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War Of Independence Exhibition At Maritime Museum In Passage West

Writes Leo McMahon


Running all this month at Passage West Maritime Museum and well worth viewing is the exhibition ‘War of Independence – The Passage West Connection’.


Fourteen pictorial boards comprehensively display the important role played by patriots a century ago plus additional information and military artifacts. Interestingly, Kilmurry (Oldcourt) Graveyard, on the outskirts of Passage West is the resting place of the three volunteers featured.


Seamus Courtney (1897-1918) was son of Daniel Courtney, a blacksmith from Passage West. He went on to become commandant in Munster of the scout organization Na Fianna Eireann and was among those on standby with fellow members and Irish Volunteers at Sheare’s Cork at the time of the Easter Rising in 1916.


He was a prisoner on two occasions in 1917, went on hunger strike and was imprisoned again the same year. His health deteriorated and although released, he died aged 21, in 1918 in Kerry. His funeral in Passage West involved firing a volley of three shots, was the first time since the Easter Rising that firearms were publicly used.



Pic Room-Some of the War of Independence - Passage West connection exhibition in the maritime museum plus a display of weaponry from that period. Pic Joe Healy.


Michael John O’Mahony (1902-1921), a shipwright’s apprentice in Passage dockyard, was a member of B Company, 9th Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade, IRA. He was badly wounded during an exchange of fire with an RIC patrol between Beach Road and Lucia Place on February 20th, 1921.


His death, aged 18, eight days later, wasn’t reported but a marble plaque, subsequently unveiled by Passage West Town Commissioner Daniel Spillane (who also fought there), is to be seen at the entrance to Beach Road. Michael’s father Thomas was a town commissioner.


Henry O’Mahony (1896-1973), Dock Street (and later Belgrave Place), an engine fitter at Haulbowline dockyard, joined the IRA in 1917 and became company captain and deputy commandant of the 1st Cork Brigade, IRA. Three years later, he was elected chairman of the town commissioners.


He was arrested in 1921 and interned on Spike Island but was part of a daring escape with six others. He was related to Michael John O’Mahony. In the 1920s, Henry moved to Co. Carlow to work for the Irish Sugar Co and played hurling and football for the county. He returned to Passage West and was elected chairman of GAA Cork County Board in 1937.


Further information and mention of other Passage volunteers is contained on the exhibition panels and there’s also a profile of Tom Kelleher (1895-1984), who became commandant general of the 1st Southern Division. He was a veteran of Upton and Crossbarry, Rosscarbery and other engagements in West Cork during the War of Independence. A resident of Passage West for many years, he farmed at Maulbawn.


Other display panels feature the graves of the patriots, military archives relating to army pensions etc, photos of IRA veterans and annual events by the Volunteer commemorative, the Phoenix Society and others.


At the museum also is an interesting display of weapons from the period kindly loaned by Bertie McCurtain plus of course it’s outstanding collection of martime exhibits.


Organisers of the exhibition, we’re told, included Joe Healy, Jim Murphy and Walty Murphy of the museum committee who thanked various donors and suppliers of information and SECAD staff Carmel Lopez and Niamh O’Mahony.


Located in the former town hall, Passage West Maritime Museum is open Wednesday to Friday 2 to 5.30pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5pm. Admission €2. Enquiries to info@passagemuseum.ie


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