Unlocking our past, struggling for our future

TPQ features a letter from a group of historians, writers and others interested in preserving cultural memory, expressing their grave concern at the state of dereliction that Croppies' Acre Field has been allowed to fall into.

A Chara,

We write to alert your readers to the deplorable condition into which a national monument has been allowed to decline. We refer to the Croppies' Acre Field (as distinct from the tiny well-kept park to which the Anna Livia monument was removed), the green field between the quays and the National Museum (Collins Barracks site).

 The Office of Public Works has closed the site because it considers it unsafe to permit public access due to some night-time activities there. Recently some of us went to inspect the site and were shocked at the condition into which it has sunk. Used syringes, discarded needles, bottles, cans and other rubbish were found at a number of locations but especially inside the stone structure. Rubbish bags were filled and disposed of, with the hazardous waste disposed of in bio hazard containers that were then handed into the local authorities. A return visit found almost as much rubbish as had been disposed of previously. A third visit found even more. This is not acceptable and must change.

Croppies Acre is remembered in Dublin folklore as the site of a mass grave in which the bodies of dead insurgents were thrown in 1798. Among those lying in Croppies’ Acre are reputedly the bones of Bartholomew Teeling and Matthew Tone, both hanged at the Provost Prison on Arbour Hill after the Battle of Ballinamuck on 8 September 1798.

In 1898, the centenary of the United Irish uprisings, 100,000 marched to the site and placed a plaque there. As many people will be aware, the centenary commemoration of the United Irish played a significant part in the creation of a national pro-independence culture which fed into the Easter 1916 Rising, less than twenty years later, and which in turn fed into the War of Independence 1919-'21 and the creation of an Irish state.

Although a 1798 rising commemoration plaque was laid at the site by “soldiers of the Eastern Command” of the Irish Army in 1985, soldiers were sometimes to be seen playing football on the field until the mid-1990s, while Collins Barracks was still in use by the Irish Army. This practice ceased after a number of complaints from members of the public who felt the practice was not respectful to the dead insurgents. The Irish Army vacated Collins Barracks in 1996 or thereabouts and the National Museum moved into the buildings in 1997.

In 1997 a proposal to turn the graves of the Patriot Dead into a car and bus park was all the more stunning as the bi-centenary of the United Irishmen’s Rising of 1798 was imminent and groups everywhere were renovating monuments and graves, organising seminars and lectures and planning pike marches.

The then secretary of the National Graves Association, Tess Kearney, was in poor health, but decided that such an occasion required action regardless of her personal circumstances. Tess turned in a magnificent effort for the television cameras and organised a campaign to “Save the Croppies Acre”. Within days, various interested parties came together and, under the leadership of the NGA. The plan to build a coach park on the site was defeated and the Croppie's Acre site was developed two years ago as a national monument with an expenditure of some €35,000. The field layout is simple with flagstones throughout the site presumably symbolising the bodies lying below and a small open circular stone structure on which are reproduced parts of the text and facsimile typeface of the Droites del Homme (Rights of Man) document from the French Revolution (1789). Also featured is the text of Seamus Heaney's poem “Croppies” and the motif of the barley seed head is reproduced on the stone in reference to the poem and Irish folk memory.

It may be that some will say that the expense, even though relatively small, of looking after a national monument, cannot be justified in the current climate of austerity. To those we would say that possibly, had we valued sufficiently our independence and the sacrifices made for it in the past, we would not have allowed foreign finance speculators to bring us to sad straits in which we find ourselves now. The image of our past locked away while we are plundered as a nation in the present is a stark contrast.

However about that, the Office of Public Works must take the appropriate action to look after this site properly and offer safe access to the park during the hours of daylight seven days a week. At night, the site needs to be well-lit and protected. Mr. Brian Hayes, TD, Minister of State responsible for the OPW since 2011, must take urgent action.

Is muidne

Diarmuid Breatnach, Irish Historian & Tour Guide. 
Pádraig Drummond. Local Historian. 
Dr. Ruan O’Donnell, Professor of Irish History, University of Limerick. 
Conor Kostick, Author & Historian, Trinity Collage Dublin. 
Matt Doyle, Sec. National Graves Association. 
Tom Stokes, Citizens’ Initiative for Republic Day. 
John O'Connor, Irish Historian. 
Gary Heary, Author, Historian & Tour Guide. 
Donal Fallon, Author, Irish Historian & Tour Guide. 
Ciaran Murphy, Author & Irish Historian. 
Lorcan Collins, Irish Historian Tour Guide & Author. 
Roibeárd McElroy, Irish Historian, Tour Guide & 
Poet. Kevin Keane, Irish Historian. Luke Fallon, Illustrator.
Barry McGinley, Local Historian.


  1. In light of the above revelations on the neglect and disrepair of this historic site it does not surprise me in the least because it’s clearly evident by the actions of ALL successive Free State governments since the formation of the southern state that republican ideology isn't wanted.
    From the moment of its conception the ‘Free State’ which in itself was a contradiction of the word ‘free’, republicanism has been evidently shunned upon and systematically run down and demonised as it had been in the six northern counties.

    As we all know, it is republicans who have rightly honoured and recognised the sacrifices made by the heroic men & women of 1798 and it is in this context which runs in the opposite direction to the fundamental anti-republican principles of successive Irish governments who loath giving modern day republicans the air they breath.

    Eamon de Valera who at the end of the civil war saw himself as the last bastion of hope for republicanism in southern Ireland eventually abandoned his principles to gain power and in the end became a bitter enemy and sent IRA volunteers to the gallows by his hiring of the official British Hangmen of that period, AKA Albert Pierrepoint, and one must not forget de Valera's banning of Wolf Tone commemorations at Bodenstown.

    In recent times provisional Sinn Fein have done exactly the same as previous Irish power-mongers in that they have abandoned the core principles of Irish republicanism to gain power.
    Shaking hands with the British monarch while her military establishment has a stranglehold on the north of this island is in my book akin to urinating on the graves of generations of republican volunteers including those of 1798.

    Most of us here have seen through the hypocrisy of provisional Sinn Fein and can see the devious little game their playing, just like de Valera and his issuing of Easter Rising and War of Independence medals to veterans which was a calculated ‘sweetener’ to both pro and anti treaty republicans to keep himself in power, Sinn Fein are playing the same dirty little card trick by promoting and attending commemorations for IRA volunteers throughout Ireland while administrating British rule in the north, how twisted is that?
    Hopefully the gullible mushrooms who can‘t see the forest for the trees who are still feeding off Sinn Fein shit will someday come to their senses.

    When the Dublin contingent of provisional Sinn Fein put their full support behind the preservation of this historical Dublin site one must look closer at the wider picture, Sinn Fein are no longer a republican party, they are conformists to the Crown and British rule in Ireland, that’s the reality of it all and in that context would the Irish dead of 1798 or those in any other period of our history who give their lives fighting British rule want to be remembered and honoured by those who continue to administer it?

    That’s fucking sick isn't it?

  2. well said combat rock, 1916 societies should back this too, hope 1916 commemorations wont be about just 1916. can we not get that technology they used in bosnia to locate mass graves there for the mass graves that are all over this island from 1845-1850 genocide. and there should be ten ships full of food beside the jeanie johnson ship further up the quays with british soldiers protecting the food. sick of coffin ships and potato blight crap the 'free'state revisionist doublespeaking bastards bombard us with. these are the guys who tell us there was a genocide of protestants during war of independence but that the colossal genocide of 1845-50 was all down to potato blight.they should be run out of the country or put to hard labour.

  3. It is the same all over Ireland with politicians abandoning or destroying sites of natural and scientific, archeological, historical and cultural significance.

    Such sites are needed because they give a tangible representation of stories with particular historical interest- the naked eye can see and the hand can touch. In this particular case, respect and remembrance can be given with dignity too.

    Where else can you go on a literary walking tour and see the derelict site where Seamus Heaney's house used to be? How about the golf course that may de-list one of Ireland's UNESCO world heritage sites? It seems Dubliners are forever fighting to save a site of importance from the 1916 Rising. Sure the British didn't destroy it with the naval bombardment why can't capitalist politicians destroy it with their pens? As for Croppies' Acre Field why not protect it? There are many valid reasons in favour of protecting it but not one against.