Large crowds turn out on Easter Monday for Trek to Freedom walk

On Easter Monday, a large contingent of walkers and history enthusiasts departed from Newport to follow in the footsteps of Michael Kilroy's flying column, who during the War of Indepdence escaped through the mountains and countryside of Newport following an ambush in Kilmeena. The day started in upper Skirdagh where Niamh Chambers read the Proclamation followed by Billy Chambers' account of the West Mayo Flying Column. Then it was on to the now ruins of what was in their day the safe houses, where Michael Kilroy's men rested after the Kilmeanna ambush. Here Patrick Carey told the group about the people who once lived here and the men they looked after.

From here the group moved on to the area where the Skirdagh battle started, and again Patrick told the group how Michael Kilroy, when seeing the enemy, fired a warning shot to alert his column to battle. Here the large crowed present got a feel of the heat of battle before heading down to the spot where Volunteer Jim Browne was shot, and would later die from his wound.

At that spot a prayer was said for all the fallen rebels who died for Ireland's freedom, and lilies were laid beside Jim Browne's memorial. From there it was on to the old Glenlara road to Chambers' old house where Michael Kilroy and his men were fed, before heading to the hills. Along this road John Chambers told the crowd of about the history of the Irish flag and how it is the flag of the people, and as the group walked along the road everyone had a turn in carrying the flag.

At Chambers' old house all those on the trek were treated to homemade bread and milk, like Kilroy and his men had all those years ago before retreating up the hill over Glenlara. After leaving the great hospitality at the house, the group headed up Glenlara, where Michael Chambers gave us an account of the route the other members of the column took, while Kilroy and his men held back those chasing them so they could escape. He also spoke of the importance of the safe houses and the role of the non column members who supported them in their fight for freedom.

Then the trek continued down along Mount Eagle to Leterkeen for some well deserved homemade boxty and tea, where Mickey O'Donnall then gave an account of his grandfather's days in the war. Taxis came to bring all those on the trek back to Newport and later regroup in Brannan's Bar for tasty Irish stew, followed by a great night of Irish music, dance, poetry, song, and fun galore as all relived what had been an amazing day.

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