Michael Howard (b. 1915)
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Michael Howard (b. 1915)


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In early April 2005, I was invited to Knockerra National School in County Clare to record local resident Michael Howard, as he spoke to the children of the school and answered their many questions on local history. Several of the children were curious about events which occured during the years 1916 to 1923 and as Michael answered their questions, I decided that I would visit his home to record his memories of those historic days in Co Clare. A few weeks later, I made my way to Tarmon, near Kilrush, where Michael lives in a cottage which has been in the Howard family for four generations – “A great IRA house” as Michael said. He was born in November 1915 and he has a clear memory of groups of men gathering regularly in his house in 1921, before and after a skirmish, and he would sit fascinated to listen to the planning and organising and the discussion of recent guerrilla activities. There was always a scout posted on the road nearby watching out for the military, but as he lived in a very quiet and rural area, the trucks could be heard to approach well in advance of their arrival. On one occasion there were thirty men in the house when the trucks were heard on the road, and there was a general scramble out the back door. Michael named out the local IRA members who were active in the area and who would frequent his house, and on three occasions the Black and Tans came to the house and put the family out in preparation for the burning of the property, but the burning never actually took place. A nearby house owned by the O’Donnell family was used by Eamon de Valera several times as a safe house, and in later years, when he was in the area, he would always pay a visit. The Kilrush Ambush of 1921 was recalled in stirring tones in a fine recitation written by Jack O’Donnell who was a first cousin of the patriot Con Colbert. I enquired of Michael if he had been acquainted with Garda Superintendent William Geary, who was stationed in Kilrush from 1926 to 1928, and who was dismissed from the Force in 1928 for allegedly taking a bribe of £100 from the IRA. Michael became quite animated at the mention of Superintendent Geary’s name, and went on to tell me of several occurrences which contradict the recollections of William Geary whom I had previously recorded in the year of this death in New York in 2004. Michael’s father was a personal friend of Dan Breen of the Tipperary IRA, who wrote the famous book My Fight for Irish Freedom. Dan Breen once remarked to him that if he could have foretold the way things would go “he would never have fired a shot.” Michael recalled for me an extraordinary occurrence from August 1924 when Eamon de Valera came to Ennis, and was arrested and brought to Costello’s house. A situation arose which came to involve the Catholic Bishop of Clare, Dr Fogarty and William T. Cosgrave in Dublin. Michael recounted a story told to him by his father, concerning events in Kilrush during the occupation of the town by the Black and Tans. Mr Howard was involved with the Volunteers and he was acquainted with a Tan in Kilrush who would tell him when a raid was due to happen and that Tan could walk around the town at 10 o’clock at night and “he wouldn’t be touched – the boys knew him” Michael Howard’s wonderfully clear memories of local historical events in Kilrush were a joy to record, and I made a promise to him before leaving that I would return one day soon to sit and reminisce with him once again.

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Audio series:

Witnesses to Independence


128 kbps

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48 hours

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40.82 MB

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The Black and Tans in Kerry

Recorded by:

Eddie Barrett (grand-nephew of Austin Stack)