When Michael Davitt died at the end of May, 1906, his friend, John Davitt of Swinford, asked me to go with him to Straide.
When we got to the burial ground there were a few local men present and the usual consultation as to where the plot was took place. One man said, here, and another, there until finally John Davitt asked me to go to Ashborrk for Hugh Kielty, the Patriot’s cousin, to settle the question. As we left there were in the burial ground Dennis Johnston- a United Irish League Organiser from Dublin, who was in charge of the funeral arrangements, as well as Patrick Jones of Foxford, Tom Canning of Straide and a few local men.
On our return, Hugh Kielty directed us to bury him in the family plot with his uncle Jack. We set to work and removed the headstone of Jack Davitt to one side, to make room for the remains of the Patriot. When this was done a contractor was summoned to complete the operation.
One the day of the funeral I went with John Davitt to Foxford Railway Station, where an enormous crowd awaited the arrival of the train. The train, I remember, was drawn by two engines, the St. Patrick and the St. Michael.
The two engines and the long line of carriages were covered with black tapes. The leading carriage contained the remains of Michael Davitt. The next contained nothing but wreaths and floral tributes, and almost all the carriages were reserved. When the train stopped hundreds of passengers, including the whole Irish Party of M.P.’s from Westminster alighted.
Many wore tall hats and black armbands. The hearse, owned by Hewson’s of Ballina, was drawn by four black horses and there were ten brakes, six of which were reserved for the Irish Party, while the others carried the wreaths.
The most colourful of which was an Irish harp, presented by the Jewish Community of Ireland. Every horse-and-cart and trap for miles around was there, all filled to capacity with those who came to pay their final respects.
Slowly the crowd moved to one side and the long walk to Straide Abbey, a distance of five miles, started. The stewards, with some young priests, kept the procession orderly. All along the road, people came from cabin and hamlet to see the funeral pass.
There was a delay of some minutes on arrival at the cemetery and then Michael Davitt’s body was borne aloft and carried to the family plot to be interred with his relatives in the sacred soil of Straide.
The end had been written to another page of Ireland’s history.