Kevin Barry

The Digital Kevin Barry Collection

Some of his fellow UCD students went to Mountjoy on the day before the execution and knelt and prayed, where a priest brought out Barry’s last message to the students, “an exhortation to fight for the cause for which he was dying”.

Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter

UCD Library and UCD Archives have digitised two fascinating new collections, honouring one of the most iconic figures of the Irish revolutionary period. Kevin Barry, a medical student at University College Dublin, was executed for his part in an ambush which resulted in the deaths of three British Army officers in 1920. He was hanged on the 1st of November 1920, despite numerous appeals for his life to be spared. He was 18 years old.

The Kevin Barry Papers, held in UCD Archives, contain material associated with his days at Belvedere College, his year as a medical student in UCD, and his brief time in custody at Mountjoy Prison before execution. The majority of the collection is composed of material gathered by Kathy Barry Maloney, Barry’s sister, after his death.

The Papers of the Kevin Barry Memorial Committee, recently purchased by the UCD Students’ Centre and held in UCD Archives, comprise the papers and correspondence of the Kevin Barry Memorial Committee, who were formed to raise funds to create a memorial to Kevin Barry.

Both collections are now publicly available in the UCD Digital Library at http://digital.ucd.ie

Podcast: Diarmaid Ferriter gave a talk - Kevin Barry and his legacy – to accompany the launch of the digital Kevin Barry Archive in the UCD Digital Library.

Who was Kevin Barry?

Kevin Barry was born on 20 January 1902 at Fleet Street, Dublin, the fourth of seven children and son of Thomas, a dairyman, and Mary Dowling, both originally from Carlow. Kevin was educated at several schools in Dublin and Carlow, including Belvedere College after which he entered UCD in 1919 to study medicine.

While still at Belvedere, he had joined the Irish Volunteers, established in 1913, initially to ensure the implementation of home rule, but which evolved into the IRA after the commencement of the War of Independence that began in 1919.

Kevin was a member of the first battalion of the Dublin Brigade and took part in two successful raids for arms in Dublin and Wicklow in June and July 1920. The third raid he was involved in occurred on 20 September 1920; it was an attack on British troops at Church Street in Dublin city, aimed at seizing arms. During this unsuccessful raid, firing broke out and three British soldiers of roughly the same age as Barry were killed or fatally wounded and Barry became the first Volunteer to be captured in an armed attack since 1916.

Interrogated and mistreated while in custody, he subsequently refused to recognise the court martial that tried him. He was condemned to death on 20 October for murdering the three soldiers and was hanged in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, on 1 November 1920. He was the first person to be tried and executed for a capital offence under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, passed 12 weeks before his death, and the first to be executed since May 1916, in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

- Diarmaid Ferriter.

Read more about Kevin Barry in this booklet authored by Diarmaid Ferriter.

Header image: detail from panel 1 of accompanying Kevin Barry Collection (UCD Library).