The rebel chanteuse

Many musicians and bands have sung traditional Irish rebel songs throughout the years and one of the most powerful females to do so was Kathleen McCready Largey. She was an amazing songstress and a strong voice both inside and outside of Ireland. Her voice even graced New York’s mighty Carnegie Hall once or twice and audiences on both sides of the ocean loved her.

Kathleen McCready came from a strong Irish family and was a member of the women’s Republican organization, Cumann na mBan. She sang Irish ballads and folk music throughout Belfast and often performed with a band called the Flying Column. The band named itself after the active branches or ‘cells’ of volunteers in the Irish Republican Army and choosing that name made their politics known immediately. So did their playlists, and when Kathleen sang songs like “Only Our Rivers Run Free” she garnered a large and loyal Republican following. The band was devoted to their roots and to each other, which was proven when Kathleen married one of her band mates, Eamonn Largey. Their marriage and musical endeavors were tragically cut short when Eamonn died just a few years later.

Kathleen kept singing after he passed away and did not shy away from the politics that had brought them together. She inspired Republicans in many ways and boosted their morale with every show. Kathleen supported their cause however she could and even turned her home into a meeting place and safe house for many who found themselves on the run during the early years of the Troubles. She was an active fundraiser and often donated her time, money, and music to aid Republican prisoners in the region.

Later in life, she devoted some of her time to raising funds for cancer awareness, research, and patient support. It was a personal fight and one that she eventually lost thirty-eight years ago but she lives on in her music which is still available today. Gerry Adams once remembered her as a woman who was devoted to Republicanism, a fighter in her own right, and an inspiration to many. Those may be some of the truest words he’s ever spoken.


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