Sheehan memorial is unveiled

A car took a wrong turning on the night of Holy Thursday 1916, and, in the darkness, went off Ballykissane Pier near Killorglin.

Of the four men in the car, only me, Tom McInerney from Limerick City survived.
The others were James Monahan of Dublin, Con Keating of Cahersiveen and Donal Sheehan of the parish of Monagea, West Limerick.

Sheehan was not known to the locals in Kerry and after his body was recovered from the Laune River, he was given a stranger’s burial in the local cemetery amid great sorrow.

It was to be a considerable time before the full story and it’s futility was to become known.

Donal Sheehan had had an ordinary upbringing. He was born at Ballintubrid, just off the main Limerick-Killarney road a mile and a half west of Newcastle West. Educated locally, he succeeded in the Civil Service examinations and after a period as a bookkeeper in London, returned to Ireland to avoid conscription when the Great War broke out. He worked in Geary’s biscuit factory, beside where Limerick City Hall stands today. He had taught himself Irish from an early age and had been active in Conradh na Gaeilge in London also upon his return home. But, unknown to most, he had also become a volunteer, and rose to the rank of captain under Joseph Plunkett.

It was in that capacity that he had received orders from the Military Council in Dublin to go to seize the radio equipment from the School of Wireless at Cahirsiveen and bring it to Tralee Bay with the intention of contacting the German submarine, Aud, bearing the arms which Roger Casement had assembled in Germany, and which guns were to become the main stay of the rebellion planned for Easter Monday.

But the four-man detail never got to the Cahirsiveen wireless establishment and, it later transpired, even if it had it would have been of no use because the Aud did not itself have any radio equipment aboard.

But the fact remains that those three men, Monahan, Keating and Sheehan were the first to die on active service in what was to be the Easter rebellion of 1916.

In 1966, a plaque was erected at Monaghea church, where Sheehan was baptised but this Easter Sunday a far more accessible monument was unveiled near his home place, beside the Killarney Pole on the verge of the N21. Arranged by Newcastle West Old IRA association, the simple limestone memorial was unveiled by the chairman, Mike Dwane of Feohanagh, in the unavoidable absence through indisposition of Sheehan’s niece Catherine McCashen. The oration was given by Tim Mulcahy, Monagea and the blessing was performed by Fr Patrick Costello.

A wreath was laid by Mary McCarthy, PRO of the association, and journals were presented by Frank Bouchier Hayes, secretary of Newcastle West Historical Society.

The lament Marbha Luimnuighe was played by piper Seamus Hunt, followed by the National Anthem.
Donal Sheehan was not yet thirty when he lost his life on active service on the night of April 20/21, 1916. He had been a quiet man, tall and sandy haired. In the convulsions of the events of Easter week and of the War of Independence which it precipitated, his death went largely unrecognised until the full facts came to light in the passage of time.

Courtesy of The Limerick Leader