Michael Collins proposed to Kitty Kiernan in the Grand Hotel, Greystones (later known as the La Touche)

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

 

Introduction

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.