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.