Today, in the Kilkenny Observer we take a look at the proceedings at Kilkenny Military Barracks when The Blessings of the Colours took place. We thank Cois Céim and The Saturday walkers group for their research to produce this account.
Kilkenny Military Barracks April 23rd 1922
In the presence of a very large attendance of citizens and people from the county, the troops of the Irish Republican Army, Military Barrack, Kilkenny under the command of Col. Comdt. J.T.Prout,O,C, paraded in the barrack square on Sunday afternoon, when the interesting and impressive ceremony of the blessing of the colours was performed by the Archdeacon Doyle of St. Canices parish.
The Arcdeacon was accompanied by several of the city priests. When the colours had been blessed, they were hoisted on the flag staff by Commadant Daly of the Guards Brigade, Dublin, and the Mayor Alderman Peter DeLoughry as the elected head of the civic authorities in Kilkenny at the request of Commandant Prout.
FLAG IS CHEERED ENTHUSIASTIACLLY
The sight of the Republican flag fluttering in the breeze in the centre of what was once the stronghold of the enemy in this city was enthusiastically cheered by those present.
Special significance was attached to the ceremony by the association of the Mayor with the event as it evidenced the desire on the part of the military authorities to recognise and associate themselves with the civic power.
The ceremony of blessing the colours was watched with the greatest of interest.
Commandant Prout, kneeling, received the flag from Archdeacon Doyle who then blessed it.
The Commandant then attached the flag to the lanyards and invited Commandant Daly and the Mayor to hoist it.
The troops came to attention and presented arms as the flag was being hoisted and the war piper’s band played a suitable air.
Added interest was lent to the occasion by the fact that a beautiful tri colour banner which was also blessed by the Archdeacon, and was presented by the Kilkenny garrison to the Dublin Brigade of Guards.
Commandant Daly received it on behalf of the Guards.
The banner, 6 feet wide and 7 ½ deep, was mounted on two ash flag staffs each 9 feet in length.
It is most artistically worked and is highly creditable to the firm of Messrs James Bourke and Sons, High Street, Kilkenny, by whom it was manufactured.
It is of Irish poplin and on it are inscribed the names hand worked in silk in Irish characters of nine members of the Guards Brigade who gave their lives for Ireland during the war for freedom.
The Republican flag now floating over the Military barracks was also produced by Messrs Bourke and Sons.
The military Mass at 11 0’clock at St Johns Church was served by two officers, the celebrant being the Rev. Father Staunton and during the Mass in accordance with military custom the drum and bugle took the place of the gong.
FLAG WILL BE AN INSPIRATION
Comdt. Prout at the conclusion of the religious ceremony thanked the Archdeacon for coming to bless their flag, and hoped it would be an inspiration to their soldiers to carry on the fight for Ireland in the future.
Irrespective of what people may say to the contrary, Comdt Prout stated the Irish Republican Army would continue as the Irish Republican Army until they attained the objective at which they aimed, namely the Republic of Ireland. Archdeacon Doyle in his address said it was his duty to thank the military authorities for inviting him to bless the flag.
The following are the words spoken on the day by the Archdeacon:
“During the horrible contest which the Irish nation had carried on with England for over 700 hundred years, Faith and Fatherland have ever been firmly and fondly united and the ceremony of today is proof on your part that you are determined to foster in your ranks the spirit which inspired and conserved that union.
When I look around at the inspiring sight before my eyes, this splendid body of Irish soldiers in their National uniforms, I find England cleared out bag and baggage, the army of occupation gone, the police gone, the strongholds of foreign domination manned by Irish soldiers. I find it hard to believe that all this is real, not a dream.
I remember one day when I was about seven years old, standing at my Fathers door, when a bailiff from Kilkenny came up and ordered him to vote at the coming election for Agar Ellis, the landlord’s nominee.
The significance of that command was well understood because some years before my Father had been evicted from his farm for daring to exercise the franchise according to his conscience.
Well when the next election comes we won’t have fellows like that going around. I congratulate the officers and men of this garrison upon the excellent spirit which has prevailed amongst them.
God bless the flag which has been hoisted, may it long continue to be the proud standard of a loyal, devoted, brave Irish army.
May it long continue to float over and protect a happy, contented prosperous people.”
AN HISTORIC DAY FOR IRELAND
Father Cavanagh then addressed the gathering and remarked this celebration marks an important event in the history of our country.
It meant that England’s flag which has flown over Ireland for 700 years has gone down in dishonour and our own flag proudly takes its place.
I congratulate Comdts. Prout, and O’Dwyer, their fellow officers and men.
They have fought the good fight and kept their faith to God and Ireland. I congratulate them on the order and discipline in the barracks, and now I earnestly request them to hear the words of advice given by Archdeacon Doyle.
You are set apart to defend your country and to guard the lives and liberties of her sons and daughters.
May God keep you united, may God bless Irelands Flag and grant it may never be dishonoured by any of Irelands sons or daughters.
Comdt. Daly returning thanked, on behalf of the Dublin Brigade of Guards, for the beautiful banner presented to them by the Kilkenny Garrison.
He added the names of the men inscribed on the banner were the names of men belonging to the Guards who had died for Ireland.
The speaker then called the names of the nine men, Martin Savage, Sean Doyle, Frank Flood, Sean Treacy, Patrick Doyle, Thomas O’Brien, Bernard Ryan, Patrick Magee, and Augustine Murphy.
Continuing Comdt. O’Daly said; “some of our own people are trying to uphold British rule by putting up on premises anti Republican slogans with the paint brush and the stencil.
The Union Jack had disappeared from this country. If you want to do anything for the Republic, it is not a paint brush you need but a rifle and a stout Irish heart.”
He remembered with pride Easter week when they had 100 members of Cumann na mBan with them. He owed his life to one of their number for their skill and devotion.
The Mayor said he was very grateful to Comdt. Prout and his fellow officers for inviting him to such a wonderful ceremony. Archdeacon Doyle had dealt with the glorious event in a way that he would have done if he was able.
In asking him to be present he knew the intentions of Comdt. Prout were to honour the citizens of Kilkenny through him.
He assured the officers and men of all ranks that the citizens of Kilkenny looked on them not only as friends but as their guardians and protectors.
He knew that many of the men in that garrison had been through the thick of the war for Irish freedom. The fight they had made had resulted in driving the foreign garrison bag and baggage out of the country.
The flag that had been hoisted that day was the emblem of the ideal that they were all looking forward to.
They may not have got everything at present but they hoped to fight on until their full ideal was achieved.
A FINAL WORD OF THANKS
In conclusion he again thanked the officers and men of the garrison for so thoughtfully associating the civic authorities in Kilkenny with that glorious function.
Comdt. O’Dwyer said it had been his proud privilege to have taken over the military barracks from the retiring enemy.
On that occasion they would have hoisted the Republican flag but that the enemy had taken good care to remove the flagstaff.
However better late than never the Republican flag was now flying where the flag of England had previously floated. Continuing, the Comdt. said they were not Free Staters but soldiers of the Republic.
It was the duty of the Army to support the people of Ireland. If he left the Army he was at liberty to become a politician but in every civilised country the Army kept free of politics.
The proceedings then concluded.
With thanks to Cois Céim, Kilkenny Saturday walkers group, Pat Shortall, Rothe House, Colin Kilkenny.
Material from The Kilkenny People, April 29, 1922