Helen Kelly (b.1961)
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Helen Kelly (b.1961)


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Patrick Kelly grew up in Corduff, near Lusk, where Thomas Ashe was his teacher at the local school. Patrick was a member of Ashe’s pipe band. He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914 when he was working in Dublin. Helen Kelly describes her grandfather’s activities on Easter Monday 1916. He was in the Mendicity Institute under the command of Seán Heuston. His two brothers, Matthew and Joe, remained in Fingal and took part in the Battle of Ashbourne. His application for the Old IRA pension gives further detail on his movements. An order came from James Connolly requesting 40 men but Thomas Ashe had only 20 to send, one of whom was Patrick Kelly. Helen learned from her Aunt Eileen and her uncle Jack that Patrick was a humorous man who ran a bicycle shop. She speaks of the struggle endured by the people with regard to freedom and rights at that time, and remarks that it is said that Thomas Ashe was a big influence in Lusk. Helen talks about some of the other Lusk families who were involved in the fighting. Her grandmother was a sister of Patrick Brogan who was engaged in the Battle of Ashbourne, along with Thomas Peppard, Jack McCann, Joe Norton and Jack Kelly. Since more historical material has become available, more connections between descendants have been made, she says. Not all of the men gave statements, including Helen’s uncles Matthew and Joe, though they did apply for the pension. The witness statement project began in 1947 and continued until 1957. The pension applications were made in the 1930s, Helen explains. Helen’s uncle, Joe Kelly, kept an autograph book in Frongoch which contains entries from Michael Collins and Seán MacLoughlin. Her grandfather’s application states that he was held at Dartmoor, Lewes and Maidstone prisons, and was released from Pentonville Prison in 1917. Joe and Matthew were in Frongoch as they had not been tried. Patrick had been tried with Seán Heuston, Willie O’Dea and James Crennigan, following which his sentence was commuted to three years in prison. During the War of Independence, Patrick based himself in the evacuated barracks in Lusk. As Helen recalls, the initial aim was to drive out the RIC as the policemen were seen as informers for Dublin Castle. Patrick, as a former prisoner, was easily identifiable. He and his brother Joe took part in the attack on Rush barracks, disruption being their aim. Helen discusses the Kellys at the time of the Civil War. Patrick was a supporter of Éamon de Valera whereas Joe joined the Free State Army. There is no indication that Patrick had any role in the Civil War. He had married in 1921 and had decided not to take part in the fighting. Joe rose to the rank of Captain during the period 1921-1924. Helen’s father Kevin was a member of a large family. She discusses his attitude to Patrick’s role in the Rising, and explains that she learned most of what she knows from her mother, Peggy Cannon from Balbriggan. It was Joe Lawless’s statement which clarified for her where Patrick had been at the time. She examines a photograph taken in 1917 of the sentenced men after their release from prison. She also has the transcript of the trial obtained from the National Archives in England. She points out that most of the men were released before Christmas 1916 but another group were held until 1917. She discusses the possible reasons why some men were sentenced to death and tells us that Patrick Kelly and others were court martialled on May 4th 1916. Helen remarks that she feels it is important to mark the sacrifice made in 1916, but not to glorify it. Ultimately a small number turned out for the Rising but she considers that this may have been due to the confusion surrounding the Countermanding Order. She has learned much about her grandfather from her Aunt Eileen and Uncle Jack. Pat Brogan in Lusk, who knew her grandfather, says that he was talented as a juggler. Her brother is an animator and this talent has also come from Patrick, she says, and describes another talent of his which was playing the bagpipes while riding a bike! The local connections to Fingal and the family names that still survive in the area are considered. Helen explains that she and her cousin Declan researched their grandfather’s history, the results of which were intended initially for the family. The research material was later presented to the local Round Tower Society and now Patrick Kelly’s unique story can be preserved and passed on into the future.

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The 1916 Rising Oral History Collections


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

35.90 MB

Number of files:
Product ID:



Patrick Kelly (Interviewee’s grandfather)

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore