The Intriguing Story of Brosna Town, Con Carey and the Twelve Apostles

Saturday April 1st 1978 was an ordinary day in the village of Brosna. The village was busy that day – there was a burial in the parish – a local man had died. As was normal, friends and relations of the man and his family dug the grave. One of the men to dig the grave that day was Con Carey.

The following morning Con Carey himself was found dead on the outskirts of Brosna. His burial would be rushed. Having died in the early hours of Sunday morning, April 2nd, he was buried the following day, Monday April 3rd, 1978. Unusually quick. The talk was that Con had not been properly prepared for interment.

The following day again, Tuesday, April 4th, 1978, 11 men and one woman left Brosna in the direction of Con’s grave which was three miles away in the neighbouring parish of Mountcollins. They were going to respect their dead friend. When they arrived at Con’s grave, they set about their task. In broad daylight, they dug Con back up out of his 6ft grave, cleaned and washed him, dressed, reburied him – and prayed. They would become known as the ‘Twelve Apostles’.

A Garda investigation followed – with a file sent to the DPP. It became a national story, albeit briefly. The village kept quite – the press dug around for a while – but none of the ‘Twelve Apostles’ broke their silence – in fact none were ever publicly identified.

Although there were some songs written about the incident, most notably by John B. Keane – even a local GAA cup named in his honour, the story of Con Carey has largely been consigned to history. His remains left where they were twice buried – in an unmarked grave in Mountcollins cemetery, Co. Limerick.

Autumn 2013, Mairead Heffernan goes in search of a story she first heard from her grandfather. She travels back to the village of Brosna in North East Kerry – and journeys into the heart of a rural story where humanity and community shine through. Mairead pieces together Con’s story – from friends to family, witnesses and to an ‘apostle’. She meets some who are unwilling to talk – and eventually finds herself being part of a community drive to finally place a headstone on Con’s grave.

Con Carey famously said in his local Brosna pubs, “When I die, the whole world will know,” Now, 35 years later, his prophecy might just well be coming true.

The programme is narrated by Mairead Heffernan and produced by Mairead and Liam O’Brien. It was broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 on this Saturday November 15th at 2pm and repeated on the same station at 7pm on the following Sunday evening.

 If you missed this afternoon’s broadcast you can catch it by clicking on the link here. My thanks to Liam O’Brien for sending the link.