Tom Kettle married Mary Sheehy in 1909 and their only daughter, Betty, was born four years later. Thomas Michael Kettle was born in 1880 in County Dublin. At University College Dublin in 1897, he was a politically active student with aspirations for Irish Home Rule clearly inspired by his father Andrew J Kettle, founder of the Irish Land League. Kettle qualified as a barrister in 1905 though he worked mostly as a political journalist. He won the East Tyrone seat for the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1906. As a supporter of the 1913 strike in Dublin, he published articles revealing the appalling working and living conditions of the Irish poor, a subject close to his heart.
Joining the newly-formed Irish Volunteers, Kettle was sent to Europe to raise arms, where he witnessed the outbreak of war and acted as a war correspondent. This first-hand experience confirmed his belief in the importance of fighting for democracy. On returning home, he volunteered to serve with an Irish regiment and, although poor health limited his role to recruitment, he continued to advocate Home Rule and for Irishmen to make a united stand against Germany. His health improved by 1916 and led to a commission into the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, with which he served in the trenches of the Western Front before being killed in action on September 9, 1916.
To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God
In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.