by ehistoryadmin on December 22, 2023


by Liam Kenny, Naas Local History Group.

A headline proclaiming “A Green Christmas” might suggest an instructive piece on an environmentally-friendly holiday. But such 21stst century concerns were not quite what the headline writer in the local press of 1923 had in mind even though it did signify that climate change might have been a concern for our forebears of a century ago albeit not described in the same words.

The editorial in the Kildare Observer in late December 1923 was reflecting on how different the festive-week weather had been from the snowy-stereotypes of the Christmas cards. “There was no vestige of snow, and merely a hint of frost on Christmas morning” noted the meteorologically minded correspondent.

It was not only the weather that was without drama in that Christmas of a century ago. This  was a rare peacetime festive season coming after years of  when war and strife overshadowed the Holy Season. The Christmases of 1914 to 1918 and again from 1919 to 1922 were set against a backround of war of international or internicene scales.

The most recent instalment of hostilities, the Civil War had spluttered to an end earlier in 1923 even though an element of lawlessness persisted as the new Free State grappled with establishing a regime of law-and-order.  One set of beneficiaries of the ending of hostilities times were the men incarcerated in the large interment camps at Newbridge and “Tin Town” at the Curragh. The internees had fought for the anti-Treaty faction in the Civil War and were detained in large number in the Kildare camps. Although they had to wait well after the ceasefire in May 1923 for freedom,  their Christmas present was to be released from internment on Christmas Eve of the year. Among them was some local internees including P. Mills of Kill and Thomas Doran, a popular ex-member of Kildare County Council.

A poignant echo of the lethal consequences of the Civil War in the locality was a procession in Newbridge to remember the first anniversary of the execution in the Curragh Camp of seven anti-Treaty combatants who hailed from the Kildare town area. And the war still cast a long shadow with hushed conversations in the county following the finding of the body of a young military policeman by the name of James Bergin in the canal channel at Milltown. Allegations of information being leaked and retribution being ordered from the higher levels of the army formed a backdrop to this gruesome December discovery.

There was crime of a lesser order stalking the plains of Kildare. The Christmas week edition of the “Leinster Leader” lamented that “Pity ‘tis that Christmas could not pass without robbery in the district. “ First on the list of thefts was a report that a “pig was stolen from Mrs Brown of Brownstown. “ This was a serious matter as the fattened pig was the staple of the Christmas for many a poor household.  A the time of going to press “the Leader” solemnly reported that “as yet, no trace of the robber or pig can be discovered.”

The newly formed Civic Guard as the Garda Síochana was known in its formative months had better success in a crime originating just north of the county boundary.  A bicycle the property of a Mrs Byrne, Relieving Officer, was stolen form outside a shop at Rathcoole. Two young men riding a bicycle from Dublin towards the Curragh spotted the unattended machine and the passenger hopped off and helped himself to Mrs Byrne’s bicycle. The Civic Guards were quickly alerted to the theft and took off in pursuit and clearly more accomplished cyclists than the thieves caught up with them sufficiently promptly to make arrests and recover the stolen bicycle.

Our thanks to Liam Kenny for sending us on the above piece.

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