Bridge in Co Cork renamed in honour of Thomas Kent
Event at Fermoy Bridge marks centenary of firefight between Kent brothers and RIC
File photo: The remains of Commandant Thomas Kent lying in state at St. Michael’s Garrison church, Collins Barracks before a state funeral on Friday 18th September. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times
The men and women of 1916 fought for a new Ireland where people could be free to make their own choices and the children of today should exercise that right to the full, a descendant of one of the signatories of the Proclamation has told a commemoration in Co Cork.
Michelle Drysdale is the great granddaughter of Thomas McDonagh and yesterday she gave the oration at an event to rename Fermoy Bridge in honour of local Easter Rising hero, Thomas Kent, and his brothers who engaged in a firefight with the RIC at their home in Castlelyons on May 2nd 1916.
Noting that her great grandfather had lived in Fermoy for a period when he taught French, English and Latin in St Colman’s College, she said she was particularly pleased to come to Fermoy to see one of its proud sons being honoured with the bridge being renamed after him and his family.
Ms Drysdale said that men like her great grandfather and Thomas Kent had fought in 1916 to create a new Ireland where people could have a choice about the language they spoke, the religion they practiced, the activities they participated in and the careers their pursued.
“To the children here today, this is your time - you have learned so much about the Rising, about the men and women who fought for our country and I hope you have had the opportunity to develop a new pride in your country,” she said.
“I hope you realise too that it is amazing to be Irish, to be part of an exciting and ancient culture overflowing with music, culture, language, literature and the arts - grab hold of this pride, this grá for your country. Live it, breathe it and share it with those around you.”
Addressing a crowd of several hundred, Ms Drysdale recalled the events of exactly 100 years ago when in the early hours of May 2nd 1916, a party of RIC advanced on the Kents’ home at Bawnard House in Castlelyons in a round -up of prominent nationalists in the wake of the Easter Rising.
“The RIC officers surrounded the whole house and ordered the four Kent brothers to come outside, Thomas replied that they were soldiers of the Irish Republic and that there would be no surrender. The RIC responded with a volley of shots and for the next three hours, a battle ensued.”
Ms Drysdale told how the siege ended with the RIC storming the house and the capture of Thomas and William, who were marched across the Fermoy Bridge they were now standing on and taken Fermoy Railway Station to be brought to the Cork Detention Barracks.
“William and Thomas were court martialled. William was acquitted and Thomas was sentenced to death ‘for taking part in an armed rebellion for the purpose of assisting the enemy’ and he was executed by the British in Cork Detention Barracks on May 9th 1916.”
Ms Drysdale pointed out that as the Kents were engaged in fierce gun battle with the RIC in Castlelyons, her great grandfather was in Kilmainham Jail due to be court-martialled with execution awaiting him at 3.30am the next morning.
“I am both in awe and thoroughly inspired by the passion, commitment and dedication that both McDonagh and Kent and all those men and women who went out to fight or were prepared to fight had for their cause,” she said.
“Volunteers all around the country were prepared to put their lives on the line for their country, their heritage, their futures and the futures of their families,” she said as she told of how her great grandfather left his family for the last time late on Easter Sunday night to join his comrades.
“McDonagh was a doting father and loving husband and to be able to walk out that door that evening must have been so difficult but he was so passionate about the cause of Irish freedom and he felt he was creating a better country and equitable society,” she said.
A plaque depicting Thomas and William Kent being marched across the bridge was unveiled by their niece, Prudence O’Riordan and Chairman of Cork County Council 1916 Commemoration Committee, Cllr Frank O’Flynn.
Cllr O’Flynn and the Mayor of Cork County, Cllr John Paul O’Shea then laid a wreath while the Proclamation was read by Thomas Kent’s grandnephew, Michael O’Riordan and the tricolour was raised by former Limerick hurler and former pupil of St Colman’s, Andrew O’Shaughnessy.