Kitty Kiernan (1892-1945)

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  • Longford People

Early Years in Longford

Catherine Brigid (Kitty) Kiernan was a famous Longford woman, known because she was the fiancée of the Irish revolutionary leader, Michael Collins

Michael Collins (1890-1922)

Born in Cork, Michael Collins was an Irish revolutionary. He took part in the 1916 Rising in Dublin. He was part of the delegation that negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, the terms of which led to the Irish Civil War in 1922. Collins became the commander in chief of the forces of the new Irish government. He was killed in an ambush by anti-Treaty republicans in his native Cork in 1922.

Image courtesy of the Michael Collins Centre, Clonakilty, Co. Cork.

 . Kitty was born in Granard, Co. Longford. She was known for her good looks, charm and grace.

Through her teens, she suffered several family tragedies. In 1907, one of her sisters passed away, followed in 1908 by both of her parents, who died within a couple of months of one another. In 1909, her remaining sister died.

Michael Collins

The Kiernan family was quite wealthy, owning the Greville Arms Hotel and several other businesses. It was in the Greville Arms Hotel that Kitty met Michael Collins in May 1917. Collins and his friend, Harry Boland, vied for Kitty's affections initially. Collins eventually won, and became engaged to Kitty.

Collins's political duties took up much of his time. The couple kept in frequent correspondence through letters. Some of these letters are on display in Cork Public Museum. From the later half of 1921 until his death, Collins and Kiernan exchanged over 300 love letters.

Collins led the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in London in 1921, and the Treaty with the British Government was signed on 6 December. Under the Treaty, six counties in Ulster were to remain part of Britain and Irish parliamentarians were required to take an oath of allegiance to the British monarchy. Collins saw the Treaty as a stepping stone toward a thirty-two county republic and signed it with 'great reluctance', partly in order to prevent further bloodshed. He wrote to a close friend on the day of signing, 'I tell you this - early this morning I signed my own death warrant.'

The Treaty caused bitter division among Irish republicans. Led by Éamon de Valera, the anti-Treaty side rebelled and a bloody civil war followed. Collins was assassinated by anti-Treaty activists in his native Cork on August 22 1922. Just thirty-one when he died, he had accomplished much for his country in his short, but very active, life.