Wednesday 14 May 2014

Charles J. Kickham

Charles J. Kickham (1828-1882)
Though he was totally deaf and almost completely blind because of an accident in boyhood, he wrote what is probably Ireland's greatest historical novel, composed numerous popular ballads, wrote countless stories and newspaper articles, and was one of our finest, idealistic patriots of all time. This was Charles Kickham, a man of supreme courage, not only against the enemies of his country, but against those incapacitating handicaps, and the illnesses brought on by his imprisonment in English jails.

Charles Kickham was born in Mullinahone, Co.Tipperary, "beside the Anner at the foot of Slievenamon", on 9 May 1828. His father was a farmer and shopkeeper noted for his charity and intelligence, while his mother was an O'Mahony, related to the great founder of the Fenian Movement. Two of the boy's uncles were priests, and he was almost entirely educated by his father, and a local scholar named Thomas Cleary who was to die a priest in the USA.

Kickham described the home environment many years later in his personal recollections:
Reading aloud was the custom in my father's house. To this fact I think I was indebted for a rather early acquaintance not only with Robinson Crusoe, but with Pickwick, Martin Chuzzlewit, King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, The Vicar of Wakefield and diverse other works in prose and verse, which I cannot now so distinctly recall. The Nation, in like manner, was read aloud, not only the speeches in Conciliation Hall and at the Repeal Meetings in the provinces, but also the leading and literary pages, including of course, the Poet's Corner.
The last years years of Kickham's life were spent in Blackrock, Dublin, the better to work on The Irish People—this was the newspaper of the Fenian Brotherhood and had Kickham on it's editorial board—but his heart remained in Mullinahone. He suffered an injury as a result of an accident while crossing the road at the incessantly busy spot near where he then lived at Mountpellier Place. He died sometime later of a stroke on 22 August, 1882. Thousands accompanied his remains all the way to Mullinahone, where the poet-patriot wished to be laid at the foot of Slievenamon.

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