Cáit Ní Ceallaigh
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Cáit Ní Ceallaigh


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Brothers Peadar and Jack Kelly were members of the Irish Volunteers in Fingal, under the command of Thomas Ashe. At Easter Week 1916, Jack was sent into the city centre and Peadar was involved in the Battle of Ashbourne. They were both arrested and sent to Arbour Hill Prison and on to Ballykinlar Camp and Frongoch. Cáit Ní Ceallaigh’s grandfather, John Kelly, came from near Tuam, Co. Galway, in about 1870. He settled in Swords where he worked for a local racehorse owner, Mr Ussher. He married Catherine Wilson who was related to Peter Wilson, one of those killed in 1916. Cáit explains that at Easter 1916 a call came from Dublin for reinforcements, and strong men were apparently requested. Jack Kelly, known as ‘Dodger’, worked for the Co. Council at the time and was a keen footballer with the Old Fingalians. Peadar Kelly served as chairman, secretary and president of the football club, and Cáit now continues the family tradition as secretary of the club. Cáit describes her father Peadar, who worked in the Civil Service. His friends were mainly old IRA men, people such as the Bull Nugent and Mick Rock. He was a good singer and he enjoyed opera. A strong Fianna Fáil supporter, he would introduce election candidates on the stump. He was a fluent Irish speaker and he and his younger sister Margaret had attended the local national school. Cáit also recalls her paternal grandfather, John Kelly, who was a native Irish speaker. Apparently it was Jack Kelly and other Fingalians who broke through the buildings so that the insurgents could get from the GPO to Henry Street on the Friday of Easter Week. Cáit remarks that her parents did not talk about their activities at that time, and in those days children did not ask questions. Thomas Ashe was a highly influential figure in the Fingal area, and Cáit remembers her father talking about the Battle of Ashbourne and insisting that Richard Mulcahy was not there on the day. He resented the fact that Mulcahy took credit from Ashe, as he saw it. Cáit speaks about the ‘old’ Fingal area and says that the villages were united through the GAA, and that the community was small even when she was a child. She reflects on her father’s participation in the Old Fingalians, and though she thinks that he was never a party member, he was active in Fianna Fáil and would write speeches for the local TDs. Cáit has two sisters and a brother and she lives in the old family home. Her mother was Ann Carthy from the Manor Street area in Dublin, and she was a fan of Michael Collins though not particularly a supporter of Fine Gael. Stories are recalled about the Black and Tans during the War of Independence, and also recalled is Peadar Kelly’s good friend, Mick Rock, who was injured during a sortie. Other friends were Tom Weston, Kit Moran, Danny McAllister and the Bull Nugent, all of whom would drink together in the Star public house. The Kelly family has Jack Kelly’s War of Independence medal. Peadar Kelly received the Old IRA pension but as far as his daughter is aware he did not make a witness statement. He wrote letters home from Frongoch to his sister Margaret, and Cáit describes his requests for clothes and food. She discovered the letters when her first cousin died, and they are now in safe keeping with one of her sisters. She reflects on what her father’s attitude would be to the upcoming centenary of the Rising in 2016. She feels that he would prefer a republican emphasis on the events of the Rising itself rather than a celebration of the last 100 years. Peadar Kelly died in 1962 and is buried in Swords with his brother Jack, who died in about 1940. The gravestone does not provide any indication of his role in 1916. Cáit remembers the military aspect of his funeral, and says that he would have been very well known in the Swords of that time. People would ask him to write letters, particularly in relation to gaining employment at Collinstown airport, and he played a role in the agitation for social housing at Gloccamaura. She recalls her father as very much a community man. She emphasises his influence on her own work in the trade union movement, her interest in music and her love of the Irish language. She has no memory of any discussion on the Battle of Ashbourne either at school or in her home during her childhood. She recalls her teacher, Sheila Ní Gougáin from Gortahork, who taught an Irish class and was very nationalistic. In Cáit’s opinion, this woman influenced many people in Swords to learn Irish and she fundraised for the Republican Prisoners’ Dependants. During Cáit’s childhood, this was the only arena in which republicanism was mentioned or fostered, and it was some time later that she discovered that the students were all members of the Gaelic League, unbeknownst to themselves at the time! She discusses her connection to more modern republicanism through her life partner’s family. She compares the letters written by her father from Frongoch to the more modern IRA prisoners’ activities, and she discusses the self-education, particularly in Irish, undertaken by the men of 1916. She reflects upon the effects of war on civilians and on the question of patriotism, and she says that her father wanted a thirty-two county republic, which is the reason why he supported Éamon de Valera.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

36.83 MB

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Peadar Kelly (Interviewee’s father) and Jack Kelly (Interviewee’s uncle)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore