IT IS NEWLY STRUNG AND SHALL BE HEARD

 

The History of the

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Fundraising

In an article in the Irish News printed on Friday 09 August 1907 called “Rody McCorley, Who fears to speak of 98”, which is re-printed in this booklet, Francis J Bigger called for the raising of a large Celtic cross on the site of the scaffold at Toome to be erected as a memorial to the memory of Rody McCorley. He had received an offer of the land free of charge from Francis Grant of the O’Neill Arms, and requested that a committee be formed to complete the work.

 

Following Francis Biggers death in 1926, nothing further happened until 1950 when the Roddy McCorley Memorial Committee was formed. The Committee ran ceilidhs and ballots to raise the money for the erection of a Celtic cross. On 6th November 1950 they had a balance of £7 and 7 shillings. In 1954 sufficient funds had been raised to pay the initial deposit of 100 pounds to O'Neill & Co Belfast on the 28th July 1954. The second payment of £195 was made on the 5th August 1954 and the final payment of£40 was paid on the 27th December 1955. The total bill for the monument was £335. In 1950 the average minimum weekly wage for a 47 hour week was 4 pounds and 14 shillings. In todays term's the monument cost would be equivalent to £16,900.

 

 

All of the fundraising details were documented in an account book carefully maintained by Seamus Carey. In May 2007, Seamus kindly donated this book to the Roddy McCorley Museum. We appreciate this magnaminous gesture.

 

 

The Unveiling

The monument was finally erected during the months of September/October 1954. The monument Committee then decided on Monday 1st November as the date of the unveiling. The invited the Very Rev J.Canon Byrne, P.P.,V.F., Larne, to perform the unveiling in the presence of representatives of Irish Ireland organisations and a large number of Nationalists from the village and surrounding district. Bigger's dream was realised at last.

On the morning of Monday 1st November, the then District - Inspector of RUC Ballymena, W Sparrow, issued an order banning the carring of the Tricolour at the ceremony. This Banning order was served on Mr William Young and five members of the executive committee.This banning order was in spite of the fact that the Tricolour had been carried throught the village for several years, without incident or protest from the Unionist people of Toome, to remember both Rody McCorly and the Manchester Martyrs.

The procession from the village to the memorial was led by three bands; Ballinascreen Brass, Sean Larkin Accordion Brackareilly, and the James Connolly Pipes from Ballymacpeake. Ex-Commandant Sean Cunningham from Belfast, led a contingent of Old IRA volunteers wearing medals. The national flag was not carried in procession but it flew from the flagpole next to the monument.

About 50 RUC men were deployed in the village for the procession and mingled in close proximity to the attendant crowd. One RUC man took shorthand notes of the entire proceeding and noted the orations in detail.

In his address Canon Byrne said, "Every nation held in respect and veneration the heroes of the past. They were remembered in song,story and monuments of various kinds, so that others might draw strength and inspiration from their noble deeds. In erecting a monument to Rody McCorley they were only fulfilling a national obligation, which would serve to focus attention on the cause for which Rody McCorley died. It would also renew patriotism and the love of country in the hearts of the people. Rody McCorley belonged not merely to Duneane or Toome but to Ireland, and he gave his life for the sacred cause of Irish nationhood. It was patriotism and love of country that brought them there that day. It was their duty as Irishmen to work and strive for the freedom of Ireland, and in doing that they would not be infringing on the rights of others. They were not Imperialistic in their aims. They did not want to possess even a foot of foreign soil. But they did want their own soil for their own people."

Canon Byrne went on to say "This was not an extravagant demand. They wanted the liberty that other nations had, so that they could make their own laws for their own people, to use and develop their resources for the common good of the people, all the people.

Ireland has a glorious past in the field of learning and culture, but unfortunatley those years of glory passed away when the country was under the heel of the persecutor for centuries. No amount of material,force or power in the form of persecution and oppression,however, could prevail against the spirit of the nation. They could hand Rody McCorley a thousand times but they could not hang the cause for which he died.

That cause is living still and proof of that was found in their meeting this day, where so many had gathered to celebrate the memory of Rody McCorley. We are not here to foment discord or dissention. That is the farthest from our minds. We are here in the intrests of peace, to promote friendship and goodwill amongst all sections of the people. But it must be peace that is true and genuine, founded on justice and based on our natural right and the will of our people. That peace will be fully realised only when this nation takes her rightful place as a free nation amoungst the free nations of the earth."

Reverend Eamon Devlin, C.C., Donaghmore, said in his oration that memories of the men of 1798 were still green among their countrymen and descendants. He said that the memories are still held by modern Presbyterians but are fading reapidly due to sinister influences that are trying to separate them from their past and the glories of their forefathers. It should be remembered by them that when Rody stood upon the gallows, he said:

 

" Farewell unto thee, sweet Dromaul,

If in it I had stayed,

Among the Prebyterians there,

I would not have been betrayed "

 

He went on to say that it was doubtful if any Presbyterian from Dromaul, or any other place, had come there today to honour Rody McCorley who had thought so much of them.

Other speakers included Mr Joseph Clarke, a member of the executive committee of Co. Antrim GAA and Mr Charles McGleenan, abstentionist MP for South Down. The final speaker was Rev. J. Mullholland, P.P., Armoy who was born and bred on the banks of the Bann. He said they were not gathered there from a political point of view. Rather did they wish to remind their fellow countrymen that Presbyterians and Protestants stood together in 1798 with Rody McCorley when he was on the gallows.

He went on to congratulate all who attended the ceremony despite the obstacles put in their path.

 

The Destruction and Restoration

The 15 foot high granite memorial stood for 14 years only 50 yards behind the village police station, on the spot where it was believed that Rody McCorley was hanged, until it was demolished in a midnight explosion on 01 January 1969. Only the base remained intact. The explosion occurred the night before the Peoples Democracy civil rights marchers passed through the village of Toome after their route to Randalstown was blocked. Ironically F J Bigger’s funerary monument was also blown up in a separate incident by Protestant extremists in early 1969.

The remnants of the original monument remained in Toome until the members of The Roddy McCorley Society asked the people of Toome if they could restore the cross to its former glory and re-erect it in the grounds of the club in Belfast. The people of Toome agreed and the pieces of the Celtic cross were brought to the grounds of Moyard House in November 2005. As can be seen from the photograph there were very few large pieces of the cross intact.

In February 2006 the Society then entrusted the many pieces of the cross to Smith Monumentals in Ballinamore for restoration.

The restoration work took almost a year using skilled stone masons from Leitrim and Tipperary. Some parts were irreparable and had to be replaced, but this was sympathically done and the transformation was complete. On Friday 30th March 2007 the task of re-erecting the cross begun. It took two days to complete the work. The completed monument is 15 feet in height and weighs seven tonnes.

The rededication ceremony was held on the 10th June 2007, the Society’s 35th anniversary. The unveiling ceremony was jointly carried out by respected Toome Republicans, Seamus Carey and Dan Mc Cloy , and Liam Higgins, our Society President. Seamus and Dan had a long history of involvement in respect of both monuments erected over the years. In fact Seamus, in 2007,was the only surviving member of the original monument committee of 1950. He passed away in late 2007. Liam is a founder member of the Roddy Mc Corley Society and has had a long and proud association with the people of Toome. The ceremony was also attended by members of the Toome Sinn Fein Cumann.

Society Chairperson, David McGivern presided over the ceremony and summarised the pride the Society feels at having this monument re-erected in the Society grounds;
“It is such a fitting tribute to this Society that in 2007 on the 35th anniversary of our formation we have inherited a monument erected to pay tribute and honour to one of Ireland’s most deserving patriots.”

 

 

The Current Toome Monument


In the mid 1970’s the people of Toome decided to replace the shattered cross with a new monument, exactly the same in scale and design and again placed close to the spot of Rody's execution .

A new committee was formed and again went about the process of gathering funding for the monument and had to work as hard as the original committee in the 1950’s to achieve their goal.

The fact that two monuments have been erected in Toome within the last 50 years as a memorial to young Rody of Duneane, the person and his principles, is testimony to the unyielding respect the people of Toome and surrounding areas still have for this brave young man.

Each year the Roddy McCorley Society takes part in the Easter Tuesday commemoration in Toome. We gather at the roundabout outside town and parade to the Rody McCorley monument. This is always a very well attended event and we enjoy meeting old friends and having a bit of craic after the formal ceremony.The very strong bands of friendship and history linking our society and the people of Toome have been there for the last quarter of a century. We look forward to the next quarter of a century.

 

fffffffffffffffffffffThe Cross by the Bann

 

In ‘99’ our history says
Roddy McCorley ended his days
From an English jibbet
In an Irish wind his body sways

His remains were buried neath the road
No marker to show poor Roddy below
Till some years later a nephew came
With a road gang Roddys bones to claim

Quietly reburied at Duneane
Roddys bones to this day remain
In latter days the people of Toome
Erect a cross where he met his doom

In ‘69’ due south of the town civil rights
Marchers camped for the night
A midnight blast Roddys cross did smite
The cross in pieces the barracks in sight

In the cold light of dawn
The very next day the marchers
Roddys ruined cross
They viewed with dismay

Little did they know
Of their troubles to come
At Burntullet a beating to undergo
And Unionism still to overthrow

That historic march
As we all know
Made its way to Derry
Despite of their foe

The people they built a monument new
Facing the barracks in RUC view
To this day the grand cross remains
A fitting tribute to the rebels fame

But what of the old cross
Wrecked by the blast
From the farmers field
It was rescued at last

Carried to Belfast on the back of a truck
The Roddies could not believe their luck
Their heroes old cross
Had found a home at last

Now the men of the Roddies
They started to plan
And a new life for the ruined cross began
For a mason near Cavan took job in hand

A rake of months later back it came
A stoney tribute to the masons fame
Roddys old cross now re-erected
In a spot forever to remain

Their hard work rewarded
And the people accorded
Rodys old cross now stands grand
On Roddy McCorley land

Eithna Carbery and Bobby Sands
Both penned tributes to Rodys name
Ensuring his place in rebel fame
And a lasting shrine to the United Irishmen

And now today as we unveil the cross
Blew up in Toome and almost lost
We will remember Roddy McCorley
And this cross that once stood by the Bann.

Kevin Carson March 2007