De Loughry - the Kilkenny patriot and politician
The man who made the key that sprung
De Valera from Lincoln Jail
The De Loughrys first came into Kilkenny City from Tullaherin
in 1780. Tullaherin lies between Bennettsbridge and Dungarvan,
County Kilkenny. Peter de Loughry was born in 1882. He was
the 5th child of the family and it was he who took over
the management of the large family business which had been
established in 1816 by his father Richard.
To give readers some idea of the magnitude and excellence
of this establishment, I will give you an advertisement
published in an old book on Kilkenny that read as follows:
R. De Loughry and Sons of Parliment Street and New Building
Lane. Established in 1816. Casting in iron, brass etc of
every description made to order. Plough parts a speciality.
Also builders, contractors, millers etc will find it to
their advantage to consult us when requiring castings of
any kind. Our foundry was established in 1816. Engineering
in all its branches including motor repairs. Agents for
Swift cars, cycle depot and hardware store. Telephone De
Loughrys Kilkenny 43.
Peter De Loughrys wife was a woman named Winifred
Murphy. Winifred was born in the Union House which was in
fact a poor house. It stood where the old Central Hospital
stood later. Later still this building was taken over by
the Kilkenny Products and Engineering firm now defunct.
The reason Winifred Murphy was born in the Union House was
that her father, Thomas Murphy, was the Master of the Union.
This mans job of work was similar to that of Mister
Bumbles in Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. But,
I hasten to add, that unlike Mister Bumble, Thomas Murphy
was a most humane man, as the following story will reveal.
Written into the records of the day to day running of the
Union House was the following; It had come to the
notice of myself Thomas Murphy, Master of the Union on the
Hebron Road, that three young male inmates were today bitten
by a mad dog, that showed signs of rabies.
I have sent for the Union Physician. Some time later
it was diagnosed that the three boys had in fact contracted
the terrible disease of rabies. You must remember that in
those far off days rabies was a certain killer. There was
no cure for it. Not in Ireland, England, Scotland nor Wales.
And so it became a foregone conclusion that the three boys
would surely die and under the most horrific circumstances
As well as being in true humanitarian, Thomas Murphy, was
also a well-read man. Some times earlier he had read in
a News Letter that a young scientist in Paris,
named Louis Pasteur, was founding a special branch of science,
which he called Bacteriology. High on Mister
Pasteurs research list was a cure for Hydrophobia,
otherwise known as rabies.
As Thomas Murphy saw it he had to take the three boys by
boat and train to Paris. This he did without delay.
Nothing further was found in the Union House record. But
we do known with certainty that the first vaccination
Louis Pasteur performed on a human being was a boy who had
been bitten by a mad-dog. Who can tell? Perhaps it was one
of the boys from Union House, Hebron Road, Kilkenny, that
has been the worlds first recipient of Louis Pasteurs
vaccination against rabies.
Winifred Murphy later married Peter De Loughry. She became
Head of the Cumann na mBan in Kilkenny. The poet and freedom
fighter Joseph Mary Plunkett was a great friend of Peter
and Winifred De Loughry and often stayed at their home in
Flood Street, later called Parnell Street.
After the Easter Rising Joseph Mary Plunkett was married
in prison, shortly before he was executed. The priest who
performed the ceremony was that great Kilkenny patriot priest
Father Albert. Ill tell you all about him at a later
Peter De Loughry was a staunch member of the Irish Volunteers
and was arrested and imprisoned on numerous occasion. He
was an ardent member of Kilkenny Corporation and County
Council. He was chairman of Kilkenny City and County Technical
Committee and was in jail when first he was elected to the
Peter De Loughry was the first to be taken hostage by the
infamous Black and Tans. At that time he was driven through
the streets of Kilkenny while standing in the back of an
army lorry, blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back
and a rifle aimed at his head.
Following that, he was jailed in Dublin and his home was
occupied by the British Forces. Over the years of the Troubles,
Peter was imprisoned in Mountjoy, Ballykinlar, Frongoch
and Wandsworth. He said the latter was worst of all.
History recalls that Peter De Loughry was also imprisoned
in Lincoln jail, as was Sean Milroy, Sean McGarry and Eamon
De Valera. It was Peter who cut the key that led to their
eventual escape. He got the idea for their escape from stories
told to him by his mother who was a cousin of the man who
had helped the Fenian chief to escape from Richmond Jail.
The Fenian Chief of course was our own James Stephens from
Blackmill Street, Kilkenny City. The man who helped Stephens
was J.J. Breslin, who had infiltrated the prison staff by
becoming a prison guard.
But here is what actually happened at Lincoln Jail. As De
Valera regularly served Mass in the church jail, it was
an easy matter for him to pocket a few candles. He melted
these down and took an impress of the Chaplains master
key. As there were double locks on every door, the master
key was a must.
There were two ordinary keys made that didnt work.
De Valera made the first impression and had it smuggled
out of prison and sent to Gerard Boland in Dublin. Boland
sent back the key in a Christmas cake but it didnt
turn the lock. A second impression was made which was sent
to Manchester where craftsmen cut what they thought was
a true replica. It too was a fiasco.
At that juncture Peter De Loughry, told Dev to have a bland
key sent into the prison with a file, saying: Ill
cut it myself. The blank key and the file arrived
this time in a birthday cake. Peter who was an expert locksmith
easily cut a perfect replica.
Outside waiting at the last gate to freedom were Michael
Collins and Harry Boland. As Collins spied Dev, Milroy and
McGarry coming towards the door, he inserted another key,
which he believed would open the last door to freedom. He
attempted to turn the lock, giving the key a powerful twist.
It broke in the lock. Collins was raging. Ive broken
the key in the lock - what are we going to do now?
Dev muttered something while inserting the key Peter De
Loughry had cut for him. It knocked out the broken part
and with one turn the lock clicked open. The five men shook
hands and disappeared into the night. Peter De Loughry did
not escaped with the others as he had but a few week is
left to serve out his sentence.
Some years later a national newspaper ran this story:
The true story of the Escape from Lincoln Jail, reads like
a page of sensational fiction. De Valera as an alter server
picks up the Chaplains master key and in moments has
taken the impression of it in the wax of a melted candle.
This impression is cunningly reproduced in a comic drawing
and depicts a drunken man fumbling with a latch key at a
door, and underneath is written: I cant get
in. The other side shows a prisoner trying to fit
a big key in a prison gate and underneath this sketch is
written: I cant get out. The key on this
side is an exact replica of the actual master key.
There is a stringent censorship over the prisoners
correspondence, which has to pass both ways through London
for inspection, but this postcard, regarded by the censors
as harmless joke, gets through and eventually reaches Michael
Collins in Dublin.
A key made to the required dimensions is baked in a cake
and sent to the prisoners, but it doesnt work. Paddy
ODonaghue, a former civil servant, then in business
in Manchester, has a second key made, but his one also fails.
A third key which is a blank is then sent in with a file
in yet another cake, and this one is expertly cut by one
of the prisoners, Aldermand De Loughry of Kilkenny, who
had made an exhaustive study of all the locks in Lincoln
Jail. The rest is history.
Eamon De Valera restored the key to Peter De Loughry many
years later in Dáil Eireann. Again the newspapers
took up the story: Mr De Valera returns the key. Alderman
Peter De Loughry TD, CC, PC, Kilkenny has been presented
with the key made by himself when he was a prisoner in Lincoln
Jail, which enabled three of his fellow prisoners, Eamon
De Valera, Sean Milroy and Sean McGarry to unlock the prison
gates and gain their freedom.
The key was restored to the artificer, a week ago in the
Dáil by Mr De Valera, accompanied by a letter in
Irish in which Mr De Valera stated he was returning the
key in pursuance of a promise made to Alderman De Loughry
some years ago.
Peter De Loughry was chairman of the first Kilkenny Sinn
Féin club. He took part in the 1916 rising and was
subsequently jailed. He was a member of the first Senate,
as was Lady Desart of Kilkenny, in 1918, which was the occasion
of his election to Dáil Eireann as TD for Kilkenny.
In 1925, he brought the Black Abbey bell back from the Market
House at Dunlavin Estate where it had been used to summon
the workers on the Estate.
Alderman Peter De Loughry died at his sisters residence
Mrs Henry Mangan, Richmond Ave, Dublin, on October 24, 1931
aged 52 years.
He voted for the approval of the articles of agreement of
1921 and was a member of the Cumann na nGaelheal, later
known as the Fine Gael party.
Richard De Loughry, who was a son of the fabled Peter, was
an electrical engineer. He was the first Kilkenny man to
volunteer for the Irish Army during The Emergency. He held
the rank of ordinance officer with the Southern Command,
a position, he held with distinction all through The Emergency.
He relinquished the position in 1948 and returned to Kilkenny
to take up the management of the family business in a hardware
shop, petrol pumps and electrical components shop at 18
and 19 Parnell Street.
At the time the foundry in New Building Lane was still operating
with the famous Leahy brothers, Jeff and Jimmy doing the
Anna Teresa Hennessy became Richard De Loughrys wife,
better known as Ciss, to her friends. Ciss claims with conviction
that she comes from one of the oldest native business families
Her father, Pat Hennessy, was proprietor of a saddlery and
harness shop at Rose Inn Street. Pat had a great singing
voice and was a life long member of the Friary Choir. Pat,
Cisss father had a butchers shop also at Rose Inn
Patricia De Loughry is the daughter of Richard who died
a comparatively young man. She is a Gaelic scholar and schoolteacher
at St Canices Co-Ed on the Granges Road. A foremost
member of the Gaelic League, Patricia is totally committed
to the restoration of the Irish Ianguage. She lives at Parliament
Street with her mother Ciss, in a house that has been the
family house for all of two hundred and twenty two years.
Courtesy of the Kilkenny People
By Sean Kenny