In the audio collection of Witnesses to Independence (previously known as ‘Recollections of 1916 and its Aftermath and soundclips CD – Echoes from History’) and this accompanying book, Maurice O’Keeffe and Jane O’Hea O’Keeffe capture the atmosphere of our revolutionary period. Those interviewed were good story-tellers. They recalled incidents which impacted vividly on their young minds and imaginations. For the most part the events they remembered were dark.
There was the terror struck on all and sundry in Tralee and its neighbourhood by the notorious Black and Tans, known as ‘Big Paddy and the Jew’ in 1920-21. An incident witnessed by the father of Mike Christopher O’Shea is related. Mick O’Connell, father of the later famous footballer had to come to Caherciveen from his home in Beginish Island, as the Angelus bell began to ring he removed his cap and knelt down on one knee in the street to pray. He was approached by two members of the Black and Tans, Coffey and Allen, and ordered to say “To hell with the pope.” He refused to comply. The Tans beat him mercilessly with their rifle butts and walked calmly away. But, as more than one interviewee acknowledged, not all members of the Crown forces were repressive. The people at Camp addressed the resident RIC officer as follows:
Buckley is a gentleman Barney is a spy
Phelan is a traitor and a traitor he will die,
Not forgetting Shelbourne
And Burke is worst of all
He made the people shiver when he came from Annascaul
These interviews were conducted by Maurice O’Keeffe during the past few years and in so doing he has ensured the preservation of information which otherwise would have gone to the grave. Herein are valuable snippets of information which add colour and sometimes extra detail to well known events in the narrative of the War of Independence and its aftermath.
The book, compiled by Jane O’Hea O’Keeffe to accompany the recordings, will be of interest to local historians, students of our revolutionary period and Irish people at home and abroad. 88 pages + CD including excerpts of the audio recordings.