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Australian visitors impressed by Kilcumney visit

With Majells O'Sullivan

AUSTRALIAN visitors to Ballinkillen were treated to the finest of local hospitality and a tour of sites of both a personal and historical significance.

The visitors were descendants of General Joseph Holt, a Wicklow man, who fought with the rebel army in the 1798 Rebellion.

On the 250th anniversary of his birth, 12 of his descendants came on a pilgrimage to Ireland taking in sites of importance to the rising in Carlow, Wicklow, Wexford and Kildare.

Although General Holt never fought at Kilcumney, his descendants have developed a huge interest in this part of Irish history that was the reason why their ancestor ended up in Australia. The group was led by Lionel Fowler, a great-great-great grandson of Joseph Holt.

Included in their itinerary of the '78 sites was the monument on Kilcumney Hill. Kilcumney was the scene of a bloody battle towards the end of the rebellion. Among the casualties were 140 local civilians killed near their homes in the aftermath of the battle by marauding crown forces.

"The connection with Ballinkillen was made through Mary and Eileen Farrell, who got to know the family," explained Mick Kinsella, local historian and author.

"I think some of the family came over for the celebrations in 1998. Lionel Fowler was very interested in the rising and the family's connection to it and he was the driving force behind the Holt Family Fellowship."

When members of the family visited Ireland eight years ago they vowed they would return and find out more about this aspect of their family's history.

Joseph Holt's story is somewhat unusual in that when he survived the illfated 1798 rebellion, he escaped with his life and was deported to Australia in 1800. He spent only 12 years in Australia and was one of the few deportees who later returned to Ireland in 1812. He left behind two sons, Joseph and Joshua Holt, the fore-bearers of the group that visited Kilcumney.

During the bicentenary celebrations in Ballinkillen, two men were to the fore in the local committee. Edward Moran and Mick Kinsella co-wrote a historical account of events at the Kilcumney site in their book "Kilcumney '98 - its origins, aftermath and legacy".

Edward and Mick were also on hand to give the distinguished visitors a guided tour of the site. They later presented them with a copy of their book.

From Kilcumney they proceeded to Ballinkillen Church graveyard where they visited the grave of Teresa Malone, the "Heroine of the Battle of Kilcumney". They also visited the grave of the parents of Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran, the famous primate of Australia.

Locals then treated the visitors to refreshments at Ballinkillen at Lorum Community Centre where they enjoyed Eileen Farrell's delicious homemade apple tart.

"It was a great morning. It was spilling rain but they didn't seem to mind. They were fascinated to see the site where the rebel army had camped. They thoroughly enjoyed the visit," Mick added.

Holt Family Fellowship Flag