Today we remember the 'forgotten patriot' Thomas Kent, one of 16 men executed for his role in the 1916 Rising. After 99 years in a shallow grave on the grounds of Cork prison, this afternoon he will be given a full State funeral. He will be laid to rest alongside his brothers David, Richard and William in his home village of Castlelyons in Co. Cork.
About Thomas Kent.
Kent was 50 years old when the 1916 Rising happened. He grew up in Castlelyons, a few miles from Fermoy, Co Cork. His family were squeezed off their land by the British Crown’s incremental rate increases. Kent left for Boston in the United States, but returned to Ireland several years later, owing to illness. Himself and his three brothers were often jailed for their political activities, chiefly their support for the Land League and their membership of Sinn Fein and the Irish Volunteers.
When the Easter Rising kicked off in April 1916, Kent and his brothers obeyed Eoin MacNeill’s countermanding order and stayed home, Kent having planned to head to Dublin to fight. In a swoop for known Republican sympathisers, however, the RIC made a dawn raid on the Kent family home in Castlelyons. The Kents resisted arrest and had a shoot out with the RIC, which lasted four hours. The RIC’s head constable was killed, his face blown off, before the Kents surrendered.
When they arrested Kent he was paraded through the town of Fermoy in an effort to humiliate him. His mother was 89 and took part by cooling down the guns and supplying her sons with ammunition during the raid. She was too old to walk so they put her on a cart with her dying son. The youngest son, his name was Richard. He suffered from his nerves, as they said in those days. He had mental issues. He was terrified when he was arrested and he ran away and was shot in the back. He was dying. He died about a day later from his wounds.
Kent and his younger brother William, were taken to Cork Barracks for trial. The judge in the case was blunt in his assessment of Kent’s predicament.
“You stand before me guilty of the most heinous of crimes against the British Crown. You are guilty of treason. In my view, when a head constable has been murdered, when your brother lost his life, I am left with no option but to sentence you to death by firing squad. You will be taken to Cork Army Barracks where on the ninth of this month you will be shot until you are dead. May God have mercy on your soul. Take him down!”
Kent’s brother, William, got a reprieve. Kent was shot at 4am on May 9, 1916. With the exception of Roger Casement, he was the only 1916 Rising leader to be shot outside Dublin. His dying wish was that no Irishman would be part of the firing squad.
Photo: Thomas and his brother William being marched across the bridge in Fermoy following their arrest.