Wednesday 16 January 2019

A hero returned home after almost a century

Thomas Kent’s remains being escorted from the grounds of Cork prison in 2015
Thomas Kent’s remains being escorted from the grounds of Cork prison in 2015

Bill Browne

The Castlelyons man dubbed 'the forgotten patriot of 1916' was finally given a State funeral almost a century after he was executed by Crown forces. 

Remains exhumed three years ago from the grounds of Cork Prison were confirmed to be  those of Thomas Kent, the only person outside of the capital, with the exception of Roger Casement, to be executed following the 1916 Rising. 

Mystery had surrounded the exact location of Thomas Kent's body following his execution in the prison on May 9, 1916. 

His remains laid in an unmarked grave up until the summer of 2015 when they were exhumed and formally identified following a joint operation by the National Monuments Service, the Irish Prison Service and the State Pathologists Office. 

The Kent family subsequently accepted an offer by the then Taoiseach Enda Kenny of a State funeral for Thomas, which took place in his native Castlelyons on Friday, September 18, 2015.

The funeral was attended by thousands of members of the public, members of the Kent family and  dignitaries including President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Chris O'Leary and County Mayor Cllr John Paul O'Shea. 

Thomas Kent had been due to take part in actions outside of Dublin on the day of the rising and was waiting in his Castleyons home, along with his brothers William, David and Richard, for orders to support the Dublin volunteers with a Cork rising. Despite receiving instructions to stand down, members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the British Army raided the property of the well-known nationalist family just hours after fighting began at the GPO. 

The brothers refused to surrender and a four hour battle, the only armed engagement of the Rising outside of Dublin, ensued during which Richard was killed and David severely wounded. 

Following their arrest, Thomas and William were marched over Fermoy Bridge and taken to Cork where they were tried by court-marshal at Cork Detention Barracks (now Cork Prison).  While William was acquitted, Thomas was sentenced to death, executed and his body interred in the unmarked grave. 

His family had long campaigned for Thomas' grave to be identified so that he could be reinterred at the family plot in Castlelyons. This became possible after documents, kept secret by the British were released identifying his grave.  After a complex DNA testing process the remains found were identified as those of Thomas Kent.