100 years ago today, on September 26, 1915, a meeting took place in the mid-Cork parish of Kilmurry.
Accompanied by fellow activists of the Cork city corps of the Irish Volunteers, Cork brigade vice-commandant Terence MacSwiney jumped on his bicycle that Sunday morning and set off on an outward trip of more than two hours to meet with some men from Crookstown and nearby Béal na Bláth.
The idea was to establish if there would be merit in organising a rally of Irish Volunteers in the area in a few weeks’ time, with which MacSwiney – recently appointed a full-time organiser for the Volunteers – might be able to draw sufficient local interest to establish a company among the men of this parish between Macroom and Bandon.
Such was the positive response received at this Sunday afternoon meeting that it was decided to proceed with such a venture the following month, and MacSwiney set about immediately making the necessary arrangements. What happened next and over the following eight years are the focus of my research for my MA thesis, and hopefully a few more posts here (in a hopefully-much shorter time span).
Many of those events and the people involved – including MacSwiney, whose ancestors were natives of the parish – will also feature prominently in the exhibition and the related artefacts that will be on display in the museum on course to be opened next spring by the Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA).
From the premises above, officially opened in 1965 by Máire MacSwiney Brugha, only child of Terence and Muriel, the museum is moving to a purpose-built new home in the village. It is already built, its community meeting room in regular use, and planning of the fit-out now at an advanced stage. The project is the subject of ongoing fundraising, to supplement the generous contribution received from LEADER funding.Hopefully when the museum exhibition opens, it will form a crucial part of the mid-Cork and west-Cork tourist trails, standing as it does but a short distance from the site of two of the most famous – and most historically contested – engagements of the Irish revolution, not just in Cork but in the whole of the island. Among the artefacts in the KHAA collections are many associated with the November 1920 Kilmichael ambush and with the ambush at Béal na Bláth on August 22, 1922 at which National Army chief-of-staff Michael Collins died.
But while both were events that would achieve national and international coverage, the primary focus in the museum will be on how the entire period in the immediate years before and after independence effected locally, as well as telling the story of Kilmurry’s wider past – a history deeply enmeshed in and typical of what went on elsewhere nationally in earlier struggles, political and agrarian in nature.