, 2022-07-01 20:00:00,
In February, tour guide and genealogist Mary G O’Sullivan made an unsettling discovery. Janie McCarthy, the Irishwoman, and fellow Killarney native, who risked her life to save countless Allied soldiers during the Second World War was buried in an unmarked grave on the outskirts of Paris. How did a woman decorated by three countries for her work with the French Resistance end up in an ossuaire (or ossuary) with hundreds of others?
“She was courageous and patriotic, and her spirit inspired others. It is a tragedy that she lies in a paupers’ grave in Levallois-Per cemetery,” Ms O’Sullivan says, still moved by the experience. Had it not been for her meticulous research, we might not even know where Janie McCarthy, the teacher who escorted downed pilots out of wartime Paris to safety, was buried.
Mary G O’Sullivan traced her first to a plot in the same cemetery which had been leased to a Cornelius Healy. When that lease lapsed, 10 years after Janie’s death in 1964, her remains were exhumed and transferred to a communal plot. It is such an ignoble end for a woman who wore her wartime medals with pride on summertime trips home to Killarney but now, at least, she is being commemorated in her hometown.
Last week, a campaign by councillors Michael Gleeson and later John O’Donoghue bore fruit when a plaque dedicated to the war heroine was unveiled by Killarney mayor Marie Moloney. There have been suggestions that her remains be expatriated too but, as Mary G O’Sullivan points out, it would be near impossible to identity them in a mass grave.
It is possible, however, to revive the story of a woman who was once much more widely known. When she died in…
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