As I delve into the archives of your violent death
My question is not one in the historical debate of
Who did what, why, and when in Tipperary in 1919.
Was there a kindness shown to your orphaned children?
Perhaps a motherly neighbour wiped away the tears
Or left a still-warm apple tart on the back sill at Murgasty?
A seeping sadness that my teenage self
Naïve of history, did not ask the questions
To my grandmother, Elizabeth, your daughter.
The tattered remains of your family scattered
Far from their town where they were boycotted
By IRA order to outcast families of the RIC.
In our Nation’s difficult revolutionary birth
Yours is deemed a necessary death –
Commemorated, even celebrated in 2019.
Yet, at your graveside with prayers of respect
A wreath was laid by some of the local community
Shining a beacon through a century-long hurt.
My hope is lifted by these sentinels of kindness
Conjuring up ghosts from a Tipperary past
Quietly offering solace to your children left bereft.
The humanity in this small, powerful act at your grave
Brings me to a kinder place within
Where mercy and forgiveness begin to dwell.
Anna O Laoghaire is the great-granddaughter of James (Seamus) McDonnell RIC who was killed during the Soloheadbeg Ambush in 1919. Anna participated in a Poetry as Commemoration workshop at The Lexicon Library, Dun Laoighaire, with Catherine Ann Cullen in July 2022.