G. B. Kenna (1874-1939)

G.B. Kenna was the pen name of Father John Hassan. Hassan was born in Banagher in Derry in 1874 and studied in St Columbs in Derry and Maynooth before his ordination in Rome in 1900 the spent time in Ballycastle, Downpatrick, Kilkeel and Castlewellan. He ended up as a priest in Belfast in St. Joseph’s in Sailortown and then as the administrator in St Mary’s, Chapel Lane in the centre of Belfast.

He had been recording the details of events in Belfast since 1920 and was involved by the Michael Collins in the collection of materials for a book that was to become ‘Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom 1920-1922’. On instructions from Collins Hassan set out to gather information to address black propaganda being issued (sometimes at the expenses of completeness in his statistics).

Fr John Hassan (courtesy of his great grand nephew, Niall Hassan)

Hassan, however, personally didn’t feel up to the task of writing a book on the subject and it was agreed with Collins that it be entrusted to a member of the Irish government’s Publicity Committee, Alfred O’Rahilly, who would be supplied with the necessary information by Hassan.

When O’Rahilly was unable to complete his work, Hassan pulled together the material he had gathered to date. He appears to have finished up at the start of August 1922 as the book contains details of sentences handed out in court in Belfast on the same date that he wrote the foreword, 1st August 1922. The foreword explicitly set out the motivation behind writing the book: “…to place before the public a brief review of the disorders that have made the name of Belfast notorious… A well-financed Press propaganda… has already succeeded in convincing vast numbers of people, especially in England, that the victims were the persecutors… What the Catholics of Belfast would desire most of all…is an impartial tribunal set up by Government to investigate the whole tragic business… considering the magnitude of these outrages…?

He then went to Ballymoney as parish priest where he died in January 1939.