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Nora (Nan) O'Keeffe nee Walsh
15.

Waterford's Revolutionary Women 1916-1922

15. Nora (Nan) O'Keeffe nee Walsh
Boolah, Melleray
 
The Walsh family of Boolah, Melleray, Co Waterford owned a Public House that was the areas centre for dispatches during the War of Independence and Civil War. The Walsh family included Parents, Michael, Catherine and their five children Nora, May, Ned Mossy and Michael. Nora Walsh strongly supported the local volunteers from their inception in 1915, officially joining the Cappoquin and Melleray Cumann na mBan branch in 1919. She was one of the first women in Cappoquin to support the cause and remained loyal through until the Civil War ceasefire in 1923. Her home was the centre for dispatches, meetings and a safe house for volunteers on the run. Nora's sister, May Collender (nee Walsh) was also a member of the Cumann na mBan and both sisters and mother Catherine Walsh (nee O'Donnell) were actively involved. She assisted the West Waterford, Cork and Tipperary Brigades on a regular basis and raised much needed funds for volunteers. In July 1919, she was appointed Intelligence Officer and her valuable information led to various ambushes, including the Mill Street ambush in 1922 and the Halfway House ambush. Following the Burgery Ambush in 1921, she transported George Plunkett from Lyre to Boolah her home in a pony and trap, where he and his bodyguard stayed overnight. On many occasions she housed volunteers on the run for extended periods including Commandant Sean Fitzgerald for a period of three months, acting as his secretary throughout.

On more than one occasion during the Civil War, Nora purchased potassium that she brought to an engineer in Mount Melleray and assisted in the making of ammunitions. Guns and ammunitions were stored regularly in her home by volunteers from various Brigades and she regularly typed demand notices for IRA levies. On one occasion a group of twelve volunteers were at a meeting in her Public House, when the head of the Black and Tans and a Policeman entered the premises. Nora aware the volunteers were present and with arms and ammunition acted quickly to distract the uninvited guests allowing all the men to safely escape. During the Civil War she continually supplied volunteers with clothing food and cigarettes and her home and business were continually attacked and raided by Free State soldiers.

Nora O'Keeffe died in 1940, leaving a husband and four small children from ten years old to two months. In 1934, she had applied for a military pension attending interviews and sending countless letters from herself and witnesses detailing her loyal and brave service from 1915 until 1923. A letter from her widowed husband, Joseph O'Keeffe (an ex-volunteer from the Tipperary Brigade) in 1940, attributes her early death to the financial worries that could have been avoided if her claim had been dealt with many years earlier. The family had been suffering as a result of the many raids on their business prior to the truce in 1923. A compensation claim that was lodged one day late, on 26th September 1935, was refused adding to the family's difficulties. The pension records contain many letters and pleas from Nora and her supporters requesting the processing of her application as a matter of urgency. In 1941, Joseph O'Keefe was finally awarded the pension payment his wife had fought so hard to obtain. The pension was paid from the application date in October 1934, until her death in 1940 and was a small compensation for her bravery, loyalty and loss to the cause of Irish freedom. Nora's Husband Joseph and four children Eileen, Philomena, Peggy and son Dan continued living in Boolah and the Public House (The Cats Bar) continues to be run by her family today.

Sources:
Military Archives, pension statements, Nora O'Keeffe
Power Family, Melleray, Co Waterford

Author: Chrissy O'Connor Knight & Eddie Cantwell

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