Background and Education
Augustine E. Costello was born in Killimor in 1846. In a letter, dated July 9th 1891, to his cousin, Charles Costello, who lived in Killimor, he described his early years. He attended a hedge-school, located about three miles from Killimor on the old Portumna Road. His teacher was Johnny McDermott, “a most worthy man”, easy tempered but “could use the rod without compunction of conscience”. After that he went to Mrs. Kirkaldy’s school in Hearnsbrook and later continued his education in the school-house run by a Mr. Manning. Augustine was a “callow boy of 15” when he left school; he went to work in Kells, afterwards in Dublin and then set sail for America.
The Jacmel Episode
Augustine got involved in the Fenian Movement in America, and, with others, attempted to bring guns and ammunition into Ireland on the ship Jacmel, after the Fenian Rising in Ireland in 1867. The shipment was intercepted and Costello, together with many of his companions, were arrested near Helvic in Waterford. Costello was sentenced to twelve years penal servitude for treason-felony. He was released after twenty one months and returned to America.
A Checkered Career
Augustine was a man of many parts. He was a lieutenant in the United States Civil War and worked as an actor in New York. He continued his association with the Fenian Movement and attended many “rebel reunions”. He was a police reporter for the New York Herald and a prolific writer who produced at least twenty three books which dealt mostly with the function and history of the police and fire departments in New York, New Haven, Jersey City, Minneapolis and Chicago. A letter written by Augustine E. Costello to his cousin, Charles, in Ireland, is among the extensive collection of Irish Literature in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library in the University of Kansas. His sentiments and nationalistic leanings are evident from a letter he wrote to Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in 1893 and which is housed in the Catholic University of America, Washington DC.
Concluding paragraph of Augustine E. Costello’s letter to his cousin, Charles. The letter was dated July 9th 1891.
Death and Interment
Augustine passed away in December 1909 leaving a wife and three daughters to mourn his loss. He was interred in Old St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.
Augustine E. Costello’s death was recorded in various newspapers. Tributes were paid to him in The Galway Pilot and Galway Vindicator or December 4th 1909, in The Connacht Tribune of January 1st 1910 and also in The Galway Express.
A copy of his book “Our Firemen – The History of The New York Fire Departments From 1609 to 1887” was generously donated by Liam Ryan (originally from Moneenaveena, Killimor) and is now in Killimor Heritage Centre.
For further information on Augustine E. Costello, see Chapter 15, Killimor on the Defensive in our publication “Killimor Our Parish and Our People”.