Cable O’Leary was born ‘Denis’ O’Leary in Ballinskelligs. He was a huge strong man and married Bridget Sugrue in 1859 and they had three sons and three daughters. They lived beside the “Old Ballinskelligs” school – the ruin still remains.
O’Leary was a legend for two reasons – his part in laying the Transatlantic cable between America and Kerry.
The Cable ship arrived in the bay but could not bring the cable ashore as the water was too shallow. The Ballinskelligs seine boat was commisioned but these twelve men despite all their skill and strength could not move the cable.
Denis O’Leary saw the problem and waded out to the seine boat. The men handed him the cable. With water washing up to his chin and waves washing over his head he pulled, he managed to move it a few feet. With fierce determination and mighty effort he struggled and pulled gaining yard by yard until eventually with bleeding hands he pulled the cable up onto the beach.
Cable O’Leary completed the link in the Transatlantic Communication System.
Secondly Cable O’Leary was famous because of the courageous and defiant stand he and his family took against his eviction 1887. The eviction was only successful on the third attempt. This was to be the last eviction in Kerry. In the first eviction attempt in January 1887, the bailiffs and police arrived to find that ‘Cable’ and his sons had barricaded themselves in the loft of the house, armed with pikes, shovels, stones and a scythe. O’Leary warned them to stay away. The bailiffs and police withdrew. The second attempt took place in May 1887. This time thirty police escorted the bailiffs. Again ‘Cable’ and his family barricaded themselves in. They fought with pikes, shovels and stones. The eviction party beagn to break in the roof, ripping off the slates. Cable’s sixteen year old daughter pulled the ladder from one of the policeman who fell to the ground. A large crowd of locals gathered jeering the police and encouraging the O’Leary’s. The police once again withdrew. Four days later they returned with 150 police only to find the house empty. A warrant issued for Cable’s arrest, he was charged with resistance and with ‘prodding of the bailiff’ Bail was arranged and he was escorted out of Cahersiveen by a brass band – he was a hero.
Cable O’Leary is indeed a legend in Ballinskelligs. We will not forget his courageous and heroic deeds.