This Story is:
Historic Castleconnell Banner
First printed in An Caisleàn – The Castleconnell, Ahane, Montpelier Annual 2002
I first heard of the Castleconnell Banner in the summer of 2000 when my good friend, Pearse Magee, a native of Castleconnell, and now living in Kilmacanogue in Counaty Wicklow, told me the fascinating story of the old emblem that played an important role in the lives of the Irish Volunteers during the struggle for independence.
Joe Magee, his wife and family of five lived in the Main Street in Castleconnell in the early years of the twentieth century. When the call to arms came, the Magees, like many others in the area, were not found wanting, and soon became prominent in furthering the cause of Irish freedom and self-determination.
Early in 1914 the Castleconnell Unit of the Irish Volunteers was formed. One of its members, Anthony Mackay, a local businessman and entrepreneur, presented the unit with a very fine banner for use on parades and other activities. During that time, Lieutenant Joe Magee had custody of the banner which measured five feet by four feet, and it remained in the Magee household under the care of Mrs Magee who had a deep regard for the banner and all it stood for. During the Black and Tan raids on the homes of known republicans in the locality, Joe Magee feared for the survival of the banner, but his wife ensured its safe keeping when she came up with the idea of stitching the banner between two pieces of blanket material of the same dimensions as the banner. It was then placed folded on a child’s cot just like any ordinary blanket, and escaped the attention of raiding parties on several occasions.
In 1923 when hostilities had ceased and the volunteers had been disbanded, Pearse believed that in the aftermath of the tragic Civil War his father would have thought that the best thing to do would be to let matters rest for a while until some arrangement could eventually be agreed regarding the future of the Castleconnell Banner.
Then on May Day of that year, Joe Magee, who worked as a railway clerk in Limerick, was promoted to Station Master in Abbeyfeale and the family left Castleconnell. In the years after, Joe Magee served also as Station Master in Killorglin in County Kerry, and it was there he died accidentally in 1929. Fate had dealt the family a cruel blow, but the wheel turned full circle and the Magees found themselves back in their native parish again when Mrs Magee was appointed to Lisnagry Station.
All through the years from when the family left Castleconnell until their return to Lisnagry, the banner remained with the Magees and eventually came into Pearse’s care at his County Wicklow home. Along with Pearse, the other surviving members of his family, his brother, Kevin who lives in Ardagh, County Limerick and his sister, Kathleen Kearney in Dublin, were always in agreement that the banner should be returned to Castleconnell. The problem is that a suitable building in which to display the old emblem is not available at the present time.
It was earlier this year I played a very small role in finding a suitable location for the historic banner, when after a long discussion with Pearse Magee, and on his behalf, I approached the Limerick City Museum Curator, Larry Walsh, who incidentally, now lives in Gouig, Castleconnell, and suggested to him that the Museum authorities might consider displaying the banner and also Joe Magee’s revolver holster until a suitable place becomes available in Castleconnell.
The Curator very kindly agreed to the suggestion, and in a letter to Pearse Magee confirmed that the items would be put on display in the 1916 War of Independence section in the Museum where the banner of the Limerick City Volunteers is already on display.
Now nearing ninety years in existence, the historic banner is in remarkably good condition and still retains its colour and lettering. For the present, it hangs proudly in Limerick’s Museum awaiting that time, which hopefully is not too far away in the future, when it will make that final short journey back to Castleconnell.
[The Castleconnell Banner was returned to the village in May 2017 for display in the local Heritage Centre]