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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Esther Purcell

'War veteran laid to rest'

By Charlie Keegan

'War veteran laid to rest'

Click to enlarge

A volley of shots from the 30th Battalion Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny, at the interment of Old IRA Veteran, Mrs, Esther Purcell, Kennedy Street, Carlow, who was laid to rest in Killeshin cemetery on Saturday last

Photo: Karl Mc Donough

Mrs. Esther Purcell, Kennedy Street, Carlow, who died at Aut Even Hospital, Kilkenny, on Thursday (October 8) was a founder member of Fianna Fail and a member of a staunch Carlow Republican family.

A tricolor made by Mrs. Purcell during her incarceration in Kilmainham, was placed on the coffin during her funeral.

Aged 83, she was formerly Miss Esther Snoddy. She was imprisoned as a seventeen year-old member of Cumann na mBan in Kilmainham Jail, having taken the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War.
Her term of imprisonment, in 1923, lasted eight months. Subsequently, Eamon de Valera occupied the same cell in Kilmainham where Mrs. Purcell had been held.  There, he found a thimble bearing the inscription ‘E. Snoddy’. He afterwards made contact with Esther and they remained friends until de Valera’s death in 1975.
When de Valera was President, she visited him at Aras an Uachtaráin.

Politically active

Having been a founder member of Fianna Fail in 1926, Mrs. Purcell remained  politically active throughout her life and was  president of the Carlow town branch of the party up to the time of her death.
Remains were removed to St. Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen, on Friday, where they were received by Rev. Sean Kelly, CC. Burial, with full military honours provided by  30th Battalion, Stephen’s Barracks, Kilkenny, took place in the family plot following Mass in St. Clare’s Church celebrated by Rev. Liam  Lawton, CC.
 Members of the Poor Clare community sang the hymns during Mass.
A graveside oration was delivered by Mr. Sean   Prendergast, chairman of  Carlow town Cumann of Fianna Fail. He quoted lines from one of Esther’s favourite poems: ‘Tread softy, for you tread close to the grave of a hero, A soldier of the legion of the rearguard’.
Mrs. Purcell, who was pre-deceased by her husband Michael, five years ago, is survived by her sons John  (Brentwood, London), Pat and Michael (both Kennedy St., Carlow), Edward (John  Sweeney Park), daughters Mrs. Moira McGrath (Killeshin  Road), Mrs. Doris Halloran (New York), Mrs. Margaret McGean (Carlow), by her - brother Tom (Blackbog Road, Carlow) and by nephews, nieces, grandchildren, six great- grandchildren, other relatives and a large circle of friends.

 Source: The Nationalist, October 16th 1987

'The Nationalist'.  June 26, 1981

'Comrades in Kilmainham meet again'

 by Charlie Keegan

Mrs. Marie Gibney-O’Neill, Dublin & Mrs. Essie Purcell, Kennedy Street, Carlow, at their first meeting in 58 years

Photo: Willie Dooley

A signatory of the 1916 Easter Rising ‘Roll of Honour’ decided recently to make an adjustment to her original signature by including her maiden name.
So Mrs. Marie Gibney-O’Neill, of South Circular Road, Dublin who had signed the Roll of Honour in 1920 went along to the National Museum.
There she met Padraig O’Snodaigh, Curator of the Irish History Section of the Museum, who is from Carlow.
Mrs. Gibney-O’Neill asked Mr. O’Snodaigh if he knew Essie Snoddy from Carlow, saying that they had been imprisoned together in Kilmainham Jail in 1923.
Following their release from prison contact was lost between the two and it was not until a couple of weeks ago that they met again, after 58 years.
Essie Snoddy is now Mrs. Essie Purcell, Kennedy St., Carlow. The couple, each of whom thought the other was dead, met in Reddy’s Lounge, Tullow St. Carlow.
Mrs. Purcell’s son, Michael told ‘The Nationalist’ that it had proved difficult to trace Mrs. Gibney-O’Neill following her visit to the museum and it was through Bunny Carr that contact was re-established with her.
During the fighting in the GPO Mrs. Gibney-O’Neill worked in the kitchen helping with the catering for the people inside. She recalled that she used to prepare a special chicken dish for Joseph Mary Plunkett, one of the 1916 leaders who was subsequently executed by the Crown forces.
Another interesting point to emerge from the conversation between the women was that Eamon De Valera occupied the cell in Kilmainham where Mrs. Purcell had been held.
There he found a thimble bearing the inscription E. Snoddy. He afterwards made contact with Mrs. Purcell and maintained this contact throughout his life.
Indeed when Dc Valera became President, Mrs. Purcell visited him on several occasions at Aras an Uachtarain.
Source of material: Michael Purcell Feb 2007

Mrs. Esther Purcell In Memoriam

The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
© 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM 

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