independent

Wednesday 20 February 2019

Barry chronicles The Bard's Land War adventures

MARIA HERLIHY

A GREAT grandson of a famous bard in North Cork has himself put pen to paper to write a book in his honour.

Author Barry Keane has put together 'The Bard' which features John Robert O'Sullivan. He made Millstreet famous during the perilous land war and his fight with landlords and agents led to intense repression in Millstreet between 1881 and 1891.

Mr Keane explained that at one stage, the town of Millstreet had more than 80 armed police to enforce the law.

The book tells the story of the Bard's life as well as the main events of the Land War at that time to his eventual conviction in 1891 at a show trial in Nenagh.

He received 24 years of hard labour and served 15 years but this left his wife and six small children to fend for themselves. However, he survived the hard labour and died in 1922.

Ten years in the making, a major breakthrough came when Barry uncovered the Bard's convict file - this had a deluge of information about his trial as well as wintesses.

After three years in prison, the Bard didn't take too kindly to his surroundings and treatment, and wrote to his second in command to tell him to join the prison services. The man duly complied and it resulted in the bard being 'looked after' by his own man in prison.

Another story concerned the bard when he took off his boots and two policemen dropped their weapons to inspect the boots. As they bent down to examine the boots, the Bard took off running and it took two weeks to recapture him.

Onetime in court, a judge handed down a nine year sentence to him. However, the bard shot back, "Is that the best you can do." The judge promptly added another five years.

Although eventually sentenced to 24 years, he served time from 1891 until 1906, which was still 15 years. The only reason he got out was because the Liberals got into power in England.

During all those years in prison, the bard's wife, Ellen O'Mullane had to work on mending the butter road with her older children.

Mr Keane is a history and geography teacher in Bishopstown and he has already written a series of five hill walking and rock scrambling guidebooks for the south of Ireland. He still has a lot of cousins in Kanturk and Cullen.

He explained that his family were evicted in 1854 and the Bard rose up and became a leader of the Land War.

The book will be launched at the library in Millstreet on Saturday, August 18, published by the Aubane Historical Society.

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