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“The present volume will perhaps be most welcome. It is a fresh
contribution from a source hitherto untapped — a source moreover that can
claim to be well fitted to supply ‘inside’ information.”
“In the case of every incident of war some time must elapse before
its completely detailed and satisfactory history can by written.”
Descendants keep letters, diaries, memoirs and other documents faithfully because they know that in those pages lies a link with a time fast passing from memory into history.
The descendants of Michael Keogh are no exception as regards the practice of faithful document keepers. He led an exciting, adventurous and indeed at times dangerous life, about which he wrote in some detail and at various times. At the heart of that life was his devotion to Roger Casement, whom he first met in New York in 1911, and with whom he worked closely in Germany during the years 1914 to 1916 as part of Casement’s project to recruit an Irish Brigade from Irish soldiers who had joined the British army to fight in the First World War, and who subsequently found themselves prisoners of war in German camps. Casement’s intention was to return to Ireland with this brigade to fight for Irish freedom.
Michael Keogh wrote a detailed account of those years in Germany with Roger Casement. It had always been his intention to publish that account in full in book form – an aim he did not get around to fulfilling during the course of a busy life, although he did publish many articles and give many lectures about his experiences with Casement’s Irish Brigade.
Kevin Keogh kept many of the articles his father wrote. Another son, Joseph, now deceased, kept others. But they had been deprived for more than 40 years of the longest and most detailed account their father wrote. Kevin recalls seeing his father working on that account at various times over the years. Sometimes Keogh senior would be working late into the night, drafting and redrafting, and would resume the process early the following morning. One of his daughters-in-law, Mary, said that he never went anywhere without these manuscripts, which he carried with him in a kind of briefcase.
When Michael Keogh was suffering his last illness in 1964, he was taken to James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin. It seems that he took the papers that contained the main account of his time in Germany with him into the hospital. His son Kevin concluded this to be the case because he remembers visiting the hospital one day and finding his father very distressed and calling out for his papers. When Kevin asked him where they had been, he replied that he had had them under his pillow and that they were no longer there.
Kevin then called a nurse who had been attending to his father and asked her if she knew anything about the papers he was talking about. In the course of their conversation, she reported that Keogh senior had had a visitor the previous night – a priest whom none of the hospital staff knew by appearance or name. He was not a hospital chaplain or local parish curate but he had called to the hospital and had asked to see Mr Keogh. For the hospital staff, there was nothing unusual about priests visiting patients.
The Keogh family had no idea who the particular priest might be and they never found out who he was but they associate the missing papers with him. They could see how distressed the disappearance of his papers had left their father and they believe that his loss of these precious documents may have hastened his death, because he died around two days after they went missing.
Just over 40 years later, in 2005, Kevin Keogh’s son, also called Kevin, was doing some research into his family’s history with a view to compiling a family tree. He decided to do a search on the internet and he entered the name of one of his grandfathers, Captain Michael Keogh. To his amazement he discovered that the University College Dublin Archives (UCDA) had papers belonging to his grandfather who had worked for Roger Casement in Germany during the First World War.
From the UCDA site, the Keogh family learned that their father’s papers had been found among the Maurice (Moss) Twomey papers, which were deposited in the archive in 1984 by a Fr Maurice Twomey. The Keogh family could not say if their father knew Moss Twomey, who had been active in the IRA for many years and who ran a newsagent’s and tobacconist’s shop on O’Connell St in Dublin from the 1940s onwards. He died in 1978. The archivist in UCDA could see that the Michael Keogh papers had no direct or close connection with the Twomey papers and as a result filed them separately.
Who was the mysterious priest? Why had Michael Keogh’s papers disappeared? How did they come to end up among the papers of Moss Twomey? The Keogh family were glad to have the main segment of their late father’s papers back but would like answers to those questions…..
Note from Editor:
It was Michael Keogh’s youngest son, Kevin, who commissioned this book. He wishes to thank especially his own son, also called Kevin, who was responsible for discovering the whereabouts of Michael Keogh’s long lost papers. The story of how those papers went missing is an interesting and curious one and is narrated in the introduction to this book.
Both Kevin senior and his wife Mary wish to make special mention of their granddaughter, Janice Doyle, who has shown a particular interest in her great-grandfather’s life and his writings about his time with Casement’s Irish Brigade in Germany from 1914 to 1916. Janice has written a useful and insightful school project on the topic.
I would like to express my gratitude to Kevin and Mary Keogh for the opportunity to edit this fascinating first-hand account of what it was like to be with Casement in Germany, an account by a man who took so close, intrinsic and leading a part in trying to realise Casement’s ambition to form a brigade from Irishmen in the British army who found themselves prisoners of war in German prison camps in the early stages of the Great War. Michael Keogh’s story is by far the most comprehensive inside account we have of what it was like to be part of that enterprise. What makes it of special value is that the first draft of it was written so close to the time of the events with which it was concerned.
It has been one of Kevin Keogh’s longest-held and dearest wishes that his father’s story would be published in book form. My hope is that Kevin is satisfied with the way I have edited and presented his father’s story.
Robert McKenna, head librarian in Griffith College Dublin, was most helpful and generous in his suggestions about how to locate particular sources of relevant information and he also very kindly took the trouble to supply many of those sources via his contact with other libraries. His assistant, Dimphne Ní Bhraonáin, also gave generously of her time.
The editor also gratefully acknowledges the patient and unfailing courtesy of the staffs of the University College Dublin Archives, the National Library of Ireland, the library of Trinity College Dublin and a number of Dublin City Council libraries, especially the Pembroke branch.
Gratitude also goes to Seamus Ó Síocháin for his advice about other sources to consult for Casement’s time in Germany. His recent monumental and superb biography of Roger Casement will not be easy to surpass.
Finally, a special word of thanks to Ann, my wife, and Elizabeth and Andrew, our children, for their continuing love and support and, above all, patience. To them will always be dedicated, with love, the fruits of my labours.
Dublin, March 2009
Written By Michael Keogh (RIP)
Compiled By Kevin Keogh
Editor: Brian Maye