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
- During the war, in January 1923, Pat's brother-in-law, Ned Snoddy
from Blackbog, Carlow was killed in action at Palatine, outside Carlow
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
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 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
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
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
If it were possible to pen a letter to Pat, I would address
that letter to Paradise.
Ar Dheis de go raibh a Anam.
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Purcell & Sons
Additional note by M. Brennan c.2007.