From 1798 to the Somme and a shooting by night


From 1798 to the Somme and a shooting by night


Today we weave together three stories which reflect a lot of what Ireland 2016 is about. In East Waterford we met Pat Murphy of Cheekpoint, who, when we asked him had any family stories for the Decade of Commemoration  said he had a story about his great great grandfather but we might not want it. Why? I wondered.

"Because he fought in the 1798 Rebellion".

Pat’s great great grandfather, Sylvester Dempsey was a survivor of the 1798 Rebellion in Wexford. 


Many of the people we encounter can trace their family politics to events in the 19th century - serving in the British Army, fighting in the Boer War, serving in the Papal Army of the 1860s, the American Civil War and the Fenian Campaigns of the 1800s but not very many have direct links to 1798!


Two of our other story tellers today were also talking about their great great grandfathers but a whole 100 years after Pat. Alice tells us the story of her great-great grandfather Private John Maher of the Royal Irish Regiment who died in the Somme in 1916 while Jack told us of his great great grandfather, Andrew Carey, who was shot by the British Army in 1920 - indeed it is sometimes claimed that Andrew was shot by the Black & Tans but we have so far found no documentary evidence for that. 


A key part of the Decade of Commemoration is to allow us to explore our family histories. Have we people who served with the Old IRA?  Have we people who served in the British Army? Or, as Jack and Alice are siblings, do we have both?

If many families had such a history in common then why should we be afraid to carefully and rigorously explore our past? If we are to better understand our past and shape our future then we think it is our duty to explore this complex past.