Darranstown is in the Electoral Division of Emlygrennan, in Civil Parish of Emlygrennan, in the Barony of Coshlea, in the County of Limerick
The Irish name for Darranstown is Baile an Dioróntaigh Darranstown is on Logainm.ie: Darranstown.
Detached five-bay house from 1834 - https://www.buildingsofireland.ie/buildings-search/building/21904813/darranstown-co-limerick
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Of the many characters who graced the streets of Bruff, Rambling Jack is one of the most colourful. Born in Darnstown, Martinstown just over the road, Jack would have known Bruff like the back of his hand. And he needed to, for Rambling Jack who was known all over Ireland, was blind. And he lost his sight fighting so you and I could be free.
Born Edmond Houlihan in the Year of the Big Wind in 1839, Rambling Jack was brought up in a staunchly nationalist household. All his life his main aim was to achieve Irish freedom and his joining the famous attack on Kilmallock RIC barracks in 1867 comes as no surprise. Led by Capt. John Dunne, this attack, filled with Bruff men, was later to inspire Seán Wall and others in the War of Independence. However, the attack failed and large numbers of locals were rounded up and sentenced for up to 15 years imprisonment. But Jack suffered an even worse fate in the attack. He was blinded.
To be blind in the 1860s was to mean, almost inevitably, that the workhouse was your lot. But our man refused to enter the institution that symbolised the degradation of Ireland and he took to the roads, fiddle in hand. Up to now, he had played the fiddle for fun but now it became his passport to survival. All around the country, Ned travelled, being known as The Fenian Balladeer or Rambling Jack. Ned, indeed, became probably the last in the line of centuries of roaming bards and wandering minstrels that once enriched the culture of Ireland. A sad loss to our society.
Jack only ever sang republican songs. Asked to sing the ballad, Master McGrath, (about the famous greyhound) he spat, “I only sing of Irishmen. I never sing of dogs.” His favourite song was “The Smashing of the Van” which tells the story of the Manchester Martyrs. Other ballads in his repertoire were “Sliabh na mBan” and “Patrick Sheehan”. The latter song once showed his bravery as he sang it in his rich baritone voice at a British Army recruiting drive in Ferbane,Co.Offaly in protest at the Connaught Rangers assembled there. Often arrested for singing seditious songs, Rambling Jack refused to stop his keeping the flame of nationhood alive, the Offaly Independent reporting that his fiddle was “an instrument in the cause of Irish independence”.
Understandably, Rambling Jack was good friends with most of the nationalist leaders at the time. He was actually on the podium with Michael Davitt when he launched the Land League in Mayo. Davitt, with one arm missing from the mill accident he suffered as a child and Blind Jack would have been an unusual and eye-catching focus of attention. On hearing of the demise of the great Fenian,O’Donovan Rossa in 1915, Jack fiddled his way, blind don’t forget, across Ireland and heard Pearse give the oration at the graveside in Glasnevin cemetery.
Rambling Jack could be seen all over Ireland, his fluent Irish language songs interspersed with his odes to the Bold Fenian Men. He was attacked and beaten by a bunch of loyalists in the midlands who objected to him playing his rebel songs. But Jack merely moved on, blackthorn stick in one hand, the other behind his back, rosary beads dangling as always.
Time eventually caught up with Rambling Jack and he fiddled his way home to die so he could be buried in his native Kilbreedy, passing away in 1931 at the incredible age of 92. His relatives still reside in Bruff today. Rambling Jack is a forgotten hero of Ireland, one of those people who kept the light of liberty alive whilst sacrificing their own lives for the cause. A proud member of the Bold Fenian Men.
Text authored by: Patrick Hayes (Fitzgerald Heritage Centre, Bruff)
Sources: The Republican File 1932 Capuchin Annual 1968 Offaly Independent 10 Jan 1953 An Phoblacht Dec 2007 With thanks to Mike Cronin.