Welcome to The Michael O'Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project


The Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project
The Michael O Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project was launched in Castleisland, Co Kerry, in October 2014 by a local committee dedicated to safeguarding the collection of historical research papers of the late Michael O’Donohoe, former principal of Castleisland Boys’ National School.

The collection is a representation of at least 30 years of research but most notably the period which followed Michael O’Donohoe’s retirement in 1991 until his death in 2008.  The committee sought to archive and digitise the collection for access online.  This task began in May 2015 following a successful (and ongoing) fundraising campaign and will take several years to complete.

The Committee
Committee members are Johnnie Roche, Chairman; Colm Kirwan, Secretary; Tomo Burke, Treasurer and John Reidy, Public Relations.  The project website was launched in September 2015 at which time Johnnie Roche prepared the following Welcome Address:

“This site relates to the Castleisland and district history and heritage. The late Michael O’Donohoe grew up in Castleisland after moving here at a young age. He was born to Co. Clare parents Catherine and Matt. His late father was a member of An Garda Siochana. In his youth, Michael was an accomplished sportsman, reaching inter-county standard in a few disciplines including Gaelic football. He trained as a primary teacher in St. Patrick’s College in Dublin and he won a Dublin County Senior Football Championship medal with the college team Erin’s Hope in 1956. He took up teaching in the Boys’ National School in  Castleisland shortly after and eventually became headmaster there before his retirement in 1991. He took early retirement at age 55, and for the next 15 years, followed his dream, travelling to the Kerry County Library every week, and assembling a massive collection of material relating to Castleisland and the surrounding countryside. Unfortunately, health breakdown robbed Michael of the opportunity to realise his dream, and he died at the relatively young age of 71, in 2008, RIP. Thus it fell to us, his friends and contemporaries, to take up where he left off. The launch on this website is another step on our journey to make this vast treasure of information relating to the area that he loved available to all who have an interest.
I quote Dr. Paul Dillon, historian, who had a look through the collection: “Mr O Donohoe went to considerable effort to secure original and rare documents relating to the district. The material relating to the Land League & land wars of the 1880’s is in itself of great value to historians. The collection would be a valuable resource to anyone researching the district’s history”. One example is a document written in 1914 by Castleisland-born Robert O Kelly (1835 –1919), which describes in his own words his memory of all leading events from ‘The Night of the Big Wind’ in 1839 to the passing of the Home Rule Bill in 1914, including an emotional first hand description of a family of parents and seven daughters all dying on the roadside in one night.
The existence of this document was lost until Mike discovered it during his search. It is but one of many. We, the project committee recommend this collection to all who have an interest in Castleisland district and its people, including our diaspora. The catalogue will help to source particular events or periods of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. We hope that in time you get enjoyment and value from your perusal of this valuable local history.”
Johnnie Roche
Project Chairman, September 4th 2015

History in Film
In the summer of 2015, a short film about the project was produced by John Reidy in which family and friends of the late Michael O’Donohoe were invited to reminisce on their relationship with him.  The film, The Master’s Legacy, of 15 minutes duration, was produced by Micheál Reidy www.mdgd.net and screened in Castleisland during Heritage Week, August 2015. It can be viewed below.