It was a curious name to give a dog, “Convict 224,” and yet that is the name of the prize winning Kerry Blue Terrier owned by Irish Revolutionary leader, Michael Collins. It’s said that the name originated from Collins’ time in Frongoch prison camp after the Easter Rising, an armed insurrection launched by Irish republicans seeking to end British rule in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. Others say that Collins named his terrier after a Kerry man, Austin Stack, who served time in Lewes prison under the name ‘Convict 224.’ Either way, Michael Collins’ name, along with the name of his dog, “Convict 224,” is still etched on the ‘Collins Cup’ trophy awarded annually to Best of Breed winners at Kerry Blue Terrier shows. The trophy stays in the hands of the Irish Kennel Club which stemmed from the Dublin Blue Terrier Club.
Dog fanciers like to share “war stories” of what some exhibitors have overcome to get to a dog show. Most of us have dealt with bad weather, forgetting the dog at home after driving for hours, or overcoming an injury, but few of us, we think, have thumbed our nose at the threat of incarceration or death to get to the ring. During the dangerous years of the War of Independence, Collins risked blowing his cover to show his Kerry Blue terrier.
At the time, all dog shows were held under license of the English Kennel Club. Given their sentiments about the English, Collins and a few others organized the Dublin Blue Terrier Club (which eventually became the Irish Kennel Club) and held their own show outside English jurisdiction. The occasion of the club’s first show in 1920 was also Michael Collin’s 30th birthday, and what a fine day it was for him when his dog, ‘Convict 224,′ won first prize in a class for the Wyndham Quinn trophy. Interestingly, British Captain, Wyndham Quinn, was also at the show, and presented the trophy bearing his name. Under Secretary for Ireland, Sir James McMahon, was also there, and had brought his dog to show in the same class. Unknowingly, he competed alongside the most wanted man in Ireland who had a £10,000 price on his head.
It makes bad weather look trivial, doesn’t it?
As an epilogue, the Kerry Blue Terrier just might now be Ireland’s national dog had Michael Collins not been shot dead at Beal Na Blath by a sniper’s bullet under what are still murky circumstances. He had sponsored an act of the Irish parliament designed to make the Irish Blue Terrier (now the Kerry Blue) the national dog of Ireland, but historians have been unable to find evidence that Collins’ legislation was ever even heard, debated, or voted upon.
Image: Kerry Blue Terrier by Alexey Bazhan is available as wall art, home decor, and lifestyle items here.
6 thoughts on “Convict 224”
A full modern forensic examination of Michael Collins’ cap might reveal microscopic/spectroscopic/ other modality etc information about type of bullet/weapon,any other residues of metal to check ricochet theory and exclude a close up shot.
Now THAT would be interesting, Paul. We wonder if this has occurred to anyone else?
See attached photo, my uncle – recently deceased Eddie Madden, won the best in breed for a kerry blue in the Dublin show in the 70’s, he was a very respected kerry blue dog breeder who wrote to the Irish exchequer to further try and get a kerry blue on an Irish coin as a tribute to Collins but to no avail, I received his Convict 224 after his death.
What a spectacular bequest, Billy, how lucky you are. It’s a stunning piece and a lovely reminder of the attempts your Uncle made to have the breed recognized in this special way. Thank you so very much for writing and for sharing the photo. We are, by the way, sorry for your loss.
An autopsy would give the diameter of the entry wound, at the moment we don’t even know if he was shot by a handgun or a rifle. The ricochet theory was never viable bcuz of so many witnesses who saw a small circular entry wound. After a bullet ricochets off a hard surface it is no longer round & doesn’t leave a round hole. A forensic autopsy has been advocated by many writers but never done, IMO it won’t be (& shouldn’t be). If it showed Collins shot by a handgun it could only have been a member of his own convoy, probably Dalton. No one wants to go there. What recent investigation done in Ireland was truthful, complete, transparent, and free of political influence?
Great comment, Karen, thank you! It would have been interesting to know the details of what happened to Collins.