Posted: 16th September 2016

Irish patriot: British soldier

Old Clongownian, Thomas Kettle was a renowned Irish poet, statesman and soldier who died during the Battle of the Somme, 9th September 1916. Hundreds of past pupils of Clongowes took part in WWI, and ninety-five perished including Lieutenant Thomas Kettle (OC 1897). His life and death were both remembered at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, earlier this month, as well as during the Clongowes War Graves Trip in September 2014.

On the centenary of his death, Friday, 9th September 2016, University College Dublin hosted a seminar entitled ‘Tom Kettle 100’, and unveiled a memorial plaque in his honour. In the afternoon, at the memorial bust to Kettle situated in St. Stephen’s Green, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, spoke at a State Ceremonial event marking the centenary of his death.

The seminar in the School of History set out to explore Kettle’s contribution to Irish history and also examine his work as a scholar, writer, and poet. Clongowes was represented by Transition Year Students, Mark Galvin, James Hoey, John Maher, Eoin O’ Leary, Hugo Philips and Tom Power with their prefect Mr John O’Donoghue and GAP student, Conor Mulcahy. College Archivist, Ms Margaret Doyle was also in attendance as was Head of Communications, Mr Declan O’Keeffe.

The seminar heard presentations from several academics as well as from Tom Kettle’s grandnephew, Declan, who gave us a family perspective of the man. During a break in the proceedings the delegates moved to the Rose Garden, where a plaque to the memory of Kettle, the first Professor of National Economics in the newly formed UCD was unveiled, thereby honouring a commitment made by the college to his widow almost 100 years ago. Back in the seminar room it fell to Mr Declan O’Keeffe (a historian in his own right) to ‘sound the last post’ by reading his ‘Eulogy to Tom Kettle’. (The full text of Declan’s eulogy may be read here).

In the afternoon, the Rector, Fr Michael Sheil along with Ms Doyle and Mr O’Keeffe and two Rhetoric pupils, Colin Bourke and Thomas Connolly attended the State Ceremonial event in St Stephen’s Green that marked the centenary of Kettle’s death. Thomas read one of Kettle’s poems while Colin remembered his time in Clongowes. Addressing the 200 or so people that attended the event, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD said that Tom Kettle was a politician, a true European and a hugely important figure.

‘The death of this proud nationalist was not only a loss for his family and friends but a huge loss to Ireland.’ The Minister said that Ireland in its early years as a state would have been enriched by someone with the intellect and talents of Thomas Kettle, adding, ‘His loss is a reminder of the tragedy of a generation from across Europe who were caught up in the slaughter of World War I. I can think of no more fitting tribute to their memory than to cherish the peace and stability we have in Europe today and to seek ways of extending this beyond our borders to parts of the world experiencing the horrors of war today.’

When next you are in St Stephen’s Green in Dublin you might pause for a moment and for a moment’s thought of this remarkable Old Clongownian.

For more on Tom Kettle click here

Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications

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