History Of Faction Fighting In Kerry Explored In New Book

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THE brutal history of faction fighting in Kerry is explored in a new book to be launched next week.

‘Days Of The Blackthorn – Faction Fighters Of Kerry’ by Sean Moraghan, details some grim encounters in all parts of the county, including the Battle of Ballyeagh near Ballybunion in 1834, between the Cooleens and the Lawlors, that left 18 dead!

Ballymac is featured when the Slatterys of O’Brennan fought the Carmody, Leens, Butlers and Learys back in 1803 at Cloghers, we hear how Ardfert was associated with faction fighting from early days, how Tralee was the scene of election riots and many more clashes are recounted in the book.

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‘Days of the Blackthorn’ uses eyewitness descriptions, as well as the oral history of local communities, to provide a visceral sense of this exciting and brutal activity in County Kerry.

From the various battles, to the savage combats of various strongmen, such as Seón Burns or ‘Big Mick’ Foley, this is a fascinating account of a wild and violent time in Ireland’s history. Kerry had a strong reputation for the faction-fighting practice, perhaps second in Munster only to Tipperary.

On town streets or in green fields, at fairs, race meetings and saints’ patron days, rival gangs of Irishmen used to meet to battle and beat each other with cudgels and sticks.

The practice was particularly prevalent in the 1800s, and involved tens, hundreds and even thousands of men and women at a time.

The book will be launched at Killarney Library on next Thursday at 6.30pm.

Seán Moraghan has been a bookseller, librarian, and folklore researcher. He has also worked as an editor, indexer and proofreader.

Following a visit to Killarney he moved to County Kerry where he has lived for over thirty years. Seán previously published Puck Fair: A History, and a new readers edition of The Ancient and Present State of the County of Kerry.

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