The life of Nicholas Boran was extraordinary. Known as ‘Nixie’, he was born outside Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny in 1904. At the age of 18 he fought in the Civil War alongside Dan Breen in Tipperary. The harrowing violence he witnessed in the conflict permanently scarred him and challenges the romanticised myths that often surround the life of Dan Breen. While this had an enduring legacy, Nixie would gain a national reputation for his actions following the Civil War.

After the conflict he returned home but soon found himself in another struggle in Castlecomer. The town was built around coalmines and many of the mine workers toiled in appalling conditions.

The pay was poor, the hours were long and conditions were extremely dangerous. With limited legal protections, children as young as 14 were sent to work in the mines. From the 1920s Nixie set about changing this. This began a decades long struggle with the Catholic Church, the Irish government and the local mine owners.

In this episode I interview Nixie’s daughter, Anne Boran. Anne has recently published a fascinating biography of her late father. In this episode she provides fascinating details about life in the Castlecomer Coalfields and how the Civil War changed her father. Perhaps most interesting of all is how his attempts to improve life in Castlecomer resulted in the Catholic Church attempting to excommunicate him. Its a fascinating story.

Sound by Jason Looney.

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Challenge to Power: Nixie Boran (1904-1971), Freedom and the Castlecomer Coal Miners


Copies of the book are available at Geography Publications