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On Friday September 18 there was a State Funeral for Thomas Kent, who's remains were recently disinterred in Cork Prison and were be removed to Castlelyons Church, near Fermoy, and re-interred in the Kent Family Burial Vault in the grounds of the Church.

This was a historic event - the first State Funeral for any of the 15 men executed in Ireland after the Easter Rising, and we were delighted to be able to attend, courtesy of the 1916-21 Club.

It was a a pity the funeral was on a work day rather than the weekend, but that decision apparently was made by the Kent family because the 18th was of particular significance to them.

Following a request from us, the 1916-1921 CLub organised a coach from Dublin to Castlelyons for the funeral and Kilmainham Tales was able to reserve a very few seats for our followers. The coach left from opposite Heuston Station in Dublin at 9.30 am on the morning of Friday 18 September, and return there at 10.00 pm that evening.

We had produced a small souvenir brochure with the planned events and timetable, together with a biography of Thomas Kent, and distributed this to all on the bus.

The large crowd attneded a solemn, respectful service attended by State dignatories including An Uachtarán Michael D. Higgins and his wife, as well as Church leaders and local dignitaries.

The funeral actually began the day before when Thomas Kent’s remains were brought to lie in state in St. Michael’s Church, Collins Barracks, Cork City at 3.45pm. His relatives arrived for a private service at 5.30pm and from 6.00-9.00pm the chapel was open to members of the public to pay their respects and sign the book of condolences.

On Friday, 18th September at 11.00am, the coffin was removed to Cork Prison, where Thomas was executed in 1916 and where he lay buried for 99 years, with a full military escort for a private prayer service and the formal removal service.

At about 12.25pm the cortege began the journey to Castlelyons, passing Kent Railway Station (named for Thomas) and Bawnard House, the Kent family home.

While we were waiting for the funeral to arrive we watched the dignitaries go in to the church, including Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins and his wife, who were given a resounding round of applause.

The first we saw in Castlelyons were the Garda motorcycle outriders, smartly moving in unison as they led the way into the village.
Next came the Army motorcycle escort, followed by the hearse. A simple procession, dignified, with no pomp or military music. The hearse pulled in to the area set aside for it and the Army pallbearers took it carefully from the car and marched slowly into St. Nicholas’ Church, followed by Thomas’ relations.

The Solemn Requiem Mass was concelebrated by Bishop of Cloyne, Most Rev. William Crean, with Castlelyons PP Fr. Gerard Coleman, Fr. Gerry O’Neill (Collins Barracks), and Fr. Michael Kidney (Cork Prison), Fr. Nelius O’Donnell and Fr. Michael Leamy. The Cork Prison Officers’ Male Voice Choir sang during the mass.

The church only holds 400, so a seated and covered area for another 400 was set up in the grounds with a large screen where the ceremony could be watched.

Another large screen was set up beside the church for the rest of the crowd in the church grounds.
As we went in we were given a souvenir missalette, a tasteful and useful souvenir which contained the church service.

We watched and listened as the mass progressed, impressive and solemn in its simplicity. Company Quartermaster Sergeant Gerry White read the eulogy, in which he outlined Thomas’ life and the events that led eventually to his execution.

After the mass, the coffin was carried to the grave just in front of the church door. There, the Taoiseach gave the graveside oration, praising Thomas for his courage and patriotism, before the coffin was placed in the prepared grave.

Three volleys of shots rang out from the Army honour firing squad and the State Funeral was over.

The 1916-21 Club had brought a wreath to lay on the grave and President Nora Cummiskey now laid it there.

Eventually, after we all had photos taken beside Thomas’ grave, we headed back to our bus and thence to Dublin, arriving home at 10.00pm, satisfied that we had, in our own small way, paid tribute to a brave man who gave his life so that we may be free.
Our Mícheál Ó Doibhilín, during his time as a guide in Kilmainham Gaol, tells us that on his tours he always included Thomas Kent's execution in the list of those shot, even though it is understandably not on the plaque in the Stonebreaker's Yard there.

Hopefully, more of the guides there will now follow his example and ensure that no longer will the name of Thomas Kent be forgotten when we celebrate the great events of 1916.

This State Funeral was a fine welcome home and a fitting farewell for one of our national heroes, a significant and historical event which we were proud to attend, and we extend our gratitude to the 1916-21 Club for giving us the opportunity to do so.
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