Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Duckett's Grove, 1920's


Source: Carlow Nationalist c2007

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, Maud Gonne, 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), Anna Johnston (Producer of the paper Shan Van Vocht (Poor old Woman)), Annie Egan (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, Linda 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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