Friday, June 27, 2014
Ballybrack went to War
Ken Kinsella wrote a book called Out of the Dark in which he presented the results of his extensive research into the South Dublin casualties at the front in WWI.
When it came time to launch the book, his publisher, Conor Graham, MD of Irish Academic Press, approached Tim Carey, the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Heritage Officer, about a launch in the County (formerly Town) Hall. Tim told him that the Council were putting on a WWI exhibition at a later time which would be dealing with this theme also. So they agreed to combine the two events and last evening's launch was simultaneously of the book and the exhibition.
Marie has become Cathaoirleach of the Council after the recent local elections and she takes over from Carrie Smyth whom we met at another local occasion recently. While new to this session she is not new to the job having previously been Cathaoirleach in 2009-2010.
She welcomed the capacity audience on behalf of the Council and introduced both the exhibition and the book. She recalled that those WWI participants who had been cast aside in the past were now being brought to the fore.
Tim, still in jet-lag from the previous day's flight home from the USA and partly exhausted from setting out the chairs in this vast hall, filled us in on the background to the exhibition and its linking up with the book. Tim has been a very active promoter of heritage in the DLR area over the last number of years and it is good to see much of his hard work coming to fruition.
Conor's company have made a huge contribution to academic publishing over the years. Conor himself was educated in a hard school, but that's another story.
He thanked Ken Kinsella for providing him with a wonderful book to publish and he was very complimentary about how Ken handled his relationship with his publisher. He also thanked the Council for the opportunity to participate in the launching of this great exhibition
While Conor is speaking, Marie is listening attentively, Myles is doing a final check on his notes, while Ken, as the next speaker, is reaching deep into his inside pocket for his own script.
Ken outlines the labours of 13 years intensive research and contacts. You only have to read the acknowledgement pages in the book to see how widely his net had been cast. He is particularly concerned to humanise and localise the experience of those locals who fell in WWI and to set them in the context of their times and their families.
The book falls into two broad divisions. The first 23 pages form a series of mini chapters setting out the background and to some extent condensing the experience of the participants. The next 270 pages set out brief histories and/or descriptions of the geographical areas covered, each followed by a roll of honour which sets out details of those who fell, their family background and so on.
I understand, from reading Major-General David Nial Creagh's foreword to the book, that it concentrates on families who were, or became known, to the author. So, while it is not comprehensive it is representative of a wide range of the experiences of those from South County Dublin who were involved, one way or another, in WWI.
Myles praises both book and exhibition for continuing the process of bringing these soldiers down from the attic. He recounted his own experience of finding out how little he knew of the country's WWI heritage when confronted with the probing questions of two of the countries great historians, F X Martin and Kevin B Nowlan, in the course of applying for a scholarship to UCD's history department.
I snuk this picture from behind the shoulders of the official photographer so I am not sure if it's Marie trying to inveigle Ken into attending some more of the Council's heritage programme over the summer, or, whether that was supposed to be the book rather than the heritage programme. To be fair, though, the first item in the programme is the WWI commemoration. The programme also includes Martello Tower No.7 in Killiney, which will be open with guided tours each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon over the summer season.
All of this was eclipsed for me by the opportunity to meet Dr. T. K. Whitaker ("one t") and have a chat. When I went into the Department of Finance, he was what is now called the Secretary General, or otherwise my boss's boss's boss's boss. However, he was also chairman of the National Industrial Economic Council (NIEC) and I was on the secretariat of the Council, so I got (slightly) closer to him then than our respective grades might imply.
I reminded him that, at that time, himself and Professor Louden Ryan were, in effect, running the country, and that memory seemed to cheer him up enormously. They were a lean and hungry team, those two Northerners, when they got together.
I am aware that the Ballybrack and Killiney UDC made no small contribution in manpower to the war effort. By October 1915 some 60 men had joined up. I think there is a plaque in St. Matthias's church to 14 or so from Ballybrack who died. I assume there would be further Catholic names to add to that list, but, as we all know, it was not the Catholic thing to recognise this particular sacrifice at that time. In addition to which, strictly speaking, I was not allowed to enter this Protestant church on pain of mortal sin. Enough to be accepting the delivery of milk from a Protestant dairy in them days.
Some of the Ballybrack casualties are shown below, as listed in the exhibition's roll of honour.
When we came to Ballybrack in 1954, Alec Horner had a cab business at this address. My mother availed of it from time to time and knew Alec well.
I have drawn attention to this address before.
Madden's cottages on Madden's lane between Daleview and the Wyatville Road.
Born in Ballybrack, resident in Loughlinstown. Not really as far away as it seems. Ballybrack, Killiney and Loughlinstown villages were inhabited by a lot of the same families. I remember my mother telling me that if I was on shop duty and a local came in to complain about someone from Killiney or Loughlinstown, to listen and say nothing, as complainer and complained were quite likely cousins at least.
For some, it appears that Ballybrack itself is enough of an address. When we arrived in 1954, everyone knew everyone else, not to mention what they might have known about each other.
I started with the book cover and I'll finish with it.
A South African nurse places a wreath on her brothers grave at Delville Wood in February 1918. My uncle died at the adjacent High Wood in September 1916 when they were going the other way. The curse of the Somme on Haig and his bloody useless tanks.