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In the Town of Skibbereen

Updated on November 7, 2010

Views of Skibbereen

Charming pastel-colored buildings decorate the small village of Skibbereen.
Charming pastel-colored buildings decorate the small village of Skibbereen.

Skibbereen Town Hall in Middle of Town Centre

This building with clock tower holds a memorial plaque dedicated to native son Gearoid O'Sullivan for his bravery during the 1916 Easter Rising and subsequent leadership role during the War of Independence.
This building with clock tower holds a memorial plaque dedicated to native son Gearoid O'Sullivan for his bravery during the 1916 Easter Rising and subsequent leadership role during the War of Independence.

Learning about Gearoid's 'Hometown'

jonihnj 7 weeks ago

A visit to the small town of Skibbereen is an altogether different experience for one leaving the hilly farm areas that surround it.

This small town was where, I like to imagine, the families of Gearoid O’Sullivan and Michael Collins did their shopping over the centuries. It remains the central commercial district for families living in surrounding villages, with a charming main street offering the basic provisions (for more elaborate purchases, a trip to Cork, Ireland's second largest city, is in order).

It was in the town’s Skibbereen Heritage Centre that I learned about my "semi-famous" relative, Gearoid O'Sullivan, who is the central figure in the book I am writing.

A onetime child prodigy and the youngest man fighting during the Easter 1916 ’Rising, Gearoid was my grandfather's first cousin and also shared a grandmother in common with the much more famous Michael Collins. Most people know much about Collins, the subject of an eponymous film several years ago starring Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts. But of the enigmatic Gearoid, reputed to be Collins' right-hand man and said to have had a hand in many events of the era, history has preserved little information. (Don't bother reading the Wikipedia entry, which is all wrong - for example, Gearoid died in 1948, not 1994 as this site would have it.) UPDATE: I finally won my battle with Wikipedia! Google "Gearoid O'Sullivan" and check out his revised bio!

I have heard Gearoid mentioned by family members as a man who loved, taught and fought to preserve the Irish language, one branch of the Gaelic language spoken in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Brittany. Far less a topic for discussion in my family was Gearoid's prominent role as adjutant general in the Irish "War for Independence," which achieved Ireland's partial independence from England.

I should note here that I say Ireland’s independence was "partial" because the ensuing peace treaty with England, adopted by the ruling Irish Dail from that time, omitted six counties located within Ireland's Ulster Territory to the north – a matter of significant strife that immediately led to civil war following the treaty's signing and which still bedevils north and south. So intense are feelings, even today, that Northerners refer to those living in the Republic of Ireland as "the elite" – and far worse.)



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