The 12 Apostles of Athenry

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The Twelve Apostles

 The story of the Twelve Apostles has waited a hundred years to be told. It began in March 2015 with a staff member of the Athenry Heritage Centre who told the story of their husband's grandfather who took part in the 1916 Uprising in Athenry. After this historic event took place, he was one of 12 men who were arrested and imprisoned for their involvement in the rebellion. These men became known as 'The Twelve Apostles of Athenry'...

A photograph showed ten men gathered together for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Uprising. It was commonly thought, these men were the Twelve Apostles however a local resident came forward with the names on the back of her original photograph.

Image of the 12 Apostles

Back Row Stephen Jordan, John Donohue, Gill Morrisey, Michael Walsh, Jim Barrett, Mick Cortney,
Front row; Charlie Redmond, John Joe Hanniffy, Charlie Whyte, Christy Barrett.

The original concept of the exhibtion which was based on this photograph was to coincide with the 1916-2016 centenary celebrations. The curator of the exhibition had some background history and images of the men involved in the rebellion but the story was incomplete. However, in January 2016, three months before the official ceremony was held in Athenry, a phone call from Carmel Kerins (the granddaughter of Jack Hanniffy) changed the direction of the exhibiton and delivered a story worthy to be told.

It was through Carmel Kerins that the families of the men were drawn together and following an emotional meeting in Athenry, the exhibition developed into an evening where the story of these 12 men was told through music, historical displays and talks about the 1916 Uprising in Athenry and County Galway.

On the 15th April 2016, the heritage centre honoured the memory of these men with an event that was attended by over 150 people. Many of those in attendance were relatives of the Twelve Apostles and for some it was the first time that they had met each other. The event generated a lot of local interest as many had heard the story but few knew the whole story.

The highlight of the evening was the opportunity of family and friends to talk about their relatives which provided a unique insight into the lives of these 12 men. It was also an evening where family mementoes and personal artefacts were shown for the very first time.

Many a relative proudly wore the medals these men were awarded for their courage and conviction in supporting the rebellion..

One of the main objectives of the exhibition was a recognition for their services to their country and the suffering their endured during their imprisonment. However, providing an image to match the name was a challenge and it was the friends and relatives of the men that eventually ten photographs were sourced and reproduced as this banner image. The only two missing are Michael Grady, brother of Jack Grady and Michael Hansberry who sadly lost his life in a shooting accident.

The story of the Twelve Apostles is illustrated here and thanks again to Carmel Kerins and the relatives of the men for providing the information to help make this project a reality. The final outcome was the unveiling of the memorial stone in Athenry Community Park on the 18th March 2017. This date marked the 100th anniversary of their release from prison and it honours their memory for all visitors to Athenry.

 

 

The Memorial was unveiled by Mary Carrier (left), Massachusetts, U.S.A., daughter of Jim Murray and Emily Jennings, Tallyho, Athenry, daughter of Jack Hanniffy.

Mary spoke of her late father who immigrated to America and his love of Ireland; he maintained a friendship with the men who were imprisoned with him. Emily Jennings talked of knowing the twelve men who lived locally, she spoke of the hardship both the men and their families would have endured, she was delighted that a permanent memorial was now installed and it should be a place where people would visit and remember all the volunteers who sacrificed much in pursuit of Irish freedom.

Fig 1: Carmel Kennedy, Slieverue, Athenry (daughter in law of Patch Kennedy). Margaret Barrett, England (daughter of Thomas Barrett) 

Fig 2: Paddy Kennedy, Ann Hickey, Paddy Regan, Breda Regan, Kate Kennedy, Michey Joe Regan, Kathleen Dodd, Ita Kelly, Carmel Kennedy, Roisin Dodd, Edward Kelly, Brian Hickey (Relatives of Patch Kennedy)

Fig 3: Tom Delaney, Josie Callanan, Dan Delaney Clamperpark, Athenry (Relatives of Michael Higgins)

The Story of the Twelve Apostles of Athenry

Twelve men from the Athenry area were identified from a group of Irish Volunteers by an eighteen year old girl for their involvement in the Easter Rising.  The men were tried and convicted and served their sentence together. The twelve men known locally as 'The Twelve Apostles' were;

Thomas Barrett, Caheroyan, Mike Donohue, Rathgorgan, Murty Fahy, Slieverue, John O'Grady, Old Church St., Michael O'Grady, Old Church St., Jack Hanniffy, Tallyho, Martin Hanberry, Rahard, Michael Higgins, Clamperpark, Patch Kennedy, Slieverue, Tom Kennedy, Slieverue, Jim Murray, Derrydonnell, Charlie White, Caheroyan.

 

Moyode Castle

These men were connected on many levels; all were active members of The Irish Volunteers. All of the men were present at the Agricultural College, Moyode Castle and Limepark House during the Easter week rebellion. Some were brothers, others cousins, all were friends but ultimately their main connection was the betrayal of them by Maisie Shackleton.

Maisie Shackleton (right)

Maisie Shackleton was the daughter of the Presbyterian caretaker who remained in charge of the then unoccupied Moyode Castle. She was present at Moyode during the Easter Rising when up to 600 volunteers were camped there. Many of the Volunteers would have patrolled the area foraging for supplies and food, Maisie had ample opportunity to take note of the men's identity. Following discharge from duties at Limepark, the Volunteers returned home and were subsequently arrested within days and taken to Athenry Barracks.

RIC Hand Cuffs

The twelve men were identified as being involved in the Rising by Ms Shackleton and then held in Galway Gaol before being transported to Arbour Hill Prison, Dublin where all twelve men were tried by Military Court-martial, held in Kilmainham Jail for three days and sentenced to one year in prison with hard labour. 

 

Mountjoy Prison Record 1916

They were moved to Mountjoy prison in Dublin and again held for two weeks before being sent to Wormwood Scrubs in London where they spent 7 months; they were then moved to Lewes Prison in Brighton to serve the remainder of their sentence.

Few of the men spoke of the conditions of their imprisonment; however those that did relayed stories of the immense hardship and cruelty endured in Wormwood Scrubs and the then more lenient regime at Lewes. Records from Mountjoy show that eleven of the twelve men had injuries over their left eye which was most probably inflicted by their captors.

Their time at Lewes Prison seems to have been much more bearable, friendly relationships were formed between the Chaplain and Guards. The Chaplain gifted two postcards to Jack Hanniffy on his release with the inscription 'Get a little frame for this and hang it in your bedroom, God Bless'.

Letters from Harry Boland to his family recount stories of the Hurling team made up of the Athenry men in which Harry proudly captained. Harry Boland's mother Kate also wrote of her contact with the men after their release, regarding her son's state of health. The men from Athenry informed her that 'Harry was in good form and as big as a house'.

 

 Images of Lewes Prison 1917

The twelve men were released in March 1917, Patch and Tom Kennedy, James Murray and Charlie Whyte managed to smuggle British arms into Ireland on their return. All re-joined their companies and continued their active service during the war of Independence.

These twelve men sacrificed much in pursuit of Irish freedom, they lived simple lives as labourers and farmers, Michael Higgins and James Murray immigrated to America and tragically Martin Hansberry was accidently shot and killed in a hunting accident six months after his release from prison.

Words written by Liam Mellows about the men with whom he served in Galway, very aptly describes the twelve men from Athenry

Mellows wrote;

 

'There are men and women in Ireland today, compared with whom I am nothing. Many of them are poor – almost all are. Most of them are unheard of, and yet their work for Ireland deserves to be known. It will never be in our day anyway, in all probability, but it is to them the thanks of future generations of the Irish people will be due. They gave their all in silence, seeking no reward and getting none…. Dreamers, fanatics, intransigents, fools, yes but un-conquerable and sublime.'

 

 

 

 

1916, 1922 and 1966 Commemoration Medals

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