Wednesday 13 November 2019

Historic mementoes can inspire us all

When the history department of University College Cork organised a 'revolutionary decade roadshow' in Clonakilty, nearly 200 people turned up.

One, Mim O'Donovan from Bandon, brought with her a once-lost treasure and a remarkable story.

Her aunt, Agnes Hurley of Bandon, was 18 years old in 1922. She was a keen photographer. On August 23, 1922, she went to Beal na Blath and took pictures of the ambush scene where General Michael Collins had been killed the previous day. One has survived, as well as a picture of Collins in an open car, taken in Bandon hours before his death.

The unique photograph, found in an attic, shows what historians think is Collins's shirt collar on the roadway.

Nobody can tell how many thousands of pieces of priceless memorabilia have disappeared over the decades, but undoubtedly some still exist. There will be many searches, prompted by the intense public interest in Collins's life and death.

Ancient history? Far from it. Only one generation separates Ms O'Donovan from her aunt, the photographer. That shows how close we are to the great events of the early 20th Century. It should help to inspire us to commemorate them with due dignity in the coming years.

Irish Independent

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