Castleisland’s Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project Committee has been planning its first public exhibition of his collection of historic records since it came into being just over 12 months ago. In conjunction with National Heritage Week and Kerry County Council Heritage Officer, T.J. O’Mahony, the exhibition will be housed at No. 32 Main Street, Castleisland – next door to Hannon’s Fashion Shop. National Heritage Week will run from this Saturday, August 22nd to Saturday 29th and the Castleisland exhibition will be open to the public, free-of-charge on both of those Saturdays from 11am to 5pm and days between by appointment.
Listen to Dan Kearney’s Documentary
At 1pm on this Saturday, visitors to the exhibition can listen to and discuss the RTÉ Radio One Doc on One made by local man Dan Kearney. Once Were Champions is the title of Dan’s first radio documentary. To hit the top spot at his first attempt is something worth celebrating. Dan will be in before 1pm to listen first and then discuss the nuts and bolts of documentary making and to maybe – discuss the era that was 1985 and that great All-Ireland Club Football victory by Desmonds over St. Vincent’s of Dublin. Co-incidentally, it was also St. Vincent’s which Michael O’Donohoe’s Erin’s Hope team defeated in the Dublin County Senior Football Championship final in 1956. Apart from being able to view copies of the work on these occasions, there will be a lecture by Timothy Murphy on the late Con Houlihan and the Castleisland characters he wrote about.
A Time when our Town was Full of Intriguing Characters
Under the heading: A Time when our Town was Full of Intriguing Characters, Timothy has put together an intriguing show. He furnishes the talk with stories and caricatures and lifts his subjects off the pages so studiously laid there by the late, great Con himself. A 15 minute video documentary on Michael O’Donohoe’s life and times will be screened during the exhibition.
A video of the Presentation Convent 150th anniversary celebrations (1846 -1996 ) was kindly supplied by Paudie Herlihy and it will also be shown as part of the exhibition programme. If the late Michael O’Donohoue (1936 – 2008) ever needed justification for his years of historical research into Castleisland’s varied past – he surely found it when he discovered The Diary of Robert O’Kelly.
The teacher in him would have extended a learned hand back through the years as his eyes fell on O’Kelly’s plaintive lines: “I could have chronicled and penned down if I had any sort of learning or scholarship. You can write them out and transcribe those items and put them in perfect form if you like and if you are interested in them.”
Diary in Booklet Form
Robert O’Kelly was born in Castleisland in1835 and died in Tralee in1919. The Robert O’Kelly Diariy is just one item among hundreds in 88 coded folders which The Master left to his community on his death on June 26-2008. Project manager, Janet Murphy has compiled The Diary of Robert O’Kelly into booklet form and it will be on sale during the exhibition at €5 per copy. Michael O’Donohoe was born on September 26-1936 to Garda Matt and Catherine – his Co. Clare born parents. His father was transferred from Farranfore to Castleisland and the family moved to No.11 Barrack Street in late January 1945. On the first of his few stints away from home, Micheal was enrolled in the Good Council College in New Ross, Co. Wexford in 1947. His career path was taking shape by now and this took him to St. Patrick’s Teacher Training College in Dromcondra in Dublin.
Developing as a Footballer
During his time in the college he was developing as a footballer along with the likes of other Kerry natives: Tom Long, Terence McQuinn and Thos McKenna. They were rubbing shoulders with inter-county players like Mattie McDonagh of Galway on the college team, Erin’s Hope. This team gelled in the Dublin Senior Football Championship campaign of 1956 and they toppled the dreaded St. Vincent’s team – which had an eight-in-a-row run of titles in its sights. Michael O’Donohoe played at corner back on that famous day and he marked no less than Kevin ‘Heffo’ Heffernan out of the game. It is not surprising then that the young teacher would be in demand back at home – where an All-Ireland medal was almost a match for the currency of the day.
Appointment to Castleisland Boys’ NS
Shortly after that momentous year of 1956 he became Michael O’Donohoe, N.T. with an appointment at Castleisland Boys’ National School. Re-immersing himself in life at home, Michael got involved in the local snooker and bridge clubs and won various prizes in both games. This culminated in him winning the Munster Open Snooker Championship in 1973. Meanwhile, he taught at the boys’ national school until his retirement as principal there in 1991. He may have been involved in the compilation of what we now know as The Master’s Collection before his retirement. However, we do know that he threw everything he had into his work from there until fading health halted his progress a couple of years before his passing in June 2008.
Trains and Buses
He was so engrossed in the collection that he spent many hours on trains and buses and in libraries in Tralee and in Dublin. As with all things in his productive life, he was single-minded in his pursuit of items of historical interest to his collection. His circle of friends are all of the close, loyal, understanding variety. Even so, some have expressed surprise at the depth and extent of the collection he left behind. He wrote hundreds of letters in search of vital pieces of research and compiled it all from old newspaper archives from various sources. It was all done in long-hand with pen and ink and without recourse to computer or Google. The Heritage Week exhibition will give people an idea of the extent of The Master’s Collection as it is being prepared for digitisation and a world-wide audience on a dedicated website. The website will be launched early in September.