Patrick O’Sullivan writes on the impact WWI had on his own small Co. Kerry village
They have for long been part of a forgotten chapter of Irish history, those who fought in the Great War of 1914-18. It is only in the recent past that their stories are being rediscovered and their great sacrifice acknowledged.
Why did so many Irishmen enlist for service in the war? Some did so for purely economic reasons. They came from large families in poor circumstances. Others did so for political reasons. The Home Rule campaign reached its high point in Kerry with the visit of John Redmond to Cahirciveen in September 1913.
“The coming blessed year of Our Lord 1914 will see the splendid and certain victory of our cause,” Redmond assured the gathering. Redmond’s volunteers became known as the National Volunteers those who opposed him expressing themselves in popular verse:
‘Full steam ahead, John Redmond said that everything was well chum. Home Rule will come when we’re dead and buried out in Belgium.’
Tom Ó Donnell, a Kerry member of the Irish party, predicted that defying a common enemy would not only mean healing the wounds of the past but also make the freedom of Ireland inevitable.
Others joined the army simply because they were young and longed to see the world, the war a great adventure which offered the prospect of travel in a short but glorious campaign.
Milltown, a village in mid-Kerry, was then a place of blacksmiths and bootmakers, cartwrights, coopers, bakers, grocer, vintners and more. The Godfrey family still lived in their ancestral home, Kilcolman Abbey, the remodelling of the house in the early nineteenth century undertaken by William Vitruvius Morrison, one of the most celebrated architects of his day.