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New interviews of Irish Volunteers discovered

Former Aghaloo parish priest, Fr Louis O'Kane, interviewed more than 100 former Irish Volunteers from across the north prior to his death in 1973
John Monaghan

NEW interviews with northerners involved in events from the Easter Rising until partition and the War of Independence have been unearthed.

The Irish News reported last October on the story of Aghaloo parish priest Fr Louis O'Kane, who interviewed more than 100 former Irish Volunteers from across the north prior to his death in 1973.

After spending more than 40 years in storage in a Co Derry outhouse, more material has come to light - but researchers are seeking old equipment to help them play back the reels, recorded in the late 1960s.

The tapes include interviews recorded during a trip by the priest to America in 1969, featuring south Derry republicans Thomas J Maynes and Hugh Breen, who had emigrated following partition.

Breen and Maynes were contemporaries of Sean Larkin, the Bellaghy republican who was executed by the Free State in 1923.

Following Fr O'Kane's death, his sister Mona approached the Walls family in Ballymaguigan in south Derry, offering them the material and asking them to keep it in storage.

The reels, two original large tape-recorders, Fr O'Kane's typewriter and 100 cine slides he took were kept in crates for 42 years.

They were handed over by the Walls family to Loup man Sean Corey, who has been assisting an Irish Volunteers centenary project and had made an appeal for fresh material.

Henry Walls, son of Joe and Margaret, told The Irish News his parents were good friends with the O'Kanes.

He said: "Michael (my brother) kept them in safekeeping until now. We didn't realise they were of any value. I didn't know if they even still played.

"Our family were great friends with the O'Kanes and they would regularly have come to our house. We were very close."

The historian Dónal McAnallen, from the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library and Archive in Armagh, who is heading up the project, said they were keen to find out about the people interviewed.

"We haven't been able to play the tapes yet and are waiting to see if we can get use of old equipment.

"Fr O'Kane went on holiday to the US in June 1969 and interviewed Thomas J Maynes in Philadelphia. Maynes had been in Coalisland in 1916, but we don't know who most of the people are.

"He also interviewed a Rab Quinn, Michael McManus and Frank Scullion and we would like to find out more about them."

A talk discussing the recordings and examining the period in south Derry will take place in Ballyronan Marina Centre next Wednesday at 7.30pm.

The talks are part of the two-year Irish Volunteers centenary project, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

If your family has any old photographs, letters or stories connected to the Easter Rising please email digital.editorial@irishnews.com

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