Tuesday, 21 May 2019


Unveiling plaque to Richard Hayes at the Bank of Ireland in The Square which was originally the National Bank

RTE Radio broadcast a very interesting documentary recently describing the exploits of an Abbeyfeale man who helped break the German intelligence codes during World War Two.
Richard Hayes was born in Abbeyfeale in 1902. His father, who was originally from County Clare, was manager of the National Bank in The Square and the family lived above the premises.
Back then, Abbeyfeale was a busy and bustling market town. If the young Richard had chanced to look out the window from his high vantage point he would have witnessed a colourful cacophony of sights and sounds down below which would all have been very different from the leafy suburbs of Ballsbridge in Dublin where he would later live.
Richard would have seen cattle been driven through the streets and deals made with spits on palms and rough handshakes. Horses and ponies clip-clopped along pulling common cars laden with hay and turf. Street vendors sold turkeys and chickens and fresh eggs to local women dressed in shawls. Donkeys brayed and galloped off in all directions. Men in cloth caps smoked pipes and gathered by the parish pump to talk about the weather and the state of the country. Sheepdogs barked and snarled at each other, while travelling salesmen displayed their trinkets from makeshift stalls. Barefoot children raced around excitedly, causing mischief and getting in the way. Everyone was engaged in some activity or other.
There was no monument to Father Casey in The Square back then, but the man himself could probably be seen going about his parochial duties while men stepped out of his path and tipped their hats respectfully to him.
Young Richard might have watched all of this chaos and confusion going on below and wished for a more orderly existence. Perhaps this imbued in him the mental discipline that he would later use to such good effect when cracking the German codes.
We do not know how long the Hayes Family remained in Abbeyfeale but by 1911 they had transferred to Claremorris in County Mayo.
Richard attended Clongowes Wood College in Kildare and later gained entry to Trinity where he excelled and gained three degrees, including one in languages, before joining the National Library of Ireland in 1923. He was appointed Director in 1940, a post that he held until he retired in 1967. He then became Director of the Chester Beatty Library.
The RTE documentary describes how, at the outbreak of WW2, Hayes was recruited by the head of Irish Military Intelligence and given an office and three staff members to decode wireless messages being secretly transmitted by Morse code from a house in north Dublin owned by the German Embassy. These coded messages posed a huge threat to Irish neutrality and also to the wider war effort.
The team worked for months to solve the infamous Görtz Cipher, a Nazi code that had fooled some of the greatest minds of British Intelligence in Bletchley Park.
It was a code used by German spy, Dr Herman Görtz, who had been captured and held in Arbour Hill prison after parachuting into Meath a year earlier.
Gortz had health problems and Hayes tricked him into having a medical check-up so he could find the cipher in his trouser pockets without the German’s knowledge and went on to crack the code.
Hays and his team then began intercepting messages from the spy and systematically sending their own messages back to him to fool him into revealing more information which was quickly passed on to M15 in Bletchley Park.
Hollywood movie “The Imitation Game” brought the work of codebreakers in Bletchley Park to the big screen. Hayes was not mentioned in the film although he had been referred to by MI5 as Ireland’s "greatest unsung hero" while the American Office of Strategic Services described him as "a colossus of a man". Yet, due to the secret nature of his work and his involvement with British Military Intelligence he was virtually unheard of in his own country.
Mark Hull, a serving member of the US army and military historian, told the documentary that the prolific codebreaker was widely recognised for his brilliance in international intelligence circles. “The tragedy here is he was lost in terms of the Irish public. People in the intelligence services, Irish American, British, and certainly Allied intelligence Services, understood and recognised his contribution for being as significant as it was”
Hayes continued to share his information with British mathematicians in Bletchley Park and, in the aftermath of the war, he quietly accepted a medal in recognition of his efforts from Winston Churchill.
Richard Hayes died in 1976 and most of his secrets died with him. It is not known in he ever revisited his birthplace in Abbeyfeale.
A plaque in his honour was unveiled in The Square on Saturday 18th May 2019.
Voters go to the polls on Friday where they will be presented with no less than four ballot papers and asked to vote in the Local and European elections as well as on a Divorce amendment and whether or not to have a duly elected Mayor of Limerick.
Democracy may very well be a good thing – but sometimes you can get too much of a good thing!)
There is usually great excitement at election time with banners and posters plastered all over the place and rousing speeches being made at church gates and in various pubs and street corners after closing time.
However, on this occasion, you would hardly know that there was an election at all.
Local candidates agreed not to litter the town with posters and placards. Instead, they have their giant pictures and slogans painted on to cars and vans which are parked in strategic positions around the town, thus adding to the already congested traffic chaos
Sometimes you cannot see the wood for the trees.
One aspiring candidate seeking election to the European Parliament swept through town during the week in a cavalcade of cars with flags waving and loudspeaker blaring. He stopped in The Square calling out for support from a startled scattering of people who had never heard of him before and would probably never hear from him again.
Vote for me and you’ll never again see a poor day!” seemed to be his message as he shook hands and posed for selfies.
Is there a circus in town?” an old-age pensioner wanted to know.
No circus - just clowns.” was the laconic reply.
We wish all candidates the best of luck and hope that there will be a big turnout on the day because every vote counts.

WALK TO KILLEENAGH HOLY WELL AND PARISH BARBECUE:  The annual walk to Killeenagh Holy Well, will take place on Sunday next, May 26. The walk will conclude with a barbecue for all present. Over the years it has become a great parish and community event. The visit to Killeenagh Well in Dromtrasna has a special link with the celebration of Confirmation in the parish. On Tuesday, March, 26 the children who received Confirmation this year, took part in what is called the ‘Abbeyfeale Initiative’. This is a programme on healthy life choices, run by the Catholic Church for Confirmation students with the help of Transition Year students, who are trained to deliver the programme to the children in sixth class.   It has been up and running very successfully in the parish for eleven years.  The programme concludes with the annual walk to Killeenagh Holy Well, where the young people from the Confirmation Class make a commitment to abstain from alcohol and drugs during their teenage years. As an acknowledgment of their participation in the programme, the children receive wrist bands which are very popular with them, and the visit to the Well concludes with a barbecue on Cotter’s farmyard.  We are grateful to the Cotter family for hosting us once again.   Put next Sunday in your diary and join us for the Walk and barbecue. People should assemble at Dromtrasna School at 2.45pm.  The walk will begin at 3.00p.m sharp. All are welcome.
MAY DEVOTIONS: The month of May has traditionally been known as the month of The Blessed Virgin Mary.  We are invited to honour her by reciting the Rosary daily.  On Wednesday May 29 we will have a special service honouring our Blessed Mother which will include the crowning of Mary in Duagh Church.
CLEAN UP:  Reilig Ide Graveyard every Tuesday from 7-8pm.   More help is always appreciated as the graveyard is quite large.  In order to help with this families are encouraged to maintain their own graves and one near yours if that family is no longer able to. We appreciate any help you can give.  
DEATH:  We offer our sympathy to the family of Maureen Browne, Church Street whose funeral took place on Thursday.   May she rest in peace
HOST FAMILIES WANTED:  Wanted host families for French students for 2 or 3 weeks during the summer. Contact Catherine at 0876255679 or email me at hostfamilies17@gmail.com  Rosary every Friday evening during May. 
CELTIC STEPS PLAY ABBEYFEALE RUGBY CLUB:  The club is marking its 60th anniversary this year with a one night performance by Celtic Steps – the show produced by our own Sean Murphy - on Saturday, May 25.  Doors open 7.30pm with show starting at 8.30pm.  Tickets available by ringing 087 3925763 or emailing kevinprendiville@gmail.coom
COMMUNITY GAMES:  Abbeyfeale Community Games will be holding their Athletics Evening on Wednesday, May 29 in the GAA Club, Abbeyfeale.  Registration from 6pm  with the Athletics starting at 6.30pm sharp. Age is of the 31st of July. Races from Toddler to U 16. Long jump and Shot Putt will also be held on the night. There will also be fun Novelty Races, weather permitting. For any enquiries contact Maurice Cullinane on 087 6315169.
PLAQUE UNVEILING:  A heritage plaque was unveiled last Saturday by the daughter of the late Richard Hayes outside her father’s birthplace in the present Bank of Ireland building in the Square. The plaque was sourced and erected by Abbeyfeale Community Council under Chairman Maurice O’Connell and its unveiling was attended by three generations of the Hayes family.  Radio 1 producer Mark McMennamin who produced a documentary and wrote a book entitled Code Breaker spoke and told the untold story of the man who saved countless lives during WW2 by his work as a cryptologist with the Irish Secret Service.  The book is available in book shops in Tralee and possibly NCW.

WEDNESDAY CLUB FUNDRAISER; A tea dance will take place at Fr. Casey’s Clubhouse on Sunday, June 9 with dancing to Paddy Quilligan.  Proceeds to Recovery Haven and Kerry Hospice Foundation.
 CONCERT AT THE GLÓRACH THEATRE:  Having given an impressive performance on his Abbeyfeale debut at the Glórach Theatre in 2017, Steo Wall returns to the esteemed venue with fellow musicians Trevor Sexton and Ger O'Donnell under the collective name, Hearts of Men.  Combining folk, traditional and original numbers, as well as three very distinctive vocal styles, Hearts of Men will be playing at the Glórach Theatre on Thursday, June 13 at 8 pm.  A concert not to be missed, be sure to book at 0871383940 to guarantee a seat on the night.  Bingo every Monday night at 8.30pm.

HARNETT REUNION:  8 weeks to go.  Committee meeting Thursday, St. Ita’s Hall at 7.30pm.  Confirmation received this week of two Harnetts coming from Hawaii.  They will be joining people from Italy, New Zealand, the US and Canada and the UK who have booked already.  Carina Prendeville is currently working on our  magazine and is looking for family pictures, stories, histories.  You can contact her on harnettreunion2019@gmail.com  
We have a full programme organised for our visitors but it is also open to anyone to join us.  Free admission on Friday, July 12 to the Genealogy workshops and the Patie Boy Historical Collection in the Devon Inn.  Tickets for the variety concert in Tournafulla on Friday, July 12 will be available on the door. Tickets for the Gala banquet and bus tour available from Batt Harnett or Ann Lyons. There will be genealogy, bus tours, a concert, a gala banquet and a memorial Mass, all at different venues around West Limerick/North Kerry. Please spread the word far and wide. The event is open to everybody.