by donal o'regan email@example.com @tippstar
The recently deceased former Irish Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave enjoys an interesting Co. Tipperary connection.
The former Taoiseach’s father, William T. Cosgrave who was himself President of the Free State Executive Council – the predecessor to the position of Taoiseach from 1922 until 1932, sheltered in Seskin House, Upperchurch, which was owned by his step uncle, during the War of Independence from 1919 to 1921, having reputedly spent time in the National School in Garnakilka.
W.T. Cosgrave’s mother had married twice, firstly to Thomas Cosgrave the proprietor of a public house and general grocer’s in Dublin’s James’s Street and upon Thomas Cosgrave’s sudden death at the age of thirty three, Cosgrave’s mother Bridget Lysaght married Thomas Burke from Seskin, Upperchurch, the Bar Manager. There were four children by the first marriage and two by the second.
On the second day of the 1916 Rising Frank (Goban) Burke, the only son of Thomas Burke and his wife Bridget by her second marriage was killed by a single sniper’s bullet which lodged in his throat. He was only nineteen years of age and died instantly, becoming one of the largely forgotten insurgents of the 1916 Rising.
His sister Joan, who was musically talented and a noted soprano would go on to found the Leinster School of Music with her half sister Mary Cosgrave. She died in 1984, unmarried.
The death of Frank – who was nicknamed Goban – after the Goban Saor - as he was good with his hands, cast a dark shadow over W.T. Cosgrave who was first on the scene at the moment of Frank’s death which had taken place at 7.30 on the morning of Tuesday April 25th1916 in the Nurses Home of Dublin’s South Dublin Union which the insurgents were occupying.
In later years W.T. Cosgrave would pay an occasional visit to Seskin House, today owned by the Embledon family, and attended the funeral in Glenkeen Cemetery above Borrisoleigh in 1947 of Jim Burke, his step uncle, who had served as a Major in the British Army on the front during World War One.
On account of Major Burke’s position in society, all reference in the Burke family to Goban Burke was discouraged as he was a slain rebel, but with the passage of time history may smile favourably upon him.
This connection of the Cosgraves to Co. Tipperary is worth noting as the nation recently laid to rest 97 year old Liam Cosgrave, who served as Fine Leader from 1965 onwards and as Taoiseach from 1973 to 1977.