Wednesday 24 July 2019

Celebrating hero Harry

Millmount room opened to remember historian

Hubert Murphy

One of Drogheda's greatest historians, a hunger striker, a freedom fighter, a man who defended Millmount from Free State shelling, and a young boy who organised a strike in St Mary's NS - and got baton charged by the RIC as a result - Harry Fairtlough led an amazing life.

And it ended in the most extraordinary way possible. In December 1984, he died standing at the memorial plaque to fellow fighter Liam Leech on Pitcher Hill steps. In July 1922, he was with Leech on that exact spot when his comrade spotted a sniper taking aim. He pushed Harry to one side and took the bullet. He died, Harry lived.

Last Saturday, members of the Fairtlough family from all over the world arrived back in Drogheda for a special celebration.

The second floor of the tower at Millmount was formally named the Harry Fairtlough room in honour of the man who did so much with the likes of Moira Corcoran, Jim Garry and others to keep Drogheda's wonderful history alive.

Harry's son, Donal, carried out extensive research on Harry, based on an interview he did with him many years ago. Chillingly, he revealed that he recognised the sniper that killed Liam Leech that day, almost 100 years ago, but wouldn't reveal the name.

He said the war was over and the man had died, but his family were still around and it would not be fair on them.

Harry fought in the War of Independence and was a well-known bomb maker, once coming up with an idea to blow up the Boyne Viaduct.

He was anti-treaty in the Civil War and was captured in Smarmore in 1922, going on to be jailed.

Later, he travelled the highways and byways of the country to collect items of historical interest, leading to the founding the Millmount project. He was the curator there for many years.

He was famous for riding his bike everywhere as he never learned to drive.

He also made altar sets and donated them to churches in Africa where some of them are still in use.

Drogheda Independent