weakness and vulnerability, she set
about employing one of her own tried and tested weapons of divide and conquer. To achieve this
she made large amounts of money available for spies and informers, and this certainly had the
desired effect. The English knowledge as to the strength of the United Irishmen was until now based
upon rumour, but they became increasingly alarmed as to the widespread support and organisation
of these rebels. Prominent among this network of spies and informers were Leonard McNally a
radical barrister, Thomas Reynolds a relative of Lord Edward Fitzgerald and Edward Mangan. All
three were oath bound members of The United Irishmen.

From May until August of 1798, just three months, British Crown Forces butchered over
thirty thousand Irish people. These people lost their lives because of a handful of informers, who
thought more of thirty pieces of silver than they did about their own country or countrymen. Indeed
had the French landed in force, and the combined efforts of the French and Irish forced the British
out of Ireland, thirty thousand dead would have been a small price to pay to have ended the
occupation of Ireland. Above all, success in 1798 would have prevented the worst disaster in Irelands
history , which occurred fifty years later, 1845-1848. The so-called “Great Famine”.

Had Ireland been free and Independent, the vast amounts of food, which left her ports on a
daily basis throughout these years, would not have been allowed. Three million Irish people were
ethnically cleansed to facilitate Britains scorched earth policy for Ireland. As can be readily
appreciated, the cost to equip, garrison, feed and pay an army is far greater than to let ones
opponent starve to death. Ireland was Englands Achilles Heel. We were a threat to her security and
from her point of view, the only way to remove that threat since she could not remove Ireland itself,
was to occupy and subdue it in her own interests.

The rebellion of 1798 has been etched into the Irish psyche through ballads, poetry and
indeed by its most famous leaders but above all by its outstanding monuments that are dotted
throughout the country. The most notable, depict the Croppie brandishing his pike in defiance of
tyranny. I felt that the Bi-centenary should be used to commemorate those who made the rebellion
possible. The United Irishmen were a secret army and while their secrets were badly kept, none the
less they required a secret source of weaponry. For this they called upon a Blacksmith, who served
all creeds and political loyalties within the community.

Patrick Archer from North County Dublin wrote a poem in the early part of this century to
commemorate the Blacksmiths of 1798, and used one from his own lineage as an example Paid
ODonoghue, the young smith from Curraha. This poem became our window of opportunity and
starting point. The committee was formed with a very loose structure, our main objective being to
raise funds. Patsy and Mary consented to a site on part of the small paddock opposite their pub. This
site was to be the home of the centrepiece of our commemoration. The Paid ODonoghue memorial,
commemorating the sacrifices and efforts of all the blacksmiths of the United Irishmen.

Our first venture into fundraising was a raffle to obtain initial cash flow. This was slow at first
but as the money came in it allowed us to have a miniature of the life-size cast. As by this time the
selection process as to who would receive the commission had been decided. Now with Paid
ODonoghue in hand we were able to sell tickets in Navan, Trim, Dunshaughlin and Ashbourne with
great ease. The artist commissioned to create Paid ODonoghue was Brendan Walshe. Brendan a
blacksmith by trade , living in Celbridge co. Kildare, was a little known artist as such. The foundry
selected to cast the life-size piece and all other castings required, was the Kilmainham Art Foundry,
Dublin, owned and run by Willie Malone who incidentally had never cast a life size statue before.

The effect, in which ticket sales increased with the appearance of the miniature, prompted
me to initiate a limited edition as a means to raise larger amounts of money. This idea was put to the
committee one night in Swans, which they thought would be worth pursuing. On the same night
Patsy Swan informed us that Raymond Coyle, was in the small Lounge and he may talk to us. Having
discussed our plans with him and given his family connections with the ODonoghues of Curraha, he
formed an alliance with our committee which proved invaluable to us. I hope that he and his
company continue to benefit from his participation in our project, particularly because he placed his
trust in almost perfect strangers and I felt there was always mutual respect in our relationship.

Perri Crisps, with whom Raymond Coyle is Managing Director, financed our project to the
tune of £12,500, which made a huge impact on our ability to meet our timetable for completion on
22 May 1998. Of course the sales of the Miniatures were slow at first, but these were sufficiently
profitable to allow me more time for organising and structuring other aspects of the
commemoration, which included a march from Enniscorthy to Ballyboughal in North Co. Dublin. This
was to commemorate the march of the Wexford Men out of Wexford and into Wicklow, Kildare and
Meath. Engaging with the enemy at every opportunity until they were defeated at Drishogue Lane
near Ballyboughal, a dishevelled and depleted force. As the march entered Meath at Dunboyne, it
was planned to unveil plaques at Dunboyne, Ratoath, and the monument in Curraha. Then march on
to a commemoration at the Hill of Tara and the following day across to Duleek, Ardcath,
Baldwinstown, Oldtown and Ballyboughal and to unveil plaques in all the above places.

This march was to benefit the Irish Wheelchair Association. We had asked Donacha
ODulaing to lead the march and he and I travelled to Enniscorthy to co-ordinate our efforts with
Comoradh 98 and agree a date for said march. Our first and only disappointment was on the 23rd
May 1998 at the unveiling of the Paid ODonoghue memorial, when we discovered that, for
whatever reason Donacha ODulaing had failed to turn up. To this day I have not heard a single word
of explanation. Despite this set-back, our efforts were not in vain and although the march did not
take place, all areas where plaques were due to be unveiled had their plaques erected by local

The workload was such that it would have been impossible for our committee to have
undertaken or financed these plaques; however we did undertake two of them. At the Deans,
Duleek, we erected a headstone and surround, to the memory of those Wexford men who were
executed in this area and buried without shroud or coffin in the ditches and woods adjacent to the
memorial. Leaving Ardcath and heading to Garristown, turn right at the Rath Cross, it it a short
distance along this road that you will find the second memorial. This memorial also marks the
general location of a Wexford Croppies Grave. At both locations, appropriate verse is used to
commemorate and perpetuate the memory of the croppies. At the Deans, a verse of Thomas DArcy
McGees poem,

The Croppies Grave:

Peace be round the croppies grave,

Peace to your souls ye buried brave;

Taras Hill when crowned and free,

Had never nobler guests than thee!

At Ardcath, a verse from the memory of the dead by John Kells Ingram,

The Memory of the Dead:

The dust of some is Irish earth;

Among their own they rest;

And the same land that gave them birth,

Has caught them to her breast.

And we will pray that from their clay

Full many a race may start

Of true men, like you men,

To act as brave apart.

The planning for the Paid ODonoghue Memorial was sanctioned at the end of
November 1997 but it was not until 1998 that the works commenced. On the 7th February
1998, Paddy Shiels of Garballagh, Duleek and I went to Curraha and marked out the large
horse shoe shape of the memorial surround. A JCB arrived, supplied by Pat Shiels and within
a few days three metres of concrete (sponsored by John Gallagher of Mullagh Quarr,
Bellewstown) was poured. At this point in time I had another committee member, Teddy
OReilly following up a potential source of Building stone. This was but one of many sources
but was the one which bore fruit. Sean Travers Demolition at the rear of the Regency Hotel,
Dublin, became the focus of our attention. We spent a Saturday picking about twenty tonne
of building stone and on the Sunday morning we arrived to load this and about five tonne of
Cobblestone into two of Pat Shiels trucks and delivered it to Curraha. All this stone and
transport was by the way of sponsorship by people who appreciated and were proud to help

in the undertaking.

We were now ready to mix mortar and commence building. Goodwins, formerly of
Ashbourne, were our nearest builders suppliers. The manager at the time, Mr. Frank
OBrien certainly did not need me to give him a history lesson as he was well aware of the
historical significance of 1798. He was more than willing to sponsor sand, cement, gravel etc.
Once the stone work started to rise from the ground upwards, the local people began to
notice that this project was beginning to come to life. Additional sponsorship came at this
point in time from Kevin Fagan of Ashbourne Hire who provided the cement mixer,
generators etc. as we required, the cement mixer was on site for the duration of the
building, from February to May.

The Paid ODonoghue concept came from the work of Patrick Archer a historian and
member of the Gaelic League. But it was our plan to try to explain to people the damage
that informers can do. So, again it was to Archers work we turned “Fair Fingal” a history of
Fingal written by Patrick Archer. Three chapters in this book deal with 1798. “1798 in
Fingal”, “Molly Weston” and “The Stag of Naul”. Through extensive searching for a
playwright, I found Tommy Monaghan from Balbriggan who agreed to adapt “The Stag of
the Naul” to stage on condition that ther was a group to play it. Duleek Drama group
consented to this play, so Tommy took the time to write what can only be described as a
brilliant piece of work. He called it “Viva La”.

So as you can see we were building at Curraha during the day and we were either
fundraising, checking on the progress at the foundry or organising marches and plays at
night. While we were in Dublin picking the building stone, I also picked three pieces of
granite. These were to be used to mount the three proposed plaques for the monuments at
Curraha. The statue in itself would not impart any information about 1798 to the passing
traveller or tourists. In selecting poems for these plaques a piece from Paid ODonoghue was
apt as well as essential.

But Ninety Eights dark season came and Irish hearts were sore;

The pitch-cap and triangle the patient folk outwore;

The Blacksmith thought of Ireland and found hed work to do:

“Ill forge some steel for freedom” said Paid ODonoghue

Patrick Archer, as I already said, wrote this poem, at the turn of this century. However, what
I was interested in showing was, after Two Hundred years, poets were still writing of this extremely
important time in both Irish and European history. “The Woman Cried”, by Bobby Sands is a very
descriptive insight into the secrecy in which the United Irishmen operated in order to elude his
enemy. I only used four verses of this poem as the last word of the fourth verse is the only mention
on this monument of Wolfe Tone, as we were restricted to the size of the plaques. The other piece
of contemporary poetry was by Seamus Heaney, “The Requiem of the Croppies”, which is in itself an
overall description of a people on the march and in revolt. People might remember Tommy Makems
singing of the Four Green Fields. The poem he recites before the song is the Requiem for the
Croppies and it was from his record that I also first heard this marvellous piece of poetry.

With the Granite pieces in place and at this stage six of our miniatures sold, we were well on
schedule. The life size piece moulded in clay had been in the foundry for three weeks, less an arm, as
it had been cut off to get it in the door. However the moulding process was well underway. Earlier
on while Paddy and myself were building on a daily basis at the monument, we felt under staffed
even though Teddy OReilly, Tony ORourke and Shay Reynolds were also giving all their free time to
help. This was because every piece of limestone had to be shaped and dressed from what it was, to
what we wanted it to be. Paddy thought of a mutual friend whom I had completely forgotten about.
Immediately I got on to directory enquiries and got Brendan Carolans number, who, when I phoned
said he would be there after lunch and every day after that.

Eventually we came to capping the stonework, which was a long arduous process. Again, we
went to Ashbourne Timber for materials and after a brief conversation with Leslie Deegan, we were
given all the timber needed for our project by means of sponsorship.

Previously I mentioned the proposed walk from Enniscorthy to Ballyboughal and as a means
of raising funds for this march I put a small group of musicians together, who played at various
venues to raise funds. The first of these nights were at Swans of Curraha, then ONeills in Duleek,
Ashbourne and the Harcourt Hotel, Dublin which altogether raised £1,000. The music was strictly
Irish Traditional and based largely on music and song from 1798, Curraha G.F.C. also became
involved from an early stage thanks to P.R.O., Kevin OConnor and Packie Mulvany, through them
the club sponsored our project to the tune of £500, as did Patsy and Mary Swan.

Of course in tandem with the memorial, the promotion of the play was going ahead and
projected costs of staging such a play were being anticipated. Since it was hoped that Duleek Drama
Society was going to perform this play, I had enquired from businesses in Duleek regarding
sponsorship. In the end the contributors consisted of Sean Connell of the Greyhound Bar, who
wanted to sponsor the plaque at the memorial at the Deans, Duleek. Seamus ONeill of ONeills Bar
in Duleek, Oliver Levins of Centra, Gerry Smith Transport and of course Gerry Marrey who took me
aside in the Greyhound Bar and gave me a donation to assist in the project that was very dear to his
own heart as he said himself.

As the building was nearing completion, the nails of the horseshoe were depicted by seven
cast iron Ballard tops and even the toe-piece of the shoe cast into the concrete. The railings for the
monument then needed to be discussed. Since Brendan Walshe had waived all his rights of
percentage profits from the miniatures so as to maximise our profits for the project. I decided not to
seek tenders for the railings around the monument and instead asked Brendan to give his best price
on them. Given that these were forged, zinc dipped, erected, etch primed and painted, I think his
price was very reasonable and possibly profitless.

To hold a commemoration of 1798 and not to have pikes was unthinkable. So as I set off
from Curraha one afternoon to get diesel for the mixer, I went to Eugene Wards garage at the Rath
in Ashbourne , and after a bit of the usual ragging from Eugene I left with £100 for the procurement
of the much needed pikes. Gerry Grattan of the Hygiene people responded much the same as did
Gerry Daly of Fax nFiction. The deal I forged with Foleys Forge, Dunshaughlin was that they would
sponsor twenty pikes and we would pay for twenty more. Patsy Swan bought a further five and Billy
Cleary also a committee member bought two. The committee having the use of seven pikes until

they could be returned to their owners. The only area where I could not negotiate a reduction was
on the 8ft handles. None the less I found a willing carpenter in Jimmy Buckley, my father who fitted
all the handles to the pikes.

On the morning of the 22nd May 1998, Teddy OReilly, my son Diarmuid and I set off to the
Kilmainham Art Foundry to collect Paid. With slight structural alterations to the entrance it was
possible to remove Paid with both arms attached. Having been the only ones to successfully wrestle
with Paid and lay him on his back in Teddys van, we headed to Curraha via Finglas where we
collected the Forty Pikes at 419, Casement Road, we arrived at the monument about 12 noon. There
we found Joey Smith had arrived with the granite base, which was donated from an unknown
source, by an unknown official who shall remain unknown, Joey, monumental Sculptor (from
Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim) had shaped it to requirements undertook to do all three of our
monuments. A large crane, which had been sourced Shay Reynolds, was on standby.

By 1pm Paid and Anvil were in place only to be secured by welding steel anchors to the
underside of the granite base and then back fill with concrete. The rest of the day was spent
finishing the cobblestone floor and setting up a stage and dance floor for the unveiling on the
following day, 23rd May 1998.

The Stopping of the Mail Coach and its failure to arrive on schedule was the signal
throughout the country for the rising to commence. So as to authenticate the occasion we organised
a coach and two beautiful workhorses sponsored by Sam Steers of Fleenstown, Ashbourne to be
available to be captured by the local United Irishmen at the Rath Cross, Ashbourne on Ma y 23rd
1998. The captured coach was then escorted under heavy guard by 100 pike men on horse and foot
to the memorial at Curraha, and to anawaiting crowd of several hundred. The pike men were lead by
piper Sean Finnegan from Slane and were supported by the Kentstown Accordian Band.

Ms. Una OConnor, a relative of Patrick Archer and also a committee member unveiled the
memorial. Following the unveiling the memorial was blessed by Rev. Father Joseph Garvey (P.P.,
Curraha), Rev. John Clarke (Navan Union of Churches) and the Very Rev. Robin Mc Dermott
(Minister, Christchurch Sandymount)

After the blessing the colour party saluted the United Irishmen followed by the last post. Pat
Farrelly of Scurloughstown recited the poem Paid ODonoghue, followed by a short account of the
suffering and sacrifices by the Blacksmiths in 1798, by Ms. Jacqueline Sidney, Co. Wexford. Mr.
Raymond Coyle on behalf of our main sponsors Perri Crisps commended the committee on their
achievements. Peadar Bates of Donabate gave a short account of the informers and their treachery
during the 1798 period.

But a traitor crept amongst them and the secret soon was sold

To the captain of the Yeomen for the ready Saxon gold;

And a troop burst out one evening from the woods of dark Kilbrue,

And soon a rebel prisoner bound, was Paid ODonoghue.

Despite the traitors and their lust for gold, despite the gallows, rack and pitch cap,

transportation and firing squad, there have always been Irish men and women who were prepared
to sacrifice everything for freedom and country. It is the memory of these people with their courage
and patriotism and defiance of tyranny that will endure not the artificial empire that attempted to
oppress them.

All things must come to pass as one

So hope should never die,

There is no height or bloody might

That a free man cant defy.

There is no source or foreign force

Can break one man who knows,

That his free will nothing can kill

And from that, freedom grows

Bobby Sands

The Paid ODonoghue Memorial has been entrusted with the National Graves Association, 74 Dame
St, Dublin 2.

In Trust for the people of Ireland.

Finally, I would like to thank all who participated in making this commemoration a memorable one.

Gerry Buckley,


South East Meath 1798 Bicentenary Committee