In Defence of North Kildare
Tony Maher recollects his time in the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCÁ)
Today we had the pleasure of meeting former reserve Corporal, Tony Maher from Celbridge. During the 1960s Tony was a member of Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ.
During the Emergency period (1939 – 1946) and the Cold War (1947 – 1991) Ireland remained neutral, however, the threat was still real. During these two periods the reserve elements of the Irish Defence Forces were greatly expanded. Nearly every village in the country had a platoon size or more of reservists stationed there. Celbridge in North Kildare was no different. During the Emergency the North Dublin Battalion of the Local Defence Forces had a Company in North Kildare, with a platoon in Celbridge, Maynooth, and Kilcock. Following the Emergency and the establishment of Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCÁ), this transitioned to the North Dublin Battalion FCÁ and in 1959, C Company 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ.
At the time Tony lived in Lexlip and told us some amazing stories of Lexlip and the surrounding areas in the 1950s and 1960s. Tony grew up not far from where Sergeant Hugh Gaynor lived and had very fond memories of him. Sadly Sergeant Gaynor was one of the nine Irish peacekeepers killed in the Niamba ambush in the Belgium Congo on 8 November 1960.
The reservists met several evenings during the week and at the weekends. The headquarters for the C Company platoons were as follows: the Methodist Church (now Cunninghams Funeral Directors), Celbridge; the town hall in Maynooth; and the old church off the centre in Kilcock. Life in the reserve infantry back then was defined by marching and the .303″ Lee-Enfield rifle, which Tony remembers like it was yesterday. He proudly still has his rifle competition trophies. Drill, local exercises, training in Gormanstown and the Glen of Imaal, St. Patrick’s Day Parades, and 1916 commemorations were the annual routine. Thankfully Tony was an avid photographer and he has kept a remarkable collection of the reservists in North Kildare.
It wasn’t all drill and more drill. During this time the FCÁ got called upon to provide extras for the movie the Blue Max; directed by John Guillermin and starring George Peppard, James Mason, Ursula Andress, Karl Michael Vogler, and Jeremy Kemp.. During 1965 Tony found himself in a German World War I uniform and charging across no-man’s land in the Wicklow mountains. Tony managed to smuggle his camera on set.
Tony’s story has been recorded as part of Kildare’s Veterans’ and ex-service personnel Story. This project is supported by Kildare County Council and Creative Ireland.
The history of a lot of these reserve units has been lost. We are tying to build up the history of the reserve in North Kildare and would really like to talk to members of C Company. Please drop us a line.