Nationalist and Leinster Times, 6th November 1920.
Death Of Kevin Barry.
Bravery and Fortitude of young Martyr.
Touching Final Scenes.
On Monday morning - the great Catholic
Feast of All Saints - Kevin Barry, aged eighteen and a half years,
was hanged in Mountjoy Prison. Only a couple of weeks previously
young Barry was tried by court-martial in connection with a raid on
a military motor lorry in North King Street, at which some soldiers
were killed and others wounded.
Kevin Barry was got under the lorry and
charged with the killing. He was "convicted" and sentenced to be
hanged, and the sentence was confirmed by Sir Nevil Macready,
Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Occupation, and Lord French - who
enjoys the prerogative of reprieving - refused to exercise that
It was therefore clear from the start
that the British Government had resolved on the execution.
All day on Sunday very powerful influence
was used to save the life of the noble youth.
Archbishop Walsh and the Lord Mayor were
busy all day. The latter even succeeded in getting into direct
telephonic communication with Mr Lloyd George, but the British Prime
Minister was inflexible and said the Government "could do nothing".
County Carlow Boy.
The late Kevin Barry was a native of
Tombeagh, Co. Carlow, and belonged on both the mother's and father's
side to respectable families of the farming class. His father has
been dead some years, and the mother established a business in
Kevin, who received part of his earlier
education in Rathvilly National School, under Mr. Edward O'Toole,
entered the National University and was studying for the medical
He was a brilliant and cheerful boy, and
gave every hope of a successful career. He was a prominent member of
the Sinn Fein and Volunteer organisations in Dublin, and with his
colleagues in these bodies, and his fellow-students in the
University, he was most popular and highly esteemed.
He was cousin of the late Kevin Barry,
Bridge Hotel, Castledermot, and amongst the connections by marriage
was the family to which the Rev. P. Donnelly, C.C., and Mr Gerard
Donnelly, Tullow St., Carlow, belong.
CUMANN na mBAN.
During the last hour of Kevin Barry's
life, the scene outside Mountjoy Prison was a moving one.
Many sympathisers with the condemned boy
had assembled outside the gates at seven o'clock, and half an hour
later about 2,000 people had assembled, none through idle curiosity,
but all troubled hearts, come to pray for the passing soul.
At a quarter to eight a company of Cumann
na mBan marched four deep to the scene, and halted outside the outer
gates of the jail.
In a lane at the side of Mountjoy Police
Station a party of military was stationed. A double-turreted
armoured car, with its guns turned on the crowd, loomed sinister in
the mist of early morning a few yards from the prison gates. Now and
again it moved about the road, but always the gun-barrel protruding
from the turret was trained on the crowd.
As the fateful moments ebbed no sound was
heard but the murmur of the people reciting the Rosary for the boy
about to die.
Old and young - men, women and children -
joined in prayer to the Queen of Heaven for the soul that was
passing behind the grim, grey walls of the prison.
Many made the response in the Gaelic
language, which the doomed youth loved so well.
And the armoured car menaced the people
as they prayed.
About eight o'clock the prison bell began
to toll its mournful message.
An awed silence fell upon the people.
Women looked at each other with eyes full of unshed tears. The men
bowed their heads still lower.
The death-knell rang clear on the morning
As it echoed over the heads of the
people, the beautiful prayer of the Angelus was taken up by the
people in brave, steady tone.
The prayer ceased.
There was a tense moment.
In a little while it ceased.
A fitful burst of sunshine shone down as
if to proclaim the passing of a heroic soul. So soon was it born -
The clang of the prison gate was heard,
and a venerable stately figure came slowly out from the grim
building. It was Canon Waters, the prison chaplain.
With bowed head and tear-streaming face
he passed among the people. It was a pathetic and dramatic moment.
"Is he dead"?
"Did they hang him"?
He brushed tears from his eyes and
answered simply "Yes".
The agony of the women now found vent.
The long pent-up tears overflowed all restraint, and on every side
one heard the voice of passionate grief.
"How did he die?" they asked the
"Bravely - I never saw one meet his death
with such courage".
The gates of the prison avenue were
opened and the people thronged to the jail gate.
The last scene of the tragedy was then
enacted. A warder appeared at the gateway and affixed to the
wicket door a brief type-written notice:-
"The sentence of the law passed on Kevin
Barry, found guilty of murder, was carried into execution at 8
a.m. this morning.
Kevin Barry Part 2.
The previous posting on Kevin Barry was
transcribed from a framed article in the PPP.now thanks to Grace
Bunbury we now have the remainder of that article copied from the
The Nationalist and Leinster Times, 6th November 1920.
A cordon of police under the supervision
of an Inspector, now appeared, and the people were told to disperse.
They refused to leave till they had said the Rosary for the repose
of the soul of the poor boy.
Canon Waters gave the following account
to a Press representative.
At 7am he entered the prison and was
brought to the cell where Kevin Barry was held. He heard his last
confession, administered Holy Communion to the boy and imparted the
Papal Blessing. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated by
Canon Waters assisted by Rev. Fr. MacMahon and was followed by the
boy with great fervour and devotion. The warders and auxiliary
police joined in the service.
During the ten minutes that now remained
before the fatal stroke of eight o'clock, Kevin Barry devoted
himself wholly to the thoughts of everlasting life, holding a
crucifix in his hands. Canon Waters, who induced him to sit on a
chair and rest a little before the end, was much impressed by his
quite bravery and humility.
The Dark Cell.
It was still dark and the cell was
lighted only by the light of candles. The most cheerful and unmoved
of those present was the condemned boy.
The executioners both of whom spoke with
English accents, then entered the cell, and one of them inquired of
Canon Waters if "you are quite done, Father". It was intimated that
the Mass was concluded, and then the executioners proceeded to
pinion the boy, who submitted quietly and actually assisted them in
The procession to the execution chamber
was then formed. One of the executioners led the way, followed by
the brave boy, with whom were the two chaplains. Behind these came
the second executioner and prison warders. Kevin Barry neither
wavered not blenched. His neck was bared, his head bent forward
humbly as he responded to the Litany for the Dying. The two
clergymen stood beside him as the process of pinioning the limbs
took place on the scaffold.
The Execution Chamber.
In the execution chamber itself, which
resembled an ordinary room on the second story of the prison, with a
rope hanging from a beam in the roof and a trap door in the floor,
the boy-martyr stood erect and unflinching.
His hands were pinioned and a white,
bag-like cap drawn over his head and so well down over his neck that
the rope lay outside.
Then death came in a flash.
Prayed For His Enemies.
In his statement to the Press Canon
Waters continued "His last thoughts were not of this world. He died
a brave and beautiful death, marked by great humility and
resignation to the will of God. He died a holy and Christian death.
He died with prayers on his lips for friends and enemies.
Ellis was the executioner. It was stated
that he arrived in Dublin with his assistant on Saturday night and
slept in Mountjoy Prison on Sunday night.
BACK TO KEVIN BARRY