Corduff pupils, staff and families are very proud of their association with Thomas Ashe, who was Principal at Corduff from 1908 to 1916. In the entrance hallway, there is a small display of Thomas Ashe artefacts.
Thomas Ashe was born at Lispole near Dingle in Co. Kerry on 12 January 1885. On display is his portrait, which was given to the school by Fr. Dempsey.
In 1906 he qualified as a teacher. From 1908 to 1916 he taught at Corduff National School and was the School Principal. On display is a copy of the letter of recommendation he received before his appointment (courtesy of Maurice Mathews).
Thomas Ashe lived in the house behind the school where the neighbours the Kirwans now live. He was a popular teacher and was very active in the community. He helped to found The Black Raven Pipe Band in 1910. He was involved with Conradh na Gaeilge and was the President of the Supreme Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
Ashe was an active participant in the 1916 Easter Rising. He commanded the 5th Battalion of Irish Volunteers. Their successful campaign included capturing the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Swords, Garristown and Ashbourne. Upon his arrest, he was sentenced to death on 11 May 1916, but this sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. He was imprisoned in Lewes Gaol in England where he became one of the leaders alongside Eamon de Valera. During this time he wrote his poem “Let Me Carry Your Cross for Ireland, Lord!”, which is on display.
In June 1917, the prisoners were released in a general amnesty. Ashe resumed his political activities in Ireland. In August 1917 he was re-arrested while making a speech in Co. Longford, where Michael Collins was also speaking. He was sentenced to 2 years hard labour in Mountjoy Gaol. Ashe and other prisoners went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917 to demand political prisoner status. On 25 September he died age 32 years in the Mater Hospital as a result of brutal force feeding at the prison. “If I die, I die in a good cause,” he proclaimed before his death. His body lay in state in City Hall, and he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.
In 1967, President Eamon de Valera visited our school on the 50th anniversary of Ashe’s death. Around this time, a plaque to Thomas Ashe was erected. The plaque is on display as well as a photograph of de Valera’s visit.
On 12th January 1985 on the centenary of his birth, an Arbutus tree (Strawberry Tree) was planted in the school’s front garden by the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO). A commemorative plaque was erected. A photograph of the event is on display. The Arbutus tree normally grows in Mediterranean countries, but because of the mild Gulf Stream it also grows in the wild in Kerry. We thought a Strawberry tree in the school garden would be a suitable way to commemorate the brave Kerry patriot who taught in our school and lived in our community.
Ashe was greatly admired by the community of Corduff and Lusk. Many of our families treasure memories and mementos dating back to their ancestors.
Every year, all the pupils of Corduff learn about this brave and talented patriot and teacher.