The Scarlet Pimpernel’s Permanent Residence Unveiled!

06 January, 2014

The Scarlet Pimpernel’s Permanent Residence Unveiled!

Wednesday 30th October 2013

On Wednesday 30th October, a sculpture was unveiled to permanently commemorate the Irish World War II hero, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, who formed the Rome Escape Line in Nazi occupied Rome. Before the liberation of Rome, this enterprising and resourceful Kerryman and his colleagues saved over 6,500 people from certain death.

The Monsignor was known throughout the world for his humanitarian work but up to recently his deeds were relatively unknown in Ireland.  In 2008 a Memorial Society was formed to rectify this and today is the culmination of this work with the unveiling of a 6ft 8inch sculpture of the Monsignor at the intersection of Mission Road and Beech Road in Killarney town centre.

The sculpture depicts the Monsignor striding across St Peter’s Square and a backdrop to the Sculpture is his story and that of the Rome Escape Line, with replicas of the various honours he received internationally.  The bronze cast sculpture is the work of Valentia Island based artist Alan Ryan Hall and has taken over a year to complete.

Present at today’s unveiling, which significantly is the 50th anniversary of the Monsignor’s death were family and friends of the Monsignor as well as international and local dignitaries.  International dignitaries included: Assistant Attache Mst. Sgt. George Sands - USA Embassy; Ambassador Loyola Hearn – Canadian Embassy; Ambassador Modai - Israeli Embassy; Ambassador Dominick Chilcott - British Embassy and Vatican Papal Nuncio - Archbishop Charles John Brown


The various immediate Family Members in attendance were:


Representing the O'Flaherty's - Former Judge Hugh O'Flaherty and their family nephew of Monsignor and Pearl Dineen and her family (Pearl is niece of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty)


Also present was Col Sam Derry’s son William and his wife Marion.  (Sam Derry was the Monsignor’s next in command in the Rome Escape Line).  David Sands and his wife Janice and Mo and her husband Chris Burton were also in attendance.  (Mo and David are grandchildren of Mrs Chevalier who operated a safe house in Rome and who worked closely with the Monsignor)


Performing the official unveiling was Cllr Paddy Courtney, Mayor of Killarney –whose late father Michael Courtney played a pivotal part in the setting up of the Memorial Committee.  Cllr Courtney stated. “In the very difficult times during WW2 in Rome, together with Lt. Col Sam Derry and Henrietta Chevalier, their Rome Escape Line organisation was responsible for saving over 6,500 lives.

Through the subsequent generations, there must now be a significant body of people around the world who can attribute their existence to the success of the Rome Escape Line. I would like to think that over the coming years, some of these people might visit Kerry and the various O’Flaherty sites of interest.”

Speaking on behalf of the O’Flaherty family at the unveiling Hugh O’Flaherty, the Monsignor’s nephew talked about what he thought his uncle’s reaction would have been to the memorial. “I think my uncle would have been astonished that people would have taken so much trouble to present such a wonderful monument in his memory in his home town.  My uncle loved simple recognition for example he loved travelling to Dublin when Kerry were playing, meeting people and being recognised and he loved striding through Killarney, his beloved home town, meeting people, being recognised and stopping for chats. 

Recognition was important to him, in a simple way.  Between this unveiling today, the Road in Killarney being called after him and the beautiful grove of trees planted in his memory I think he would have been quietly pleased, if somewhat surprised. 

Jerry O’Grady Chairman of the Memorial Society stated “Today is the culmination of five years of fundraising and I would like to thank my fellow committee members, all of the many patrons and friends who contributed to today, Killarney Town Council, Kerry County Council and the many businesses who have supported us in our fundraising drive.  Now we have a fitting permanent memorial to this great Kerryman and international humanitarian and his memory will continue as people visit Killarney, see the sculpture and learn about the Monsignor and the Rome Escape Line. 

We hope that the sculpture will tell the Monsignors story in a meaningful way and inspire future generations to act selflessly and never turn their back on people who need help. His memory will also stay alive through our annual Humanitarian Weekend, which we hope will continue to grow internationally. ”