Images © Mrs
Janet Brennan 2000
Duckett’s Grove and some Great Women
I often wondered how many people who saw the gaunt outline of what
remained of Ducketts Grove standing out against the skyline knew anything
about its past or how it got the name ‘Duckett’s Grove’. I once heard a
person give the reason for the name as that at one time there was a grove of
trees on that spot owned by a man named Duckett who erected the building on
the site after the trees were felled, at least he had part of it right.
The Ducketts were part of an old English family dating back to the
twelfth century at least. Thomas, first settler of the name in Ireland was
directly descended from John Duckett of Grayrigg, who had obtained the
estate of Grayrigg for his marriage to Margaret, daughter and heiress of
William DeWendemare, Lord of the Manor of Grayrigg. This said, John Duckett
was son of Hugh Duckett of Fillingham, Lincolnshire, and great grandson of
Richard Duckett’s of Fillingham in the reign of John Henry III.
It would appear that John Dawson Duckett was in Ducketts Grove in 1842.
The religion of the Ducketts was never fully established, some say they were
Protestants while others say they were Quakers. There is no doubt about the
fact that Quaker ceremonies were held outside the house in the early years
of the 19th century. Some of the older people told their descendants of
hearing the music of a Harmonium and singing in the long Summer evenings.
The family had their own private burial ground located on the eastern side
of Knocknacree Hill near the main road road between Castledermot and Tullow.
While the house survived the burning and destruction of the many big houses
which went on during the war of independence and to some extent during the
Civil War the house was burned to the ground by a fire which is stated to
have started accidentally in 1933.
However it is not to write about the Duckett’s that we intend to do in
the short amount of space at our disposal but of some of the people who
lived in it in what were referred to in Ireland as the troubled times.
Things had been bad during the War of Independence and some f the most
brutal acts describable were performed, often against innocent civilians,
during those terrible few years. When eventually the treaty was signed and
people thought that peace had come at last the bitterness between Proand
Anti-Treaty supporters saw Irishman kill fellow Irishman with little regard
for the fact that he was doing something he had spent years trying to stop.
The men who died in Dublin and other place in 1916 along with those who fell
fighting for freedom for over seven hundred years must surely have turned in
their graves at what was happening in the country.
But then the English motto of “Divide and Conquer” seemed to be still
working, even though they were no longer involved. It was in 1922 during the
Civil War that the IRA took over Duckett’s Grove and used it as GHQ of the
area for a while. Many of the top brass of the organisation passed through
the doors of the building and many a plan was made to ambush the Free State
lorries and to obtain precious arms and ammunition were discussed and
sanctioned inside the stately walls of Duckett’s Grove. Let us not for a
moment think that only the male sex occupied the building, many of the
female kind spent time inside the walls of what had once been bedrock of
Imperialism but was now a place of rest for those who were still refusing to
accept the terms of the English House of Parliament.
I am sure that the builders and previous owners never for a moment
thought that the building would be used by those attempting to break the
chains of bondage and feel the breeze of freedom after 700 yeas. Now let us
have a word about some of the great women, including Carlow women, who
graced the interior of Duckett’s Grove with their presence.
Although women had been involved in Irish history in individual ways down
through the centuries it was not until the end of the 19th and the beginning
of the 20th century that groups of women were formed for certain purposes
with their aim the promotion of Irish history and, in their various ways,
eventually Irish freedom. One of the first groups was the Ladies Land League
but perhaps one of the strongest of such groups was organised by one of the
last people in the world they thought would so, a British soldiers daughter,
who established Inighnide na hEireann (Daughters of
Ireland). The aims of this organisation were the complete independence of
Ireland thought through the using as much as possible of Irish gods, the
revival of the Irish language and the restoration of Irish customs, games,
music and dancing. The first meeting was attended by over 25 women who
elected five vice-presidents: Jenni Wise Power
(former member of the
Ladies Land League during the land league war of 1880’s),
(Producer of the paper Shan Van Vocht (Poor old Woman)),
(wife of Fenian, James Egan),
Alice Furlong who been one of the
chief organisers of the Patriotic Children’s Treat Committee, organised as a
riposte to the visit of Queen Victoria in 1900.
In all probability members of this organisation were later to become
members of the Cumann na mBan who had members in all parts of the country
and were affiliated to the IRA. Examples of the bravery of these girls
during the War of Independence was to be found in every county in Ireland.
One such example was that of a girl who later arrived in Duckett’s Grove. On
the night of 20th November 1920 Linda Kearns
was driving a car along
the mountain road leading Sligo. We must remember that at this time road
blocks were set up on most roads leading into towns and that the only chance
of avoiding them was to take some little used and little known road. Linda
had three IRA men as passengers in the car but what was even worse was the
car was full of arms including rifles and revolvers as well as ammunition.
The road they had chosen was more a lane than a road and they were supposed
to be warned if there was any danger. Imagine their surprise when they were
arrested and following her trial was sentenced to ten years penal servitude.
She was transferred from Sligo Barracks to Sligo Jail where she feared for
her life as other prisoners who had been in the Jail were “shot while trying
to escape”. She was later brought to other Jails and following her sentence
she was sent to Walton Prison in Liverpool where she went on hunger strike
to get to an Irish prison. She was brought to Ireland after ten days when
she became very weak.
The authorities felt that if she died in an English prison she would
become a female martyr in the Irish cause. Following the singing of the
truce which was declared on 11th July 1921 some important prisoners were
released and the remainder were allowed concessions such as walking together
in the prison yard and receiving visitors. Despite the fact that the truce
had been on for four months the girls were still in prison and had now made
up their minds to try to escape. Following preparations the escape date was
fixed for Halloween, 31st October.
This was also the evening that a football match had been arranged between
Cork and ‘the Rest of Ireland’ (Think of Germany v the Rest in the Second
World War film). While the onlookers were cheering the footballers,
Kearns, Eithne Coyle, May Burke and Aileen K’Eogh
made their escape.
It was when the British were informed of their hiding place that the
girls were moved to Duckett’s Grove in Co Carlow where they remained until
the Treaty was signed.
Source: The Nationalist
Archives Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Steuart James Charles Duckett
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