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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Padraig MacGamhna

(1895-1943)

Part 2

Source: Michael Purcell  Mar 2013 & PPP


Padraig MacGamhna - (Paddy Gaffney) 1895 - 1943.

Memory Card for Padraig MacGamhna.
The card was produced by Stephen Carroll, secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union ( Carlow branch), at the time Stephen was promoting the idea to change the name of the Market Cross to Connolly Cross in memory of the executed 1916 leader James Connolly. Thanks to Kathleen McKenna for sending me this card.
On Easter Sunday 31st March 2013 a commemoration will be held at the Padraig McGamhna memorial opposite Killeshin Church. The event is being organised by branches of Carlow / Laois Sinn Fein. A member of the MacGamhna ( Gaffney) family will lay a wreath at the memorial. Trade unionists will carry the banner of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.
Padraig Mac Gamhna 1895 - 1943 was born in Killeshin. He was a major player in organising the Transport Union in Carlow in 1917 and for the remainder of his life he was a supporter of small farmers, coal-mining, all types of industry and promoted the establishment of the sugar factory in Carlow. He was elected by a massive majority to the second Dail representing the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency. In 1922 he followed President Eamon de Valera and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the king and he resigned his seat.
During his short life he promoted republican ideals, the Irish language and at the time of his death was serving a term of imprisonment for land agitation in the Killeshin area.

The above was added in 2013 by Michael Purcell.

[Note added in 2010.]

Paddy Gaffney, better known as Padraig MacGamhna, was born in 1895, in Killeshin, Queen's County.

His father was John Gaffney from Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow; his mother was Anne Byrne from Killeshin.

During a land dispute  at Crossleigh in April 1943 Padraig was arrested along with Bill Bolton, Killeshin, John Bolton, Ballyhide, Joe O'Toole, Rossmore, Richard Dooley, Rossmore, John Brennan, Rossmore, Michael Whelan, Coolane, Thomas O'Rourke, Killeshin, Denis Doran, Cappalug, Edward Gaskin, Cappalug, John Kehoe, Springhill, and Patrick Whitney, Ballickmoyler Road.

They were convicted of unlawful assembly and were sentenced to six months' imprisonment in Mountjoy Jail, not to be imposed if they entered into a bond to keep the peace for two years.

All twelve men refused to enter a bond.

Three months later, during his imprisonment, Padraig MacGamhna died, he was 48 years old.

The MacGamhna Memorial, a large Celtic Cross with the figure of a Sinn Fein Volunteer engraved, is erected in his memory opposite Killeshin Church. It was unveiled in 1953.

Another memorial to Padraig's memory, in the form of a granite Plaque, is erected on the shop building of the late Charlie Byrne in Tullow Street.

MacGamhna Road, Carlow, is named after him.

Along with his old school friend, Pat Purcell, he is recorded as attending the first meeting of Sinn Fein in Ballickmoyler in 1914.

In the years that followed both men were active in the Republican movement and in the establishment of The Transport Workers' Union in Carlow.

Pat Purcell penned the following obituary / appreciation which was published in the Nationalist and Leinster Times, July 1943.

Obituary / Appreciation

Padraig MacGamhna.

Padraig Mac GamhnaThose of us who have been closely in touch with the public life of Carlow during the past quarter of a century, can fully realise the sense of loss which the death of Padraig MacGamhna has caused.

As a public representative he was unique in more than one respect.

He had a scrupulous sense of responsibility towards those whom he represented.

He was uncompromising where a question of principle was involved. He could never be cajoled or influenced to do anything against his convictions or what he thought was just and fair.

He never considered for a moment whether his expression of strong and advanced views on any public matter would affect his popularity.

He certainly had very strong convictions on most questions and he never shrank from giving voice to them on the public platform, or at meetings of the public boards.

He possessed a rare dual personality of great strength of character and a winning amiability which is very rare to be met with.

By the materialistic and so-called practical people he was regarded as an idealist and a visionary.

But it is by such rare spirits that the world is enriched, and moral forces are set in motion for the amelioration of the conditions of mankind in general.

There would be no social progress if the materialists and cynics were to hold sway. So that is why it is fortunate from time to time that one appears in the public arena such as Padraig MacGamhna to proclaim the faith that is in him.

The subject of this short, inadequate obituary was a rare soul, and the country is all the poorer by his passing. It is inexplicable to the worldly how a man like him in comparatively poor circumstances could devote all his leisure without fee or reward towards the betterment of the people amongst whom he moved and lived.

His feverishly active career was a truly remarkable one.

As a boy he was a pupil of the National School in his native Killeshin, he subsequently attended the Christian Brothers' Secondary School at Carlow.

He was apprenticed to the Milling business of Shackleton at Graiguecullen while still in his teens, but such a prosaic career did not appeal to his mind, and at an immature age he entered into public life, and was soon regarded as a champion of the workers' rights.

He hated injustice, and by voice and pen denounced the cruel inequalities in our social system.

He was a young man when Sinn Fein replaced the old Irish Parliamentary Party system, and he entered into the struggle for National Independence with a zeal and energy which was characteristic of him.

In 1918 he was arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary and sentenced to imprisonment in Belfast Jail for reading the Sinn Fein 1916 Proclamation in Carlow.

On his release he continued his activities and in 1921, with some other members of the Irish Volunteers, he was arrested by Crown forces at Ballymurphy, and interned.

But like other great Irishmen, the hardships he endured only sharpened his spirit of resistance, and urged him on to greater endeavour for his native land which he loved, as became a true patriot.

Padraig was elected to the Second Dail as Deputy (T.D.) for Carlow -Kilkenny Constituency, with the largest majority ever given to any parliamentary candidate before or since in the area.

His Parliamentary career was brief as he refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King and resigned his seat.

It happened that at that time a French journalist visited Dublin, and he wrote some very interesting articles on the personal of the new Dail. He gave a life-like description of Padraig MacGamhna referring to his mannerisms and his obvious sincerity of purpose.

The article was a great tribute to the character of Padraig from a foreigner who could be relied upon to write an unbiased sketch.

Padraig was instrumental in founding a branch of the Transport Union in Carlow, and was President of the branch for 24 years.

He was an ardent supporter all his life of Irish Industrial Development.

For over thirty years he tried to get the Government and industrialists interested in the Laois and other coal fields.

He received little support or encouragement in this project from other sources, but he continued doggedly, in the face of opposition and disappointment, and he fortunately lived to see his views bearing fruit when companies were formed to develop these coal areas.

In the social sphere Padraig was deservedly popular. His serene and kindly nature disarmed critics and he came to be regarded by all classes with esteem and respect.

May the soil of his beloved Killeshin rest lightly on his remains.

A guard of honour of Irish National Foresters met the remains outside Carlow, accompanied by his eleven fellow prisoners and the Governor of Mountjoy Jail, Sean Kavanagh, who had himself once served as a fellow-prisoner of Padraig's during the Troubles, also present was Joe Cummins from the Pollerton Road, he had acted as Guard to Padraig when he was removed to hospital.

His remains was received at Killeshin Church by Fr, P. Swayne and Fr, E. Campion.

Source: M. Purcell


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