An Historical Win for St. Brigid’s Greystones

Photo by Tomás Tyner UCC

Photo by Tomás Tyner UCC

St. Brigid’s NS., received some really good news recently when they heard 6th Class had won first prize in the prestigious ‘Decade of Centenaries’ all-island schools history competition. This was a joint history project from both Mr. Dodd’s & Ms. Murray’s Sixth Classes. The competition is an annual one, sponsored by the Department of Education, Mercier Press & UCC’s School of History and supported by the ‘History Ireland’ magazine. The students from St. Brigid’s won in the ‘Women’s History’ section. New principal Mrs. Máire Costello was delighted to announce the news and to congratulate both 6th classes and their teachers.

With the support of a proud Board of Management, a group of the children represented the school at the prize giving in the Aula Maxima of University College, Cork, (UCC’s own Hall at Hogwart’s) on Monday 21st May 2018. The prize was a history trophy and mini library from the Mercier press website to a value of €200. All winning entries will be digitized online and one of the winners will be considered for publication in an issue of ‘History Ireland’.

St. Brigid’s entry was based on research originally done for a dramatic re enactment of scenes from the lives of Muriel & Grace Gifford, Kitty Kiernan & Sinead De Valera. These women all had a connection to Greystones in those revolutionary times 1916 – 1922. In September 2017, 6th Class students performed episodes from these women’s lives, with musical accompaniment at the La Touche Legacy’s annual Festival of History. This was at the invitation of the La Touche Legacy committee.

6th Class were very happy to receive congratulations from local TDs; Minister for Health, Mr. Simon Harris and Stephen Donnelly. ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and the children from 6th Class St. Brigid’s would like to acknowledge the encouragement of Councillor George Jones and local historian Rosemary Raughter and the members of the La Touche Seminar Committee, whose original invitation to participate in the La Touche Seminar inspired the children’s interest in this particular aspect of local history.

By the same token, students would like to thank the Greystones Guide for the great articles on the history of Greystones and the treasure trove of photos of Greystones long ago that feature on the Guide.  The children in St. Brigid’s take a lively interest in local history as you can tell from this blog.

The De Valera Family and St. Brigid’s Greystones

The following is and extract from

History of

Greystones Convent

and Blacklion School


Sister M. Dolorosa


President De Valera (and his family)

‘The year was 1917. Sister Mary Rose was called to the parlour  

‘a lady wished to see her’.

As the Sister stood for a moment, framed in the parlour doorway,

the visitor noted the kindly lines in her face.

‘A warm heart beats with’, she though, ‘which all her Victorian dignity,

and the Jansenistic rigour of her generation, cannot hide’.

In her turn, the Sister looked at the dainty figure befor her:

a fair-hair lady with a gentle dignity, and the most winning of smiles.

The nun’s heart went out to her at once.

‘I’m Mrs. De Valera,’ the lady introduced herself.

‘De Valera!’ Sister Mary Rose was conscious of a little inward shiver.

‘The name was not at all common.

Could it be connected with that dreadful Rebel? She sincerely hoped not!’

Like all nuns of the period, she was naively ignorant of the world of politics.

Of course, she knew what rebellions were.

Had she not heard endless discussion in her own home and ’98. 1803 and 1848!

Then there was 1867, when she had been in the Convent for six years,

and the recent trouble in 1916 …

What bloodshed! What loss of life! And all in vain!

Would her dear misguided countrymen never learn sense?

Untrained, and with the most primitive of weapons,

‘with every recurring folly, they were prepared to defy a mighty Empire.

Of what use were pikes against the British cannons?

To be sure, they must have had some guns in 1916: a number of people were shot!’

The mere thought of taking life was enough to make Sister Mary Rose feel faint.

She recoiled in horror from these thoughts,

but was far too well-bred and courteous

to allow them to effect her manner to the visitor.

‘How do you do, Mrs. De Valera. Won’t you be seated, please.’

Her hostess indicated the sofa.

‘Now, what can I do for you?’

‘I have come to ask you to take my two eldest children into the school.

Vivion is almost seven years of age, while Mairín is not yet six.’

A Valued Friendship

The interview proved to be the beginning of a warm friendship

between the Sisters of the Holy Faith in Greystones,

and the family of Éamon De Valera, now President of Ireland.

Moreover, Sister Mary Rose was to live long enough to learn,

that the latest ‘recurring folly’ of her ‘dear misguided countrymen’

was not ‘all in vain’, after all!

The Children Come to School

When the De Valera family took up residence in one of the stucco houses on Kinlen Road, in 1917,

they hardly realized at the time that they were settling among a very unsympathetic and hostile community.

Before they left the district, however in 1922, many had thawed out and succumb to the charm of this family,

the members of which were ready to suffer so much, and make such sacrifices for their ideals.

Vivion and Mairín came to the Convent School and made their First Holy Communion with the Sisters,

before the family returned to Dublin.

Éamonn, Brian and Ruaidhrí, all attended the school, while Emer was a little visitor of four at the time.

On their return to the City, they continued their education in the Holy Faith Schools, Haddington Road,

until they changed their residence to another district.

The youngest, Terry, is the only member of the De Valera family, who did not attend a Holy Faith School.

Since that sad period of our country’s history, having come through many suffering and vicissitudes,

from which they were bravely shielded by their valiant mother, the children,

after distinguished academic careers, have become:

Major Vivion De Valera, MsC, PhD.

Miss Máirín De Valera, Msc, PhD.

(at present Professor of Botany in University College, Galway).

Éamonn De Valera, MAO, MD, FRCPI

(Professor of Gynaecology & Obstetrics in University College, Dublin).

Ruaidhrí De Valera, MA, PhD

(Professor of Celtic Archaeology in University College, Dublin).

Emer De Valera, BA,

(cut short a university career to become Mrs. Brian Ó Cuív).

Toirdhealbhach De Valera is a solicitor.

Alas! Brian’s name is absent from the list.

He met with a sad accident at the age of twenty (1936), when he was thrown from a horse.

This was not the least of the many great sacrifices which this family has been called upon to offer to God.

The Language Movement

…..In 1917, just at the time when the family of President De Valera came to live in Greystones,

the Language movement was in full swing.

The coveted ‘Fáinne’ was becoming quite fashionable.

Understandably, the nuns did not like to be left behind in this particular field,

but at the time, they could not leave their convents in order to attend classes outside.

The delight of the Sisters in Greystones, when they discovered that

they had an experienced teacher of the Irish language in their midst,

in the person of Mrs. De Valera, who was willing to conduct classes in the Convent,

can well be imagined.

Mrs. De Valera gave them every help in the study of the Language. …

Mrs. De Valera also taught Irish to the children in the school in Greystones,

thus the Sisters’ pupils benefited, too.

Ireland’s First Lady

Wishing to put on record an account of this friendship

between the Sisters of the Holy Faith and the family of President De Valera,

we applied to Mrs. De Valera for confirmation.

…Realizing that if she compied with our wishes in writing,

she might be harassed by others looking for written memorials –

a task to which she felt very unequal in her eight-sixth year

– she decided on a personal interview instead;

a privilege for which we would not have dared to hope!

On December 31st, 1964, Mrs. De Valera, as ‘Ireland’s First Lady’,

paid a visit to the Convent to which she had first come in 1917.

The pleasure of this visit for her, must have mingled with sadness.

All the old faces were gone; all the old friends were dead.

There was no Sister Mary Rose to receive her.

And alas! For the ‘Victorian dignity’ and (we hope!) the ‘Jansenistic rigour’

– they had vanished a generation ago.

Instead she was ‘hugged and kissed’

and ‘physically’ conducted to a modern armchair in lieu of the ‘indicated sofa’.

We trust that the warm affection which inspired this conduct compensated for our lost of dignity!

There sat this little lady with the gracious smile, telling us in her own simple and homely way

about the only people who held out the hand of friendship

to her in her years of trial in Greystones from 1917 to 1922:

the Sisters of the Holy Faith.

How even Sister Mary Rose’s heart,

melted in kindness toward the ‘dreadful Rebel’ so as much as to pray

and ask others to pray that Our Lady would make him invisible to his enemies.

An Bhean De Valera was accompanied by her daughter, Professor Máirín De Valera , who related

how impressed the De Valera children had been by the kindness of all the nuns,

but especially by that of Sister Mary Paulinus.

This Sister was in charge of the kitchen.

When any of the children were put out of the school-room ‘in disgrace’,

Sister Mary Paulinus called them into the kitchen,

where their ‘penance’ was changed into pleasure by the enjoyment of some titbit or sweetmeat.

Yes, the Sisters took the De Valera family and the Cause they embraced, to their hearts.

In those early days the Cause was fought under the banner of ‘Sinn Féin’.

The day came when the Sisters went to the polls to vote.

Sister Mary Rose, with all the affection she had for the family of Éamonn De Valera,

never took to the ‘Cause’.

When the Sisters returned after having registered their votes,

she on overhearing some of their whispered remarks, complained:

‘I’m afraid some of you have voted ‘Sinn Féin!’

The sole reason they had for voting at all!…

Informal Chats

When the chaos which reigned between 1917 and 1922 was finally brought under control

and Éamonn De Valera took his place in public life

as President of Dáil Eireann, under the first Constitution,

himself and Mrs. De Valera slipped down to Greystones,

on a few occasions, to have a chat with their old friends in the Convent.

During one of those visits (long before it ever appeared in print)

he described for the Sisters his romantic escape from Lincoln Jail:

how he procured the wax and got an impression of the Chaplain’s key;

how duplicates were made;

the thrill when the expected signal was flashed in the darkness outside;

the awful anxiety when the key which Collins and Boland had brought,

broke in the lock; the relief when his own duplicate worked;

his boyish sense of adventure as he passed the sentry unobserved,

and all the subsequent vicissitudes.

The card which comes every Christmas from Áras an Uachtaráin to the Sisters in Greystones,

is a gentle reminder of all the affectionate traditions which have been

handed down to a younger generation of nuns.

But they need no reminder to keep alive the deep regard

which they will always have for President & Mrs. De Valera

and each member of their family.’

End of extract from Sister Mary Dolorosa’s piece on the History of St.Brigid’s

Kitty Kiernan and Greystones

Kitty Kiernan often visited Greystones.

She had gone to school nearby

in the Loreto Boarding School, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

It was there in November 1908 that Kitty and her sisters

were told by the Mother Superior the sad news

that they had to return home immediately as their mother had died.

This was a shock to the sisters, particularly as it had been their father who had been ill.

Three months later their father also was dead.


The family were very unlucky.

The previous year, their nineteen year old twin sisters had died of TB (tuberculosis):

their sister Lily at home in Granard

and Rose in a hospital in Davos, Switzerland,

where she went in the hope of being cured.

Now the four teenage sisters and their brother Larry were orphans.

girls make history-3Creative Commons License Maria Morri via Compfight

Kitty got engaged to Michael Collins in the Grand Hotel in Greystones

(now known as The La Touche Hotel) on Saturday, 8th October 1921.

Locals say they were planning to buy Brooklands on Trafalgar Rd.,

and live there after they married. 


Michael Collins was killed in an ambush in Béal na Bláth before that could happen.

The ambush happened on the 22nd August 1922.


While they were dating Kitty and Michael had written hundreds of letters to each other.

The first was written by Collins in February or March 1919

and the last was from Kitty on 17th August 1922.


On Thursday May 4 1922 there was one addressed to

‘Miss Kiernan No 10’ in Greystones.

It started:

“Kitty dear, I knocked very gently on your door

but there was no answer and I didn’t have the heart to wake you up”

She stayed for some of the time in the Grand Hotel in Greystones while she was ill.

In one of her last letters to Collins, Kitty Kiernan had written:

‘l was terrified that you would take all kinds of risks

and how I wished to be near you

so that I could put my arms tightly around your neck

and that nothing could happen to you.

I wouldn’t be a bit afraid when I’d be beside you,

and if you were killed I’d be dying with you

and that would be great and far better

than if I were left alone behind.

I’d be very much alone if you were gone.

Nothing could change that, and all last week

and this I’ve realized it and that’s what makes it so hard’.

Two Women; Kitty Kiernan and Sinead De Valera – Their Stories, their Connections to Greystones and Their Place in History



The Irish Free State was an independent state established

on 6th December 1922

under the Anglo Irish Treaty of December 1921.

That treaty ended the Irish War of Independence between

the forces of the Irish Republic and the British forces.

The Easter Rising in 1916 had not been popular with the public.

But the execution of the leaders, changed people’s minds.

On Display at the Museum of Decorative Arts, Dublin. Lynn Gallagher via Compfight


This is the story of two women, with links to Greystones,

who had links to people fighting for Irish  freedom

in the lead up to the foundation of the Irish state.


You can read their stories below.

Or you can download a powerpoint of their stories here:

Two Women; Their Story & Their Place in History 


Kitty Kiernan

The powerpoint tells the story of Kitty Kiernan.

Kitty was engaged to Michael Collins.

They got engaged in The La Touche Hotel on Saturday, 8th October 1921.

Locals say they were planning to buy ‘Brooklands’ on Trafalgar Road,

and live there after they married.

Kitty hoped to have a double wedding with her sister Maud,

who was due to marry her fiancé Gearóid O Sullivan.


Michael Collins was assassinated at Beal na Bláth, County Cork

on 22nd August 1922.

At his funeral there were hundreds of wreaths

but only one floral tribute was allowed on the flag-covered coffin;

a single white peace lily.

It was from Kitty Kiernan.


Two months later, in October 1922,

Kitty attended Gearóid and Maud’s wedding,

dressed in black,

as she continued to mourn the loss of Michael Collins.


Sinéad  De Valera

The powerpoint also tells the story of Sinéad  De Valera.

Sinéad and her children lived in Greystones,

at Craig Liath, Kinlen Road, in the Burnaby

for five years from September 1917 until October 1922.

 Craig Liath was originally called Howbury.

If you are looking for it in the Burnaby it is called Edenmore now.


Éamon fought in the 1916 Rising.

In a note from De Valera to his wife Sinéad, written from Boland’s Bakery he wrote:

‘If I die pray for me. Kiss our children for me. Tell them their father died doing his duty.…

We showed that there were Irish men who, in face of great odds would dare what they said’.


Her husband Éamon was sentenced to death after the 1916 Rising.

This sentence  was commuted to penal servitude for life.

After the Rising, Éamon De Valera was taken prisoner.

On 8 May 1916 he was sentenced to death for his part in the Rising.

Later that sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.


Their fifth child Ruairí De Valera was born on 3rd November 1916

while his father was still in prison.

Having spent time in Mountjoy Jail in Dublin, Dartmoor Jail, Devon,

Maidstone Jail, Kent, Lewes Jail, Sussex and Pentonville Prison

on 16 June 1917 he was released from prison under a general amnesty.

In October 1917 he was elected President of Sinn Féin


In his book, ‘De Valera, A Will to Power’, Ronan Fanning explains

‘As president of Sinn Féin, De Valera was voted an annual salary of £500 a year

that enabled him to improve the material circumstances of his family he was to see so rarely before 1925 –

they now had five children – by renting a house in Greystones, on the railway line fifteen miles south of Dublin’.


Éamon went to America to raise funds

for the fight for Irish freedom.

Michael Collins visited the family every week,

bringing money and food parcels.


The De Valera’s eldest children Máirín De Valera

said that the

‘younger children could not remember my father

– my mother overheard Brian and Ruairí discussing him,

‘Who is Dev?’

‘I think he’s Mummy’s father’’


So Sinéad kept their large family together

during the times her husband was in jail,

in America,

on the run,

or busy with politics.


Her son Terry De Valera in his memoirs

describes his mother’s life as

‘anxious, stressful and exceptionally long’.


Many history books tell the story of

Michael Collins and Éamon De Valera.

We think Kitty Kiernan and Sinéad De Valera

deserve their place in history too.


The Gifford Sisters also found themselves involved

in the struggle for Irish freedom through their husbands.

You can read about their stories HERE.

Two Sisters; Grace and Muriel Gifford – Their Stories, Links with Greystones and Their Place in History

The script Barry Burke via Compfight


The Irish Free State was an independent state established on 6th December 1922

under the Anglo Irish Treaty of December 1921. 

That treaty ended the Irish War of Independence

between the forces of the Irish Republic and the British forces. 

The Easter Rising in 1916 had not been popular with the public.

But the execution of the leaders, changed people’s minds


This is the story of two sisters, with links to Greystones,

who were close to those fighting for Irish freedom

in the lead up to the foundation of the Irish state. 

They were the Gifford Sisters; Muriel and Grace.

You can read about their stories below or download their stories here:

 Two Sisters; Their Story & Their Place in History 


What were the Gifford family links to Greystones?

1.They used to come to Greystones on holidays as children every summer. 

There they learned to swim.

While their father took to teaching the boys, 

their mother appointed a woman called Ellen, 

who ensured the girls, would all become strong swimmers.


2.Muriel and Thomas had married on January 31, 1912. 

There is a letter from Éamon De Valera addressed to Thomas Macdonagh 

at Annaville, Church Rd., Greystones,  dated 17th September 1915.


3. Among Thomas Macdonagh’s family papers there are photographs from 1915

of Thomas Macdonagh’s  wife Muriel swimming in the sea at Greystones

and ‘dipping’ her baby daughter Barbara in the water.


Muriel Gifford

Muriel was married to Thomas MacDonagh.

He was one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising.

Muriel and Thomas’ son, Donagh MacDonagh, was born on the 12th November, 1912.

Their daughter, Bairbre, was born nearly three years later on the 24th March, 1915.

Muriel didn’t know that her husband was involved in planning the 1916 Rising. 

Muriel last saw her husband on Easter Sunday 1916

He said:

‘I may or may not see you tomorrow – if possible, I will come in the morning.’

He did not say anything about the Revolution. She never saw him afterwards.


For his part in the Rising, Thomas MacDonagh was executed

in the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Jail. 

A British officer was reported to have said afterwards: 

‘They all died well, but MacDonagh died like a prince’.


Very tragically,  year later Muriel drowned accidentally on the beach at Skerries

For the rest of her daughter’s Bairbre’s life, she kept a little eau-de-cologne cardboard box.

Inside were the seashells she had collected with her mother in Skerries in 1917.


Grace Gifford

Joseph  Mary  Plunkett and Grace Gifford were to have a joint wedding

with his sister Geraldine Plunkett and her fiancé Tom Dillon, 

on Easter Sunday, April 24 1916.

Joseph Plunkett felt it would not be fair to go ahead with their wedding

as there were rumours of a possible rising.

So he postponed the wedding.

While Geraldine and Tom went ahead with their wedding,

he took part in the Rising.


Sentenced to death for his part in the Rising, 

Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford were given permission to marry 

the night before his execution.

Grace said later 

“We, who never had enough time to say what we wanted to each other,

found that in that last ten minutes we couldn’t talk at all.”


This sad story was one of a number that changed public opinion and meant

there was increasing support for what had been an unpopular rising to begin with.


Many history books tell the story of 

Thomas MacDonagh and Joseph Mary Plunkett. 

We believe Muriel and Grace Gifford deserve their place in history too.


Kitty Kiernan and Sinéad De Valera found themselves involved

in the fight for Irish freedom through people in their lives.

Click on THIS link  to read their stories.

The Gifford Sisters; Muriel & Grace & their Connections with Greystones

We learned about the links between

Muriel and Grace Gifford and Greystones

from the book:

‘Unlikely Rebels – The Gifford Girls and the Fight for Irish Freedom’ 

by Anne Clare published by Mercier Press 2011


You can read about what we learned below

or download a powerpoint

about their connections with the town

where we go to school here:

Muriel& Grace Gifford; Their Connections with Greystones

What were the Gifford Sisters’ links with Greystones?

People standing on the beach in AstoriaCreative Commons License simpleinsomnia via Compfight

1. As children the Gifford family used to come to Greystones

on holidays every summer. 

There were twelve children in the family.

The Gifford children  learned to swim in Greystones.

While their father Frederick taught the boys,

their mother Isabella employed a woman called Ellen,

who made sure the girls, would be strong swimmers.

Creative Commons License Simon Greening via Compfight

On page 22 we read:

‘Frederick (their father) took an interest in gardening,

bringing some plants over from England.

One particular return from their two-month annual summer stay

in Greystones, County Wicklow,

was recalled by Nellie (their sister)

because on their arrival home

not only had the grass grown almost knee-high

but the plants her father had put down before leaving

were ‘climbing and sprawling’,

and, most curious of all, low-growing, very red apples were in fruit.

On biting the apples, the children discovered

they were a new ‘fruit’ which they had never encountered before

and which they were told were called tomatoes’

Vintage: Girls In White Dresses dvdflm via Compfight

2. Two sisters of Muriel and Grace; Nellie and  Ada

were bought  hats by their mother that they did not like.

On page 26 of ‘Unlikely Rebels’ it says:

‘The reluctant boater-wearers waited for their chance,

which came with the annual holiday in Greystones,

They walked down to the breakwater,

where the sea was deep,

and whirled the hated hats into the water,

as far as they could,

gleefully watching the little boats riding the waves

till they were so sopping with water that they sank.

They decided to accuse the blameless wind as the culprit

which had ‘unfortunately’ snatched their hats from them, elastic and all.’

Take your ghosts to the seaside (OvO) via Compfight

3. Their mother was called Isabella

and the family lived in Rathmines, in Dublin.

On page 43 of the book we read:

‘Sometimes Isabella’s concern was ‘keeping up with the Joneses’.

And such, in part at least, was the annual holiday in Greystones.

This was considered so socially necessary in Rathmines

that those who could not afford to go would

pull down their blinds as camouflage

and live in the back of the house during the Summer months.’


‘Greystones was largely owned by the Huguenot La Touche family

…Then a small fishing village, Greystones was slowly developing

after the opening of the railway line from Dublin in 1850.

There emerged a sort of unwritten law in Dublin

which observed geographical distributions of holiday areas

for Protestants, Catholics and Jews.


The Protestants gravitated towards Greystones,

partly because of the influence of the La Touche family

and partly also because Wicklow (the ‘Garden’  of Ireland)

was almost exclusively in the hands of Protestant landowners.

Greystones was, as it were, one of their marine suburbs’.


On page 44 ‘There is a description in sister Nellie’s memoirs

of their setting off for the yearly Greystones summer holiday

…seventeen people…Isabella’s ‘husband, her sons and the maids

stagger down the steps with huge baskets laden with crockery,

household utensils, clothes, bedding and food.


‘The maids hated the holidays and it is easy to see

that even the going and the coming back were heavy chores;

Nevertheless, their shrewd young charges noted that when

the coastguards started to call at the kitchen

in the rented house at Greystones, the extra drudgery was forgotten

as a bit of flirtation lightened the scene.’


On page 46 it says:  

‘Not the least of the Greystones delight for the children

were the establishments that hired out

horse-drawn vehicles by the hour, a half day or  a full day

…The favourite conveyance for the Gifford children however,

was a pony and trap which they were allowed to drive themselves.

The ‘pony’ could be either a donkey or a jennet,

and their favourite haunt was the Glen of the Downs’.

(A jennet is a female donkey.)


‘For the Gifford children, these holidays were times of freedom

and wandering over the countryside,

finding fraocháns and wild strawberries

in the fields about the house where they were staying,

picking blackberries to make jam

which was consumed while it was still warm,

getting up at dawn in the chill air to pick mushrooms

and then running back home to put them on the hob upside down,

with a knob of butter before eating them’.

(Fraocháns are bilberries).


‘There were days in the cove with Ellen,

days taking turns at driving the trap,

and days when they stood and listened

to the strange new music coming from America via England’.


According to the book ‘Unlikely Rebels’ by Anne Clare, Mercier Press 2011

these are links between the Gifford Sisters and Greystones.

Anne Clare based her book on the Gifford sisters on family papers

and a diary kept by Grace that was given to her.


Graphics: from Compfight.

Please note: These are not photos of Greystones or the Gifford sisters.

Information in this post from

‘Unlikely Rebels – The Gifford Girls and the Fight for Irish Freedom’

by Anne Clare, Mercier Press 2011

Sineád De Valera opens Delgany Fete 1921

Eight Thomas Milne via Compfight

Look what we found!

Click HERE to see a Pathé News clip of

Sinéad De Valera opening the Delgany Fete in 1921 on You Tube.

Remember You Tube is blocked in Irish primary schools.


Children’s Work on Kitty Kiernan, the Gifford Sisters and Sinéad De Valera

As part of our project on the Women of the Revolution

with connections to Greystones,

that we prepared for The La Touche Legacy’s ‘Festival of History’,

Ms. Murray’s 6th class researched the lives of

Kitty Kiernan,

the Gifford Sisters

and Sinéad De Valera.

The students learned about these brave women. Then they were asked to choose one to write about. Teachers were interested to see that it seemed to be the story of Kitty Kiernan that captured the students’ imaginations the most. The evidence for this was that more students chose to write about Kitty Kiernan than the other women.

Kitty Kiernan by Ella

Kitty Kiernan was engaged to Michael Collins. They got engaged in the La Touche Hotel on Saturday 8th October 1921. People say that they were planning to live on Trafalgar Road and live there after they got married. Kitty was planning to have a wedding with her sister Maud who was going to marry Gearóid O’Sullivan. Her husband to be Michael Collins was assassinated at Béal na Bláth in Cork on the 22nd of August. At his funeral Kitty put a white lily flower on his coffin as a sign of peace. In October 1922 Kitty went to Gearóid and Maud’s wedding. She wore a black dress because she was still sad of her husband to be’s loss. Kitty died in 1945 on the 24th of July. Kitty Kiernan’s is also a bar in Dublin.

Kitty Kiernan by Carine

Kitty Kiernan was born in Granard, County Longford in 1892. While Kitty was growing in her teens several of Kitty’s family members died. In 1907 one of her twin sisters died. One year later her parents died and in 1909 the remaining twin died. Kitty then got engaged to Michael Collins in the La Touche Hotel in 1921 but he got assassinated on 22nd August 1922. Two months later she attended her sister Maud’s wedding in black still weeping for the loss of Michael Collins.

Kitty Kiernan 10 Facts by Conor

  1. Kitty Kiernan was born in Granard, County Longford.
  2. She went to school in Loreto Convent, County Wicklow.
  3. Kitty had twin sisters but one of them died in 1907.
  4. In 1909 the other twin died.
  5. On 24th July, 1945, she died of Bright’s disease (and so did all of her siblings).
  6. She was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
  7. Kitty became engaged to Michael Collins in the La Touche Hotel on 8th October 1921.
  8. Kitty and Michael were going to buy a house on Trafalgar Road.
  9. She had five sisters and one brother.
  10. Her family owned the Grenville Arms Hotel and a hardware store and a grocery store.

Kitty Kiernan by A Compilation from Ms. Murray’s 6th Class

Full name: Catherine Brigid Kiernan

Born: 1892 in Granard, Co. Longford

Family: She had five sisters and one brother, her parents were Bridget and Peter Kiernan. She was born into a wealthy family. They owned the Grenville Arms Hotel in Mullingar (Westmeath) as well as a grocer shop, a hardward store, a bar and a timber and undertaking business.. 

It was a happy childhood and the household was joyous until 1907 when one of Kitty’s twin sisters died in their late teens, followed in 1908 by the deaths of her parents a couple of months between each other and in 1909 the death of her other twin sister.

She was educated in Loreto Convent, Co. Wicklow. Kitty was know for her good looks, charm and grace.

Michael was introduced to the Kiernan family by his cousin Gearóid O’Sullivan.

When Michael fist met Kitty he was with his friend and they both fell for her.

Michael fell for Kitty’s sister Helen first, but she was already taken and then he fell for Kitty.

Michel Collins proposed to her in the Grand Hotel, Greystones, Co. Wicklow on the 8th of October.

The Grand Hotel is now known as the La Touche Hotel.

They planned to live in Greystones after they got married in the yellow house opposite the main entrance to our school.

They planned to have a double wedding ceremony with Maud Kiernan and Gearóid  in 1922.

When Collins went over to London to negotiate the Treaty,

Kitty and Michael wrote to one another every day.

Some of the letters they wrote to each other are in the Cork Municipal Museum.

Three hundred of their letters were put on display in 2000.

The letters were sent between 1919 and 1922.

The letters they sent were good information into Kitty’s attitude to life.

She had a very stressful life.

Four months before the wedding he died.

Collins was shot dead in an ambush in Cork in August 22, 1922.

Kitty put a white lily on his coffin as a symbol of peace.

Kitty wore a black dress to the wedding of Maud and Gearóid.

In 1925 she married Felix Cronin who was Quartermaster in the Irish Army.

They had two sons Felix and Michael Collins Cronin.

Kitty died of Bright’s disease (as did all her siblings)

and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin not far from where Michael was buried.

Felix died 19 years after Kitty.

They were buried beside each other.

Kitty Kiernan was played by an American actress called Julia Roberts.

Lots of pubs in Ireland and a few in different countries as well are called after Kitty Kiernan.

The students also did some creative work inspired by the story of Kitty Kiernan.

Alannah imagined a letter Michael Collins might have written to Kitty

20th August 1922

Dear Kitty,

I’m travelling the country day in day out. I am heading towards Cork today. we are hoping to visit the brave men in the country side who fight so hard for our cause.

I must try and visit as many as I possibly can, before I return in order to maintain their spirits and remind them what they are fighting for. Our cause is so important.

I hope I haven’t left you with too much to do in preparation for our wedding. I do very much look forward to out upcoming celebration.

Your faithfully,


Kim imagined a letter Kitty would have written to her sister after Michael Collins had been assassinated:

Dear Maud,

Maud, the most awful thing has happened. Michael has been shot in Béal na Bláth. I knew his work was dangerous and he risked his life so much. I always feared something like this would happen. I’m heart broken.

This of course affects you also. Our arranged double wedding will now sadly be a single wedding. I do wish that you go ahead with the nuptials and I of course will be in attendance. I hope you will not cancel the wedding on my account.

I will be home a week before the wedding. We can finalise preparations then. I of course must weat black as a sign o f respect to Michael,

Yours faithfully,



The Gifford Sisters by Jessica and Amy

The Family

They had 12 children, 6 boys and 6 girls.

Their parents were called Frederick and Isobel.

The girls were called Catherine, Helen, Ada, Muriel, Sidney and Grace.

The boys were Claude, Liebert, Gerald, Frederick, Gabriel and Edward.

The boys were christened Catholic and the girls were christened Protestant.

From 1880 the family lived on Palmerston Road in Rathmines.

The girls went to Alexandra College.

Catherine, Sydney, Muriel and Grace turned Catholic in the April of 1916.

Frederick was the preferred parent because Isabel was strict and stern.

The family came to Greystones on holiday each year.

That is where they became strong swimmers.

Muriel Gifford

Muriel died in Skerries by drowning.

She passed away on the 9th July 1917.

She was married to Thomas MacDonagh.

Her husband was executed for his part in 1916.

Muriel died one year after her husband did.

At first she had no idea about her husband’s part in 1916

Muriel and Thomas were married on the 31st January 1912.

She met her husband in college in 1908.

She had survived in girlhood a fever and had a weakened heart.

Later in 1915 she was diagnosed with a blood clotting illness.

One of her husband’s biggest concerns was how Muriel would cope with his death.

Muriel’s daughter kept the seashells they found on the beach before she died.

Grace Gifford

Grace was born on the 4th March 1888

She died on the 13th December 1955

Her full name was Grace Evelyn Gifford Plunkett

She was engaged to Joseph Mary Plunkett.

At the time Joseph was very ill.

They planned to ahve a joint wedding with his sister on Easter Sunday.

Joseph Mary Plunkett was sentenced to death after he fough hard in the 1916 Rising.

They were allowed marry the night before his execution in Kilmainham jail.

Grace was very poor and found it hard to get a job.

She was a cartoon illustrator.

After her sister Muriel died herself and her sister Catherine looked after

Muriel’s two children.

She got arrested during the Civil War.

Her husband left his money for Grace but her in laws took it.

Grace brought them to court and she got given 700 pounds.

She had very bad health which caused her death.

After being in a nusing home which she didn’t enjoy.

She was at home when she died.

Sinéad De Valera by A Compilation Ms. Murray’s 6th Class.

Sinéad De Valera was born in Balbriggan on the third of June 1878.

She was the nineth of eleven children.

She was given the name ‘Doll’ by her father because of her auburn hair.

She was mostly called Jennie until she joined the Gaelic League.

She worked as a teacher.

She first met Éamon De Valera when he was one of her students.

They got married in 1910.

She was married to Éamon De Vaera making her the first lady of Ireland from 1959 – 1973.

Her husband Éamon was sentenced to death after the 1916 rising.

This sentence was commuted to servitude for life.

In June 1917 he was freed, then he went to America to raise funds for Irish freedom.

During this time Sinéad lived in Greystones.

Michael Collins visited the family every week bringing money and food.

Sinéad had seven children: Vivian, Máirín, Éamon, Brian, Ruarí, Emer and Terence.

In the time Éamon her husband was in jail or America,

Máirín recalled her younger siblings talking about their father saying

‘Who is Dev?’

‘I think he is Mummy’s father.

All but one of the children went to St. Brigid’s.

Sinéad taught Irish in St. Brigid’s to the children and the nuns.


She was the author of many children’s books in both Irish and English.

One of her sons died in a riding accident. His name was Brian.

She died on the 7th January 1975, aged 96.




Dramatic Piece – Women of the Revolution

Mr. Dodd’s 6th class prepared this piece for the opening of the

La Touche Legacy ‘Festival of History,’ September 2017.

Opening Quote:

‘We are ready to fight for the Ireland we love

Be the chances great or small:

We are willing to die for the flag above

Be the chances nothing at all.’

A verse from ‘Easter 1916’ by Constance Markievicz published in the ‘Worker’s Republic’

on Easter Saturday, 22nd of April 1916.

This opening quote reflects the strength of character and conviction

that many women had at the time of rebellion.

This was the strength that led to the eventual foundation of the state and republic.

The role and strength of women during this era in our national history came from the unlikeliest of sources.

Today we will examine the lives of some of these women,

and the transition they mad to becoming inextricably linked to rebellion.

We will also look at the interesting connections they had with our local area here in Greystones.

The Memoir of Grace Gifford (imagined)

Oh how I love Greystones! Two months of merriment and fun to be filled picnics, swimming, long evening strolls in the sunshine, tennis parties, musical nights and numerous social gatherings. Our annual trip here brings us so much pleasure, even though there is always some arguing when the packing begins, (Mother can be such a strict taskmaster!), the familiarity of the Sugarloaf and Greystones harbour settles us all. I just cannot wait to begin sketching and painting.

The train is always so busy! We travelled through Blackrock, Kingstown, Dalkey and Killiney before finally reaching Bray, then on to Greystones.

Muriel and I become very excited when the train comes to a halt. We look forward with great intent to visiting the North and South Beaches. Finally!, our white-gabled house that overlooks the sea. It stands welcoming and proud on Marine Road.

Historical account of the life of Grace Gifford

Grace’s life was to take an extraordinary turn of events when she became involved in political issues.

She was raised through the Protestant faith and studied art in both Dublin and London. She became a caricaturist for the Irish Review, which was edited by Joseph Plunkett.

After Plunkett’s proposal of marriage to her in 1915, Grace was received into the Catholic Church. They planned to marry on Easter Sunday 1916. Plunkett was arrested, however, due to his involvement in the 1916 Rising.

On hearing the devastating news that her beloved was to be shot by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol she managed to persuade the military authorities to allow them to marry.

On the 3rd of May, four hours before Joseph Plunkett was executed, the couple became husband and wife in the prison chapel.

Grace then devoted her life to political duties, and was elected to the Sinn Féin executive in 1917. She was arrested during the Civil War. Her artistic work continued to be published in various newspapers and magazines. She passed away in 1955 and was buried with full military honours.

Musical Piece: Song-Grace

The Memoir of Kitty Kiernan (imagined)

                                                                                                                        8th October 1921

Dear Diary,

It has been such a wonderful day. Michael brought me out to the beautiful Grand Hotel in Greystones, which is furnished in the most luxurious style. I could never have believed, growing up in Granard, Co. Longford, that I would ever visit such a splendid place in such a picturesque location.

Michael has expressed his true affections for me and has proposed marriage. I feel overwhelmed and truly excited. My mind is racing with thoughts of planning for such an occasion. Dresses and shoes, flowers and music …

Historical account of the life of Kitty Kiernan

Unfortunately, Kitty’s marriage to Michael Collins never took place. Due to the progression of the Civil War, the couple were delayed in setting a wedding date.

Michael was assassinated by the Anti-Treaty Irregular forces at Béal na mBláth, Co. Cork.

Kitty later married Felix Cronin, a general in the Irish army and had two sons.

Musical Piece: Song-Óró ‘Sé do bheatha abhaile

The Memoir of Sinéad de Valera

‘Is mise Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin. Múinim Gaeilge le Conradh na Gaeilge i lár na cathrach. Bím an-ghnóthach na laethanta seo mar tá mé i mo bhall den eagraíocht ‘Inghinide na hÉireann le Maud Gonne. Tá dalta nua i mo rangsa. Éamon de Valera is ainm dó…'( í ag brionglóideach faoi).

Historical account of the life of Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin

Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin later married this student, Éamon de Valera in 1910. Together they had five sons and two daughters, Vivion, Éamon, Brian, Ruairí, Terence, Máirín and Emer.

Following the 1916 Rising, de Valera spent a long period of time in America raising support and funding for the cause back home. Sinéad remained in Greystones, living quietly with her children at Craig Liath, Kinlen Road in the Burnaby.

Michael Collins regularly travelled by bicycle to Greystones, avoiding detection from the British forces to bring Sinéad money and supplies.

Musical Piece: Tin Whistles-Fáinne Geal an Lae


References to the books we used to research Women of the Revolution

When the La Touche Legacy organisers first asked us to present a piece the Festival of History, we brainstormed.

We decided we wanted to write about the women of the revolution who had connections to Greystones.

Sixth Class teacher, Mr. Dodd was reading ‘Rebel Sisters’ by Marita Conlon-McKenna,

and he told us about the links between the Gifford Sisters and Greystones. 


This book is fictional though based on fact.

To learn more about Muriel and Grace Gifford,

we read  Anne Clare’s ‘Unlikely Rebels: The Gifford Girls’, published by Mercier.


Other books we found useful were

‘Éamon de Valera – A Will to Power’ by Ronan Fanning.

‘De Valera’ by Tim Pat Coogan,

‘De Valera in America’ by Dave Hannigan.

‘Big Fellow, Long Fellow’

(a joint biography of Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins) by T. Ryle Dwyer

‘History of Greystones Convent and Blacklion School’ by Sister Mary Dolorosa

(unpublished pamphlet, 1964)