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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Pat Purcell

Source: Michael Purcell (Nephew)



'Pat Purcell laid to rest in 99th year'


Mr. Pat Purcell – Republican, Trade Union leader, historian, story-teller and dancer, died on Thursday, November 3, surrounded by family members, at Carlow's Sacred Heart Hospital.

Born in 1896 at Killeshin, Carlow, he was one of the oldest and best-known figures in the county. Educated at Killeshin National School, Pat joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Carlow in 1917, being sworn in by the organisation's leader, Bulmer Hobson.

Founder of ITGWU

Two years later, he was a founder member of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (IT&GWU) in Carlow, along with Michael Brophy, Dublin Road, Ned Walsh Pollerton, and Tim Brennan, Dublin Road – all deceased.
He played an active role during the War of Independence and following the Truce of 1921 took the anti Treaty side in the ensuing Civil War.
During the war, in January 1923, Pat's brother-in-law, Ned Snoddy from Blackbog, Carlow was killed in action at Palatine, outside Carlow town

Flag made in Jail

His sister-in-law, the late Mrs. Esther Purcell, formerly Esther Snoddy, was interned at Kilmainham Jail during that period and while in prison, made the Republican flag which, 71 years later, was placed on Pat Purcell's coffin. Mrs Purcell was helped in the making of the flag by another Carlow woman, Mrs Brid Ryan, formerly Brid Brophy.

Pat later played his part in the democratic process of peacetime, joining Fianna Fáil at its establishment by Eamon de Valera in 1926. For the remainder of his life, he was a prominent Fianna Fáil activist, voting in every general election in the history of the State.

In 1919, Pat married Margaret Snoddy from Blackbog, Carlow, a member of Cumann na mBan and of a well-known Republican family She pre-deceased him by some 15 years.

First job as coffin maker

Pat's first job was a coffin maker in the Old Union Workhouse on Kilkenny Road. A number of years later he went to work with his uncle, Mr. Bill Purcell, at the Purcell undertaking business in Tullow Street.

Around 1920, Pat established his own building concern at Cockpit Lane, behind present day Haddens store, and continued in the building trade for more than half a century.

During this time he also operated an undertaking business from the same location assisted by the late Pado Redmond whom Pat and Margaret reared following the death at a young age, of Pado's father.

Pat Purcell had a life-long interest in local and national history. He collected many documents and artefacts in his younger days, many of which are today on public display in the County Carlow Museum at Carlow Town Hall.

Pat was voluntary curator of the museum for many years, retiring from the position in the late 1980s.

Instrumental in the establishment of the Carlow County Heritage Society, Pat was a leading light in that organisation from its initiation and was Honorary President of the society at the time of his death.

His interest in things Irish found further expression when spearheading the establishment during the 1980s, of an all-Irish speaking primary school.

Although in his late 80s at the time, Pat was an active fundraiser in the early stages of what is now Gaelscoil Eoghain Ui Thuairisc.

In later years he was a supporter of Castledermot Senior Citizens committee, also teaching crafts in the local centre for the blind.

Twice nominated for the Irish Life National Pensioner of the Year Award, in 1985 and '92, Pat was runner-up on both occasions.

Up to a few weeks before his death, he attended musical functions in lounges throughout the Carlow area. He loved to take part in dancing and to join in the fun of the evening. He gave up cigarette smoking in 1940, thereafter smoking a pipe.

His remains was removed to the Church of the Holy Cross, Killeshin, where they were received by Bishop Laurence Ryan, Fr John Fingleton, PP, Graiguecullen, celebrated the Mass.

Fr Jim O' Connell, CC, celebrated the Requiem Mass on Sunday morning after which burial, with full military honours, took place in the adjoining cemetery.

Members of Killeshin Pipe Band, playing a lament led the cortege to the graveside.

A firing detail from Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny under Army Sergeant B. Mills, fired a volley of shots over the coffin while a bugler sounded The Last Post.

An oration was delivered at the graveside by Mr. Frank Smith, Carlow, High Chief Ranger, Irish National Forresters Association (INF), an organisation of which Pat Purcell was a staunch and life-long member.

Foresters provided a guard of honour on both occasions with many travelling from various parts of the country – a contingent attended from Northern Ireland.

Mr. Purcell is survived by his son, John (Quinagh): daughter-in-law. Eileen: three grandchildren, P. J., Donal and Loretto, and the Redmond family, Brownshill.


My late father's only brother, we affectionately called him "auld Pat," developing, as he did, from an early age, a deep sense of history. It seemed to us that he was always old. A marvellous raconteur, he had observed the passing of his generation and took great pride in sharing the stories passed down, as he would say "from the old people long ago."

Encouraging the research efforts of others with his photographic memory, he could recall instantly dates and events long since passed. Grateful for his long and healthy life, comforted by a strong Christian faith, he left us assured that the last word is not with death but life eternal.

Now his familiar figure
walks no more
The paths he trod in seeking
to explore
The past, his passing
pageant to explain
And show to us what traces
of those days remain
He knew who once lived
where and sometimes how,
What houses stood where
others cluster now.
He was in love with words
and wrote with pride
Of his dear town and
Killeshin countryside.
New chroniclers will come
and go.
But yet Pat and his gifts to us
we'll not forget.
One can picture him, eyes twinkling, adjusting his glasses, saying: "Wasn't that a good one" – so it was Pat, and thanks. – M.P.
Oration at Graveside

A life-long member of the Irish National Forresters the following oration was delivered at his graveside by Mr. Frank Smith, Carlow, High Chief Ranger, (I.N.F) at the burial in Killeshin cemetery:

A great life has ended, a long and fruitful life has drawn to a close, but memories of Pat will live on with all who knew and greatly admired the "Chief", as he was affectionately known to many of us. Mere words are inadequate to describe the esteem in which this man was held by all who knew him. Pat, at all times in his dealings with his fellow man, personified gentleness and kindness, a man of integrity and unique honesty. A great friend to have. Pat played many parts during his lifetime, a noted historian and a self-taught scholar with an in-dept knowledge of the history of his beloved country. His many friends on numerous committees will miss him.

Emerging from the bosom of a family steeped in Republican tradition, Pat, when called upon, joined with his fellow Irish men to bring freedom, justice and peace to our land. He expressed his abhorrence of violence and truly believed that dialogue was the true road to peace. He loved his country and like all true Irishmen, hoped and prayed that one day it would align with the free nations of the world. Today's Peace Process movement and hope for the future would gladden Pat's heart. Thank God he enjoyed some weeks of peace.

Pat's contribution to our Society, the Irish National Forresters, is immeasurable whether as Chief Ranger of our local Branch or as High Chief Ranger – he brought a dignity to those offices which won the admiration of all Foresters who knew him. Over a period of almost eight decades, Pat exemplified, upheld and, in his own inimitable way, promoted the aims and aspirations of our society in its concept of unity, nationality and benevolence.

A man who valued his Christian beliefs very highly, Pat expounded, through the Catholic ethos, this faith, while at the same time respecting the views of other denominations to kneel and worship at the altar of their choice. His family and extended family were very dear to him. Those of us who were privileged to visit the Purcell household came away edified and in admiration of the closeness of that family unit. To Pat, we say farewell on behalf of our Society and all of its members. I say thank you for the major contribution you made to our Order and the pleasant memories that will live on. To his immediate family, John, Eileen and grandchildren, I extend my deepest sympathy and the condolences of all the members of the Irish National Forresters. To God we say please reward Pat with a place in your eternal kingdom.

If it were possible to pen a letter to Pat, I would address that letter to Paradise.

Ar Dheis de go raibh a Anam.

NEXT PAGE - William Purcell & Sons



The Irish National Foresters (Coillteoirí Náisiúnta na hÉireann in Irish) is an Irish friendly society.

Additional note by M. Brennan c.2007.

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