“A Bugle of Historic and sentimental value was retrieved by a Naas man on Sunday after it had been buried for 44 years. It is a bugle which rallied the youth of the district at their parades during the struggle for freedom in the eventful years between 1918 and 1921 and, later, sounded calls for the men of National Army in the early days of the Irish Free State. The man who retrieved it is Mr. Laurence McGarr, St. Michael’s Terrace, for whom it holds many treasured memories because its life story, to the time it was buried, is to a large extent in the life of Mr. McGarr during the same period. As a youth of about 12, Laurence McGarr joined the 1st Batt, Kildare Brigade, Fianna Eireann, in 1918, and was selected Bugler to his Troop as he was able to sound the bugle having practiced the calls on his father’s coronet. His father, Mr. Maurice McGarr, who died a few weeks ago, had been a member of Naas Brass and Reed Band and was delighted to see his son take an interest in music and gave him every encouragement and help.
At all the parades and functions of the Fianna Troop the bugle sent forth its call but it abode after such events was unsettled. It sounded its last “illicit” call on the eve of the taking over of Kildare Barracks in 1922. “Lights Out” was sounded by the British Army bugler in the Barracks and, from a respectable distance, Bugler McGarr sounded a similar call on the Fianna Bugle. The following day the Provisional Government Troops took over the barracks from the British and at that important function Larry McGarr sounded the General Salute on the Fianna bugle, no longer an illegal instrument but an official instrument of the Army of the new State. It again sounded all the calls when Naas Barracks was taken over from the Highland Light Infantry. But alas! All its calls while attached to that barracks and all its functions were not pleasant ones, for it also sounded the Last Post and Reveille at the graveside of young soldiers and of former members of the Fianna. Not long after the occupation of the barracks a young soldier, Peter Roche, Droichead Nua, was fatally injured in an accident at Plupluck Bridge and the bugle sounded the calls at his funeral in Droichead Nua cemetery. Later that year it sounded at another military funeral of J. Whelan, Dublin Road, Naas, who had been a member of Fianna Eireann. When No2 Depot of the First Eastern Divisional Head Quarters was established in Celbridge, in March 1922, under Capt. (later Colonel) J. V. Joyce, who died a few years ago, Bugler McGarr was transferred there and sounded the General Salute at the Trooping of the Colours. For a time it sounded all the usual calls there. Its next big occasion was in August 1922 when it sounded the General Salute on the visit to Naas of General Michael Collins on his fateful journey to the South. Its tones brought every member of the garrison to the barracks square where the General shook hands with each of them and wished them well. Mr. McGarr cannot recall if he sounded the bugle, a few days later, at the funeral of the General in Glasnevin Cemetery. He was at the graveside and thinks it is almost certain that he had brought the bugle with him. Mr. McGarr ceased sounding the bugle when he was transferred to clerical work in the Army about the end of 1922 or early in 1923 and buried it in the garden of the ancestral home at Craddockstown in 1923. Why? Wireless transmission and receiving was then in its infancy and receiving sets had no resemblance to the sets of the present day.
His parents had, on a loan, a crystal set, or what was known as a “2 LO”. Reception was spasmodic and unsatisfactory. While visiting them he discovered that no earth was attached and being informed that a copper pipe or object was the proper thing to which to attach an earth wire he immediately thought of the bugle. He set to work, fitted the earth wire to the set and attached it to the bugle which he buried in the garden. It was only a temporary fixture and he had intended to take up the bugle as soon as he found a suitable piece of copper piping to replace it. But the years went by and each year brought its own problems and commitments resulting in the bugle being unattended to, though not forgotten. A few weeks ago his father’s death reawakened Larry’s desire to retrieve the bugle as he wished to retain it as a memento of his father’s interest in his welfare and of the help which he had given him in the adventurous years. He also wished to have it as a souvenir of his days in Fianna Eireann and to cherish it in memory of the comrades of those days, many of whom are now gone to their eternal reward. Another reason – it will remind him of the days, when his father and his uncle, Tommy McGarr, were Army buglers. For an hour and a half on Sunday, he searched for the spot where he had buried it, dug at several places and in the end it was his brother, Louis, who resides in the family homestead, and who was very young when the bugle was buried, who remembered the exact spot who was able to say how deep he would have to dig for it.
The only part of the bugle missing is the mouth-piece but that may have been removed before he put the bugle in the earth. It can be easily be replaced, he says. What is he going to do with it now? He is undecided. He is getting his son who is an expert copper worker to clean and, if possible inscribe it. Then he may present it to a military museum as an instrument which saw service in a dual capacity.”
Article appeared in the Leinster Leader 21 January 1967
Thanks to Co Kildare Online History Journal and Lynn Potts.
NOTE: Bugle depicted above is not the actual bugle featured in the story.