Sean o hUiginn, a travelling schoolmaster
from Tyrone, in passing through Kilskyre joined the men
of Meath on their way to Tara.
Though wounded he made his way back to Kilskyre, where he
was hidden, minded and made welcome, so much so that he
stayed and married.
He is Brian OHiggins great -grandfather. Brian
attended the local national school and his teacher, a Limerickman,
was a lover of Ireland, and no slave, whose influence and
that of his parents, particularly his mother (who reared
a family of 14), made him an ardent lover of Ireland, its
history, culture, language and freedom.
He was confirmed when only nine , a sad year as it
brought the Parnellite split and late in the year the death
of Parnell at the age of 42. Parnell was M P for Meath.
As was common in those days he stayed on in Kilskyre N.S.
until 1896 and then he went to serve his time in a shop
in Clonmellon. Even at that age he wrote many poems, being
encouraged by the editor of the Meath Chronicle in Kells,
Tom Daly. He also got his poems published in other magazines.
It is most unusual to find so young a person writing and
publishing. After five years he became a barman in Leeson
Street in Dublin, later moving to Sheridans in North Earl
Street. During his short life so far the G.A.A., the Gaelic
League, and Sinn Féin were founded.
Eoghan OGramhnaigh, [whose mother came from Kilskyre,]
was finishing his Simple Lessons in Irish, and leaving Ireland
for good due to ill-health, to die in California in 1899,
at the age of 36. In Dublin Brian joined a branch of the
Gaelic League, called after OGrowney, where he learned
Irish, dancing, and songs. He began to write songs, mostly
humorous and published his first of many books. He met two
very important people at Sheridans, Arthur Griffiths and
To counteract British efforts to break the G.A.A. he wrote
the first rallying song;
Who says our countrys soul has fled?
Who say our countrys heart is dead?
Come, let them hear the marching tread
Of twice five thousand Hurling Men.
They hold the hopes of bye-gone years,
They love the past --its smiles and tears--
But quavering doubts and shrinking fears
Are far from Irelands Hurling Men.
At this time his health was not good so he came home to
Kilskyre to re-cuperate. He wrote the Oration for Feis na
Mí 1904, and helped to establish the Hurling Club
and Irish classes. He also wrote a patriotic column for
the Meath Chronicle, the Leinster Leader, the Irish Peasant,
and contributed regularly for the Irish Catholic, the Father
Matthew Record and Irish Freedom. In 1906 he got his hearts
desire--his Teastas Timire Gaeilge. This gave him authority
to teach Irish, he had a job, badly paid, involving a lot
of travelling, with classes as far apart as Lavey
near Cavan town to Trim in the far south. It was a seven
day week, but he published two booklets one religious A
Bunch of Wild Roses, and the patriotic The Voice
of Banba . Despite all this he made time to marry
Annie Kenny of Dublin. They reared a family of six.
He met Padraig Pearse in 1912, and with political activities
very much to the forefront north and south he was busier
than ever. At the outbreak of the Great War John Redmonds
call to join the British Army split the Volunteers. Unlike
his fellow Meathman Francis Ledwidge he did not enlist but
was more active than ever in the events leading up to the
1916 Rising. Easter Monday found him in Parnell Square until
evening and then in the G.P.O.for the rest of the week.
Due to the state of his health, he did no actual fighting,
but helped the others in every way he could. He was on duty
all Thursday night [the last night], but by then the building
was burning so the remaining garrison evacuated into Moore
Street on Friday. In that dash the ORathilly was killed.
He hadnt been told of the plans (as was also the case
with McBride but he arrived in his car, which stayed parked
in front of the G.P.O. the whole week.
Pearse surrendered, and when the leaders had been picked
out, the rest soon found themselves in cattle boats on their
way to England.
Brian ended as a prisoner in Frongoch Jail in the W elsh
mountains. He had gone through the week without a scar,
though many were killed and wounded all around him. Not
so lucky was another Meathman, Tommy Connolly of the Hill-of-Down.
At the last minute he answered a call from Dublin to take
some missing persons place. His return to Longwood
was in a coffin, being fatally wounded early in the week.
The mood at the time meant almost a secret burial. Later
a fine tombstone was erected and the memory of a true Irish
patriot fittingly remembered.
After his release in February 1917 we find Brian involved
in an Irish College in Clare. Another period of imprisonment
followed this time in Birmingham where he wrote a Prayer
Book an t-Aifreann. At the General Election after the ending
of the war [Nov. 1918 ] he like many others was elected
to the First Dail, while still in jail. He missed the historic
First Dail 21st January 1919 in the Mansion House.
After his release in the Spring of 1919 he returned to Clare,
this time as a judge of the Republican Courts.He was advised
that his life was in danger so he returned to Dublin. We
know little of his activities until the Truce in the summer
of 1921.The signing of the treaty would be a cause of great
sadness to him , and the long and bitter arguments in the
Dail before the predictable split and Civil War. Being on
the losing side prison awaited him once again, first Mountjoy
and after a short while the Curragh. He describes the Curragh
[Tintown] as a heartbreaking depressing hole where he could
neither read or write. The twenty-five day hunger-strike
almost killed him, but when he recovered a little he was
released. While by no means giving up writing he started
delivering orations or speeches, and where better to start
than at Tones Grave at Bodenstown, 1924. He soon was
in great demand, speaking in all of the 32 counties. his
message was simple but it aptly sums up his lifes
philosophy--one does not change ones political coat--and
he used both the Irish language and English in all his orations.
In 1925 he published The Soldiers Story of Easter
Week , and in 1926 Ten Golden Years.
His close friend Austin Stack died in 1929. Fianna Fail
had entered the Dail and Europe had seen the rise
of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. Few could predict the happenings
of the next twenty years.
In 1932 the year Eamon de Valera became Taoiseach, the first
issue of the Wolfe Tone Annual , Brians greatest achievement
appeared. It was a book of about 100 pages of fairly small
print, devoted to various aspects and personalities of Irish
history usually since 1798 except for a few exceptions The
Rising of 1641 and The Penal Times. It was very well researched,
had some Irish articles and a selection of poetry, mostly
ballads. Brians fearless and uncompromising Republicanism
wasnt liked by either the Free State or the Republic
of Ireland authorities , the Wolfe Tone Annual being suppressed
on one occasion. Typical of him he issued the banned publication
unchanged the next year. The price at the beginning was
one shilling, later rising to one shilling and sixpence
and attracted about sixty advertisers, among whom you find
Torc Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of Trim, and Cumann Lúithchleas
Gael , advertising Irelands greatest national sporting
attractions played in Croke Park , [accomodation for 80,000
persons plus covered seats for 6,000. ] I found no ads from
the big drink companies.
The Wolfe Tone Annual can be read at the County Library
an Uaimh. There also I found Life and Times of Brian oHiggins
by an t-Athair Padraig oTuille, S.C., former
Chairman of Meath G.A.A. Board. To him and to 12 children
from Moynalty N. S. , I am deeply indebted. Go gcúití
Dia sibh. To the staff of the Co. Library Navan, many ,
Ní féidir an sgéal seo a chríochnú
gan tagairt do chartaí Nollag Bhriain Uí
h-Uiginn a bhíodh ar fail um Nollaig ar feadh
na mblianta. Bhíodar i nGaeilge agus i mBéarla
le ornaidíocht Cheilteach os
na sean scríbhinní agus leachtanna. Fíor
-Chaitileach ab ea Brian i rith a shaoil go léir,
agus chumadh sé féin bhéarsaí
beaga do gach carta. Bhí díol mor
ar na cartaí, agus is mo duine na
cuireadh aon saghas eile. Bhíodh féilirí
beaga, cartaí beannachta agus cartaí
féile ar fail uaidh freisin.
Is cinnte na fuil a ait ceart aige fos
imeasc laochra na h-Éireann ach le cúnamh
Dé nuair a bheidh Eire fíor -Ghaelach tabharfar
ansan do Bhrian na Banban an onoir ata tuilte
aige. Fuair sé bas ar an 10ú Marta
1963. Solas na bhflaitheas da anam dílis.
Níor dhein a mhuintir féin i gCll Scíre
dearmad air. Is do a ainmnigh siad an faiche brea
imeartha. Chífidh tú cupla cuimhneachan
ag an geata agus tú ag dul isteach.Ta gaolta
leis fos sa chomharsanacht.