DEATH OF SEUMAS O’KELLY, 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
The former editor of the Leinster Leader Seumas O’Kelly died today, 14 November, one-hundred years ago. Born in Loughrea, Co. Galway, Seumas O’Kelly started life as journalist on the Connacht Leader. In 1904 he became the youngest editor in Ireland when he took over the Southern Star, and in the following years he became editor of the Leinster Leader; the Saturday Evening Post; the Sunday Freeman and Nationality. As well as being a journalist O’Kelly was also a poet, playwright, novelist and short-story writer. He was a master of the short story form, and his short story ‘The Weaver’s Grave’ is among the most acclaimed of Irish short stories. Seumas O’Kelly is remembered with a plaque on Leinster Leader house, Main Street, Naas, on which there is inscribed the tribute ‘A gentle revolutionary’ reflecting his belief that the pen was mightier than the sword as an instrument of revolution.
O’Kelly was a friend of Arthur Griffith, founder of both Sinn Fein and its newspaper Nationality. Despite being in failing health he assumed editorship of the paper when Griffith was arrested in the ‘German Plot.’ On the night of 11 November 1918 Seamus was sitting at his desk at the newspaper’s headquarters at Harcourt Street, Dublin, when a mob of drunken British soldiers and separation women celebrating the Armistice kicked in the door. They proceeded to smash windows and break furniture. Seamus tried to chase them out with his walking stick, but he was assaulted by the rampaging soldiers and fell to the floor clutching his chest. He was brought to Jervis Street Hospital where he died three days later at the age of thirty-eight.
The funeral of Seamus O’Kelly brought Dublin to a standstill as all nationalist organisations turned out to mourn a man who had died ‘for Ireland as surely and finely as if he had been shot by a Black and Tan’. The funeral mass took place at St. Teresa’s Church, on Clarendon Street, before burial at Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.
Leinster Leader 23 November 1918
THE LATE MR. SEAMUS O’ KELLY. THE IMPOSING FUNERAL PROCESSION IN DUBLIN
Sinn Fein accorded a public funeral of Mr. Seamus O’ Kelly, Irish journalist, author and playwright, whose remains were interred in Glasnevin Cemetery on Sunday. The procession which started at noon from the Church of St. Teresa, Clarendon Street, whence the body was removed on Friday night, was of imposing proportion, while along the route to the cemetery the streets were thronged with spectators. Previous to the removal of the remains from the church Requiem Mass for the spiritual repose of the deceased was celebrated by the Rev, Father Alphousns [RIC] O’ Kelly, O.D.C. (brother), and several priests of the Carmelite Order were in attendance. The building was filled to its utmost capacity friends and sympathisers and member of the Sinn Fein organization who took charge of the funeral arrangements. The coffin was covered with Irish Republican colours and as it was borne from the mortuary chapel to the hearse in waiting, it was preceded by a number of priests reciting the prayers for the dead. The scene was very solemn and impressive.
A guard of honour was supplied by the Irish Volunteers, a section of their cycling corps, leading the cortege. Numerous wreathes were received from friends, the Sinn Fein Executive, the staff of “Nationality,” of which Mr. O’ Kelly was acting editor since the arrest of Mr. Arthur Griffith; Sinn Fein clubs, and other organisations. Wreathes were received from the staff of the “Leinster Leader”, The Co. Kildare Gaelic League Executive, and Naas (Sean Connolly) Sinn Fein Club. The route followed by the cortege, after passing out of Clarendon Street was – William Street, Exchequer Street, George’s Street, Angier Street, Wexford Street, Camden Street, Westmorland Street and North Fredrick Street to Glasnevin.
THE PRIESTS PRESENT
Walking in front of the hearse were about a dozen Catholic clergymen, but over twenty priests made the journey to Glasnevin. These included – Very Rev. B. O’Gorman, Provincial O.D.C.; Rev. Fintan O’ Brien, O.D.C.; Rev L. Murphy, O.D.C.; Rev. Ignatins McGrath, O.D.C.; Rev. Dr Brown, Maynooth; Rev, M. O’Brien, C.C. Kid; Rev. James Fitzgibbon, C.C., Dallymount; Rev, Fr. Angeline O.D.C.; Rev, Fr. Augustine, O.S.F.C.; Rev, F.W. Ryan, (Goldenbridge), Rev, Fr. Lillis, Rev, Brother Albert, O.S.F.C.; and Rev. M. Blake, C.C. Glasnevin.
Behind the hearse came the chief mourners consisting of Rev, Father Alphonsus O’Kelly, O.C.D, and Mr. Michael O’Kelly (brothers), Miss Nora O’Kelly (sister), Messrs, Alphie Sweeny (nephew), J. W. O’ Beirne, Dublin; Mr. M. Flynn (cousin), Jno Barrett, Loughrea; M. O’Flanagan, Dublin; Louis McCarthy.
The North Kildare Sinn Fein Executive and Election Committee were represented by amongst others –Messrs. D. O’Connor, C. Harting, T. Patterson, and T. J. Williams.
Following these were the staff of the ‘Nationality’ the Sinn Fein Executive and official staff and journalistic friends.
Amongst the carriages, was that of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who was present, occupying positions in the cortege were Cumann Na Mban and other women’s organisations. Sinn Fein clubs, Fianna and other boys organisations and then followed the general public. Several Gaelic Leaguers amongst them being Dr. J. J. Tooby, were also present. The fife and drum band of the ‘Dublin Builders’ United Labourers’ Trades Union,’ the Ashbourne Irish pipers band and the Sinn Fein Irish pipers band played slow music as the funeral wended its way through principal streets of the city. Many of those attending wore mourning garments with the Sinn Fein colours, and some tri colour flags were also displayed. The marshals who were composed of members of the Irish Volunteers and Sinn Fein clubs; performed their tasks in a capable manner, the utmost regularity being observed, notwithstanding the large assembly of people which had to be handled.
From twelve o’clock onwards the approaches to the cemetery were crowded with people. It was some time after two o’clock before the funeral reached Glasnevin. Rev, W. McDonald officiated in the mortuary chapel, and Rev. Alphonsus O’Kelly, O.D.C. recited the prayers at the graveside, including the Rosary in Irish to which people assembled responded. The Lord Mayor, who arrived at Glasnevin in his carriage some time before the carriage was amongst those who assisted at the service mortuary chapel. The pathways in the cemetery were lined by Volunteers, who were formally dismissed by their officers, when the interment had been completed. Some two hundred police under Superintendent Willoughboy and Inspector Travers were stationed in the vicinity of Glasnevin.
NAAS SINN FEIN CLUB
At the meeting of the Naas Sinn Fein Club, held on Thursday night last, the following resolution was passed in silence the members attending; “That we the members of the Naas (Sean Connolly) Sinn Fein Club, tender our deepest sympathy to the relatives of the late Seamus O’Kelly, who an esteemed and valuable member of our club and whose untimely death we have just heard. We desire to place on record our deep sense of loss which not alone this club, but the Irish nation as a whole, has sustained by the demise of our brilliant and talented country man who was such a pillar of the Irish Ireland movement and we shall always remember with pride that it was the privilege and honour of this club to have the late Mr. O’Kelly as its representative at the Ard Fo’s since the inception of that body.” It was also decided that a wreathe from the members of the club be placed on the grave as a tribute to the memory of the late Mr. O’Kelly.