Kilcoole gun-running commemoration focuses on diversity

The north Wicklow village celebrates centenary of role in Irish Volunteer beach landing

Members of the Lord Edward’s Own historical re-enactment group at Kilcoole’s heritage weekend marking the north Wicklow village’s role in the Irish Volunteer gun-running 100 years ago. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

Members of the Lord Edward’s Own historical re-enactment group at Kilcoole’s heritage weekend marking the north Wicklow village’s role in the Irish Volunteer gun-running 100 years ago. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 01:00

Reconciliation, diversity and reflective consideration of Ireland’s chequered modern history dominated sentiment in the Wicklow village of Kilcoole as it commemorated its role in the Irish Volunteers’ gun-running 100 years ago.

Six hundred German-made Mauser rifles and 20,000 bullets (part of the Asgard haul, the bulk of which, 900 rifles and 29,000 bullets, was landed at Howth on July 26th, 1914) were landed at night on Kilcoole beach on August 1st, 1914 and taken to Pádraig Pearse’s school in Rathfarnham.

Ecumenical service

Speaking on Saturday in front of a bouquet of white lilies and bright red poppies, priests of the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland both addressed themes of mature remembrance and of learning from they past when they spoke at a brief ecumenical service in a field behind the village.

Fr Liam Belton said that, over the weekend, the community was recalling its role in Irish history “to honour all good Irish people and all people of Kilcoole”.

The Rev William Bennett, noting his Quaker schooling and its emphasis on peace-making, said the community was there “to celebrate and learn from the past and remember those who were prepared to sacrifice for what they believed in”.

One of the organisers, Gregori Meakin, said the flowers brought together, in one bouquet, symbols of importance to two sets of people – those who fought for Irish freedom and those who fought in the first World War – and he urged reflection on their actions.

Congo veterans

A Defence Forces colour party of the 2nd Brigade, Cathal Brugha Barracks, led by flag bearer second Lt William Doyle from Wexford, accompanied by Sgts Brendan Clarke, from Bray, and Brian Colleran from Rathmines, led a parade through the village, assisted by piper Jack Patterson from the Irish Prison Service Pipe Band.

Local people decorated their homes with the national flag and many applauded as the parade passed.

It included 10 Defence Force veterans of service with the United Nations, including those who were in the Congo, Cyprus and Lebanon.

The role of the Irish Volunteers in the Kilcoole gun running was represented by a contingent of the Lord Edward’s Own, a historical re-enactment group of the Monasterevin Historical Society.

They marched through the village and down to the beach where the guns were landed, sporting period weapons and wearing uniforms of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan, the women’s auxiliary force of the volunteers.

Several hundred local people turned out, many of them in Edwardian dress, and the parade included children of the local St Patrick’s Kilcoole GAA club.

The parade’s final flourish was an elegant and superbly preserved vintage Buick Tourer car, roadworthy since 1920.