A Tale of Two Presidents

Independence Museum Kilmurry Official Opening 21 August 2016
Image: Diarmaid Galvin - Laoi Film
Framed signed print image of Éamon De Valera dated 28 July 1925
Independence Museum Kilmurry 21/8/16 Official Opening: Courtesy of Laoi Film
Anthony O'Sullivan formally thanking President Higgins for his official opening speech

The late Anthony O’ Sullivan was a stalwart and long standing member of the Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association and also served as Vice President in his time. The opening of a new building (Independence Museum Kilmurry) to house the former Terence MacSwiney Memorial Museum – of which his mother, Mary O’ Sullivan, was a founding member – was a proud day for Anthony.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


A recent (2020) visit from Mary Mullins requesting me to write some composition about Kilmurry for her publication –The Way We Were by Mary Mullins/Crookstown Social Club (2020) – was met with an air of reluctance. Kilmurry was already well covered in various books and pamphlets and anything more would be boring repetition.  Mary Mullins as I should have well known does not entertain the word no; leaving me no option but to search my faltering memory for some material relative to the village …

Kilmurry, for its size and population, is unique in that it has been honoured by official visits of two of Ireland’s Presidents.

Seán O’Hegarty’s Funeral

The first visit was by President Éamon de Valera in June 1963 for the funeral of Seán O’Hegarty, former Commandant of the First Cork Brigade of the IRA. Seán was born at 26, Evergreen Street, Cork on the 21 March 1881. He was the second son of John O’Hegarty and Katherine Hallahan. Seán’s brother P.S. O’Hegarty was born fifteen months earlier and would go on to be a noted revolutionary historian and senator. John O’Hegarty’s  family originated in Macroom. Seán’s mother, Katherine, came from farming stock in the Kilmichael area. She was the daughter of Katherine Grainger and Patrick Hallahan, and granddaughter of Ellen McCarthy Mór and John Grainger of Duniskey.

So hence President Éamon de Valera’s presence in the village was to honour one of Cork’s greatest soldiers in the War of Independence. Also attending that day to honour their comrade were renowned veterans of that same war, General Tom Barry, Dan Breen and Tom Hales. Among the chief mourners were Gráinne Yeats and her husband Michael, son of W.B. Yeats. Gráinne, a renowned harpist was the daughter of P.S. O’Hegarty, Seán’s  brother. Seán O’Hegarty’s remains are interred in St. Mary’s Graveyard, Kilmurry, in the Grainger plot.


Opening of Independence Museum Kilmurry in 2016

The second great occasion for the village was the visit of President Michael D Higgins to perform the official opening of the Independence Museum Kilmurry on 21 August  2016. This museum is dedicated to the memory of another famous Corkman, Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork who preceded Seán O’Hegarty, as Commandant of the First Cork Brigade of the IRA. Terence was a close friend of the O’Hegarty brothers. Like Seán O’Hegarty, Terence’s family came from the locality. The MacSwiney family originally lived in Clodagh, Crookstown and like the Graingers and Hallahans still have family members in the area. Terence MacSwiney died on 25 October 1920 in Brixton Prison, London after 74 days on hunger strike and his name is revered around the world.

The President and his wife Sabina were welcomed and introduced to the large gathering by Mr Noel Howard Chairman of the Kilmurry Historical Association, also in attendance on the day was Mr Seamus McGrath Mayor of Cork County, Mr Michael Creed TD, Mr Andrias Moynihan TD and Mr Conor Nelligan Heritage Officer Cork County Council.

A small village in the mid-Cork area honoured by the presence of two Presidents – no small boast!



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