Centenary Celebrations in Ballymoe, the Birthplace of Éamonn Ceannt

Julie Edwards

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Raising of the Irish Flag
Raising of the Irish Flag. Photo Credit: Author

The Easter weekend marked the Centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising which seen Ireland gain its independence from English rule. In one of the biggest celebrations of Irish Independence, there were commemorative ceremonies in nearly every town in Ireland.

Ballymoe, a little town in County Galway, overlooking the River Suck was no different. It just so happens that this little town is the birth place of Éamonn Ceannt. One of the seven signatories of the Irish Proclamation of Independence in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Ceannt was one of seven children born to parents James Kent and Joanne Galway. His father was stationed in Ballymoe as he was part of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The old Garda barracks in Ballymoe was where he was born and spent the early years of his life with his parents before they moved to Dublin.

To mark the anniversary the celebration ‘A Commemoration Ceremony for Éamonn Ceannt and The Easter Rising 1916’ took place outside the old Garda barracks. The clouds ominously loomed above threatening the crowd that gathered outside the station eagerly watching. But luckily the weather was on our side.

It began with people from the parish dressed in uniform, informing the audience on who Éamonn Ceannt was, his life and his beliefs artfully told by incorporating both Gaeilge and English. Local TD Michael Fitzmaurice read out the Irish proclamation while the Irish flag was raised, with the incorporation of live Irish music. The end of the ceremony had the readings of the letters that these men sent from Kilmainham Gaol.

Reading of the Irish Proclamation
Local TD Michael Fitzmaurice reading the Irish Proclamation of Independence. Photo Credit: Author

After the ceremony I spoke to the local parish priest Fr. Pat O’Toole on the celebrations, I began by asking him what motivated him to get involved,

‘I was very interested in our history in school, I went to the same school as Lorcan’s father, –the event organiser- Frank Moughan. A little school in Mayo in Ballinrobe a little village called Cregduff. I love the Irish history of that period. I was motivated in it from my youth, we were not filled in at all. My own father was involved in the times of the black and tans, so I used to hear stories. I was fascinated but we weren’t hearing that in school so I used to always read about it. We didn’t get much on it in school so that would have motivated me. So this function was on Lorcan, I use the odd Irish word in the church and he knew I had an interest in the language. But going back to your question I was in Africa for thirty years and when I finished up there, I came back to work in Ireland. I’m working in this parish for 3 years now. I was motivated also as I went to trouble to learn African languages so surely I should know my own, and the history because I seen how they appreciated their history in Kenya where I worked. And I knew their national anthem, all of this links up with my African experience. The Irish language enriches, people love the few proverbs.’

On how the centenary celebrations are creating an interest among young people,

‘I think so, again just like what Lorcan has done here, you start small and it grows. That way you’re not forcing it on them but integrating it. Even in the church before we go out –onto the altar- I would say ‘In ainm an Athar agus an Mhic agus an Spioraid Naoimh Amen’, bless ourselves in Irish or greeting them in Irish. I started off today by using Micheal O’Hehir’s greeting, ‘Bail O Dhia oraibh go leir’. I’d be used to these expressions we used to use them a bit at home. I think it’s a lovely way to integrate both English and Irish and people see the richness of it. At home at every mass the Our Father is said in Irish, and I try it here sometimes, you have to take courage in it. When I visit the school I greet them in Irish. From my youth and my African experience, and I appreciate what this man is doing –Lorcan Moughan- I like to give encouragement to people who are starting up. What he has done today, he has planted that seed and lit that fire but he doesn’t want any credit for it.’

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Julie Edwards