A new book about Rathvilly’s Kevin Barry has been written by his grand-niece, Siofra O’Donovan. The 1st of November marks 100 years since young Kevin Barry was hanged by the British Government during the Irish War of Independence. He was sentenced to death for his part in an attack upon a British Army supply lorry. A young lad of only 18, he was the first to be executed since the Easter Rising in 1916 and his death sent a ripple through the independence movement, galvanizing revolutionaries like Michael Collins to retaliate.

Kevin Barry’s sister Monty married Jim O’Donovan, a man of action himself. Síofra remembers staring at his hand where he had stubs for fingers as he regaled her with stories of his bomb-making exploits. Her father Donal had a portrait of him hanging in the study where he wrote a biography on him in 1989. Síofra grew up among her uncle’s belongings, listening to his heroics from those who knew him best, and it led her to pen this very intimate biography of an Irish martyr who was first a son, a brother, a friend. He may have died young but Síofra shows us he lived a long life indeed.

The book is available for pre-order on the website – https://currachbooks.com/product/yours-til-hell-freezes/ and from all good bookshops in the country


‘A richly detailed and discursive search for the real Kevin Barry, a voyage of discovery through family roots and disagreements,digging deeply into family memory and  archives, asking,if not always answering hard questions. Honest and intense and always readable.’ – Maurice Manning

“A work of feeling and truth, in which imaginative audacity is accompanied by the pressure of felt family experience. Siofra O’Donovan sees the personal in the political because she abhors the lie which often keeps them apart.” —- Declan Kiberd, University of Notre Dame

 “This is a well-written book, full of vivid and fascinating detail. Síofra O’Donovan is eminently qualified to be the author, both professionally and for family reasons. Possibly the most iconic of Irish republican martyrs, Kevin Barry was her grand-uncle and an older brother to her maternal grandmother, Monty Barry. Jim O’Donovan, Monty’s husband and Síofra’s grandfather, was himself steeped in the culture of militant republicanism and his life-journey became in its own way highly-dramatic and controversial. Donal O’Donovan, son of Jim and father of Síofra, wrote a previous biography entitled ‘Kevin Barry and his Time’,  published in 1989 by  Glendale Press. Síofra has also had access to private papers  and documents relating to her grand-uncle.” –Deaglán de Bréadún

Leave a Reply