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July 11 1917 – US & British forces inspected in Cork

United States Naval forces lead the parade at the old Cork racecourse on July 11, 1917. (Illustrated War News, July 25, 1917)

 

On what was soon to be the site of Cork’s Fordson tractor factory, a parade of military strength in Cork was put on for the visiting Viscount Lord French on this day 100 years ago.

Not long based out of nearby Queenstown (modern-day Cobh), the procession was led by members of the United States Naval detachment, as they saluted the dignitaries lined up near the riverside overlooking the Cork Park Racecourse.

In the photograph above, the temporary offices of the Ford company can be seen in the right-hand side, behind some of the crowds who turned out for the occasion. The site near the Marina had only recently been acquired for the construction of the motor plant, replacing what had long been the city’s horse-racing park – the road running through the middle of which led to the name of the still-existant Centre Park Road.

At the end of April, a flotilla of US naval destroyers had arrived into Cork harbour, marking the commencement of the nation’s entry into World War I. This turning point in the war – largely in response to the German declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare – as well as its consequences locally, nationally and internationally – was the subject of a three-day conference hosted by University College Cork’s school of history last week.

One of the papers was delivered by Royal Irish Academy member Professor Bernadette Whelan of the University of Limerick’s history department, who discussed the despatches from the US Consul in Queenstown, Wesley Frost during his term there between 1914 and 1917.  He received praise for his work in the wake of the Lusitania sinking off the Irish coast in 1915, including the arrangement of searches and burials for the dead, finance and transport arrangement for US survivors, and the securing of statements and affidavits from many of them.  But despite this, he was replaced and reassigned to propaganda work for the US war involvement just days after the US Navy arrived in Cork. Prof Whelan questioned the official reasoning given to Frost that it related to British admiralty complaints about investigations into the movement of German U-boats. Instead, she said, Frost may have been scapegoated over concerns about the level of publicity accorded the destroyers arriving in Cork – publicity raised through ceremonies organised by the British admiralty, rather than by the local consular office.

Frost’s replacement Charles M Hathaway arrived in Queenstown in early June 1917 but, curiously, does not appear to have been present when the joint inspection of US and British military personnel took place in Cork a month later. He was not named among the dignitaries reported as participants in the inspection party.

Among the British Army regiments who took part in the review were the Munster Fusiliers, Dublin Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers, Leinster Regiment, Royal Irish Regiment (of which Lord French was Colonel-in-Chief), South Irish Horse, King Edward’s Horse, Royal Field Artillery, Royal Scots, Scottish Rifles and Royal Army Medical Corps. Among those who viewed the proceedings were wounded soldiers from the local hospitals capable of being driven to the site, while large crowds stretched along the Marina to get a glimpse of the event.

Before departing the scene, Lord French presented the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Cross to the mother of the late Lieutenant RJ Coughlan of the Middlesex Regiment.

The photo below was taken later in the day when members of the various regiments and the US Navy accompanied the senior army officers on a visit to Victoria Barracks on the northside of the city. There, Field Marshal French inspected the Cork Military Hospital.

American sailors and British soldiers at Victoria Barracks, Cork during the visit of Lord French to Cork Military Hospital on July 11, 1917 (Illustrated War News, July 25, 1917)
The photograph appears to have been taken as the military group posed with their backs to the north facade of the enormous parade square, which still stands today despite being burned by evacuating anti-Treaty IRA as Cork was being taken over by National Army troops during the Civil War in August 1922.

The same square, photographed below, was visited last week by members of the US and German naval colleges, who were among a group of participants in last week’s conference at UCC given the opportunity to tour what is Collins Barracks today.

Parade square at Collins Barracks, Cork, July 2017.

Deported

On February 22, 1917, several key figures in the Irish Volunteers were arrested and placed in military detention around Ireland.  Of 20 men detained, it was barely eight weeks since 13 had been released from custody after being held without charge in Welsh and English prisons and prisoner camps in the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

In Cork, those detained on this day 100 years ago included Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney – the two leading figures in the Irish Volunteers in Cork city and county. Both had been returned to Cork days before Christmas 1916. On the morning of February 23, in the company of fellow-detainees Sean Nolan and Peadar O’Hourihane, they were marched in military custody from Cork’s Victoria Barracks to the Glanmire Road railway station.

Peadar O’Hourihane, photographed after his detention by British military in Cork, 1921 (from mugshots of Cork ‘Sinn Fein Executive’, in First World War Galleries, Imperial War Museum, London)

Within days, after journeying by train, boat, and further train trips, the men were distributed to villages in rural England. Rather than being interned, as their status has sometimes been described, the men were effectively banished from their native country without having been convicted or charged with any offences.  Deposited in various parts of the English countryside, they were assigned to local lodgings and required to stay within a short radius and to apply to the local constabulary if they wished to travel outside their respective assigned areas.

The justification for this exercise was the supposed information that arms were to be landed from German ships on the west coast. This meant “it became necessary to at once place under restraint certain dangerous extremists”, according to the Royal Irish Constabulary’s account to the Under Secretary for Ireland in Dublin Castle. Documents seized on the person or in the homes of certain of the men may have justified suspicion of renewed efforts to organise and arm the Irish Volunteers. But just like the ‘German arms plot’ that saw many key figures rounded up over a year later, there was little evidence to support the theory. The main movements of note by O’Hourihane in the previous weeks, since his own return from Frongoch in 1916, had been that he was “very active” in the Macroom district organising Irish classes, with police in west Cork suggesting “this check on his activities will have a beneficial result”. It was unstated, but the work of O’Hourihane and others as Gaelic League organisers did happen to provide cover for Irish Volunteers activity, links that would be expanded over the following year as feiseanna and outdoor ‘aeridheachts’ became cover for district officers to convene battalion councils amid heightened military restrictions during 1918.

MacCurtain and O’Hourihane were confined to the area around Ledbury, MacSwiney and Nolan to Bromyard about 30 miles away. Just as they did at home, however, they spent much of their time cycling the country roads to visit each other or to meet with Irish ex-pats in the larger towns and cities of the region.

Sean Nolan, left, and Tomás MacCurtain in Malvern Hills during their exile in England, 1917 – from Florence O’Donoghue, Tomás MacCurtain (Tralee: Kerryman, 1958)

They remained in this exile until the end of June 1917, when they were released at the same time as the Easter 1916 convicts who had been detained since the Rising in Frongoch, or in a number of English jails. All were allowed home under the amnesty announced by the British government as it renewed efforts to seek a political solution to the ‘Irish question’.  But by the time MacCurtain, MacSwiney and the rest returned home, the Sinn Féin political revolution had already begun, spurred by Westminster bye-election victories in Roscommon and Longford of Count Plunkett and the imprisoned Joe McGuinness; and the quiet re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers was taking hold in the Cork countryside where MacSwiney, Nolan and others had laid the groundwork in 1915 and 1916.

The evidence of that groundwork, and the early re-organisation work of the Irish Volunteers, was to be seen among the documents seized by the Royal Irish Constabulary when they arrested Sean Nolan in February 1917. Most likely compiled ahead of a convention of Cork companies at the end of January 1917, a table of those signed up in more than 30 towns and villages showed that they boasted over 800 members (and around 500 more likely to join up in the event of conscription being threatened again), more than 50 rifles, almost 300 shotguns, and 100 revolvers.

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SOME  SOURCES:

RIC Inspector General, monthly report, February 1917, Colonial Office (CO) 904/102/214

RIC West Cork Riding County Inspector, monthly report, February 1917, CO 904/102/256

Papers found in possession of Sean Nolan when arrested on February 22, 1917, CO 904/29/305-308

Florence O’Donoghue, Tomás MacCurtain (Tralee: Kerryman, 1958)

Peadar Ó hAnnracháin [Peadar O’Hourihane], Mar Mhaireas É, volume 2 (Dublin: Oifig an tSoláthair, 1955)

Video

Terence MacSwiney – TD, Lord Mayor, reluctant newsreel star

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Far too often remembered for the circumstances of his death, the anniversary today of Terence MacSwiney’s death reminds me of a very telling letter of his which I happened upon some time ago.
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Terence MacSwiney, TD for Mid-Cork, Lord Mayor of Cork city

As the Sinn Féin TD, or member of Dáil Éireann, for Mid-Cork since the December 1918 general election, his responsibilities included the organisation of key elements of the counter-state being developed in parallel and in competition with the British administration in Ireland.
In the weeks before his arrest on August 12, 1920 – when he would begin the 74-day hunger strike that would lead to his death 96 years ago today – he was deeply involved in administering the final stages of the campaign to raise funds through the Dáil Loan, and in establishing the Dáil Éireann courts for his rural constituency.
His work was disturbed – or so he made out – by the visit of a cameraman from the ‘movies’ in mid-July. With cinema houses a common feature of Irish cities, and travelling picture shows in use in town halls, the newsreels were like the Facebook and Twitter of the early 20th-century. Through the flickering glimpses of events and personalities, those who could afford the ticket price could learn of what was happening at home and abroad.
“By the way, a representative (whose name I haven’t got) of the Pathé ‘movie’ show came looking for copy in his line. He was introduced by Mr. D’Egville,” MacSwiney wrote a few days later to Desmond Fitzgerald, director of propaganda for Dáil Éireann.
“I must confess I shied at being put on the ‘movies’.” [1]
Such newsreels were also seen by the ever-vigilant publicity department of Dáil Éireann as an opportunity to show the world just how successfully the revolutionary government could run Irish affairs independently.  It was with this in mind that Terence MacSwiney reluctantly agreed to allow the Pathé man into his rooms at Cork City Hall, where he spent long days dealing with his official business as Lord Mayor of Cork city – as well as his role as Commandant of the IRA’s Cork No. 1 Brigade, both roles he had inherited after the murder of his friend Tomás MacCurtain.
As the news camera began rolling, MacSwiney sat in his mayoral chambers and read a prospectus for the Dáil Loan at a dimly-lit desk, and then stood and spoke to the camera. What appears to be a bashful smile crossed MacSwiney’s face as he did his bit for the publicity campaign, a set of 19th-century mayoral ware decorated with the Cork city coat of arms visible on a dresser behind him in the room.
The footage was used by  Pathé in the weeks that followed, after MacSwiney’s hunger strike at Brixton Prison became the subject of global headlines.
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The worldwide interest in Terence MacSwiney’s hunger strike made souvenirs like this American pin badge a part of the international campaign to press his case with the British government.

It  was the prompting of a Dáil Court official which had helped the Mid-Cork TD to overcome his shyness, the official in question having just beforehand brought the Pathé man to see a sitting of the court. He remonstrated with MacSwiney that it was all just for propaganda.
The court session can be seen in a longer Pathé newsreel compilation, below, which opens with the scene showing the judges under a canopy with the same Cork coat of arms seen in MacSwiney’s chambers. The likelihood is that this was a sitting of the Dáil Éireann District Court for the Cork city constituency. It was known to have sat in Cork City Hall, and such a sitting took place on the evening that MacSwiney was arrested there a few weeks later, on August 12, 1920. [2]
In this Pathé footage, the judge in the centre bears quite a strong resemblance to Liam de Róiste, one of two Sinn Féin TDs for Cork city, and  one of 14 men whose names MacSwiney had notified as members of the city’s District Court to Home Affairs Minister Austin Stack a few weeks earlier. [3]  Among those 14 were six priests, the clergy having quite a prominent role on parish and district courts of the Dáil Éireann courts system. [4]
The shots which follow those of the Lord Mayor show the scene outside Cork Courthouse, the doors surrounded by barbed wire and British soldiers to ensure the court officers of what remained of the official judicial system were not attacked by members of MacSwiney’s IRA brigade. The intimidation tactics of the IRA meant not enough jurors were available to hear cases anyway, with only a dozen out of around 300 summonsed for duty for the County Assizes taking place that week making an appearance.
Another inducement for MacSwiney to appear on camera was the information that Sinn Féin founder, Arthur Griffith, and Robert Brennan had been filmed by the newsreel men the day before.  A Wexford-born journalist and one of those to have a death sentence commuted after the Easter Rising, Brennan had founded the Sinn Féin publicity department in 1918. He produced the first editions of the Irish Bulletin, Dáil Éireann’s propaganda newspaper used to great effect from November 1919 in disseminating descriptions of restrictions and reprisals imposed by British forces during the War of Independence.
The footage which follows that of Cork Courthouse shows Arthur Griffith reading a book, and being joined by Brennan, both also speaking directly to the cameraman in the same self-conscious manner with which MacSwiney would do so the next day.
Writing to Desmond FitzGerald (father of future Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald), MacSwiney expressed reservation about the lengths to which TDs were expected to go to fulfil the needs of the publicity department.
“But I would like to know, seriously, how far we are to encourage the ‘movie’ business – and if we are to put any check on these insatiable journalists.”  [5]
The episode reflects MacSwiney’s cautious nature; he was always weighing up the pros and cons of every situation, whether it was trying to perfect a character in one of his plays, the methods to be used in IRA attacks on police barracks, or whether or not he should participate in the new media for the promotion of the cause of Irish independence.
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Terence MacSwiney memorial card, October 1920. (The same printers, East London Printing Co., produced a card of the same design and cover for King George V 16 years later)

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[1] Copy letter, Terence MacSwiney to Desmond Fitzgerald, July 23, 1920, PR4 /4/74, Terence MacSwiney Lord Mayor files, Cork City & County Archives.
[2] Moirin Chavasse, Terence MacSwiney (Dublin: Clonmore & Reynolds, 1961), p. 142.
[3]  List of District Court officials, PR4 /1/17, Terence MacSwiney Lord Mayor files, Cork City & County Archives.
[4] Niall Murray, ‘Dáil Courts: a case study of Mid-Cork 1920-22’ in John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy, John Borgonovo (editors), Atlas of the Irish Revolution, (Cork: Cork University Press, forthcoming March 2017).
[5] Copy letter, Terence MacSwiney to Desmond Fitzgerald, July 23, 1920, PR4 /4/74, Terence MacSwiney Lord Mayor files, Cork City & County Archives.

Stamps of (dis)approval ?

‘At that time the postage stamps used in Ireland were the same as those in use in England showing the head of King George V. Patriots made a point of always stamping their letters with the King’s head upside down.’    [1]

 I came across this quote during the summer, from a description of the period between the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence kicking off ca. 1918-19. 

It’s from an unpublished account by Euds Tonson-Rye who was at the time, a boy of 8 or 9, growing up in the ‘big house’ at Ryecourt, near Cloughduv and Crookstown, Co Cork. It stood on the Ryecourt estate, just south of the Cork Macroom Road, between Farran and Lissarda.


I’ve just, coincidentally, acquired these stamps, cancelled in Macroom. They’re from the slightly later post-Truce period in February 1922,  the heady period before the Civil War when, before the British stamps were removed from use, they were imprinted ‘Rialtas Sealadach na hEireann’ [Provisional Government of Ireland]   

You may see the head of King George V a little more clearer in this other one below, which I’ve turned ‘the right way round’ for ease of vision.


The third photo, below, suggests the sender was one of the many in the Macroom district who, in 1923, was not pleased either to be under the government of the Irish Free State as they, too,  look to have placed their stamp upside down on the envelope.

[1]   –  Euds Tonson-Rye, typescript history of Ryecourt, Co Cork (ca. 1972), U 271, Special Collections, Boole Library, University College Cork.

Lissarda ambush commemoration, August 28, 2016.

This is the text of the oration I delivered last Sunday evening, at the annual commemoration of the Lissarda ambush. Normally held on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of the event on Sunday August 22, 1920 – two years to the day before Michael Collins died violently elsewhere in the same mid-Cork parish of Kilmurry – it also commemorates the death in the Lissarda ambush of Kilmurry Irish Volunteers company quartermaster, Michael Galvin.

This year’s commemoration was held instead on Sunday, August 28, in deference to the official opening by President Michael D Higgins the previous Sunday of Independence Museum Kilmurry.

Monument at Lissarda, Co Cork, commemorating the ambush there on Sunday, August 22, 1920

When Michael Galvin died here in August 1920, he was almost unique among IRA Volunteers killed during the War of Independence in Ireland.
As a  married man, he was quite different to the typical profile of those  who had signed up to the Irish Republican Army in the preceding years – one of about 150 members at that time in this parish alone.

We hear very little, in stories of the fallen soldiers in the fight for Irish independence,  about the families they left behind.
Because,   so often,  they were unmarried and had no children,  their family stories largely died with them. Apart from roadside memorials like this one, not much is usually known, other than the circumstances of their deaths.

That is not the case with Michael Galvin whose life and death are recalled here this evening   –   many of whose  descendants still live in the area, and some of whom are here tonight.

For not alone do we have details of his death and the circumstances in which it occurred  – from the relatively – recent  online publication of statements left by participants;    but newly-released records also shine a light on the circumstances in which his family were left      following Michael’s death.

It is those circumstances I will speak about briefly this evening –  not in any way wishing to personalise or single out the Galvin family for what they went through – but to give just a small insight into the workings of the Republic that did eventually follow the War of Independence – and what it meant for those whose loved ones had died to achieve it.

Michael Galvin married Annie Neville in June 1915 at St Mary’s Church in Kilmurry – both of them were aged around 24. Michael then took control of the Neville farm of about 20 acres, nearby at Clomacow, where the couple lived with Annie’s father, Maurice, a man in his late 60s.

Not long after that,   in October  1915,   the local Irish Volunteers company was formed at Béal na Bláth –  on the initiative of Terence MacSwiney and Tomás MacCurtain;    but helped locally by people like John T Murphy – an ex-medical student from Lissarda,    who had been an officer at county level with the Land and Labour Association, and a local activist for William O’Brien’s All-for-Ireland League – opponents in the strongest sense of the word to the Irish Parliamentary Party who still prevailed at that time, nationally at least   –  and opponents of anything they might stand for,   including that party’s leader John Redmond and his National Volunteers – the much larger organisation left after the 1914 split in the armed Volunteer movement, largely over support of the British Army efforts in the Great War in Europe.

The war was already well over a year old by the time that MacSwiney and locals attracted young men of this parish into the Irish Volunteers. One of the early recruits, Michael was now a small farmer, but was also enterprising enough to supplement his income from a few grazing cattle, with some small-scale cattle dealing,   and carting goods for other farmers in the area.

Kilmurry Volunteers carried pikes through the streets of Cork with hundreds of others in the city’s 1916 St Patrick’s Day parade.

It was small farmers like Michael, local labourers and tradesmen – or their sons – who formed the early nucleus of the Irish Volunteers here in Kilmurry, and in the surrounding communities.

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Michael and Annie’s son John was born in  September 1916.
It was less than a year since the Irish Volunteers had been formed in Kilmurry –      but things had changed enormously in Ireland in the previous 12 months.

The failed Easter Rising of that year – for which nearly  400 Corkmen ,   who were to have taken part   marched through Béal na Bláth, Kilmurry and Lissarda en route to Macroom on Easter Sunday – was largely unpopular at first.
But probably more so than the executions of the rebel leaders –  it was the arrest of local men like John T Murphy,    and their detention in English and Welsh jails and prison camps in a summer like this 100 years ago,    that helped to  begin the swing of popular opinion   –  away from the old nationalist politics   –  and in the direction of the separatist mind-set to which Michael Galvin, and others like him, had already aligned themselves.

Fast forward another year – to December 1917 – the local company of Volunteers – with Michael now in charge of arms and equipment, as company quartermaster – had more than doubled its membership to at least 70.  They were in a procession of Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, GAA and camogie clubs, that marched through Macroom to the town square to hear Eamon de Valera speak. The future President of Ireland had recently abstained from taking his seat in Westminster after being elected member of parliament for East Clare.  He was also then,    the president of the Irish Volunteers and the rapidly-growing Sinn Féin party.
By August 1919 – when Michael and Annie’s daughter Mary arrived into the world – de Valera had been joined by Terence MacSwiney representing this parish’s constituency of Mid-Cork, as the elected Sinn Féin parliamentary representative – along with dozens of others who were meeting in Dublin,  instead of London, in their own establishment  – Dáil Éireann.

Some of Michael’s comrades – David Healy, an  Irish  Volunteers section commander in   Crookstown – and others from the neighbouring  Farnanes company of the Volunteers, had just served a month in jail for collecting outside Cloughduv church  –  probably for the loan being organised by Michael Collins to finance the Dáil  and its alternative and revolutionary government – which was about to be declared illegal by the British government.

So to Sunday, August 22, 1920 – barely a week after his daughter’s first birthday – Michael was one of the Kilmurry men who rushed here after collecting their weapons from various hideouts.     Most of you know what happened but Michael died, probably instantly, after being hit by a police bullet during an exchange of gunfire here with the Royal Irish Constabulary,   in what was a hastily-constructed ambush;   one that was not supposed to have been reconvened for another few days after locals hostile to the Volunteers had spotted the men lying in wait the day before.
It was the killing of police sergeant Daniel Maunsell from Kerry by the IRA in Inchigeela the evening before that prompted the senior police officers targeted here at Lissarda to travel this road, unexpectedly, from Bandon. And like Daniel Maunsell, – Michael died with a wife and family left to fend for themselves.

An RIC member can be seen near the far right in this early 1900s photo taken outside the Lake Hotel, Inchigeela. RIC sergeant Daniel Maunsell was killed here on Saturday night, August 21, 1920

Unlike the family of a police sergeant, however, there was no pension at that time for widows of IRA men killed in action.
Annie was left with her two young children – John, nearly 4 , and one-year-old Mary –  But also with a farm, meaning she had to hire in labour to earn any meagre income at all  in order to feed them and her ageing father.  Because of a physical disability he had since childhood, John Galvin was unable to work the small farm in Clomacow when he did come of age.   His sister Mary moved  back here with her husband shortly after marrying,  to tend the farm and care for her mother.

It was not until the early 1950s – over 30 years after her husband’s death and a few years before she passed away in 1956, that Annie Galvin became entitled to an IRA widow’s allowance of £250 a year.   In support of her claim,     after revised military service pensions law had been passed,     letters were written by local man Matt Murphy from Lissarda – who had served alongside Michael Galvin at the ambush here.

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By an amendment made in the Dáil and the Seanad in 1959, extensions were made to the provisions of a previous act that paid allowances to the invalided brothers of a Volunteer, if they had also been the deceased Volunteer’s dependant.  John Galvin’s was one of three cases known in the Department of Defence at the time, in which a child ,    whose father was killed on active service with the Irish Volunteers / IRA           had a permanent disability before they reached adulthood.      But his was ‘the lead case’, the precedent, if you will,     around which the argument was built for the changes that ensured such children were to receive the same entitlement as that of an invalided brother,   if the initial recipient of the allowance had died.   In this case, Michael’s widow – and John’s mother – Annie, had died three years earlier.
While today, we come to expect proper supports for children and adults with a disability – be it physical or intellectual – in 1950s Ireland, not so much existed in the way of public understanding or standards around such matters.   Because,  however,  of the lobbying that occurred on behalf of John Galvin, the case was properly made to the respective Government departments, and properly argued by the civil servants who saw the merits of the case made.

Here was an example in action –  of Irish people governing Irish affairs    –  the kind of governance sought by the Sinn Féin-led national and international political campaign of  1917   to   1921  – and supported militarily by the Irish Volunteers and IRA.

It was a lobby taken up, for example, by men like Sean McCarthy,  TD for Cork city – and a successor as Lord Mayor of Cork, of the late Terence MacSwiney –- who had only begun his fateful hunger strike the week before Michael Galvin died.

First raising the matter in the Seanad was Senator Ted O’Sullivan – who had the  quick thinking of David Healy’s sister Katie to thank in 1921 when, as a prominent IRA figure from west Cork, he narrowly escaped capture by Crown Forces in Crookstown.  In 1956, O’Sullivan told Defence Minister   Seán MacEoin:

“Surely it is a reflection on us and on our Government, on our country and on every member of the Oireachtas, that the orphan son of a man killed in action, this child who is totally incapacitated and therefore surely a dependent of that man who was killed…. cannot get an allowance from this State while… there is provision in the Act of 1953 for the widow, parent, brother and sister of such a man.”

Ted O’Sullivan disguised himself as one of the tailors working overhead Keane’s shop in Crookstown while on the run from British Crown Forces

Former teachers at Kilmurry National School wrote from their homes in Fermoy and Bandon of their memories of John Galvin as a child,  supporting his claim nearly 40 years after he had been their pupil.
Earlier in 1956,   Macroom IRA Battalion officer  Charlie Browne – who described Michael Galvin as one of the Battalion’s finest soldiers – had written to the Department of Defence in support of the claim for an allowance for John in the months after his mother’s death. But it was John’s sister  Mary who had first applied, believing he should be entitled to a dependant’s allowance.
Two decades before that, Annie secured assistance under laws made in Dáil Éireann that provided for financial assistance towards Mary’s secondary education, being  the child of an IRA Volunteer killed in action.  Complications around the strict rules meant representations had to be made by TDs Sean Moylan, and ex-Macroom IRA battalion commander Daniel Corkery.

In 1935, senior Irish government figure Seán T O’Kelly – whose silk pyjamas were noted by Macroom prisoners when they shared accommodation in a Welsh prison camp in 1916 –   received a letter from one of the town’s merchants,  JJ O’Shea.   He had put young Mary up while she attended the convent school there, as her mother was concerned that the Cork-Macroom train wouldn’t get her to school every morning in time for class.

O’Shea told the future President of Ireland , O’Kelly:

“When you read this woman’s case,     you will agree she demands the sympathetic consideration of the present Government      who are striving to see established that Republic    Mick Galvin gave his young life for.”

Prior to that, in the mid-1920s, the family had the assistance of the Irish White Cross , supported at the generous rate of 10 shillings a week for each child.  And with representations made on their behalf by its secretary Áine  Ceannt, who knew very well about the pain of losing a young husband. Her husband Éamonn was one of the 16 men executed after the Easter Rising.

In November 1932, Annie Galvin wrote to Sean Moylan:
“Should you succeed on my behalf,  you will deserve and receive the earnest thanks of a helpless widow, and two fatherless children    who have lost the only one who was near and dear to us in the country’s struggle for freedom.”

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Nearing my conclusion, now, let me read for you the words published – above those in which RIC sergeant Maunsell’s widow remembered her dead husband –  in a memoriam note in the Cork Examiner  which marked the first anniversary of Michael Galvin’s death.

They wring from us

In rich young blood,

They take our very best;

How long, oh Lord

How long the time

Til Éire shall find rest.

Éire did eventually find rest ; perhaps not the Éire that everybody in these parts or around west Cork would have hoped for  –   and not without a few more years of hardship and violence —   witnessed,  and suffered,   by people in this district and in this parish.

Here in Kilmurry just a week ago, de Valera’s and O’Kelly’s successor as  Úachtarán na hÉireann,  Micheál  Ó  hUigínn, reminded those who might denigrate the principles and the bravery of those who took up the political and military fight for Irish independence that,  were it not for their efforts,  we would not have had him there as President of the Irish Republic.

President Michael D Higgins opening Independence Museum Kilmurry, Sunday August 21, 2016

President Higgins also commended the  people living in this parish and this community today – and those who had gone before them   –  for their ‘active citizenship’.     Through their sense of strong pride in their heritage, he said,   those who have opened Independence Museum Kilmurry – and those who did not live to see that dream materialise  –  had managed to gather, and to preserve, over several decades, the everyday and more obscure items, and the stories, which will  show the next generation –   and those that follow  – what it meant, and what it was like,   to live through troubled times,   in past decades and in past centuries.

And one can hopefully get just a small taste of  that sense of  ‘community’ – one that is wider than just a place on a map –  and of active citizenship,   from the story of how  just one family –  who happened to be natives of this parish also –  were helped to stay on their feet and to better themselves and their future generations,  i  bPoblacht  na hÉireann.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir – as ucht bheith anseo tráthnóna, agus as ucht bhur éisteacht.

 

SOURCES:

Most material is based on the following digitised files relating to Michael Galvin and his family, accessed in the online Military Service Pensions Collection of the Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin – 1D42 & D135

Making Census of 1916: how times have changed for enumerators

As we fill out our Census forms tonight, many of us will empathise with the work of the enumerators whose job it will be to come and collect the data in the coming days and weeks.

In 1911, it was usually a local member of the Royal Irish Constabulary or Dublin Metropolitan Police who did this job.  And in the mid-Cork parish of Kilmurry, the enumerator who signed most completed forms was Constable Thomas Felix Rourke.

He signed, for example, the Census form filled out by my great-great-grandfather William Murphy in his family farm at Currabeha (between Kilmurry village and Béal na Bláth) on Sunday, April 2, 1911.

 

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Murphy household return, Currabeha, Warrenscourt electoral division (near Macroom), Co Cork. Census 1911 (National Archives of Ireland)

 

 

The house’s youngest occupant, 1-year-old Norah is my maternal grandmother. (She would later spend her married years living in a house built on the site of, or possibly a renovation of, the Kilmurry barracks where Constable Rourke had been stationed.)

Below is the Census entry for Rourke himself in the Barracks Return for Kilmurry barracks in the townland of Coolduve, half a mile below the village itself.

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Barracks return, Kilmurry RIC Barracks, Coolduff (Coolduve), Warrenscourt, Co Cork, Census 1911 (National Archives of Ireland)

He is number 3, TF R. Interestingly, his occupation is entered as: Railway Goods Clerk. It was not unusual for RIC constables – who were usually only entered by their initials – to have odd or unrelated occupations listed. The sergeant and five other constables in the barracks were Catholic men, Rourke was a member of a Church of Ireland family, and so may well have attended services in the nearby St Andrew’s Church (only a quick stroll through two fields behind the barracks, if he needed a short-cut).

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St Andrew’s Church of Ireland, Kilmurry (courtesy Independence Museum  Kilmurry  Facebook page)

 

 

To the front of the barracks, stood a small gate for staff and pedestrians to enter the grounds. It still stands today, but 100 years ago this weekend, members of the local constabulary stood at it and watched as hundreds of uniformed Irish Volunteers passed up the hill to the village. Thomas Felix Rourke was not there on the day, having been stationed as a Sergeant in Co Tipperary for the previous two years.

 

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Picture: Clare Keogh for KHAA

The gate at the right of the photograph above is the one at Kilmurry RIC barracks, from which police watched 350 Irish Volunteers pass on Easter Sunday 1916. On the same date 100 years later, Saturday, April 23, 2016 nearly the same number marched past in this re-enactment walk from Bandon to Kilmurry organised by Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA) and Cumann Seanchais na Banndan.

In various groups, the Irish Volunteers had come from the city, from companies in east Cork (Cobh and Dungourney), south Cork (Ballinhassig and Tracton), and from the Bandon and Kinsale districts (Ballinadee, Kilbrittain, Clogagh, Kilpatrick, Bandon, Gurteen & Tinker’s Cross) on foot, on bicycle and, for some, by train from the city as far as Crookstown Road station. All came through Béal na Bláth on their way to Kilmurry (some of the early arrivals had
Easter Sunday Mass in St Mary’s Catholic Church), and more than 350 had gathered in the one-street village sometime approaching 2pm.

 

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St Mary’s Church, Kilmurry

 

Under the command of Cork city battalion officer-in-command, Sean O’Sullivan, the men marched in the rain from Kilmurry a further six miles north-west to Macroom, where they would ultimately be dismissed as orders earlier brought to Béal na Bláth by Cork Brigade commanders Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney were delivered.

The men would return to their villages and towns soaked to the skin, and frustrated later in the week to learn that the Rising in which they were intended to play a role had commenced in Dublin. (They were to have been collecting guns from the doomed Aud gun-running mission that ended disastrously in Co Kerry in the preceding days.)

While a successor of Thomas F Rourke in Kilmurry RIC barracks (probably Sergeant Peter Beirne) had trailed the Irish Volunteers up to Kilmurry and on to Macroom, he kept his distance under the watchful eye of the rearguard of Volunteers from one of the four city companies in the mobilisation.

Weeks later, it would be possibly the evidence of this un-named RIC officer which, ironically, helped the prominent Gaelic League activist Peadar O’Hourihane from Skibbereen escape a conviction following his arrest in the aftermath of the Rising. Brought before some kind of preliminary court-martial hearing at Richmond Barracks where he was detained with many other Cork figures in the Volunteers – including MacCurtain, MacSwiney and Kilmurry Volunteers officer John T Murphy – O’Hourihane had evidence given against him from two RIC members.  One told the court officer he had seen the detainee on a march from Dunmanway to Inchigeela (in which he had, in fact, participated) on Easter Sunday.  But another told of seeing him take part in the mobilisation from Bandon to Macroom that passed through Kilmurry, and was probably one of the garrison of the RIC barracks at Coolduve, Kilmurry. O’Hourihane wrote later that the officer of the court pronounced there must have been a miracle, as the man before him appears to have been in two places at the one time.

Thomas Rourke, meanwhile, was in charge during the week of the Easter Rising, of Lisvernane station in Co Tipperary. It is unusual, as a native of west Cork, that he had been serving in his native county in 1911, a practice which was deemed inappropriate due to likelihood of interaction with family or neighbours in carrying out policing duties.    He had also, however, served in Co Kerry and at the RIC Depot in Dublin during his career which, by this stage, stretched back 22 years.

With his wife – daughter of a deceased RIC Sergeant Ward – expecting a child (probably their first) – Rourke might have been glad to be out of Co Cork when the Rising had begun, knowing of the historic tendency of its natives to be to the fore in many past rebellions. He hailed himself from near Rosscarberry, where Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa called home in his childhood but who was buried eight months earlier in Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery.

Thomas Rourke may not have expected the morning of Wednesday, April 26, 1916 to be too unusual, then, when he took up duty. But it was to be his last morning to go to work, due to the outcome of his response to a wired message about an incident in the district.   Michael O’Callaghan, a leading Irish Volunteer had fired a shot at a young Patrick Ryan and evaded arrest the night before. He had, earlier the previous day, fired shots in the air in a disturbance with the wives of Irish soldiers in the British Army, possibly upset because their separation allowance could not be collected at the post office as a result of the rebellion started in Dublin.

When Sergeant Rourke and his much younger RIC colleague, Constable John Hurley, also from west Cork, went to the home of O’Callaghan’s cousin on information that he might be hiding there, their suspicions were correct. Michael O’Callaghan shot Thomas Felix Rourke in the stomach, causing wounds from which he would die the next day, Thursday, April 27.

 

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The grave of RIC Sergeant Thomas Felix Rourke in Co Tipperary (courtesy Jim Herlihy)

The 42-year-old police sergeant was buried at Clonbeg, in the Vale of Aherlow on Saturday, April 29, the day that Patrick Pearse ordered the surrender of Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Éireann who had been holding out against British military forces since the previous Monday.

 

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Police report to War Office in London of the incident in which RIC Sergeant Thomas Felix Rourke was killed – Findmypast.ie/National Archives (UK)

 

A namesake of Sgt O’Brien’s colleague, Sean Hurley from Drinagh in west Cork died in, or on the way to, a Dublin hospital the same day, suffering from wounds received in the Church Street area near the Four Courts.  He was not identified for several days, but on the day he had died, another funeral took place in west Cork.

 

Constable John Hurley had also died from a bullet in Michael O’Callaghan’s revolver, passing away almost immediately outside the house where he and Sgt O’Rourke had gone to arrest him. He was buried in Castletownbere at a grave recently the scene of a commemorative event by family and members of the Historical and Reconciliatory Police Society (HARP).

As HARP member and leading Irish police historian Jim Herlihy has written recently, these were just two of the 17 policemen of the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) to lose their lives in the Easter Rising.

While Kilmurry marked the centenary of the Rising through the local connection with the assembly there of hundreds Irish Volunteers, it is now clear that the community also has other links to the events of that fateful final week of April 1916.

The plaque which commemorated the 100th anniversary of that mobilisation was blessed yesterday by Catholic Monsignor Kevin O’Callaghan, and by Church of Ireland curate Rev Anne Skuse, St Andrew’s Church, Kilmurry.

As Census night 2016 draws to a close, Ireland is a much much different place to that in which Constable Thomas Felix Rourke collected census forms around Kilmurry in mid-Cork 105 years ago this month.

Making Census of 1916: how times have changed for enumerators

As we fill out our Census forms tonight, many of us will empahtise with the work of the enumerators whose job it will be to come and collect the data in the coming days and weeks.

In 1911, it was usually a local member of the Royal Irish Constabulary or Dublin Metropolitan Police who did this job.  And in the mid-Cork parish of Kilmurry, the enumerator who signed most completed forms was Constable Thomas Felix Rourke.

He signed, for example, the Census form filled out by my great-great-grandfather William Murphy in his family farm at Currabeha (between Kilmurry village and Béeal na Bláth) on Sunday, April 2, 1911.

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Murphy household return, Currabeha, Warrenscourt electoral division, Co Cork. Census 1911

The house’s youngest occupant, 1-year-old Norah is my maternal grandmother. (She would later spend her married years living in a house built on the site of, or possibly a renovation of, the Kilmurry barracks where Constable Rourke had been stationed.)

Below is the Census entry for Rourke himself in the Barracks Return for Kilmurry barracks in the townland of Coolduve, half a mile below the village itself.

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Barrack return, Kilmurry, Census of Ireland 1911. (National Archives of Ireland http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/pages/1911/Cork/Warrenscourt/Coolduff/423891/)

He is number 3, TF R. Interestingly, his occupation is entered as: Railway Goods Clerk. It was not unusual for RIC constables – who were usually only entered by their initials – to have odd or unrelated occupations listed. The sergeant and five other constalbes in the barracks were Catholic men, Rourke was a member of a Church of Ireland family, and so may well have attended services in the nearby St Andrew’s Church (only a quick stroll through two fields behind the barracks, if he needed a short-cut).

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St Andrew's Church of Ireland, Kilmurry

To the front of the barracks, stood a small gate for staff and pedestrians to enter the grounds. It still stands today, but 100 years ago this weekend, members of the local constabulary stood at it and watched as hundreds of uniformed Irish Volunteers passed up the hill to the village. Thomas Felix Rourke was not there on the day, having been stationed as a Sergeant in Co Tipperary for the previous two years.

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The gate at the right of the picture above is the one at Kilmurry RIC barracks, from which police watched 350 Irish Volunteers pass on Easter Sunday 1916. On the same date 100 years later, Saturday, April 23, 2016 nearly the same number marched past in this re-enactment walk from Bandon to Kilmurry organised by Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA) and Cumann Seanchais na Banndan. Picture: Clare Keogh for KHAA

In various groups, the Irish Volunteers had come from the city, from companies in east Cork (Cobh and Dungourney), south Cork (Ballinhassig and Tracton), and from the Bandon and Kinsale districts (Ballinadee, Kilbrittain, Clogagh, Kilpatrick, Bandon, Gurteen & Tinker’s Cross) on foot, on bicycle and, for some, by train from the city as far as Crookstown Road station. All came through Béal na Bláth on their way to Kilmurry (some of the early arrivals had
Easter Sunday Mass in St Mary’s Catholic Church), and more than 350 had gathered in the one-street village sometime approaching 2pm.

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St Mary's Church, Kilmurry, at 12.30pm on April 23, 2016 - 100 years to the time and date since uniformed and armed Irish Volunteers had Easter Sunday mass inside.

Under the command of Cork city battalion officer-in-command, Sean O’Sullivan, the men marched in the rain from Kilmurry a further six miles north-west to Macroom, where they would ultimately be dismissed as orders earlier brought to Béal na Bláth by Cork Brigade commanders Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney were delivered.

The men would return to their villages and towns soaked to the skin, and frustrated later in the week to learn that the Rising in which they were intended to play a role had commenced in Dublin. (They were to have been collecting guns from the doomed Aud gun-running mission that ended disastrously in Co Kerry in the preceding days.)

While a successor of Thomas F Rourke in Kilmurry RIC barracks (probably Sergeant Peter Beirne) had trailed the Irish Volunteers up to Kilmurry and on to Macroom, he kept his distance under the watchful eye of the rearguard of Volunteers from one of the four city companies in the mobilisation.

Weeks later, it would be possible the evidence of this un-named RIC officer which, ironically, helped the prominent Gaelic League activist Peadar O’Hourihane from Skibbereen escape a conviction following his arrest in the aftermath of the Rising. Brought before some kind of preliminary court-martial hearing at Richmond Barracks where he was detained with many other Cork figures in the Volunteers – including MacCurtain, MacSwiney and Kilmurry Volunteers officer John T Murphy – O’Hourihane had evidence against him from two RIC men.  One told the court officer he had seen the detainee on a march from Dunmanway to Inchigeela (in which he had, in fact, participated.)  But another told of seeing him take part in the mobilisatin from Bandon to Macroom that passed through Kilmurry, and was probably one of the garrison of the RIC barracks at Coolduve, Kilmurry. O’Hourihane wrote later that the officer of the court pronounced there must have been a miracle, as the man before him appears to have been in two places at the one time.

Thomas Rourke, meanwhile, was in charge during the week of the Easter Rising, of Lisvernane station in Co Tipperary. It is unusual, as a native of west Cork, that he had been serving in his native county in 1911, a practice which was deemed inappropriate due to likelihood of interaction with family or neighbours in carrying out policing duties.    He had also, however, served in Co Kerry and at the RIC Depot in Dublin during his career which, by this stage, stretched back 22 years.

With his wife – daughter of a deceased RIC Sergeant Ward – expecting a child (probably their first) – Rourke might have been glad to be out of Co Cork when the Rising had begun, knowing of the historic tendency of its natives to be to the fore in many past rebellions. He hailed himself from near Rosscarberry, where Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa called home in his childhood but who was buried eight months earlier in Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery.

He may not have expected the morning of Wednesday, April 26, 1916 to be too unusual, then, when he took up duty. But it was to be his last morning alive, due to the outcome of his response to a wired message about an incident in the district.   Michael O’Callaghan, a leading Volunteer had fired a shot at a young Patrick Ryan and evaded arrest the night before. He had, earlier the previous day, fired shots in the air in a disturbance with the wives of Irish soldiers in the British Army, possibly upset because their separation allowance could not be colllected at the post office as a result of the rebellion started in Dublin.

When Sergeant Rourke and his much younger RIC colleage, Constable John Hurley, also from west Cork, went to the home of O’Callaghan’s cousin on information that he might be hiding there, their suspicions were correct. Michael O’Callaghan shot Thomas Felix Rourke, causing wounds from which he would die the next day, Thursday April 27.  The 42-year-old police sergeant was buried at Clonbeg, in the Vale of Aherlow on Saturday, April 29, the day that Patrick Pearse ordered the surrender of Irish Volunteers, Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and Fianna Eireann who had been holding out against British military forces since the previous Monday.

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The Co Tipperary grave of RIC Sergeant Thomas Felix Rourke (courtesy Jim Herlihy)

A namesake of Sgt O’Brien’s colleague Sean Hurley from Drinagh in west Cork died in, or on the way to, a Dublin hospital the same day, suffering from wounds received in the Church Street area near the Four Courts.  He was not identified for several days, but on the day he had died, another funeral took place in west Cork.

Constable John Hurley had also died from a bullet in Michael O’Callaghan’s revolver, passing away almost immediately outside the house where he and Sgt O’Rourke had gone to arrest him. He was buried in Castletownbere at a grave recently the scene of a commemorative event by family and members of the Historical and Reconciliatory Police Society (HARP).

As HARP member and leading Irish police historian Jim Herlihy has written recently, these were just two of the 17 policemen of the RIC and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) to lose their lives in the Easter Rising.

While Kilmurry marked the centenary of the Rising through the local connection of the assembly there of the Irish Volunteers, the community also has other links to the events of that fateful final week of April 1916. The plaque which commemorated the 100th anniversary of that event was blessed yesterday by Catholic Monsignor Kevin O’Callaghan, and by Church of Ireland curate Rev Anne Skuse, St Andrew’s Church, Kilmurry.

As Census night 2016 draws to a close, Ireland is a much much different place to that in which Constable Thomas Felix Rourke collected census forms around Kilmurry in mid-Cork 105 years ago this month.

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Are these the Kilmurry Volunteers?

img_20160317_184433.jpgIn the early afternoon, probably about 1.30pm, the above photo was taken as the tail end of the 1916 St Patrick’s Day procession in Cork made its way into the city – 100 years ago today.

In the centre of the shot of some of the 1,080 Irish Volunteers who marched in the parade that day, there are around a dozen men carrying croppy pikes. Around half of the men who took part with the organisation were armed, while ‘a good number’ carried more naive implements like these (we know this from contemporary Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) reports of proceedings).

Less than five months after its formation, the Volunteers’ Kilmurry company and its 40-odd members had very little in the way of armament, little more than a handful of shotguns. So, perhaps conscious of the increasing possibility of the RIC tyring to disarm the Volunteers, they left their few shotguns in their farms and homes in Kilmurry when they went for the train at Dooniskey and Crookstown Road on that Friday morning. (The Cork & Macroom Direct Railway terminated at Summerhill South, a site now operated by Bus Eireann as its Capwell bus depot.)

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Close to 30 of them travelled that day, joining up with their colleagues from city and county on the Mardyke – outside what is today Fitzgerald’s Park – waiting to line up behind the Redmondite National Volunteers who were directed by the organisers to assemble just beyond Gaol Cross on the Western Road.

The main photo above was taken near the formal beginning point of the parade, on what was then Great George’s Street West (Washington Street today – its name changed by the Republican-dominated Cork Corporation in 1920, as part of the efforts to flatter the US, whose support was being courted for international recognition of the self-declared Republic). Today, the building with the Beamish & Crawford signage still sells alcohol, it is an off-licence.  Just beyond it is Dwyer’s Lee Boot Manufacturing Company, which has operated in more recent times as the Square Deal furniture shop.

According to Matt Murphy from Crossmahon, Lissarda, the Kilmurry Volunteers had about 20 croppy pikes made – according to a design supplied by Terence MacSwiney – in late 1915, by a Kerryman named Pat Leary at Sweeney’s forge in Crookstown. Around a dozen of those pikes were borne by Kilmurry’s 20-plus Volunteers who marched with hundreds of city and other Volunteers who came through Kilmurry on their way to Macroom on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916 (many of the visitors had come most of the way on the train from Capwell to Crookstown Road station.)

The Kilmurry men and boys (some were only teenagers, including Murphy and company captain Tom Neville) did bring out some shotguns at Easter 1916.

But they carried only pikes to the Cork city St Patrick’s Day parade in 1916.

Could this be them with some of those pikes in the centre of the picture?

***  The arrival and assembly of more than 350 Irish Volunteers from east Cork, Cork city, and the Bandon and Kinsale districts in Kilmurry on Easter Sunday 1916 will be re-enacted 100 years later – on Saturday, April 23, 1916.

— Walkers from Bandon will re-trace the route taken by over 100 men from the town and beyond, marching to Béal na Bláth, where they will be joined by members of Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA).   The walk will conclude in Kilmurry village on Saturday afternoon, where a plaque will be unveiled to commemorate the historic occasion a century earlier, which was to have been a key part of the Easter Rising, had everything gone to plan in Kerry and Dublin.

— The plaque will be on the wall of Independence Museum Kilmurry, which will be open for the first time on the day, allowing visitors to see artefacts from the period in a collection that has been put together by KHAA over the past 50 years.

— Find more details on the events of Easter 1916 in Cork – including details of the March to Macroom – in a 32-page  Rising in the Regions supplement which I have edited, in the Irish Examiner next Monday, March 21.
— Visit the Facebook page of Independence Museum Kilmurry for updates on the event on April 23, when music, other entertainment and refreshments will help make it a great family and historic day out.

Mid-Cork 1915: A battleground for the services of young men

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It appears like a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) uniform is being worn in the crowd at this recruiting meeting in Macroom in mid-April 1915, where the Irish Guards band arrived by train to play in honour of their fellow regiment member, Sergeant Michael O’Leary.

From nearby Inchigeela, he was the first Irishman to be awarded the Victoria Cross medal, and was the talk of Europe for his brave deed when killing 10 Germans and capturing several others on the brickfields of Cuinchy at La Bassée Canal in France on February 1, 1915.

In the same month as this Macroom meeting, and despite the local and international press coverage of O’Leary’s deed, the RIC County Inspector for Cork West Riding reported only about a dozen army recruits were obtained. It didn’t help that the increase of land under tillage, due to the demands associated with the war, meant farmers’ sons were less likely than ever to enlist.

At the same meeting as photographed, the father of Sergeant O’Leary (in July, he was made Lieutenant of the Connaught Rangers), Daniel O’Leary addressed the crowd: ‘The Irish never got their rights from England, but the Irish fought her battles, and some there were who got medals with their hands in their pockets.’ [the Cork Examiner reporter appears to paraphrase O’Leary, rather than these being direct quotes.].

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His services as a speaker at such events, designed primarily to drum up support for the war effort and for enlistment, were – perhaps unsurprisingly – soon dispensed with.
A recruiting committee was established in Macroom, whose south square can be seen in the background of the main photo above, in December 1915 to try and rectify the slump in numbers signing up to the British Army.

But the young men of the district, driven largely by fears of looming conscription (if police reports of the time are to be believed), had signed up in their dozens instead in the intervening months to the rapidly-expanding Irish Volunteers.

On a rain-sodden Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916, the same square in Macroom would see around 400 Irish Volunteers parade. They were, very soon after, dismissed (on orders of Irish Volunteers Cork Brigade commanders Tomás MacCurtain & Terence MacSwiney) to return to their home areas – villages around the district, Cork city, as far south as Ballinadee near Kinsale, and as far east as Queenstown (Cobh).

The reasons they were there, who they were, and how they got there – most having marched through Béal na Bláth and Kilmurry en route – will be the subject of a talk I will be giving at Independence Museum Kilmurry as the centenary of that date approaches.

The March to Macroom – a talk by Niall Murray: Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 8pm at Independence Museum, Kilmurry. (Turn off the main Cork-Killarney road on the Macroom side of Lissarda.)
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*** Thanks to Jean Prendergast for bringing the Cork Examiner report of the Macroom visit of the Irish Guards, and of the Southern Star article on the Macroom recruiting committee’s establishment, to my attention.
Please follow her on Twitter (@Cork1914to1924) for a daily diet of how the Munster Fusiliers and other Irish regiments were faring across Europe century ago.

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Some sources:

Cork Examiner, April 13, 1915 (via Irish Newspaper Archive – http://www.irishexaminer.com/archive/ )

Southern Star, December 25, 1915 (the Southern Star archive is available through the same resource as above)

RIC West Cork Riding County Inspector, monthly report, April 1915 (Colonial Office (CO) 904/96/640)

Cónal Creedon, The Immortal Deed of Michael O’Leary (Cork City Libraries, 2015)

Michael Collins and his arresting appearance

At 5.35pm on January 4, 1919, a coded telegram was sent to the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) county inspector for West Cork Riding. (Cork was then divided in two for police purposes – West Cork and East Cork, the latter also including the city.)

Presumably from RIC headquarters, perhaps the Crime Special Branch, it referred to an earlier dispatch to the county inspector’s office at Bandon.

“Instructions with reference to proposed arrest of Ml. Collins at Clonakilty tomorrow have been posted to you today.”

The receipt of those cipher wire instructions was confirmed by a reply received the next morning from the West Cork county inspector.

It was only a matter of weeks since west Cork native Michael Collins had been elected by the people of the South Cork constituency for the Westminster general election, called after the recent ending of the Great War in November 1918.  Like so many other of the Sinn Féin candidates around Ireland, Collins was duly elected, having campaigned on a manifesto to establish an Irish parliament and “to assert the independence of my native country.”

Collins is seen in this British Pathé film, canvassing for electoral support nearly four years later, in 1922. Unlike in 1918, when he was elected unopposed for Cork South, he was one of a number of candidates in the so-called Pact Election that followed the Dáil’s January 1922 ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

As a released internee following the 1916 Rising, and having evaded arrest following the so-called German Plot alleged by British authorities earlier in 1918, Collins was high on the priority list for detention.

He would remain so throughout the years that followed, known as he was to be leading the Dáil Éireann efforts to finance the counter-state the circumscribed parliament and government were increasingly successful at establishing. He would later, of course, become synonymous in Dublin Castle and elsewhere with the intelligence-gathering and campaign of violence against Crown Forces that was undertaken by the Irish Republican Army.

During 1919, he would manage to attend many public and private meetings of Dáil Éireann – the first of which would take place just over a fortnight after the arrangements for his arrest in his native west Cork were issued. Like most of the Sinn Féin candidates elected, however, Collins was not present at the first Dáil meeting in Dublin’s Mansion House on January 21, 1919. (The Dáil was eventually proscribed by the British government in September 1919, as violence against Crown Forces spread, apparently under the influence of the renegade gatherings.) Collins continued to evade arrest  and would continue to do so for the remainder of his short life.

In late March 1919, the administrative division of the RIC was again in touch with colleagues in west Cork, this time seeking “a description of Michael Collins MP, who is said to be a native of Clonakilty.” He was wanted at that stage for an offence of illegal drilling in the Skibbereen district, and for failing to appear for trial at the court assizes in Derry earlier in the month, where he faced a charge of ‘inciting to raid for arms’ in Co Longford a year earlier.

The reply issued from the RIC district inspector’s office in Clonakilty as follows, and was received in Dublin Castle on April 2, the day on which its subject was approved by Dáil Éireann as Finance Secretary:

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Michael Collins in trademark Trilby

“I beg to state the description of Michael Collins MP is as follows, viz –  Clean shaven youthful appearance and dresses well. Generally wears trilby hat and fawn over-coat. Dark brown eyes, regular nose, fresh complexion. Medium active male., oval face, dark hair, 5ft 11 inches high and 30 years of age.”

 

The description would be used in the bench warrant that issued for his arrest a couple of weeks later, and variations on it can be found in various outlines of the evasive Collins which were circulated by authorities in the next two-and-a-half years before he would appear in London as a negotiator on behalf of Dáil Éireann.

It was also on the business of the Dáil, and particularly the meticulous arrangements for the Dáil Éireann Loan, that Collins had a particular focus in 1919. This was not just in his role as Teachta Dála (TD, equivalent of Member of Parliament except TDs refused to sit in Westminster), but also as the minister in charge of the loan, through bonds to be sold in a mostly door-to-door sales pitch. (£250,000 was to be raised in Ireland, with more funds being raised overseas.)

 

Collins issuing Dáil Loan bonds: among those apparently signing up are Sinn Féin founder Arthur Griffith, and members of the important Dáil Éireann publicity department: Erskine Childers (I believe), followed by Desmond Fitzgerald and, later, Robert Brennan. They were instrumental in circulating news of what was happening in Ireland to foreign governments and press, through the Irish Bulletin from July 1919 onward.

 

On August 18, 1919, the Irish Independent reported his presence at a meeting in Dunmanway, where he was said to have addressed his constituents. Telling the 30 delegates he would prefer 250,000 subscriptions of £1 each to 25,000 of £10, or that any 20 together could each pay in a shilling a week and purchase one bond certificate a week, the meeting reportedly yielded £400 for the national loan.

But the apparent truth of the matter was reported by the RIC Inspector General’s office to the Under Secretary for Ireland a few days later, inquiries having been made locally. ‘There is not a particle of truth in attached cutting from the Irish Independent apparently. Michael Collins has been on the run for months past. Gerald O’Sullivan and J.B O’Driscoll were in Cork gaol on the date in question. Such newspaper reports are calculated to do harm.’

The two gentlemen referred to had been named in the newspaper as having sent telegrams investing £50 each in the loan. But according to the Head Constable in Dunmanway, Bernard Reilly, they could not have sent such correspondence, unless with special permission from the governor of Cork jail. He further reported that a Miss Browne of Union Hall, reported to have chaired the Dunmanway meeting, had not been seen the previous Friday, August 15, ‘the date on which presumably the meeting or alleged meeting was held.’

‘It is the opinion of the police here that the report contained in attached cutting was sent by Denis O’Connell of Skibbereen who is employed on the staff of the Southern Star, Skibbereen, in order to procure subscriptions for the “Dáil Éireann Loan” by showing that the matter was receiving the sympathy and support of the people of Dunmanway,’ wrote Head Constable Reilly on August 19.  Early the same morning,  the District Inspector Henry Connor from Clonakilty had Collins’s brother John’s home at Woodfield, Clonakilty searched, with no sign found of Michael Collins, or of any Dáil Loan documents.

But a week later, James Wilbond in the County Inspector’s office in Bandon wrote to Connor, seeking more details about Miss Browne, and details of John Collins’s tendency to attend meetings at a distance from Clonakilty, or whether he held any official position in the local Sinn Fein organisation. John Collins had been reported seen in Dumanway with the Southern Star’s man O’Connell on August 15 in Head Constable Reilly’s earlier report, and RIC headquarters were not satisfied with the outcome of local inquiries, seeking certainty as to whether or not the reported meeting had taken place. The fresh queries were prompted by further press reports, in which Collins was said to have referred during the Sinn Féin executive meeting in Dublin on August 21 to being at a meeting in Dunmanway the previous Sunday, ‘stating that “£400 was subscribed although there were only 25 persons present.” He does not say he was present but suggests that he was.’

Despite all the intelligence files, descriptions and attempts to trace Collins by the police, it seems their main intelligence on his movements at this time was derived from the press, including Collins’s own statements – whether they were true or otherwise.  The confusion also highlights the key intelligence role of the local police on the ground, a role that would be significantly thwarted in a year’s time, as Irish Volunteers violence against RIC stations and personnel from early 1920 saw small rural stations like those dotted around the west Cork countryside abandoned for the shelter and security of larger barracks in towns like Bandon, Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Macroom. As constables moved out of the communities, greater freeedom of movement, free from the watchful eyes of the local police, was allowed the Irish Volunteers as they eventually came under the control of Dáil Éireann as the Irish Republican Army.

 

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Some sources:

RIC Crime Special Branch file on Michael Collins, Sinn Fein and Republican suspect files, Colonial Office 904/196/65 (held on microfilm in Special Collections, Boole Library, University College Cork)

T Ryle Dwyer, The Squad: The intelligence operations of Michael Collins (Cork: Mercier, 2005)

Irish Independent, August 18, 1919