Sunday, November 01, 2020

Kevin Barry and "The Mons" #100years


Image source: Wikipedia.

One hundred years ago today, Kevin Barry was hanged in Mountjoy Prison for the murder of a young English soldier. He was the first of 24 republicans to be executed by the British during Ireland's War of Independence. He was accompanied to the gallows by two priests: Canon John Waters, and a Fr McMahon who gave him all the spiritual comfort that a condemned person would want.

There is a story in our family, which I got from my Uncle Pat, that my paternal grand-uncle Monsignor Charles Francis Hurley (my second name is also Francis in his honour) also attended the execution and that it greatly affected him for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, he is not mentioned on any of the documents in the Kevin Barry Papers archive in UCD, nor does a Google search find any connection between him and Barry.

Affectionately know as "The Mons" in our family, he attended Cistercian College Roscrea (1908 - 1912) was ordained as a priest on the 28th February, 1920 in the Irish College in Rome. One of his first postings was to St Patrick's College in Carlow - at the time it was operating principally as a seminary for the priesthood. So he was a very young priest when Barry was hanged nine months later. Kevin Barry grew up in nearby Tombeagh and went to school in Hacketstown, Co. Carlow. I don't know if The Mons knew the Barrys personally or how he was connected other than he was working in Carlow where Barry was from in 1920. It is also thought by some in my family that at the time of the execution that he had moved to the Holy Cross College on Clonliffe Road in Dublin - this is where Canon Waters was based. It is possible that at the execution he assisted Frs Waters and McMahon, carrying holy water and oils for anointment. Clonliffe College is about a mile from Mountjoy Prison. Perhaps he was outside the prison where hundreds of people were praying for Barry on the morning of his execution - we might never know what exact part my grand-uncle played on that fateful day exactly one hundred years ago.

PS - if any family are reading this and can add more to this story, please get in touch!

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