Known fondly as Tommy Joe, he was born on 26th February 1902 to Kate and Michael Prendergast, Bridge Street, Louisburgh. He was only 20 years of age when he died in an ambush in Blindwell, Kilconly on the 3rd of July 1922. Tommy Joe’s death occured when the lorry in which he was a front-seat passenger crashed into a felled tree whilst driving in the Blindwell area.
According to a report of the incident in The Tuam Herald of 15th July, 1922 “so great was the force of the impact that the huge tree was shoved six or seven yards by the lorry”. Sadly, the report also stated that another of “the youths injured” in the incident had since died at his home. Two local neighbours Mrs Dunleavy and Mrs Colleran and Willie Dunleavy, Mrs. Dunleaveys’ son attended to him but sadly Tommy Joe passed away within twenty minutes.
Tommy Joe’s body was laid out in Collerans (now Shallys) by Mr John Concannon, grandfather of the Concannons of Cardiff, Kilconly and Ardour, Kilconly. Mr. Concannon had experience of working with the Red Cross in America and was called upon by the Old IRA to attend to casualties. It is reported that Tommy Joe’s body was laid out with great respect and according to locals, in the dead of the night a vehicle came from Louisburgh to bring his body home. His body was escorted by his comrades of the West Mayo Brigade back to his native Louisburgh. After mass, which was celebrated at St. Patrick’s church in Louisburgh, Captain Prendergast was laid to rest in Killeen Cemetery. A report in the Mayo News around that time states that at in buriel a “firing party fired three volleys over his grave”.
In the early 1940’s a monument was erected by Tommy Joe’s comrades at the spot in Blindwell where he died. The monument was unveiled by Captain Peter Brennan of Ironpool, Kilconly. Down the years, the monument became overgrown and dilapidated however locals always paid their respect when passing. In 2016 the Kilconly Centenary Committee along with Mary Concannon, funding from Kilconly Development Association and local sponsorship, restored the monument to its former glory.
Tommy Joe was an outstanding academic and it is documented that he was a university student at the time of his death. It is assumed that prior to attending university he attended St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam. It is reported that as the lorry in which he was a passenger was travelling through Tuam on that fateful night, Tommy Joe remarked to a comrade that two of his college friends had drowned in the River Clare.
This was the first time in decades that the people of Louisburgh have been aware of the location of Tommy Joe’s death and existence of the monument. On the roadside where Tommy Joe died, at the beautifully restored monument in the presence of Tommy Joe’s family and friends from Louisburgh and many local people, Fr. Michael Kenny blessed the memorial which was then unveiled by John Concannon, grandson of Captain Peter Brennan who unveiled the monument 80 years ago. Members of the Irish Army UN Veterans Association Western Branch were the colour party at the unveiling. The ceremony ended with a beautiful rendition of The Foggy Dew.
Bride Brady was instruments in organising and co-ordinating the event and it is testimony to her great work and passion for local history as to how well the whole ceremony went. A true friendship has been formed between Kilconly and Louisburgh.
Tommy Joe is one of many young men and women who gave their life and are still giving their lives to serve our country. May their souls rest in peace and may their memories always live on.
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis, Ní féidir linn dearmad.