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Old Kerry Journal proves a treasure trove of local lore

Annual history favourite in shops this weekend


Sit back by the fire for Christmas and relish the treasure trove of life in the Kingdom gone by that is the Old Kerry Journal Volume 5; bigger than ever in a bumper edition bursting with fascinating stories.

Tralee historian couple Maurice and Jane O'Keeffe are delighted to publish the latest instalment of their annual collection of articles from a wealth of fellow Kerry historians.

Tralee figures prominently of course, from the 1821 cover portrait of the third baronet Sir Edward Denny by John Linnell to an overview of the family's heirlooms written by none other than Sir Edward's direct descendant Thomas Denny - he of the recent stained glass fame at St John's Catholic Church - and much, much more, it's got something for everyone.

One of the most affecting of the stories, and on the Centenary of the WWI Armistice, has to be that of the Reverend JR Bartley; Presbyterian Minister in Tralee and a resident of the Manse (Oakpark's Eagle Lodge).

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Historian Russell McMorran recounts the sorry tale, how the 'modest and unassuming' clergyman raced to London to the side of his son Sgt William Bartley of the Canadian Army after he received mortal wounds on the front in France in October 1918.

Sadly, the Rev Bartley boarded the ill-fated vessel Leinster steamer; struck by a German U-boat torpedo in the Irish Sea on October 10, 1918, sinking with the loss of 500 lives. His son, Sgt William, died from his wounds six days later in a harrowing tragedy bringing home the full horrors of the Great War - all of teased out comprehensively by Russell.

Maurice and Jane's work with the Butlers of Waterville also results in a fantastic spread of images of Kerry from the turn of the last century; a time when few had the means to document the Kingdom in photographs; complete with article by Jane about the family.

Maurice himself was delighted to pen a piece based on his recordings with Killarney's Claire O'Sullivan as she recalled - before her death - life at the family store at 5 New Street over the generations; also relating vignettes from Dracula author Bram Stoker's visits to his relatives in Killarney (the Stokers were cousins of the McGillycuddys of the Reeks fame).

"Thomas Denny's article on the lives of objects, family heirlooms is a wonderful piece," Maurice said. "The list includes a gold thimble owned by one of the first ladies of the family who came to Tralee; giving each item its provenance, its context and how it would have been used.

"We were also delighted to publish Mary McAuliffe's article on Cumann na mBan which shows the massive degree to which women contributed to the War of Independence struggle in Kerry."

Tralee native Gerald O'Carroll's overview of the kinship of the ruling families of the 17th Century; Donald Cameron's contributes to the social history through his account of his ancestor Lady Theodosia Crosbie's life in Kerry in a glimpse into her diaries, priceless firsthand testimony of the Ireland of the mid 18th Century.