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PHOTO L Bishop John Buckley of Cork and Ross unveiling the plaque at Keimaneigh.
The Unveiling of the Keimaneigh Monument
At Keimaneigh, Ballingeary, Co Cork
by Donal Fitzgerald of Bantry Historical Society
Sunday morning April 18th. 1999 dawned bright and sunny much to the relief of the Ballingeary and Bantry Historical Societies' members and particularly the members of the sub-committee, consisting of Seán O'Súilleabháin and Peter O'Leary, Ballingeary and Sheila Harrington and Donal Fitzgerald , Bantry. They had been assigned the task of having the memorial plaques erected to those who died at the battle of Keimaneigh and one who was hanged at Deshure for his part in the battle. For weeks previously the weather had been rainy and all the plans for the blessing and unveiling had been made with the usual rain in mind. Those who had speeches to make were warned to keep them short, not to exceed five minutes and the whole ceremony was to be completed in thirty minutes.
However the Gods smiled on the day and the great sunny weather allowed the arrangements to proceed at a more leisurely pace.
His Lordship, Bishop Buckley, who was to blees the monument, planted a tree at Inchageela after 8'o'clock Mass to mark his appointment as Bishop of Cork and Ross. He celebrated 11 o'clock Mass in Ballingeary after which he blessed the Famine Pot which had been erected in the village. He spoke of the Famine in the area in 1845/1848 when distress and hardship reached a most alarming pitch. Between 1841 and 1851 the population of the parish decreased from six and a half thousand to four and a half thousand.
The Ballingeary Pipe Band then led Bishop Buckley and a large crowd to the monument at Keimaneigh where Seán Ó Súilleabháin (master of ceremonies) welcomed the Bishop and all present to the unveiling. There are two plaques, one an English translation of the other which is in Irish. After the ceremony the Bishop said that the Battle of Keimaneigh was a very important event in the struggle for Irish freedom. The 1820's were a dark period in Irish history and there was much agrarian unrest. There was widespread poverty and oppression. Today we remember our ancestors who died here - Michael Casey, Auliffe Lynch, Barry O'Leary and Edward Ring. We remember also all those who were subsequently hanged as a reprisal. It is quite possible also that men were wounded in the battle, taken home and died from their wounds. They would have been buried quietly.
He also said that it was very appropriate that the name of John Smith, the British soldier who was killed, should be inscribed on the monument. This is unusual and relevant when one considers the peace process today. Máire Bhuí Ní Laoghaire's poem about the battle will ensure that it will be remembered. He concluded "Today we remember those who have gone before us. Their sacrifices and inspiration provide us with the reasons for living and hoping. In the words of the Bible "we should never forget the rock from which we were hewn, the quarry from which we were cut".
Peter O'Leary, Ballingeary, after a humorous remark about the time limitation on him, gave a brief account of the events of that fateful week in 1822.
Gerald Harrington of Bantry thanked everyone for coming to the unveiling and said, "when this monument was being planned it was agreed that we should intrude only to the smallest degree possible with the unspoilt beauty and grandeur of this famous Pass. Any material used was of the local rock which had slipped from the hillside over the years. The rock to which the plaques are attached was found twenty yards from the position it now occupies and was used uncut and unpolished to blend in with it's surroundings.
We would like to thank Bishop Buckley for coming as we realise that he is a very busy man with many calls on his time. But we also feel that next to lofting the bowl a visit to Ballingeary is very dear and special to him. And while we have the opportunity we would like to compliment him on the Holy Week ceremonies which were broadcast from his beautiful Cathedral.
Gerald Harrington then thanked Pat and Jackie Twomey who kindly donated the land for the monument. Gearóid Hayes was also thanked for his assistance with the project, as were the Cork Co. Council "who gave us assistance far and beyond our expectations". He also thanked the Council workers who really did a great job. The Ballingeary Pipe Band who provided music on the day, Tomás O'Sullivan for his excellent rendering of Máire Bhui Ní Laoghaire's "Cath Chéim an Fhiadh", the Gardaí and the stewards for traffic control were all thanked by Gerald.
While we were not acquainted with all the relatives of those who died at the ambush our attention was drawn to the following -
of Michael Casey - Joan and Brian Doherty, Chicago
Teresa Breslin, Chicago
Eileen and Seamus Young, Co. Louth
Mary and P.J. McCarthy, Ballineen
Kathleen McCarthy, Ballineen
Patricia and Eric Dukelow, Durrus
James Cooney, Macroom
Sheila, John and Gerald Harrington, Bantry
of Barry O'Leary - Margaret Murphy, Bantry
Audrey and Finbarr Murphy and family, Bantry
Regina Creedon, Michael Daly, Bishopstown
Lena Daly, Bishopstown
Mary Joe Byrne, Glounthaur
Sheila O'Donoghue, Crookstown
of Auliffe Lynch - Cotters, the Flatts, Ballyvourney
When bringing the ceremonies to a close, Seán Ó Súilleabháin invited all present to partake of refreshments which were laid on by the societies at Cronin's Hotel Gougane, an invitation which was readily accepted by a great number.