In 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.)
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.
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:
“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.
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
100 years ago this evening, on Tuesday, October 5, 1915, Terence MacSwiney arrived at the Hales farmhouse in Ballinadee between Bandon and Kinsale, where he stayed overnight.
Arriving – probably by train and bicycle – at about 6.30pm, he chatted with Bill Hales, one of the sons of the family who were instrumental in establishing the local Irish Volunteers company, one of the strongest even at that point in the relatively early manifestation of the organisation in the county.
Among other things, they discussed the forthcoming Volunteers rally at Beal na Blath, being planned for Sunday, October 24. They had already done so a week earlier during a previous visit, when Hales seemed very eager about bringing his own men along to help muster interest in the Kilmurry area.
MacSwiney would return the following evening on his way back from a meeting with Willie McDonnell in Castlelack, Bandon, who was a key figure in the company there, again one of the earliest and best-organised in the west Cork area.
By now, good momentum was building for the proposed rally in Kilmurry just a couple of weeks away at this stage.
“If this comes off, it will be a great event,” MacSwiney had written in his diary for Tuesday, September 28.
The previous Sunday, September 26, he had been to Beal na Blath for an initial meeting with local men, convened by John T Murphy from Crossmahon, Lissarda, who would later be MacSwiney’s election sub-agent in his successful stand, uncontested, in the December 1918 general election for Mid-Cork. By now a full-time paid organiser for the Irish Volunteers, MacSwiney was accompanied on the initial trip by city officers or executive members of the Volunteers: Sean Jennings, Paddy Corkery, Donal Barrett (also features in the image above), and Donnchadh MacNeilus (the latter two, at least, were also members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood).
The planned muster was scheduled to take place four weeks later, and will hopefully form the basis of further post(s) on here.
100 years ago today, on September 26, 1915, a meeting took place in the mid-Cork parish of Kilmurry.
Accompanied by fellow activists of the Cork city corps of the Irish Volunteers, Cork brigade vice-commandant Terence MacSwiney jumped on his bicycle that Sunday morning and set off on an outward trip of more than two hours to meet with some men from Crookstown and nearby Béal na Bláth.
The idea was to establish if there would be merit in organising a rally of Irish Volunteers in the area in a few weeks’ time, with which MacSwiney – recently appointed a full-time organiser for the Volunteers – might be able to draw sufficient local interest to establish a company among the men of this parish between Macroom and Bandon.
Such was the positive response received at this Sunday afternoon meeting that it was decided to proceed with such a venture the following month, and MacSwiney set about immediately making the necessary arrangements. What happened next and over the following eight years are the focus of my research for my MA thesis, and hopefully a few more posts here (in a hopefully-much shorter time span).
Many of those events and the people involved – including MacSwiney, whose ancestors were natives of the parish – will also feature prominently in the exhibition and the related artefacts that will be on display in the museum on course to be opened next spring by the Kilmurry Historical and Archaeological Association (KHAA).
From the premises above, officially opened in 1965 by Máire MacSwiney Brugha, only child of Terence and Muriel, the museum is moving to a purpose-built new home in the village. It is already built, its community meeting room in regular use, and planning of the fit-out now at an advanced stage. The project is the subject of ongoing fundraising, to supplement the generous contribution received from LEADER funding.Hopefully when the museum exhibition opens, it will form a crucial part of the mid-Cork and west-Cork tourist trails, standing as it does but a short distance from the site of two of the most famous – and most historically contested – engagements of the Irish revolution, not just in Cork but in the whole of the island. Among the artefacts in the KHAA collections are many associated with the November 1920 Kilmichael ambush and with the ambush at Béal na Bláth on August 22, 1922 at which National Army chief-of-staff Michael Collins died.
But while both were events that would achieve national and international coverage, the primary focus in the museum will be on how the entire period in the immediate years before and after independence effected locally, as well as telling the story of Kilmurry’s wider past – a history deeply enmeshed in and typical of what went on elsewhere nationally in earlier struggles, political and agrarian in nature.