Tess Kearney, the granddaughter of a Fenian, was herself a great patriot. Her family had to leave Derry when her republican father refused to sign the oath of allegiance to the British crown, which meant losing his job in the post office. Eventually, the Kearney family came to live in Dublin. Tess was born into the separatist republican tradition and she embraced it wholeheartedly. She admired the writings of Thomas Davis and John Mitchel. Her faith in the 32-county Irish nation remained with her to the end.
Although she had a successful career as an accountant in banking and in a Catholic newspaper and travelled all over Ireland with An Óige in her younger years, she channelled her great energy into the cause of Irish freedom. She served An Cumann Cabhrach for many years and served on the committee of the National Graves Association for almost 50 years. During the last 20 of these she was a leading force who effected the repatriation of the bodies of Roger Casement and Barnes and McCormack and Dunne and O'Sullivan from England, the Connaught Rangers from India and Frank Ryan from Germany. Up to the mmoent of her death, she was involved in trying to get the Forgetten Ten removed from the prison yard in Mountjoy Jail and give them a Christian burial. It is disappointing that her trojan efforts fell on the deaf ears of the Dublin government.
Tess was 77 when she died. In recent years she suffered a great deal of poor health. Indeed, her health was premanently damaged in the Talbot Street bombing in 1974. Nevertheless, she burned with a bright spirit and when she felt it necessary, she discharged herself from the hospital bed to carry on the work. I will mention one example: when Tess heard that the Croppies Acre was in danger of being turned into a bus car park for the new National Museum, she turned in a magnificent effort for the television cameras and organised a campaign to ``Save the Croppies Acre'' within ten days. But for her, the present 1798 Memorial Park would never have happened.
Tess was a loyal friend to those in need, but she didn't suffer fools gladly. She had a great sense of humour.
It says in the Bible ``By their fruits you shall know them.'' During the last ten years with Tess as its secretary, the National Graves Association was streamlined into an effective organisation, which restored and erected numerous monuments. Glasnevin's fine memorial to Kevin Barry and his comrades was erected under Tess's stewardship. She has left the association in an excellent state to continue our patriotic work in perpetuity.
Ní bheidh a leithéad ann arís.
BY SEAN DOUGAN