Struggle for Irish freedom brought to life for Cork students

Struggle for Irish freedom brought to life for Cork students

Shirley Kelleher, grandniece of Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago, speaking on his life and death to sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, during a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Sixth class students at Togher Boys’ National School have been exploring the fascinating history on their doorstep with the help and encouragement of their teachers and the local community.

This week, the students, who have been learning all about the momentous events of 1920, had the opportunity to visit St Finbarr’s Cemetery, the resting place of many Irish Republicans who died in the struggle for Irish freedom.

At the cemetery, the boys were addressed by Shirley Kelleher, the grandniece of Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike in Cork Gaol on October 25, 1920, at the age of 25.

Shirley Kelleher, (right) grandniece of Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago, who gave a talk on his life and death to sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, pictured with (from left) William Murphy, teacher; Sinéad Moynihan, deputy principal, and Kathleen O'Keeffe of Togher Historical Association. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Shirley Kelleher, (right) grandniece of Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago, who gave a talk on his life and death to sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, pictured with (from left) William Murphy, teacher; Sinéad Moynihan, deputy principal, and Kathleen O'Keeffe of Togher Historical Association. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“The boys were very excited when we were studying Terence MacSwiney in class. 

“We discovered there were lots of local heroes involved as well in the uprising in Cork at the time, including Joe Murphy” Sinéad Moynihan, deputy principal and a sixth class teacher at the school said.

Ms Moynihan said studying the War of Independence enkindled in the boys a very keen interest in Cork’s past and, in particular, their local area.

Niko Janicki (left) and James Blackwell, two of the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, who attended a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Niko Janicki (left) and James Blackwell, two of the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, who attended a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“Togher was a real hotbed of activity at the time. 

“In Togher, life was made unbearable for the Crown forces. 

“We discovered lots of small things when reading different articles.

“The Volunteers used to store the ammunition in a house in Pouladuff. 

Three of the pupils from one of the school pods (from left) William Corcoran, Kyle Newman and Nathan Khan were among the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, attending a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. The talk was given by his grandniece Shirley Kelleher. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Three of the pupils from one of the school pods (from left) William Corcoran, Kyle Newman and Nathan Khan were among the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, attending a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. The talk was given by his grandniece Shirley Kelleher. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“They had a piggery behind the house and they actually put a trap door under the piggery,” Ms Moynihan said by way of example. 

“The boys were struck by how clever these men were,” she continued.

Studying local history also gave the boys more of an understanding of place names in the area.

Luke Fitzpatrick Cotter and Yusuf Traore, two of the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, in their school pod, asking questions at a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Luke Fitzpatrick Cotter and Yusuf Traore, two of the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, in their school pod, asking questions at a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“Some of the boys would live in an estate called Market Gardens and they wouldn’t have thought about why it was called Market Gardens before but we know now that John Joe Hegarty - a man involved with the Volunteers at the time - he was a market gardener and he used to take his produce into Elizabeth Fort to sell it inside and when he was in there he used to keep his ears cocked and overheard a lot of what was going on with the English at the time,” Ms Moynihan explained.

Four of the pupils from one of the school pods (from left) Shane Millard, Kaylem Murphy, Ryan Cremin and Kayden Cruise were among the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, attending a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. The talk was given by his grandniece Shirley Kelleher. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Four of the pupils from one of the school pods (from left) Shane Millard, Kaylem Murphy, Ryan Cremin and Kayden Cruise were among the sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, attending a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. The talk was given by his grandniece Shirley Kelleher. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The students were also aided in their research by Togher Historical Association. 

The group supplied the class with some articles written about Joe Murphy, who was himself a past pupil of the school.

“It was a whole community effort, which made the whole thing very interesting and worthwhile,” Ms Moynihan said.

Ms Moynihan said the students were greatly looking forward to being addressed by Joe Murphy’s grandniece.

Shirley Kelleher, grandniece of Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago, speaking on his life and death to sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, during a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Shirley Kelleher, grandniece of Joe Murphy who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago, speaking on his life and death to sixth class pupils from Togher Boys NS, Cork, during a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“I was very fortunate in that Joe Murphy’s grandniece, Shirley Kelleher, is very interested in local history and she was also in my class in primary school so I contacted her and she said she would be delighted to address the boys.”

Ms Kelleher recently produced and co-directed a documentary on the life of Joe Murphy entitled Joe Murphy, The Boy From Pouladuff, which was released last month on Cork City Council’s website in tandem with My Unsung Hero, a play about the life of Joe Murphy, written and produced by Maurice Dineen.

Some of the sixth class pupils from one of the school pods from Togher Boys NS, Cork, attending a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Some of the sixth class pupils from one of the school pods from Togher Boys NS, Cork, attending a talk at St. Finbarr's Cemetery, Cork, on the life and death of Joe Murphy, a past pupil of the school, who died on hunger strike at Cork Gaol 100 years ago. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“The whole point of me telling Joe’s story is to educate youngsters and they were so interested. It was lovely – they had plenty of questions,” Ms Kelleher told The Echo.

The boys will now put together local history projects based on what they have learned.

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