Crowds line out to recall Clonfin

James MacNerney, Tom Donohoe, Bishop Colm O'Reilly, Aidan O'Hara, and Tom Duffy at last Sunday's ceremony. Photo: Shelley Corcoran
Ninety three years is a long time in most people’s book.

Ninety three years is a long time in most people’s book.

Yet for the dozens of hardy souls and well-wishers who braved the chilled north Longford air last Sunday, the Battle of Clonfin still lives long in the memory.

The customary raising of the tricolour, a guard of honour and the heartfeld rendition of Amhran na bhFiann bore much of that sentiment out as history recalled the events of February 2, 1921.

That day saw 21 members of the North Longford Flying Brigade ambush and defeat a patrol of British auxiliary forces during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21).

It was an occasion as much remembered for its historical importance as it was compassion, ingredients which have dominated many a speech from guest speakers over the years.

This feeling was played out on Sunday as this year’s keynote spokesperson was the now retired Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Colm O’Reilly.

“Bishop Colm gave a lovely address, he really did,” said a plainly thrilled committee member, Sean Kilbride on Monday.

One of around a dozen volunteers responsible for continuing to fly the Clonfin flag, Mr Kilbride said turnout numbers were positive despite the chilly conditions.

“We were very lucky the rain stayed away. Somebody was praying for us, no doubt it was the Bishop,” he comically put it.

Joking aside, Mr Kilbride knows all too well of the need to entice more voices, and youthful ones at that, into the Clonfin commemoration fold.

“We meet about four times a year and there is a good deal of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

“The committee does work hard, but Willie Monahan (chairperson) and myself would be the youngest and yet we are in our 50s so we need more (volunteers),” he said.

As that search goes on, Mr Kilbride said even at present, some 93 years later opinions Clonfin still manages to conjure up healthy historical debate.

“Clonfin has always been very well supported and continues to be,” he said.

“To be honest, I can’t see that changing.”