By Tom Aherne

The death has occurred of Stephen Nolan, 14 The Cross, Ardagh,  on Sunday, April 25, peacefully, surrounded by his loving family. Stephen, the beloved husband of the late Emily (née Brouder). In accordance with government guidelines, a private family funeral Mass was held in St Molua’s Church, Ardagh, on Tuesday, April 27, at 11.30am, followed by burial afterwards in the local cemetery. We extend our sympathy to daughters Kathleen, Jacqueline and Christine, sons Anthony and Vincent, sons in law, daughters in law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, his sisters Anne, Bridie and Mai, nieces, nephews, sister in law, brother in law, cousins, wide circle of friends and neighbours. May he rest in Peace.

A sincere thank you from Kathleen, and Tony for your contributions  to the annual  sacristan’s  collection which was taken up on the Palm Sunday  weekend in Coolcappa/Kilcolman parish. They are very grateful for your support. Tony Liston retired from the role in Coolcappa at the end of 2020, and has been replaced by Mary O’Donnell Coolcappa. The Ardagh/Carrigkerry sacristan’s collection will be held on Saturday/Sunday May 15/16.

The Old Mill Ladies football club held their annual general meeting on Thursday, April  22, by Zoom. Chairperson Triona Ambrose welcomed everyone, and all the reports were dealt with. Officers elected for the coming year were Chairperson Triona Ambrose,  Vice-Chairperson Timmy O’Donoghue, Secretary Deirdre Ambrose, Ass-Secretary Moira McEnery, Treasurer Margaret Upton, Ass-Treasurer Tommy Carr, PRO Moira McEnery, Child Welfare Officer-Jill Liston.

The mentors for the playing season were finalised as follows: U-8/U10: John Doyle, Seamus Callahan,  Moira McEnery and Tony O’Connor. U-12: Tommy Carr, John Doyle, Koran Carr, U-14: John Liston, Tom Byrne,  Jill Liston,  Pat Horgan and Ger Brasil, U-16: Michael Murphy, Paudie Kiely and Caroline Kelly, U-19: Pat Lee, Ciara Mann and Deirdre Ambrose,  Minor and Senior: Ivan Neary, Paudie McCarthy and John Brouder.

Limerick Ladies football manager  Donal Ryan has named three members of the Old Mill club in his squad for the forthcoming  Football League, Iris Kennelly, Roisín Ambrose and Sophie Hennessy. The club are holding a fundraising  clothes collection on Saturday, June 5. Reusable clean clothes, shoes in pairs, belts, handbags only. No duvets, sheets/towels. More details from Moira McEnery at 086-8110634. Best wishes to the club for the coming season.

Work is continuing at a good pace on the playground at Carrigkerry village. It is great to see this project at long last come to fruition, and all the children are really looking forward to its completion.

The Con Greaney programme broadcast on West Limerick 102 fm on Saint Patrick’s Day has proved very popular and has been heard in 54 countries around the World. It’s wonderful that his singing is still bringing enjoyment to so many through this medium. For people who may have missed out on the programme, they can still  catch it on podcast, on the West Limerick 102 fm radio Facebook platform.

The recent  dry spell of warm weather dried up the land and bogs around the locality. The turf machines came out in force after Easter and to date a lot of the turf banks have been cut. A few people still cut their winter supply of turf by hand using the old fashioned tools of hay knife, spade, shovel,  slean and pike. This is a better way for the bog to recover, which is left with a fine swart and only the bog hole that the turf has been taken from. The drawbacks are lack of help and it takes a lot longer to cut and afterwards to dry. May  and June are the best month for drying turf with sun and  wind and long days. The bog on a fine day is great for getting a good colour and an increased appetite.

On the eve of May Day in olden times in many districts the father of the house would light a candle and bless the threshold, the hearth and the four corners of the house with Easter water. He also blessed his wife and the children in the order of their age. The farmer then would visit the stable and bless the animals, and one field  to cover the whole farm. The sprinkling of holy water on the growing crops and pasture fields was very general. The purpose of sprinkling the holy water was to preserve the luck of the household for the coming year. The practise is still observed by some people, mainly in rural areas  up to the present day.

The Ardagh Development Association and Saint Kieran’s GAA joint weekly lottery draw took place on Monday, April 26. The numbers drawn were 5,7,22, and 26, and there was no winner of the €5,400 Jackpot.  Congratulations  to the five lucky dip winners who received €40 each: Jamie O’Brien, Ballynacally, Mary Harnett, Ardagh, Maurice Harnett, Liam Liston, Glenastar, and Theresa Downey c/o Sean Downey.  Next Monday night’s jackpot will  be €5,500. People can play online using club force on the club’s Facebook page, with 6pm on Monday evening the deadline. The tickets are also on sale at the usual outlets, and all support will be appreciated. 

Creeves Celtic  held their split the pot draw on Monday, April 26. Congratulations to Basil and Rose Fitzsimons who won €117. The weekly   entry fee is €2 with €1 going to the club and the other €1 to be paid out in prize money each week. The envelopes to place your two euro in plus details, are available at  Hanley’s Food Store Creeves,  and from committee members.  People can also sign up by standing order for €9 per month. The  draws will be held on Monday nights, and all support will be appreciated.

Congratulations to Ronan Costello Tournafulla, who won €225 in the West Limerick 102fm 50/50 draw, held on Friday, April 30. The tickets cost €2, and they are available from volunteers, in local shops, (including Moloney’s Carrigkerry, and Denis Greaney’s Shop Ardagh) or from the radio station. All support will be appreciated as finances are tight due to lack of fundraising. The radio station is off limits to members of the public at present, with only volunteers allowed access. When restrictions are lifted all will be very welcome to visit and get involved in programming. A number of exciting new programmes are in the pipeline for later in the year. The station can be contacted at 069-66200 if people have news of interest to the West Limerick area.

Con Colbert Remembered       By Tom Aherne

LIMERICK LOST a noble and brave son when Con Colbert, was executed in Kilmainham Jail for his part in the Easter Rising on May 8, 1916. Small in stature, and young in years, he was a giant in the fight for Irish freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Con was born on October 19, 1888 at Moanlena, Castlemahon. He had twelve brothers, and sisters, and he was the fourth youngest. His father Michael who was a farmer, came from Athea, and his mother Nora Mc Dermott came from Cooraclare, in county Clare. Michael Colbert was a former rebel who had taken part in the Fenian uprising in 1867.

When Con was about three years old the family moved to Gale View House Templeathea, Athea, where he attended the local National School. He was taught the usual subjects reading, writing, maths, geography, grammar, and drawing. Con also attended Kilcolman National School for a while, staying with his relatives, the Colbert family in Balliston. He was very interested in local history the Irish language, and in national affairs, as a youngster growing up.

At the age of fifteen years, he went to live in Dublin with his sister, and he attended the Christian Brothers School’s at St Mary’s Place, and O’Connell’s. On leaving school, Con secured employment at Kennedy’s Bakery in Parnell Street, and remained there until 1916. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and he became very proficient in military drill. In 1909 he joined the Fianna Eireann, at the first meeting, and was soon putting his skill as a drill instructor, to good use by teaching the new recruits.

He gave the Fianna every moment of his time, and during his summer holidays, he would cycle from place to place, getting a few boys together to start a new branch. With his eagerness and youthful enthusiasm, he proved a most successful recruiting agent. Con joined the Irish Volunteers, on their foundation in 1913, and was one of their first drill instructors. He was quickly appointed Captain of F Company 4th Battalion-a rank he held until the Rising.

Despite his youthful age, he shortly became one of the inspirations of the new and vigorous resurgence movement and in due course, he was appointed to Volunteer Headquarter Staff. During the years which preceded the fateful Rising of 1916, Con devoted every moment of his spare time, to the work of organising the men, and boys, who were to participate in that historic event. Con wrote poems, as well and signed them with the pen name An Claidheamh (The Sword).

He spent every penny he had of his hard-earned money in the advancement of the movement, to which he had given everything but his soul. Padraig Pearse spoke lovingly of Con, and all the help he gave him as drill instructor at Pearse’s Scoil  Eanna. Con was offered a salary for his services but declined as he saw his work as being a contribution to the national cause. Con was not a big man being just over five feet tall.

Madge, a sister of his comrade-in-arms, Edward Daly from Limerick knew Con very well as he used to call to their house, coming from Dublin, on the way home to Athea. She recalled he was bright and cheerful and always in good humour. So spiritual was he, that he abstained from meat during the seven weeks of Lent, and he was always slipping away to say his prayers in some Dublin Church.

He would visit her uncle also, who was an old Fenian, like his own uncle, who was a member of the Fenian Brotherhood. They would discuss events until the small hours, and Con wrote him a short note before he was executed. Madge said he was highly thought of by all the leaders.

Tom Clarke held him in high esteem, Eamonn Ceannt, loved him and was forever singing his praises, Padraig Pearse, trusted him as a friend and comrade. Their last meeting was a week before the Easter Rising, when they shared tea, and a long chat in O’Connell Street, Dublin.

Con was calm and happy talking of the risks, as part of the day’s work, in the cause for which he lived.  He said that he believed they would all go down in the fight, but the sacrifice would be well worth it. He was in the highest spirits when he left Madge, glad of the opportunity to play his part in the struggle.

When the fighting broke out in 1916, Con had command of one of the outposts of the South Dublin Union at Watkins Brewery in Ardee Street. The number of men under his command was about twenty. After two days of fighting, he was ordered to move his men, to reinforce a large outpost at Marrowbone Lane. This garrison with the others under the command of Eamonn Ceannt and Cathal Brugha, won immortality both for bravery and strategy. They shattered and drove off large forces of experienced English troops, commanded by Sir Francis Vane.

The order to surrender came as a great blow to the men and Con, whose youth and subordinate command could have saved him. He stepped into the place, of an older man who had dependents and suffered in his place. After the surrender, the agents of Dublin Castle made sure that Con was singled out for execution. The reason for this special treatment can be found in his activities, as an organiser of the national movement prior to 1916.

Con did not send for any of his relatives to visit him in jail, as he felt that visit would grieve them too much. He wrote a number of letters to his brothers, and sisters, and relatives and friends. Writing to his sister on the eve of his execution he said: ‘’Perhaps I’d never get the chance of knowing when I was to die, and so I will try and die well. I received this morning and hope to do so again before I die. After asking his sister to have Masses said for him, he continued: ‘’May God help us-me to die well- you to bear your sorrow, I send you a prayer book as a token.

Today we remember Con on his 105th anniversary. I will continue his story in next week’s newsletter.