Nevin’s Newfield Inn in Tiernaur was filled to overflowing on Easter Monday for the launch of ‘Remember Us – The People’s War, Newport Area, Mayo 1914-1924.’ The book, almost 400-pages long, was compiled and published by the Tiernaur Oral History Group.
In February 2014, following an invitation from Peggy and Seán Cadden, a group met to do some research on the genealogy of the Moran families in the area. Peggy Cadden, Seán Cadden, Karen Dyra, Esther Moran, Peter Moran, Neil O’Donnell, Brendan McLoughlin, Dominick O’Grady, Gerard Moran (RIP) and Geoffrey Moran (RIP) attended.
With the centenary of the 1916 Rising approaching, the group agreed to produce a book of stories honouring people from the area who took part in the struggle for Irish freedom. The energy spread as other people joined, including Pat McNulty, Kathy Ryder, Peter Muldowney and Tommy Hughes.
Newport is the focal point of the book, but it also covers the whole parish of Burrishoole and delves into Achill while also bouncing into Westport and Castlebar. The book starts with an awakening of the Republican spirit and the search for freedom.
We travel page by page through the history of west Mayo and the country over more than ten years. We note how comrades ended up on opposing sides while those seeking freedom acknowledged that others livelihoods lay in serving the State. In the general election of 1922 voters in Mayo North and West returned three anti-Treaty candidates and one pro-Treaty candidate, contrary to the national pro-Treaty majority.
There is a wonderful chapter of one of the area’s greatest leaders, Michael Kilroy, a Republican of note, prisoner and TD. The women of Cumann na mBan, whose roles have often been forgotten, downplayed or ignored, are lauded in this publication.
Individual stories are told and recorded for posterity. The price people paid is also noted. For some people death was the price while others felt the pain of separation through prison or exile. Freedom took its toll on the area, in one way or another. It came at a cost.
The book is meticulously researched while also containing the memories of local people through interviews and personal accounts. The songs of the time are also included – Songs of Resistance and Solidarity. They include ‘West Mayo Brigade,’ ‘The Queen of the West,’ ‘Ballad of Jim Moran’ and ‘The Newport Volunteer’ (which many people will know from the singing of the late Mick Lavelle).
There are numerous photographs, and one cannot but be impressed by the stylish dress of yesteryear. Pictures of Michael Staines (the first commissioner of An Garda Síochána in 1922) and the wedding day photos of Gráinne (née O’Malley) and John Josie Moran, and Nora Geraghty and Tom Feehan are but a few of outstanding quality. The ‘Queen of the West’ armoured car is pictured as is its maker Thomas ‘No 9’ Moran.
There are pictures of death certs, monuments, headstones, plaques, poems, court registers, a beer levy on Belmullet publicans and detailed maps. Hours upon hours will be spent pouring over exact ambush locations with the wild imaginings of ‘if’ and ‘how’ as one is placed at the scene. The maps are expertly illustrated.
There are almost 100 pages of twelve appendices. The detail is phenomenal. The appendices include meetings, lists of IRA members, Cumann na mBan members, ambush participants, casualties, those interned, compensation claims, Republican Roll of Honour and extracts from archival papers in personal collections (Pádraig Ó Móráin, McGovern papers, Brian Corrigan and Maggie Kelly).
This book is a must have. The work that has gone into this publication is, quite frankly, unbelievable. For a local historical group to publish such a valuable source of important material is awe-inspiring. Their hard work, diligence and attention to detail are to be commended. This tome raises the standard of local history publications to new heights.
Comhghairdeas to all and the editorial group, Peggy Cadden, Seán Cadden, Breege Hyland, Mick Mulchrone, Peter Muldowney, Kathy Ryder and Benita Stoney; to the designer, David Moran; and to the printers, MCC Multi-Color, Castlebar.
‘Remember Us’ is not only a fitting tribute to all those people it set out to commemorate but also a credit to those who produced it.