The East Clare Memorial Committee, the longest serving commemoration groups of its kind in Clare, will privately commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the Scariff Martyrs.
The group had significant plans in place including the commissioning of a boat to carry symbolic lights from Whitegate to Killaloe as well as a horse drawn carriage to convey them back to Scariff, as part of a dramatic journey to draw attention to places associated with story of the four young men, shot dead by British Forces on Killaloe Bridge on 16 November 1920.
With these now postponed until 2021, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the committee had announced they will still mark the occasion.
Treasurer of the group, Shane Walsh explained that in recent months, Scariff Martyrs 100, the group’s centenary campaign has seen many positive actions including the wearing of black armbands by Scariff and Smith O’Briens hurling clubs who met in this year’s Intermediate Hurling semi-final.
The group were also featured on a national television feature on Guth an Phobail, installed a commemorative panel on Killaloe bridge, and have arranged the cleaning of associated monuments, the bridge of Killaloe and the commissioning of audio-visual feature on the story. The committee also worked with Scariff GAA Club who have commissioned a special commemorative jersey to honour the men.
According to Walsh, such action has been met with huge positivity: ‘Our commemoration plans have always been part of an ongoing effort to find innovative ways of raising awareness of the Scariff Martyrs as well as the broader struggle for independence in East Clare. We have been able to deliver on several our plans over the summer which has been really positive.
We’ve had contact from all around the world from east Clare people who have been touched by one action or another, which is also really heartening. Of course, we are devastated that our main plans which we’ve been working on had to be postponed but we’ll continue as we have done and in 2021, we’ll be back honouring the men again.’
Cllr. Pat Hayes, who has been Chairman of the Committee for more than twenty years expressed his disappointment that the plans in place for the centenary could not be realised in 2020:
“We have worked over many years to preserve and share the story of the Scariff Martyrs and had plans in place for several years for the Centenary Commemoration. Over the summer we worked very hard to reconstruct our plans and create a COVID proof event. However, the Level 5 restrictions in place mean that we are no longer able to proceed with our larger plans this year. This is very disappointing to us all, but it just was not possible or responsible to go ahead due to public health advice’
Cllr Hayes emphasised that the main plans will take place in 2021 and that for the centenary this weekend, the event will be commemorated according to the dignity it deserves: ‘Our main events will now take place in 2021 but we will mark the centenary in both Killaloe and Scariff in a private and dignified way and conscious of public health guidelines. Because the public can’t be present, we are running a live Facebook stream from Killaloe Bridge at 11.00pm on the night of November 16th to mark 100 years from the moment the men were killed, he concluded.
The livestream event will be broadcast on the group’s Facebook page, Scariff Martyrs 100.
Seventy-five years later, Kathleen gets her honour
In early October, before the Level 5 restrictions were imposed, East Clare Memorial Committee made a special visit to New Inn, County Galway, where 90-year-old Kathleen Mitchell lives as part of their Scariff Martyrs 100 Campaign.
Kathleen is the niece of Martin Gildea and is the oldest living relative of any of the Scariff Martyrs. In 1945, when the large monument that now stands at their grave in Scariff Church grounds was erected, Kathleen was there as a young girl. It has been her long held wish to attend the 100th commemoration to honour her uncle and the other men.
The Committee determined that if Kathleen could not come to honour her uncle, then they go to her. They arranged to have the photo of her uncle restored to a level where she had never seen him before, which they then framed with a special inscription to mark the occasion.
While adhering strict social distancing during the visit, Cllr Pat Hayes, Shane Walsh, Tomás Mac Conmara and Mike Rodgers recorded their sense of the emotion shown by Kathleen while looking into the eyes of her uncle as she had never seen him before.
On the Bridge of Killaloe
As part of their ‘Scariff Martyrs 100’, the East Clare Memorial Committee unveiled a commemorative panel in Killaloe, designed and installed by Killaloe artist, PJ Conroy in memory of ‘The Four Who Fell’, as they are known in Killaloe.
The panel is located on the Clare side of Killaloe Bridge and draws attention to the many passers-by in November 2020, of the significance of the site for local and Irish history. John McGrath, a member of the committee, was on hand with PJ for the unveiling.
The Freedom to Hurl
100 years ago, the town of Scariff and all east Clare was under British Rule. Hurling was banned and any assembly of young men seen with hurleys would be arrested. Alphie Rodgers was among many young men who actively fought against this oppression with the East Clare IRA.
A century later, his great grandnephew Mark Rodgers is a senior Clare inter-county panellist, hurling freely and openly as a result of his great grand uncle’s sacrifice and that of his comrades. Mark Rodgers is seen here wearing a black armband in the County Intermediate Semi-Final, at which the East Clare Memorial Committee arranged to have both Scariff and Smith O’Briens (Killaloe), so associated with the event, wear black armbands in their memory.