03 January 2006

My personal link to Ireland’s hidden history

Irish Examiner


I WISH to congratulate RTÉ and the participating historians for its recent Hidden History series, in particular the Burning of Cork programme.

When I was a very young lad, I remember my mother telling me how difficult those times were, but I never realised how bad until I saw it on my TV screen.

She often spoke about the courage of the hunger strikers - great men like Lord Mayor Terence MacSweeney, Michael Fitzgerald, and her own brother, Joseph Murphy, from Pouladuff Road in Cork.

My uncle, Joe Murphy, was born at 129 Brookline Street, Linn, Massachusetts, circa 1896.

He came to Ireland with his parents in the early 1900s.

He received his education in Togher National School and, when he left school, worked for Cork County Council.

He was a deeply religious man, being a member of the Third Order of St Francis, the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and a non-smoker.

He was a very keen sportsman and played hurling with the Plunkett’s club in Togher parish, but his real love was road bowling. I have been told by old timers who knew him that he was the Mick Barry of his day.

He joined the Irish Volunteers at a young age and became involved in the fight for freedom.

The exact reason for his arrest and imprisonment was never confirmed but the charge supposedly was possession of an incendiary device. This was never proven.

His hunger strike began on August 11, 1920, and, having received the last rites, he died at 8.35pm on Tuesday, October 25, after 76 day’s fast. He was 24.

He was buried in the Republican Plot in St Finbarr’s Cemetery on October 27, 1920.

There is a plaque to him on the wall of the old family home, known as Joe Murphy House, at Lower Pouladuff Road.

He also had a road named after him and some memorabilia is on display in the Cork Museum in Fitzgerald Park.

The Joe Murphy Cumann was formed with the foundation of Fianna Fáil in 1926 - the first party cumann.

I am very proud, as the nephew of Joe Murphy, to be the present secretary of this cumann which this year will celebrate its 80th anniversary.

There were, of course, many young men like Joe who gave their lives for the cause of Irish freedom and, certainly, their bravery should never be forgotten.

Richard Delaney
14 Green Lawn
Kinsale Road

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