Friday, October 1, 2021

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

From Kilkelly to South Carolina
and from East Clare to The World

Michael Gerard Kenny was born and raised in Kilkelly Co Mayo. He now owns a successful machinery business in South Carolina. He got there via Galway, Limerick, Cork, and Dublin. He Left Ireland in 1980 to work overseas for a mining machinery company. He worked in the U.K. then briefly in the USA before spending 4 yrs in Southern Africa and then moving to the USA again in 1985 with Powerscreen Intl. He then set up his own company which he still runs today along with his two American- born sons Adam and Eoin.

Amid all the hard work and success he had a burning desire to write a book. Not just any book.

Ireland’s Final Rebellion and an American Dream’ is based in this book on his father’s life and his involvement in the Tan War of 1919-1921. Kenny senior was an unassuming tailor, tall and straight tailor, who always wore a shirt and tie and smoked Carroll’s cigarettes and made suits for the males of the district, and did alterations. He was fifty-seven when Gerard was born. He had been an active fighter during the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence, and he received a small state pension for that. He did not like to talk much about the war and deflected Gerard’s questions about The Tan War, saying he would tell him more when he was older.

Michael Gerard says, “I did hear enough in family-circle conversation and from listening in on the regular get-togethers of his Old IRA comrades at our tailor shop to form my own picture of his life.“ Michael Gerard’s father was born in 1897 and grew up in a turbulent period of Irish history.

MrKenny-Freedom Fighter

He was very close with his Grandmother who lived to be almost 100. She filled his head with the feats of the mystic warrior heroes of Irish Legend. He became active in various resistance movements (the IRB, Irish Volunteers and Sinn Fein) perhaps, partly, as a result of his grandmother’s influence. After the 1916 executions he became a full-time IRA fighter on the run during the1919-1921 campaign and fought without capture up to the declaration of the Truce.

His son says,” He was vehemently Anti-Treaty but chose neutrality during the Civil War rather than take up arms against his former comrades.” He went back to his tailoring until he was arrested and imprisoned by the (Free State Army). During his incarceration, he went on hunger strike and was close to death when the prisoner’s hunger strike was finally called off.

He died suddenly in April 1969, and Michael Gerard says, “I was left with only memories and unanswered questions. One of those memories was that of his expressed regret at not having emigrated to America like many of his war comrades did. At his funeral I decided that I would make good on his missed opportunity – I would someday emigrate to America.”

Michael did indeed keep that promise. Despite being a busy businessman he has left us two well-written and informative books. In ‘Just one of the Boys’ the author uses the fictional Kane family to portray events in an Irish history that propelled ordinary Irish men and women to take up arms in 1919 and fight the oppressor. In Book 2 ‘An American Dream’. The fictitious Sean Kane shows the author’s own journey from Kilkelly to where he is today. In it, the reader finds that Michael Gerard Kenny has really realized the American Dream.

Michael Gerard Kenny

I spoke to some of his fellow- Mayo men and amid the excitement of the All Ireland Final and Tyrone winning they made time to discuss it with me. John McGrath was impressed by the accuracy of the detail on growing up in rural Ireland in the 50s and 60s. John was also overwhelmed by the writing style which he described as being “somewhere between American and Irish.“

Des Garvin from north Mayo went through the book(s) with a fine-tooth comb. He is not bothered by the absence of any real identity as to where the battles took place as he knows the place like the back of his hand.

Ireland’s Final Rebellion and An American Dream was published through Amazon KDP in early March 2021 and is available as both an e-book and paperback on: or the author’s website: where a link to Amazon will be available. Readers' comments are always welcome. Details at:

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“I first experienced Marie's expertise on the physio table while playing for the Clare football team in the late '80s and I remember excruciating pain followed later by magical relief.” This comment and a bit of additional information on Marie O’ Sullivan prompted me to seek out "Song to Ireland.”

February 2021 saw Marie O ‘Sullivan and her sister Siobhán release their maiden CD of much loved Irish songs accompanied by a trio of great east Clare musicians, John Canny, Mark Donnellan, and Michael Landers (who is described as “an immigrant to East Clare” But we’re not told from where.).

The history of each of the eleven tracks is given in the sleeve notes. And in a wonderfully informative Foreword Tomás MacConmara says, “Marie and Siobhán must have had considerable difficulty as a result of the endless fountain before them.” I agree and with whatever difficulties they encountered along they turned their stumbling blocks into stepping stones to produce a work of art. This album is not to be missed and it is ideal for broadcasting as every track is less than four minutes. The sisters along with their talent on accordion, fiddle, and guitar have produced a collector’s piece.

Siobhán told me, “The genesis of this CD was to commemorate 1920 which was the year our grandmother's house and shop was burnt by the Tans as she was a member of Cumann na mBan. I am a history and English teacher of 30 years, so this is a labour of love documenting the history of our past as presented through song and music. Marie and I have been singing from a young age, as we were brought on guard to neighbor's homes and one had to perform. The response to our CD has been immensely positive as it has evoked memories for people of loved one's long gone or for those away from home.”

I, for one, am looking forward to their next one. Details from: €1 from the sale of each CD is donated to Milford Care Centre.

* * * * *

A visiting Professor was addressing a large audience in Trinity College, Dublin on the subject of modern nutrition. "The rubbish we put into our stomachs should have killed most of us sitting here, years ago. Red meat is full of steroids and dye. Soft drinks corrode your stomach lining. Chinese food is loaded with MSG. High trans-fat diets can be disastrous, and none of us realize the long-term harm caused by the germs in our drinking water. But, there is one thing that is the most dangerous of all and most of us have, or will eat it. Can anyone here tell me what food it is that causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?" After several seconds of quiet a 70-year-old mountainy man from Kylebeg in the front row raised his hand, and softly said, "Wedding Cake?"

I’ll see you in November.

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.



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