Saturday, October 24, 2015

Illuminating talk on Ireland's last Governor-General

There was a very interested audience in Kilcullen Town Hall this morning for a talk on the Maynooth-born nationalist Domhnall Ua Buchalla, given by his grandson Adhamhnán Ó Súilleabháin, writes Brian Byrne.

Adhamhnán, a former Irish Press and Sunday Independent sports journalist and editor, was the guest speaker at the AGM of the County Kildare Federation of Local History Groups. He provided illuminating insights into the life and work of a man who led the North Kildare Volunteers in the 1916 Rising, and was later a significant player in the eventual separation of Ireland from the vestiges of British rule.

Domhnall Ua Buchalla was the third of six children born to a Maynooth shopkeeping family, and subsequently took over the business. He became a friend of Padraic Pearse through membership of the Gaelic League, and Pearse was also a 'source of inspiration' to him, according to his grandson, and who educated Ua Buchalla's eldest son Joe.

He became involved in setting up a group of Volunteers from about 1914, and during the talk this morning Adhamhnán described a number of his activities, including a boat/train journey to Manchester with a compatriot to buy ammunition, which was smuggled back in special bandoliers and pockets under their coats.

Ua Buchalla led a group of 15 Volunteers who took part in the Rising in 1916, in which, because he was 'an exceptionally good shot' with his Mauser rifle, he played a very active part. He was later arrested, and served time in the Frongoch internment camp in Wales until his release in 1917. He was later elected as a Sinn Fein MP in the First Dail, was involved in the Civil War in 1922, and subsequently served as a Fianna Fail TD, losing his seat in the 1932 election.

He was later asked by Eamon de Valera to serve as the Governor-General of the Irish Free State, in actuality part of De Valera's plan to eliminate that office in favour of a Presidency. He died in 1963, his last function, as a member of the Council of State, being in attendance at the speech to the Oireachtas by John Fitzgerald Kennedy in June of that year. De Valera gave the oration at Ua Buchalla's state funeral.

Adhamhnán Ó Súilleabháin decided to write the book because he felt there was little information in the public domain about his grandfather, and that some of what was out there was incorrect. "Though he would come over every week to dinner at my parents' home, where he also loved to play cards, he never spoke during all that time about the Gaelic League, about his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, or about any of the people he knew, like Pearse," he said during his talk.

"It was my mother who told the family about some of the details, including the special shelves he built in the shop to hide guns and ammunition, and about the Black and Tans, of whom they were very afraid in Maynooth."

Adhamhnán Ó Súilleabháin is pictured above with Kildare historian James Durney, who introduced the speaker at the Kilcullen event.

Domhnall Ua Buchalla: Rebellious Nationalist, Reluctant Governor, by Adhamhnán Ó Súilleabháin, is published by the Irish Academic Press.