Monday 22 July 2019

Fr O'Kane recorded the memories of the Irish Volunteers in region

Eddie Boyle with Mick Butterly and James Kelly near Dunleer
Eddie Boyle with Mick Butterly and James Kelly near Dunleer

Newly available personal accounts of revolutionary events in Louth and south Armagh will provide the focus of an upcoming historical event at Annagassan.

These accounts were recorded by Rev. Louis O'Kane, who served as a priest in Togher from 1936 to 1940, and went all over Ulster and beyond in the 1960s and 1970s on a mission to preserve the authentic voices of former Irish Volunteers for posterity.

This event will first examine the life of Rev. O'Kane (1905-73), his County Derry origins and Louth connections. It will outline how the present of a tape-recorder in 1958 kick-started his project to capture the memories of men and women of the Irish revolutionary period. By the time of his death, O'Kane had recorded more than 100 interviews.

Among the interviewees from Co. Louth were James Kelly (Grangebellew), Patrick Heaney (Dillonstown), Mick Butterly (Suntown, Dunleer), Joseph McQuaile and the Bellew brothers. Their accounts - excerpts of which will be played at this event - span subjects from the growth of the Irish Volunteers before 1916 and their reorganisation thereafter, the 1918 general election, the War of Independence and the Civil War, from local perspectives.

A number of their south Armagh colleagues in the IRA's 4th Northern Division also discuss subjects relevant to Co. Louth. Eddie Boyle, who features on several of the tapes, took O'Kane around sites of various Louth incidents in the War of Independence and described them in detail. He and men such as John McCoy, Eiver Monaghan and Dr Pádraig Quinn recall events including the anti-Treaty forces attack on Dundalk Jail in 1922.

Since 1999, the original tapes are in the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library and Archive, Armagh, after being kept securely by Ó Fiaich himself at Maynooth and Armagh in previous decades. Since being digitised a couple of years ago, library visitors can listen to them.

The library is currently showcasing the O'Kane collection as part of the two-year Irish Volunteers Centenary project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The event, 'Rev. Louis O'Kane and his Tapes of Irish Volunteers from Co. Louth', is being run in conjunction with the Annagassan and Dunleer Historical societies. It will feature talks by the Ó Fiaich Library Outreach Officer, Dónal McAnallen, and local historian Bryan Rogers, at the History Loft, Annagassan on Wednesday 9 March at 7.30 pm.

Admission is free and light refreshments will be provided. There is no booking process, though patrons are advised to arrive early. Enquiries can be made to 048-37522981 or

Drogheda Independent