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Pictured in Whitegate village where a flame was lit to remember the four men, are Councillor Pat Burke and historian Tommy Holland.

Whitegate commemorates The Scariff Martyrs

WHITEGATE marked the legacy of the Scariff Martyrs on the 100th anniversary of their capture at Williamstown House on the shores of Lough Derg.

A wreath was laid last Sunday at the house of Michael Egan, the caretaker of the stately home who, despite being tortured by British forces, steadfastly refused to give away the hiding place of Brud McMahon, Alphie Rodgers and Martin Gildea. The three has been on the run since an attack on the Scariff RIC Barracks that September and sought shelter at the secluded house. Another wreath was laid on the grounds of the house itself, which now stands in ruins, with short orations from local historian Tommy Holland and from Dr Tomás Mac Conmara.

On Monday, the centenary of the martyr’s capture, the church bell rang out in Whitegate at 9.30am, the exact time the men were discovered and taken to Killaloe for questioning. Children from Lakyle National School were present for a socially-distanced ceremony in which the Tricolour was raised and a flame lit in the men’s memory by third clas pupil, Aoibhínn Hynes. ‘Amhrán na bhFiain’ was sung by Niamh Quirke. The ballad ‘The Williamstown Four’ was then performed by local man Colm Burke. “We felt if was time to put the Williamstown element of the story on the record,” said Councillor Pat Burke. “Following the 2016 commemoration of the Easter Rising, I approached Tommy Holland with a view to holding a commemoration to remember the four men who were captured at Williamstown in November 1920. The Holland family have long been associated with the tragic events that took place in Williamstown on that fateful day.

“We felt that it was important to remember the atrocity that occurred as it was a significant event in the history of Whitegate and East Clare. The Williamstown Memorial Committee was formed in January of this year and comprised of Tommy Holland, Michael Ryan, Noel Murphy, Colm Burke and I. With the full support of Whitegate Community Council, we secured funding from Clare County Council’s Decade of Centenaries fund to assist.”

Also instrumental in the commemoration plans – which had to be scaled back significantly in light of the Level 5 restrictions – was Dr Tomás Mac Conmara. author of a forthcoming book on the martyrs, who were shot dead by the British on the bridge in Killaloe. “With the help and guidance of Dr Mac Conmara, we developed ambitious plans for a commemoration event at Williamstown in conjunction with the related event at Killaloe and Scariff. However, with the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, our plans are postponed until hopefully some time during 2021.”

Monday’s low-key ceremony led to an opportunity over the course of last Monday for local people to stop and remember the martyrs privately. “The flame, outside the church, was left in place all day so that people could come in their own time to pray in silence for the four young men who had a common desire to see Ireland free from English rule, a desire that they would ultimately pay for with their lives,” said Councillor Burke.

A souvenir centenary booklet, primarily designed for local children, was also produced to mark the centenary. “It’s very child-friendly,” noted Councillor Burke. “It’s wonderful that children will now have access to this story, which none of my generation would ever have been told about in school.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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