Ella Young, California’s Beloved Irish Druid

By Geoff Cobb

California has long been home to the eccentric and free spirits, so naturally the highly eccentric Irish mystic, poet and Celtic mythologist Ella Young found a home there. The first woman to hold an endowed lectureship in the English Department at the University of California at Berkley, Young left several enduring legacies on the Golden State’s literature, counterculture, and environmental movement.

Nearing old age in Ireland, Young helped spark a new age consciousness in the Bay Area. Young lived the first fifty-eight years of her life in her native land, but even before leaving for America, she traveled far from her conservative Ulster roots. Born in December 1867, in Fenagh, a townland near Ballymena, Co. Antrim, Ella was eldest of five daughters of a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Dublin at an early age and Young graduated with a BA in History, Political Economy and Law from the Royal University of Ireland. Abandoning Christianity, Ella’s interest in the spirit world led her to join the Hermetic Society, the Dublin branch of the Theosophical Society, which sought to awaken the power and presence of Ireland’s ancient spirits. Young was greatly influenced by fellow Ulster mystical poet AE Russell, and she soon became one of his select group of protégés known as the “singing birds.”

Ella Young in Oceano, California, image in Princeton University of Art Museum.

She found her muse and published her first volume of verse in 1906, and her first work of Irish folklore, The Coming of Lugh, appeared in 1909. Young mixed with luminaries of the Celtic revival including J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne, with whom she might have had a romantic relationship. Like other writers of her day, Ella found great spiritual riches in the West of Ireland, where Irish was still the spoken language of the locals and where she was also able to hear what she called the Music of the Faerie, the ceol sídhe.

Ella completed a master’s degree at Trinity, but she would be drawn into the revolutionary fervor then sweeping Ireland. Young’s immersion in Celtic mythology and theosophy led her to promote a spiritually inflected Irish nationalism. A friend of Patrick Pearse, Ella became a member of Sinn Féin in 1912 and a founding member of Cumann na mBan in 1914. Ella witnessed the 1916 Rising in Dublin and is alleged to have hidden ammunition under the floorboards of her home and helped two fugitive Republican prisoners to escape Dublin. An anti-Treaty Republican, she strongly opposed the Anglo–Irish Treaty and, after supporting different sides, she and her mentor Æ Russell never spoke again. Because of her anti-Treaty stance, Young was interned by the Free State in Mountjoy jail and in the North Dublin Union.

An ardent cultural Nationalist, Young fervently believed the revitalization of Irish culture could be realized through a reconnection with its Celtic mythological roots. She taught in Dublin, but she came of age as an anti-Treaty woman at a time and in a state where her gender, politics and Protestant background severely limited her career opportunities. Young left Ireland for the US In the mid-1920s, where she would spend the rest of her life. Her emigration, she claimed, had been foretold in 1914 by a Romani fortune teller.

Ella Young 1930, Edward Weston Centre for Photography

Fortunately for Ella, Celtic studies scholar William Whittingham Lyman Jr. left his Berkley lectureship in 1922 and Young was hired to fill the vacancy in 1924. Ella, however, was almost forbidden entry into the United States. During an interview in Ellis Island, Young was detained as a probable mental case when the authorities learned that she believed in the existence of fairies, elves, and pixies. However, outrage by her American readers at the ban helped her finally gain entry.

Young fell in love with Berkley, California and Berkley loved her back. Young adored the college town, especially its exotic flora, breathtaking views, and its student culture. She quickly inspired a cult-like following in California. A striking woman, Young cut a dramatic figure with a noble forehead and face that seemed to shine with an inner light. She lectured in what she considered the traditional purple robes of a Druid bard, which she called her “reciting robes,” to visually portray an authentic Irish identity. She let her shoulder-length silver hair hang free and instead of shaking hands when introduced, she raised her hands high in the ancient druid greeting. Poet Padraic Colum compared her to the ancient “women who knew the sacred places and their traditions, who knew the incantations and the cycles of stories about the Divine Powers, and who could relate them with authority and interpret them wisely. . . She speaks of Celtic times as if she were recalling them.” A gifted speaker, Ella held her listeners spellbound with the heroic myths and sagas told in her lilting Irish voice – the voice of the bard, a keeper of the ancient teachings of her ancestors.

Young was above all a gifted storyteller and children’s author. She published The Wonder-Smith and his Son (1925), The Tangle-Coated Horse (1929), and The Unicorn with Silver Shoes (1932), stories for children, inspired by themes from Celtic myth, with beautiful illustrations and written in her delicate, carefully cadenced prose. The Unicorn with Silver Shoes was nominated for the American Newbery Prize for children’s literature in 1932; all her children’s stories were repeatedly reprinted until the 1990s.

(Image sourced: Internet)

Young was a frequent guest at the home of the celebrated California poet Robinson Jeffers, who was also deeply influenced by the Celtic revival. Jeffers and Young both identified the physical and spiritual similarities between California’s Big Sur and the West of Ireland. Ella considered dramatic Point Lobos in Marin County, where she communed with the dryads of the pine trees, the sea spirits, and the great guardian Deva who hovered over the sea with shining wings, to be the center of psychic power for the entire Pacific Coast. Young also became a close friend of Virginia and Ansel Adams, the renowned photographer of California’s wilderness, who made Yosemite Valley a symbol of the state. Adams took several dramatic portraits of Young in her “reciting robes.”

Ella Young lectured that an awareness of the supernatural world in Celtic folklore and literature could bring her listeners into a closer relationship with the natural world around them. Her love for the beauty of California made her an environmentalist long before it became fashionable, and also she saw the Earth as a great living being. She forged a close friendship with Dorothy Erskine, an early California environmentalist and advocate for limiting growth. Young also founded The Fellowship of Shasta, which became involved in environmental activism, working successfully to prevent developers from building on Point Lobos and also with the Save the Redwoods League, which preserved the remaining old-growth forests of California.

An enemy of materialism and egotism, Young espoused “the natural world and our relationship to it” as an alternative to consumerism. Ella moved to a Theosophic commune in Oceano, near San Luis Obispo in the early 1930s, and became part of a community of artists and writers living on the sand dunes, known as the Dunites. Thanks to her friendship with Ansel Adams, Ella stayed with the community of artists in Taos, New Mexico, where she met Georgia O’Keeffe and Frieda Lawrence and studied Native American and Mexican myths.

Back in California, Young assembled around herself a fascinating circle of artists, writers and freethinkers. She became close friends with the Irish-born landscape painter John O’Shea and other West Coast painters. Ella also became intimate with composer Harry Partch, who set several of her poems to music. Perhaps a lesbian herself, Young befriended California pioneers of sexual liberation, such as Elsa Gidlow, the British-born lesbian poet, and Gavin Arthur, a bisexual astrologer and sexologist whom Young first met in 1920s Dublin.

Young developed cancer. In the last year of her life, she claimed that she had been in communication with the occupants of a thimble-sized spaceship which came and hovered in her garden. Ella died in her cottage on July 23rd, 1956, aged eighty-eight. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered in a redwood grove. She left the royalties from her books to a society that protected those redwoods.

End.

(Image sourced: Internet)

ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR MOORE STREET LAUNCHED IN HOME OF PATRICK PEARSE

Clive Sulish

(Reading time main text: 5 mins; total including backround: 7 mins.)

Last Thursday (7th October) the former home of the Pearse family saw the launch of a plan for Moore Street as an alternative to the current Hammerson plan. The latter, a large property development company based in England, currently has a planning application in to Dublin City Council awaiting a decision. Moore Street is a centuries-old iconic street market in the heart of Dublin city but was also a battleground during the 1916 Rising, as the insurgents’ headquarters garrison in the General Post Office building evacuated the building, set aflame by British shelling and strove to relocate to continue the insurrection to the north-west of the city.

The former home of Patrick Pearse, Commander-in-Chief of the 1916 insurrection and of his brother William, both executed by British firing squads, now a building held in trust with facilities for meetings and a small theatre, was the location chosen by the Moore Street Preservation Trust to launch their alternative plan.

A packed room of people sweltered in their Covid19 face-masks as they listened to a number of speakers on behalf of the Moore Street Preservation Trust, formed earlier this year along with a guest spot for Mary Lou Mac Donald, President of the Sinn Féin political party, prior to the unveiling of the scale model.

A section of the crowd at the launch inside the room, while others crowded the doorway and corridor beyond.

Mícheál Mac Donncha, a Dublin City councillor for the Sinn Féin party and Secretary of the Trust, chaired the event and, after an introduction to the subject of the meeting, announced Patrick Cooney who spoke for the Trust on their history, aspects of the long campaign and the alternative plan. Cooney outlined what the Trust considers the importance historically of the “Moore Street battleground” and remarked that their plan was the only alternative to the Hammerson plan, which he said is supported by no-one else.

In traversing aspects of the conservation struggle, Cooney referred to the High Court case taken against the Minister of Heritage and the property developer (which was then Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land) and the momentous judgement that the whole Moore Street area was a national historical monument. The capacity of the Judge to make that decision was overturned in a later appeal by the Minister of Heritage’s legal team.

Patrick Cooney also paid tribute to the week-long occupation of the buildings by others in January of 2016, which had prevented the demolition of three buildings in the sixteen-building terrace in Moore Street. He said that his group could not be identified with the occupation since they were part of the High Court case ongoing at the time but named two Irish Republicans (of a group opposed to the Good Friday Agreement) who had acted as their link with the occupation body, leaving a possible impression that his group had been involved in some way from behind the scenes in the occupation of the buildings.

Closer view of the model, viewed from the east and looking westwardMoore Lane is represented at bottom, O’Rahilly Parade at far right and Moore Street at top of image.

Cooney also mentioned the Bill moved by Sinn Féin TD (parliamentary representative) Aengus Ó Snodaigh, currently awaiting debate in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and how it mirrored to a large degree that put forward formerly by a TD of the Irish political party Fianna Fáil, currently in coalition Government, which had not been proceeded with. Cooney paid tribute to the political party Sinn Féin as “the only political party to support” the Moore Street conservation struggle (which may have come as a surprise to Peadar Ó Tóibín, TD of the Aontú political party, who was present in the audience).

Mac Donncha thanked Cooney for his contribution and introduced Jim Connolly Heron, a great-grandson of James Connolly, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising who talked about the historical importance of the site and the importance of its preservation. Connolly Heron talked about historical buildings in Dublin that had been demolished. He said their plan represented an opportunity for the State to atone for the “lamentable failure to save Wood Quay” and commented that “On that occasion the voice of the people was silenced; the loss to the city was immeasurable and we can ill afford another Wood Quay.”

Then Connolly Heron, with Proinnsias Ó Rathaille, grandson of The O’Rahilly, removed the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army to unveil the architect’ scale model to loud applause and the clicking of phones and cameras.

A portion of the attendance then removed to the small theatre where Seán Antóin Ó Muirí, for the architects, took the audience through a slide show of drawings and maps while discussing their relevance to the Preservation Trust’s plan.

Outside the building, a large group of teenage Danish students, on a walking history tour conducted by Lorcán Collins of 1916 Rising Tours, had gathered, where they were addressed by Lorcán and also by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and, very briefly by Diarmuid Breatnach of the SMSFD group who, at Lorcán’s request, sang them the “Grace” ballad (in which Joseph Plunkett addresses Grace Gifford, his bride of only hours before he is to be executed by British firing squad).

THE ALTERNATIVE PLAN

The Alternative Plan as outlined by the architect involves a number of ideas that have been put forward over the years: refacing some of the buildings to match the pre-1916 facing surviving on some of the buildings, using appropriate matching construction materials, uncovering the cobblestones, etc. The two-story elevation has been promoted previously as have awning-covered ground-level shopfronts but the north end of the terrace at four storeys is a departure perhaps from previous plans other than the Hammerson and O’Reilly plans, as is perhaps the opening up of some spaces around the “back” of the terrace (accessed through Moore Lane). The plan foresees a unitary unbroken terrace which all campaigning groups have proposed.

Architect’s drawing imagining an arch leading to an internal courtyard from Moore Lane to the back of the museum in Moore Street.

Unlike some plans and visions previously mooted, the Alternative Plan as explained does not propose excluding chain stores, nor propose pubs and bakery among the businesses; street stalls were mentioned only in passing with no discussion of the range of hot and cold food or other merchandise that might be on sale. The housing units proposed do not specify local authority rental. Unlike a number of previous plans there was no mention of the benefits of linking the development of a Moore Street cultural quarter to a number of other nearby amenities and cultural quarters nor to that of rejuvenating the north city centre by day and by night.

The history component does not seem to vary much from the Hammerson/ O’Reilly one, being concentrated on the four buildings which the State has named “the historical monument”, a title also used by Trust. In the unbroken terrace proposed (and frequently demanded by campaigners) of course the Alternative Plan departs significantly from the Hammerson one but strangely this contrast was not alluded to in either the verbal or visual presentations.

In the overall presentation of a slideshow and scale model perhaps the most significant contribution of this plan is to present some of the possibilities in a manner more easily grasped and form easier for many no doubt to visualise. It is this that has been missing in past plans and proposals.

HAMMERSON AND DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

On the west side of Moore Street is the ILAC shopping centre, built with DCC planning permission in 1977 on what was a patchwork of streets and laneways, many of them containing shops and stalls selling various new and second-hand merchandise. A university study group concluded that, apart from the construction companies, the ILAC had benefitted the big stores of Debenhams and Dunnes and that the compensation paid out to most stall-holders and small shops had been inadequate to relocate within the City Centre and workers had been made redundant. The ILAC is half-owned by Irish Life and the other half passed from O’Reilly to Hammerson.

In the early years of this century a consortium of property developers were applying for planning permission to carry out plans in the area from the northwest side of O’Connell Street to Moore Street but Dublin City Council Planning Manager froze the plans and in a very strange deal later handed it all over to Joe O’Reilly. The whole murky story (including city councillors being legally threatened to keep silent by the then Planning Manager Jim Keogan) was covered in a two-part program, Iniúchadh na Cásca, by the Irish language television channel TG4 before O’Reilly got his giant “shopping mall” planning permission (the program was re-broadcast in 2016).

Jim Keogan took early retirement from DCC and is now employed by McCutcheon Halley, a Cork-based planning consultancy company while the most recent Ireland Director for Hammerson is Mark Owen, straight from his previous employment as the Head of Asset Management & Recovery for NAMA.

The architects’ scale model, showing the quarter from a north-facing perspective (i.e from Henry Street). The street to the left is Moore Street and at the right, Moore Lane. Further to the right would be O’Connell Street, not shown here. The Henry Place lane is shown from the nearest part of the model.

INTERNAL CAMPAIGN CONTROVERSIES

Patrick Cooney in his presentation of their Alternative Plan referred to a split in the original conservation committee and in fact over the years there have been a number of controversies and conflicts among campaign groups. The remaining part of the committee containing Mr. Cooney and Mr. Connolly Heron also experienced a number of acrimonious departures. Due to internal difficulties the 1916 Relatives Association, to which both also belonged did not have a meeting for over a year and when it did so eventually, there were loud internal arguments and clashes between Mr. Connolly Heron and others, leading to a number of departures, including Marcus Howard of Easter Rising Stories, producer of many historical documentaries and filmed interviews, including a number on Moore Street.

In that atmosphere, Brian O’Neill was seen by many as a stable and quiet choice for Chair of the 1916 Relatives Association and was duly elected. Shortly afterwards Barry Lyons, a long-time campaigner was expelled from the Association as was also long-time campaigner Donna Cooney, grand-niece of Elizabeth O’Farrell and a DCC Councillor. Neither seems to have been given a formal hearing or allowed an appeal. Although formerly the 1916 Relatives’ Association opposed the developers’ plans, Brian O’Neill now represents the Association on the Minister’s Advisory Group on Moore Street and is on record supporting the Hammerson plan.

Clashes between different campaign groups and individuals have taken place on occasion inside the Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street, including one between members of the Connolly Heron-Cooney group and Colm Moore, another campaigner for many years and the individual who took the High Court case against the Minister of Heritage.

The Ministers’ Consultative Group on Moore Street and its later iteration as the Minister’s Advisory Group, although it has a seat for Jim Connolly Heron, rejected the membership applications of the most active groups in the broad campaign, those who were involved in the 2016 Occupation and the six-week Blockade: the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 groups. The SMSFD group has a stall on the street every Saturday, stated to have been since the founding of the group in September 2014, at 368 weeks to date and claims 380,000 signatures to its petition to save the area.

The Connolly Heron and Cooney group do not acknowledge the SMSFD group in public and on one occasion during the Blockade Mr. Cooney posted that the only campaign group they recognised outside of their own was the Save Moore Street 2016 one. However, among all the invitations that were sent out to attend the unveiling last Thursday, neither they nor the SMSFD groups received one – and nor did Colm Moore, the man who took the famous High Court case.

After the formal representation last week but while still inside the Pearse home building, Patrick Cooney was heard to clash with a prominent campaigner and City Councillor in the presence of a radio reporter. Immediately outside, Proinnsias Ó Rathaille verbally abused a member of the SMSFD group (who had learned of the event through the media) in the hearing of many people, including Danish teenagers on a walking history tour.

LOOKING AHEAD

At time of writing it is important to realise that the only plan with Planning Permission is the original O’Reilly one which Hammerson acquired. The latter have submitted their changed plan for a shopping district and new roads which is currently under review by the Planning Department who have asked for some minor changes and gave them six months to produce them. Many objections were registered (and paid for), even by the Housing Department and the feeling is that the vast sweep of popular opinion is against the Hammerson plan – however that is far from being a guarantee against its acceptance by DCC’s Planning Department. And, as NAMA failed to seize them from Joe O’Reilly, their largest debtor at the time and allowed him to transfer them, all the buildings but two (owned by Dublin City Council) are owned by Hammerson.

Should Hammerson receive approval from DCC’s Planning Department, on previous history a not unlikely event, campaigners are sure to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála but that avenue too holds little hope for conservationists, given the record of that body’s decisions in Dublin. In the event of an unwelcome decision there, the High Court remains the only recourse in law (for which leave has to be sought to take the case). Protests on the street are of course likely.

Given Hammerson’s financial difficulties in recent years, even if granted planning permission they may not be able to proceed with their plan immediately and despite Hammerson’s denials the suspicion of many is that they will sell the area on – but for that, they need the new Planning Permission attached first and the current one runs out next year.

End.

BACKGROUND TO A LONG CAMPAIGN

In 1916 Moore Street and surrounding streets and laneways became a battleground, as the Irish insurgent force evacuating its erstwhile HQ in the GPO ran into encircling forces of the British Army. A detachment of the GPO garrison proceeding up Moore Street ran into British rifle and machine gun fire, killing three including its leader, The O’Rahilly and wounding others. The main part of the evacuation forces also suffered casualties but occupied No.10 Moore Street and tunnelled through the 16-building terrace to the laneway at the end, where an assault group was being mobilised to attack the British Army barricade at the Moore Street/ Parnell Street junction. The decision to surrender, taken by the leadership, cancelled the assault. Along with William Pearse, five of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation spent their last hours of freedom in Moore Street, not long after to be shot by British firing squads: Thomas Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Sean McDermott and Joseph Plunkett.

Prior to 1966 there was nothing in Moore Street to inform people of what happened there although in that year, amidst the 50th anniversary commemorations of the 1916 Rising, a small plaque was placed at first floor level on No.16 Moore Street, believed to have housed the last HQ of the 1916 Rising. That plaque was noted missing in 2002 – it turned up in a property speculator’s office – and fears of demolition plan for the buildings gave rise to a campaign to save it. A meeting was organised by the National Graves Association and a committee formed, hardly a single one of which is currently active in the campaign today for a number of reasons (Patrick Cooney alluded to one of them, a split when some sided with the property developer of the time but there have been many others).

The 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising plaque in Moore Street, the only fixture to say anything of the sort that happened there.

The campaign extended its demand for the conservation of the whole terrace, backyards etc and in 2006 the State finally conceded a historical importance worth conserving in Moore Street by declaring Nos.14-17 a National Monument, though these still belonged to O’Reilly. In 2008, O’Reilly applied for planning permission for a huge “shopping mall” from O’Connell Street to Moore Street, with a “ski slope” on top and carpark underneath, entailing the demolition of all but Nos.14-17 and the renovation of these as a small museum. DCC’s Planning Department approved the plan but it was appealed to An Bord Pleanála which, against the advice of its own Inspector, rejected the appeal. With the removal of the “ski slope” top and the underground carpark, the giant “shopping mall” was approved but O’Reilly’s demolition plans faced a problem in that two buildings at the end of the terrace belonged to Dublin City Council and four in the middle are protected structures.

In 2009 and 2012 dramatist Frank Allen organised human chain “Arms Around Moore Street” events which gained some media attention.

The campaign gained prominence again when in September 2014 O’Reilly offered Dublin City Council the dilapidated Nos. 14-17 in exchange for Nos. 24-25, where the Council had a waste management depot, a “land-swap” favoured by the City Managers and the Minister of Heritage. A branch of the campaign set up a stall on the street and began to collect signatures to a conservation petition and to disseminate campaign leaflets. In November the majority of DCC councillors voted to reject the deal.

The campaign group with a weekly Saturday stall on the street, now called Save Moore Street From Demolition and separate from the other which had mainly concentrated on lobbying, organised the first public meeting about the campaign in November 2014, inviting as speakers Jim Connolly Heron and Donna Cooney (there had been some conflicts between the two). But in January 2016 the group noted hoardings going up around Nos.12-18 with plans for the demolition of three buildings. They called two emergency meetings during the week on the street and supporters, a mix of people including water protesters and Irish Republicans, occupied the buildings, an act which became headline news.

While the Minister of Heritage made ready to obtain an injunction against the occupiers, instead Colm Moore, who had registered a case with the High Court against the State plans, obtained an injunction against any demolition until the case should be decided and the occupiers left the buildings after one week. However, subsequently alarmed by sounds of heavy machinery inside the buildings, campaigners asked to inspect the works but were refused, as was also a delegation of politicians led by the Lord Mayor.

A new defence coalition called Save Moore Street 2016 had been formed of those who had occupied the buildings and including representatives of the weekly stall group, SMSFD and these now installed a blockade on the buildings from 6.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. No building workers were admitted to the buildings until the decision of the High Court, on 18th March 2016, that the whole terrace and its surrounding area is a national historical monument.

In the meantime the SMSFD group separately and, in particular the SMS2016 coalition, had organised marches, history walking tours, street concerts and street theatre events in period costume, including mock “heritage funerals” and a reenactment of the 1916 surrender.

Towards the end of 2016, also the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, the Minister of Heritage set up her Advisory Group on Moore Street and the 1916 Relatives’ Association, formed earlier that year, were invited to participate, as was the separate Jim Connolly Heron/ Paddy Cooney etc group, along with representatives of the political parties in the Dáil. Not invited were the National Graves Association, the Save Moore Street From Demolition or the Save Moore Street 2016 activist groups — the applications of the latter two were rejected, though they were permitted to make a submission.

By this time, O’Reilly had been permitted by the responsible officer at NAMA to transfer his Moore Street and Dundrum portfolio to Hammerson.

The Lord Mayor’s Forum on Moore Street, where all concerned have had representation, has met regularly some years but not on others. The 1916 Relatives Association has seen internal changes and ended with its Chairperson supporting the Hammerson plan. The Jim Connolly Heron/ Paddy Cooney group has gone through a number of name changes, shedding some individuals and gaining others, before the current group presenting the Alternative Plan.

Immediately outside the Pearse’s house, a group Danish teenage students, having arrived as part of a history walking tour conducted by Lorcán Collins (in cap, far right of photo, seen from the back) is addressed by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD (mostly out of shot).

SOME SOURCES AND USEFUL LINKS

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/alternative-plans-for-moore-street-proposed-by-1916-rising-relatives-group-1.4694252

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/department-of-housing-criticises-moore-street-redevelopment-plan-1.4631143

Moore Street Preservation Trust:https://www.facebook.com/MooreStreetTrust/

Save Moore Street From Demolition:

https://www.facebook.com/save.moore.st.from.demolition

Website: smsfd.ie

Save Moore Street 2016: https://www.facebook.com/SaveMooreStreet2016/

Submissions on Moore Street to the Department of Heritage in 2016:https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/34a67-moore-street-consultative-group-submissions/

DCC Planning Department: https://www.dublincity.ie/residential/planning

TG4 Iniúchadh – Oidhreacht na Cásca: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k07qja5JJlU

POLICE RIOTS — THE BIRTH OF THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 2 mins.)

The Dublin police played a fundamental role in the creation of the first workers’ army in the world, the Irish Citizen Army.

The Dublin employer syndicate’s offensive against the working-class “syndicalism” of the Irish Transport & General Worker’s Union1 began with the 1913 Lockout, in turn triggering strikes on August 26th, when workers were presented with a document they were to sign declaring that they would leave the ITG&WU or, if not a member, would refuse to support it in any action2. Most workers of any union and none refused to sign and 20,000 workers were confronted by 400 employers.

However, the employers’ numbers were added to by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary, backed up by the judiciary. Morally and ideologically the Irish Times and Irish Independent (the latter owned by W.M. Murphy, leader of the employers) backed the employers as, to a large extent, did the Irish Catholic Church hierarchy3.

Workers’ demonstration with newsboys (WM Murphy owned the Irish Independent newspaper). (Source image: Internet)

The national (non-workers’) movement was divided in its opinion: many of Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party representatives were employers or landlords and their sympathies were naturally not with the workers. But for example Seán Mac Diarmada, a republican and national revolutionary, organiser for the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood4, opposed the strike on the basis that foreign business interests would profit by the paralysing of Irish business concerns5. On the other hand, Mac Diarmada’s mentor and head of the IRB in Ireland, Tom Clarke, was sympathetic to the strikers.

POLICE RIOTS

Unlike the gendarmerie6 British police force throughout Ireland of the Royal Irish Constabulary, at this time the constables of the DMP were unarmed except with truncheons but even with those they managed to kill people. On 30th August 1913 the DMP baton-charged a crowd in a street meeting on Eden Quay, outside Liberty Hall, HQ of the union7. Among the many injured were James Nolan and John Byrne who died 31st August and 4th September respectively, both in Jervis St. Hospital. (see also other riots and police attacks in Sources & Further Reading below).

On the 31st Jim Larkin went in disguise to address an advertised public meeting, banned by a magistrate, in Sackville (now O’Connell) St., Dublin. In view of the behaviour of the police, most of the IT&GWU activists went instead to their rented facilities at Fairview but a large enough crowd of the committed and the curious were assembled in O’Connell Street, along with large force of the DMP. Larkin, disguised as an elderly Protestant minister arrived by horse-drawn carriage and, as befitted a man made infirm by age, was assisted by Nellie Gifford8 into the Clery’s building which housed the Imperial Hotel restaurant, which belonged to W.M. Murphy (as did the Dublin Tram Co.). In order that Larkin’s strong Liverpool accent should not give him away, Nellie Gifford did all the talking to the staff inside. Shortly afterwards Larkin appeared at a restaurant window on the first floor and, top hat removed, spoke briefly to the crowd below but, as DMP rushed into the building, tried to make his getaway.

The arrest of Jim Larkin on 31st August 1913, being removed from the Clery’s building (see plinth of the Nelson Pillar behind and to the left) in O’Connell Street, just before the Dublin Metropolitan Police attack on the crowd. (Source image: Internet)

The DMP arrested Larkin and when the crowd cheered him (led by Constance Markievicz), the DMP baton-charged the crowd, striking out indiscriminately, including knocking unconscious a Fianna (Republican youth organisation) boy Patsy O’Connor who was giving First Aid to a man the police had already knocked to the ground. Between 400 and 600 were injured and Patsy suffered from headaches thereafter; though active in the Republican movement (he was prominent in the 1914 Howth guns collection9) he died in 1915, the year before the Rising. Among those beaten were journalists and casual passers-by. Those caught in Princes Street10 between DMP already in that street and the police charging across the main street were beaten particularly savagely.

The police attack became known as “Bloody Sunday 1913” (though two workers had been fatally injured on Eden Quay the day before and are often wrongly listed as having been killed on that day).

A photo of the police riot taking place on 31st August 1913 in O’Connell St; police can be seen striking with their truncheons even those on the ground. (Source image: Internet)

Also on that day the DMP attacked the poor working-class dwellings of Corporation Buildings (in “the Monto”, off Talbot St11), beat the residents and smashed their paltry furniture. The raid was a revenge attack for the reception of bottles and stones they had received on the 30th, when they were chasing fleeing workers from Liberty Hall (others crossed Butt Bridge to the south side and a running battle took place along Townsend Street and almost to Ringsend.

Protest march goes past closed-down Clery’s to the left in 2016 while Larkin looks down from his pedestal to the right. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

THE IRISH CITIZEN ARMY 1913 AND 1916

Very soon after those attacks, Larkin and Connolly each called publicly for the formation of a workers’ defence force, which became the Irish Citizen Army. Around 120 ICA, including female members fought with distinction in the 1916 Rising and raised their flag, the Starry Plough on the roof of WM Murphy’s Imperial Hotel on the upper floors of Clery’s building, opposite the GPO13. A number of its Volunteers were killed or wounded in action and two of the ICA’s leaders, Connolly and Mallin, were executed afterwards; another, Constance Markievicz, had her sentence of death commuted.

Irish Citizen Army on parade at their facility in Fairview. (Source image: Internet)

A much-diminished ICA took part in the War of Independence.

The end of August 1913 on Eden Quay and in O’Connell Street may be seen as the period and birthplaces of the ICA, the “first workers’ army in the world” and the first also to recruit women, some of whom were officers.

The Jim Larkin monument stands opposite the Clery’s building, which is now under renovation but without a mention on the monument or on the building of Bloody Sunday 1913 or its background and result. Sic transit gloria proletariis

end.

Today’s DMP, Garda Public Order Unit guarding far-Right gathering in O’Connell Street in 2020 (facing them, out of photo view). The Larkin monument can be seen in part at the top right-hand corner. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1The ITGWU was formed in 1909 by James Larkin, former organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers after his bitter departure from that union. Most of the members Larkin had recruited for the NUDL, with the exception of the Belfast Protestant membership, left the NUDL and joined the IT&GWU.

2The provision in the declaration for members of unions other than the iT&GWU was necessary for the employers because of the general credo in Irish trade unionism that one did not cross a picket line, whether of one’s own union or of another, a credo that persisted in Ireland until the 1980s when the Irish Trade Union Council joined the “Social Partnership” of the State and the employers’ Federation. In addition, Larkin had added the principle that goods from a workplace on strike, even if strike-breakers could be got to bring them out, were “tainted goods” and would not be handled by members of the IT&GWU, nor should they be by any other union either.

3 Apart from any statements by bishops and priests, the religious charity organisation, the St. Vincent de Paul, refused assistance to families of strikers.

4 The IRB was founded simultaneously in Dublin and New York on 17th March 1858 and became known as “the Fenians”. In 1913 the movement had declined but was being rebuilt under the leadership of Tom Clarke, who went on to become one of the Seven Signatories of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence, all of which were executed b y firing squad after surrendering, along with another nine. Both were signatories of the Proclamation of Independence.

5It is one of the many ironies that on May 12th 1916, the last of the of the 14 surrendered leadership executed in Dublin (another two were executed elsewhere, one in Cork and the last in London) were Mac Diarmada and James Connolly, shot by British firing squads in Kilmainham Jail; the one an opponent of the workers’ action and the other one of its leadership.

6The gendarmerie is a particular militarised type of police force, armed and often operating out of barracks, like the Carabinieri of Italy, Gendarmerie of Turkey and Guardia Civil of the Spanish State. It is an armed force of state repression designed to control wide areas of potentially rebellious populations and it is notable that the parallel of the RIC did not exist in Britain, where the police force was mostly unarmed except by truncheon.

7Liberty Hall is still there today but a very different building (the original was shelled by the British in 1916) and SIPTU is a very different union too.

8Nellie was one of 12 children of a mixed religion marriage and was, like all her sisters (unlike the six unionist boys), a nationalist and supporter of women’s suffrage. Her sister Grace married Volunteer Joseph Plunkett hours before his execution and is, with Plunkett, the subject of the plaintive ballad “Grace” and Muriel married Thomas McDonagh, one of the Seven Signatories of the Proclamation, all of whom were among the 16 executed after surrendering in 1916. Nellie Gifford was the only one who participated in the Rising; she was a member of the Irish Citizen Army and was active in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison, jailed and continued to be active after her release.

926th July 1914, when the yacht Asgard, captained by the Englishman Erskine Childrers, delivered a consignment of Mauser rifles and ammunition to the Irish Volunteers.

10Those may have been heading for Williams Lane which even today leads out from Princes Street to Middle Abbey Street (the junction of which is where James Connolly received the impact to his ankle in 1916).

11Corporation Buildings as one might expect housed working class people and the “Monto” (Montgomery Street) was a notorious red light district.

12The police station is still there, staffed by the Garda Síochána but in 1913 it housed also a British Army garrison.

13This flag, one of at least four different flags flown during the Rising, is now in the Irish National Museum at Collins Barrack. Shortly after the Rising it was noted by a British Army officer still in place upon the gutted Clery’s building and taken by him as a trophy to England. In 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the officer’s family returned the flag to the Irish people.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

Nellie Gifford: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nellie_Gifford

The Fianna boy who suffered a head injury: https://fiannaeireannhistory.wordpress.com/2014/12/

http://multitext.ucc.ie/…/Report_of_the_Dublin

1913 Ringsend Riot: http://comeheretome.com/…/04/07/1913-the-riot-in-ringsend/

DUBLIN BOTANIC AFTERNOON – NATURE AND HISTORY

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 8 mins.)

Garraithe na Lus/ Botanic Gardens is one of the jewels in Dublin, either in the city centre or just beyond, depending on how one calculates it.1 It is free to enter and open all days of the week, though there have been closures and reduced hours during the current Covid19 pandemic. It contains over 5,000 living species and cultivars2 and also accidental fauna, most but not all of which is indigenous and the Tolka, one of the few uncovered rivers of Dublin, flows along its border and through part of it. Walking through the garden is relaxing but one is walking not only through nature but history too.

Text on the official website proclaims truthfully that “the National Botanic Gardens are an oasis of calm and beauty” and goes to state that the whole is “A premier scientific institution … and that “the gardens also contain the National Herbarium and several historic wrought iron glasshouses.” All of the glasshouses are closed currently as an infection protection measure but one that had fallen into disrepair will hopefully be restored to working order and will be available when the rest can be safely reopened.

In defence of its status as a “scientific institution” the website states thatwe do not allow dogs, picnics, bicycles, fishing, ball games, jogging or running, nor the playing of musical instruments or recorded music”, however this prohibition adds considerably to its calmness and the ability for visitors to take in the natural atmosphere, sound, views and smells without being jarred by those other features so common in many public spaces.

The gardens, at 19.5 hectares are not very large and certainly nowhere near the size of those at Kew, London, which are over 132 hectares in size but the smaller acreage of the Dublin site is arguably part of its charm. It is bordered on the west and south by Glasnevin Cemetery (well worth visiting too) and connected by a gate, while the Tolka (an Tulcadh) borders it to the north and cuts off the rose garden, which can be accessed by a short bridge. A road called Glasnevin Hill borders the eastern side of the Gardens and the Tolka runs under a bridge there on its way to the sea.

A bluebell glade (with a white variant) in Dublin’s Botanical Gardens, April 2021 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Gardens were a project of the Dublin Society (later the Royal Dublin Society), founded in 1731, the Gardens themselves being opened in their current location in 17953 and are now owned and managed by the Office of Public Works, a State body.

WALK LATE APRIL

IRISH YEW AND NORTH AMERICAN SQUIRRELS

At this time of year, some of the trees are in full leaf, some in early stages and some still bare or just in bud. It is a good time to note the shapes of branches, some seemingly fantastic and also the effect of the emerging leaves against them. The clumps of the parasitic mistletoe (Sú darach) can be seen high in the branches of many species in the Gardens and having spread also to some trees in the Cemetery.

Some strange branch shapes seen here surrounded (and contrasted) by early leaf and sky, April 2021 (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Close-up of the contorted shapes, with some of the contrasts lost but more play on shadow. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
The dark clumps are mistletoe, a photo taken in June (2020), when they are less obvious among the leaves of the tree. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

We would not expect the Gardens to be restricted to native species and although there are examples of those present, there are species of plants present from at least six continents, varying from tall trees to low cacti or succulents. But among the native flora there is a surprise for many: the Irish (compact) yew.

Many places in Ireland are named in connection with trees and the yew (Iúir) figures in a number of those, the most prominent perhaps being Iúr Chinn Trá or its more modern name An tIúir (Newry). The heartwood of yew was used to make the English longbow, from which the “cloth yard” (about 37 inches, or 94 cm) arrows played such a decisive role in the defeat of the flower of the French knighthood and cavalry at Agincourt in 1415. Because the yew is slow-growing it was policy in England to plant them in order to ensure a supply and yeomanry were required to practice at weekends. No doubt the English took their toll on the yew in Ireland as they did on other trees such as the oak.

The European Yew typically had a spreading growth but in County Fermanagh in 1767 George Willis, a local farmer, discovered two freak seedling specimens that grew in a tight, compact shape. Of those original two, one is still living4 in the grounds of Florence Court Estate demesne and it estimated that over five million offspring have been propagated from that one tree, typically seen in churchyards, graveyards and parks, not only in Ireland but in many parts of the world.

Four Irish Yew in the Dublin Botanical Gardens early April 2021 (Photo: D.Breatnach)
An Irish Yew specimen at close quarters in Dublin’s Botanic Gardens. Millions of these around the world were propagated from two ‘freak’ types found in Fermanagh, Ireland in 1767. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

From export to the world let’s turn to an import ubiquitous in the Gardens – the grey squirrel (Iora liath). This is an invasive species to Ireland originally from North America and is blamed for helping to greatly reduce our own native species, the red squirrel (Iora rua) which, to my mind, is a much more attractive animal.

Research on Irish wildlife a few years ago showed the red squirrel making a comeback in some areas and that is associated with the slow increase in the presence of the pine marten (I prefer its traditional if inaccurate name “Cat chrainn” to “Marten péine”) which had been recently nearing extinction in Ireland. It is a predator on squirrels but apparently finds the grey species easier to catch since the latter spends longer on the ground.

Strangely, I have not noted grey squirrels in the nearby Griffiths Park so they do not seem to be expanding in that direction – at least, not yet.

Grey Squirrel (Iora Liath) in Dublin’s Botanical Gardens (Photo: D.Breatnach))

HISTORY

BATTLE OF CLONTARF

The Battle of Clontarf, which was fought in this area on 23rd April 1014, was between Brian Boróimhe’s (Boru) forces of mainly Munster and Connacht forces, along with some Viking allies, against the forces of the Viking King of Dublin and the King of Leinster, aided by a substantial force of Viking mercenaries from the Orkneys and Manx. It was of great consequence since the High King of Ireland and many petty kings were killed in it but it also put a definitive stop to any further expansion of Viking power in Ireland (though their Dublin kingdom was tolerated but required to pay tribute).

The available history tells us that Brian’s headquarters camp for the Battle of Clontarf (Cluain Tairbh) was in Glasnevin (Glas Naíonn). Brian’s camp may have been where the Cemetery is now, since the highest point there is higher than the Gardens’, or even a little further north around where St. Mobhi’s Church is today, higher still. Wherever it was is where he was slain too, in a sneak attack by one of the Viking mercenaries from the Isle of Man, according to one of the accounts.

The Battle was certainly not fought at Clontarf but is where one part of it ended, as defeated Viking mercenaries ran for their ships there, many being killed at a bottleneck at a salmon weir (round about where Ballybough is now), only some surviving to reach their longships.

Some boys brave a small weir on the Tolka just east of the Botanical Gardens. There is little sign on this day in late April 2021 of the surging flood of which the river is capable and from which it takes its name. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The name of the river is an old Irish word for “flood” and had there been heavy rains in the Dublin hills, the river level might have been high generally but would certainly be so anyway in the estuary at high tide. Since the record tells us that the battle started at high tide and was still high tide when it finished, it means the battle lasted 12 hours. Twelve hours of fighting in any kind of battle is hard enough but with hand-operated kinetic weapons, along with shields and armour, impossible without taking rest breaks. So the fighting waned at times by agreement or by mutual exhaustion but was engaged again. The actual battle site has never been found5 but was probably fought along the Tolka (Tulcadh) for some of its length.

Unlike battles today, all the commanders of high rank in it on both sides were killed, including Brian (though not in the actual battle) and the King of Leinster, Maél (‘Maol’ in modern Irish) Mórda Mac Murchada, the latter killed along with many of his troops and Dublin Vikings at the other bottle-neck, the only bridge then in existence across an Life (the Liffey), perhaps around Islandbridge (Droichead na hInse). This was probably at the delayed intervention in the battle of the forces of the King of Meath, Maél Sechneill Mac Domnaill (though one of the annals has his actual death at the hands of a relative of Brian’s who himself received mortal wounds from Maél Mórda).

1916 RISING

The cancellation of the Rising by Mac Néill for Easter Sunday (23rd April that year) and its reinstatement by the IRB’s Military Council was resolved by going ahead on Easter Monday (24th April). When news of that reached the area around Maynooth, a group of Irish Volunteers who had gathered the day before but stood down, set off for Dublin along the banks of the Royal Canal, arriving in Dublin city late on Easter Monday. They found two Volunteers guarding the Cross Guns Bridge over the canal and were advised that proceeding into Dublin city centre might not be advisable in that evening.

The men spent the night in Glasnevin cemetery and set off again the following morning, crossing the now unguarded bridge and making their way, hungry and footsore, down to the very centre and the GPO on the Tuesday of Easter Week, where they remained in action until the evacuation of the burning building on the 28th. One of their number, Tom “Boer” O’Byrne, who had served in the Irish Brigade against the English in the Boer War, had his sore feet bathed there by Cumann na mBan Volunteer Lucy Agnes Smyth, whom he escorted with most of the other women Volunteers from the GPO and wounded prisoners to Jervis Street Hospital on Friday 28th and whom he would later marry.

End.

Missel Thrush (Smólach Mór), if I’m not mistaken. This one seemed quite unafraid, going about its hunting a few yards from me. The caterpillar-seeming forms on the ground are catkins from the poplars in Griffiths Park, which follows the Tolka eastward from the Botanical Gardens (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Hooded Crow (Caróg Liath), the Irish (also Scottish, Icelandic) species closely related to the all-black carrion crow, seen here on a field of grass and daisies, late April 2021, Dublin Botanical Gardens. They are wary and difficult to get close-ups of without a tele-lens. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Mostly dandelion (caisearbhán) on a grassy slope above a stretch of the Tolka between Botanical Gardens and Griffiths Park. The dandelion is a plant with a cheery flower which would be highly prized were it not so common (it also has a startling nature which is not discussed here). (Photo: D.Breatnach)

FOOTNOTES

1One of the ways in which people locate Dublin’s city centre is “between the canals”, i.e between the Royal Canal on the south side (of the Liffey) and the Grand Canals on the north side. However, the location of the Botanic Gardens is only a little past the Royal Canal, a matter of five minutes’ walk.

2A cultivar is an artificially developed variety of a plant through selection or the result of cross-breeding (eg the Loganberry or the Nectarine). As to the numbers, Wikipedia claims “approximately 20,000 living plants” for the site while the figure given here is from the Botanical Gardens’ own web page.

3That century was one in which Dublin rose in status as a city of the British Empire and many of its prominent residents took civic pride in the city and strove for improvements in a number of fields for the city and for Ireland in general. The Botanical Gardens were opened three years before the United Irishmen uprising but when the organisation was already in existence and pushing, along with more liberal constitutional elements, for Catholics and Presbyterians to have the vote and to be permitted to stand for election for the Irish Parliament, which was being blocked by the Crown administration and some vested interests. After the Rising, the Irish Parliament was abolished and so began the decline in importance of Dublin from what had been considered the second city of the British Empire.

4The other was recorded as having died in Willis’ garden in 1865, almost a hundred years later.

5I did hear years ago that some artifacts had been found in excavations for the site of the current meteorological station building near Mobhi Road but I have not seen any documentation of that. There was mention in one account of the battle of tired fighters slaking their thirst at a well and the location of that was thought to be in Phibsboro/ Glasnevin, at the junction of the southward part of the one-way system. And a housing development I noted there is called “Danewell”.

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Botanic_Gardens_(Ireland)

The Irish Yew: https://futureforests.ie/products/taxus-baccata-fastigiata

Grey & Red Squirrels in Ireland and the Pine Marten: https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2020/0616/1147681-red-squirrels-comback-ireland-pine-martens-grey-squirrels/

Battle of Clontarf: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Battle-of-Clontarf/Showdown-at-Clontarf

The Battle of Clontarf in Irish history and legend


Maynooth Volunteers traveling to Dublin for the Easter Rising http://www.kildare2016.ie/history/maynooth-company-irish-volunteers-and-the-easter-rising/

https://www.irishlifeandlore.com/product/sheila-oleary-b-1921-her-daughters-emer-oleary-and-maeve-oleary-and-her-niece-margaret-sheeran/

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/love-and-war-one-family-s-incredible-connection-to-the-1916-rising-1.2281929

APRIL 2nd – ANNIVERSARY FOUNDING OF CUMANN NA MBAN

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 4 mins.)

Cumann na mBan (“Women’s Association”), a female military auxiliary and counterpart to the Irish Volunteers, was founded on this day in 1914, one hundred and seven years ago. Its members took part in the 1916 Rising and perhaps even more importantly in keeping up the momentum of the militant movement for independence during martial law after the defeat of the Rising and for years afterwards. They were part of the War of Independence and the Civil War in military and political activities. Many were jailed. The Easter Lily emblem, which many will wear to commemorate the Rising, is their invention. The role of Cumann na mBan, along with that of other women in Irish history, is to this day still not sufficiently highlighted or valued.

Wynne’s Hotel, Lwr. Abbey Street, viewed almost from the junction with O’Connell Street, looking eastward. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Cumann na mBan was formed as a female counterpart and auxiliary to the Irish Volunteers, which had been formed the previous year (as had, separately, the Irish Citizen Army). The inaugural public meeting was held in Wynn’s Hotel, Thursday, 2 April 1914. It was presided over by Agnes O’Farrelly, who was elected President. The provisional executive unveiled at the meeting included Jennie Wyse Power, Nancy O’Rahilly, Agnes MacNeill, Margaret Dobbs, Mary Colum, Nurse McCoy, Louise Gavan Duffy and Elizabeth Bloxham. A constitution was adopted which stated that Cumann na mBan aimed: 1. To advance the cause of Irish liberty 2. To organise Irishwomen in the furtherance of this object 3. To assist in arming and equipping a body of Irishmen for the defence of Ireland 4. To form a fund for these purposes to be called the ‘Defence of Ireland Fund’.

Plaque constructed to be located in Wynne’s Hotel on the centenary of the founding of Cumann na mBan (Photo sourced: Internet)

It was not the first organisation of women to stand for Irish independence that century – Inghinidhe na hÉireann had been formed in 1900 as a cultural organisation and had developed a militant Irish independentist political outlook along with a suffragettist one. Inghinidhe formally dissolved itself and joined Cumann na mBan in 1914 but in effect formed one of its branches and continued to represent a trend for greater activism and female independence within Cumann.

Unlike the Volunteers, membership of the socialist Irish Citizen Army, founded in 1913, was open to both genders and the women who joined that tended to disdain the membership of Cumann na mBan because not only did they not have a social program but were, at that time, under the overall authority of the all-male Irish Volunteers.

Prior to 1916, Cumann na mBan took part in agitation and publicity actions, a number of which they organised themselves. Their marching in the procession to the grave of O’Donavan Rosa’s grave in 1915 was apparently what most impressed other women, in particular young women; they had never witnessed a self-organised women’s organisation on the streets before and the Cumann’s membership swelled thereafter. When Redmond promised Irish men to the rulers of Britain to fight in WW1 the minority part of the movement but the most active split in order to fight for independence from the UK. Cumann na mBan split also but in their case, the majority went for fighting against Britain.

The flag of Cumann na mBan, flying in Dublin (Photo sourced: Internet)

In preparation for the 1916 Rising all members of the main female organisation learned First Aid and prepared field dressings for wounds, which perhaps brought them to face the physical dangers of insurrection more than did the training schedules of the Volunteers. They also engaged in anti-British Army recruitment activities which, after Britain declared War in 1914, increasingly meant being assaulted and arrested by the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary. Many also transported secret messages and weapons, often storing the latter. In an informal way, they also provided intelligence they were able to gather. Through their cultural and social activities they provided diversion for male activists as well as a cover for clandestine meetings and other activities. During the Rising, Cumann na mBan members helped deliver arms, ammunition and equipment, construct barricades, set up field hospitals, provided food and water/ tea to combatants, acted as messengers. ICA women did most of that but a number of them were snipers also and one of those, Vol. Margaret Skinnider was gunshot-wounded three times while sniping and in other military activity in the Stephen’s Green/ College of Surgeons garrison area. Most of the Dublin garrisons had Cumann na mBan in them and those in the GPO garrison were asked to leave with some wounded when the building was in danger of collapse. Three women refused to leave with them and were there at the final surrender in Moore Street: Vols. Elizabeth O’Farrell, Winifred Carney and Julia Grenan.

Around 300 women are known to have taken part in the Rising and from the relative numbers of women in CnmB and the ICA, most of those had to be Cumann members; only 157 womens’ names appear on the Roll of Honour for the Rising.

Cumann na mBan was the first organisation of its kind in the world, a point that is often lost sight of: an insurrectionary female military organisation with its own uniform and officers.

Highly decorative and artistic logo of Cumann na mBan — note the rifle fitted into the acronym in the centre. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The greater role of the women in general and in particular of members of Cumann na mBan however was after the Rising when, even under martial law, they organised fund-raising for relief for families who had lost a breadwinner to death or prison; organised also public commemorations, defying arrest to keep the flame and memories alive, helping to create the sea-change in attitude to the Rising and giving a fertile ground for them to plant the seeds of resistance, along with the male and female prisoners released under amnesty.

In 1918 members of the Cumann worked to help the landslide victory for Sinn Féin in the British General Election in Ireland and then helped in the War of Independence, this time greatly organised into intelligence work but also as before as couriers, carrying and hiding weapons, caring for the wounded, running safe houses and other actions, as well as in public demonstrations and pickets, for example outside prisons. They were assaulted on occasion and jailed, sometimes replying with a hunger strike. They could not easily go “on the run” and were subjected by British Army and colonial Police to invasions of their homes and ill-treatment which included shearing their hair.

In 1921, Cumann na mBan again split over the Treaty but once more with the majority against it and in 1922 took the Republican side in the Civil War, for which they suffered repression, home invasions and imprisonment anew, this time by the forces of the Free State.

In 1926 Cumann na mBan invented the Easter Lily emblem in order to raise funds for the dependents of prisoners and killed in action fighters, in addition to those officially and unofficially executed, abducted an murdered. It is purely as a result of their efforts at this time that the emblem is so widely worn and appreciated in the wide Irish Republican movement, especially around this time of year.

Easter lily emblems printed on paper, attached with a pin. (Photo credit: Bryan O’Brien, Irish Times)
Two Cumann na mBan members as part of a Republican commemoration in 1944 (Photo sourced: Internet)

Cumann na mBan ceased to exist soon after the split between the “Officials” and “Provisionals” in 1969 but women continued to be active in the political organisations and also to be recruited into the various military ones.

End.

REFERENCES & FURTHER INFORMATION

https://www.rte.ie/news/2014/0328/605079-cumann-na-mban-centenary/

https://www.rte.ie/history/the-ban/2020/0109/1105376-cumann-na-mban/

(note the omission of the Moore Street battlefield at the end, with a Winifred Carney, Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grenan noted as staying on in the GPO but omitting to mention where they went soon afterwards, or Farrell’s important roles thereafter): https://www.richmondbarracks.ie/women-1916/cumann-na-mban/

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/women-of-1916-1.2535291

157 women who took part in the Rising: https://microsites.museum.ie/rollofhonour1916/roleofwomen.aspx

The creation and popularisation of the Easter Lily by Cumann na mBan: https://rebelbreeze.com/2018/04/20/a-resistance-symbol-sown-and-grown-by-irish-republican-women/

A CONTROVERSY OVER A 1916 RISING COMMEMORATION IN SOUTH LONDON

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time text: 12 mins.)



As we in the SE London, Lewisham branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group began to plan our Easter Rising commemoration locally in 2000, we could not have imagined the drama it would bring. It resulted in calls for the event’s cancellation, for the Lewisham Irish Community Centre to revoke our hire of the hall and even for the withdrawal of the Centre’s meagre funding from the local authority. And shortly afterwards an attempt was made to burn down the Centre.

Even in the general atmosphere of anti-Irish racism in Britain and context of the 30 Years’ War in Ireland, we could not have expected these developments. The Lewisham Branch of the IBRG, founded towards the end of 19861, had been hosting this annual event locally long before the Irish Centre had opened in 1992 and in fact the branch was instrumental in getting the disused building, which had belonged to the Cooperative Society, handed over to the Irish community and refurbished by the local authority. Furthermore, the 1916 Rising had been commemorated at the Lewisham Irish Centre by the local IBRG branch for a number of years running without any fuss.

As usual, whenever the event was to take place we naturally hoped others would promote it. In the days before Facebook and Twitter etc, email would would reach some contacts, a poster in the centre would be seen by users, some illegal street postering might be done and the Irish Post or Irish World might publicise the event. The rest would be by word of mouth.

“Beginning of the siege”, one of the GPO 1916 Rising series of ten paintings by Norman Teeling. (Image sourced: Internet)

It happened that in the week preceding the 1998 event, an activist of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement in London was in touch with the branch and he posted the event on the 32CSM site, intending it as a supportive advertisement. However, someone who hated that organisation took it to be an event of the 32 CSM themselves.

Victor Barker’s son James had been killed in the Omagh car bombing of 15th August 1998, carried out by the “Real IRA”, a group opposed to the Provisional IRA’s signup to the Good Friday Agreement and to the British colonial occupation of Ireland. Although the organisation responsible has always stated that it intended to kill no civilians2, with 29 fatalities the bombing took the highest death toll of a single incident (but not of a single day, which was the British intelligence bombing of Dublin and Monaghan in May 1974) during the 30 Years War.

Understandably Victor Barker had pursued a vendetta against the Real IRA since and, less understandably perhaps, against anything connected with it, including the 32CSM and even, in this case, the right of an unrelated Irish community organisation to commemorate its national history.

Barker contacted the Lewisham Irish Centre and expressed his outrage, demanding the event be cancelled. A nonplussed Brendan O’Rourke, Manager of the Centre, explained that the event was an annual one and booked by a local comunity organisation and affiliate of the Centre. Not in the least mollified, Barker then got to the local authority, an official of which rang Brendan, he repeated the explanation and the official seemed satisfied.

Logo of the Lár-Ionad na nGael/ Lewisham Irish Community Centre. (Design by D.Breatnach)
Program leaflet for the Lewisham Irish Festival (1998), founded by the Lewisham irish Centre with support from Lewisham IBRG. It ran for a few years before funding became unavailable. (Photo source: Internet)

But Brendan was getting a bit worried and phoned me at work – I had been Chair of the Management Committee since the Centre opened and was at the same time Secretary of the local IBRG branch. We discussed the matter and agreed to cary on but his next phone call was to alert me that the matter was now national or at least London-wide news, with a report in an early edition of the Evening Standard headlining that we were running a “London fundraiser for the Omagh bombers3. Furthermore, the cowardly local authority official was now saying – and quoted — that while they had no power to cancel the booking, they would be looking at the Irish Centre’s funding.

I hurried home to Lewisham as fast as I could – the SE London borough is about 90 minutes’ journey by underground line and overground train from King’s Cross, where I worked. With no time for a meal, I got some things ready and got down to the Centre, about 15 minutes’ walk from my flat.

By virtue of being Chairperson of the Irish Centre’s management committee, I had a key, opened the door, turned off the burglar alarm and locked the door again, then began to get things ready. The part-time Caretaker would lay out tables and chairs for events but I generally liked to change it to a less formal arrangement for our events and so I set to that. There was also “decoration” to be done: some posters and portraits of 1916 martyrs to put up in places, flags to hang etc.

Photo taken earlier this year showing the front of the irish Centre in Davenport Road, London SE6, more or less unchanged. The gathering in front is part of a Lockdown bicycle meals delivery service introduced by the Centre and facilitated by Inclusive Cycling volunteers. (Photo source: Lewisham Irish Centre website)

In the lobby I placed a chair by a table there and also some hidden short stout lengths of wood. This was a provision inherited from earlier days when Irish or British left-wing meetings might be attacked by fascists of the National Front or the British Movement but we hadn’t felt the need at the Irish Centre for some years now. However, with the current hysteria being whipped up by Barker and the Evening Standard and assisted by the wriggling of the Council officer, fascists might well decide the conditions favoured an attack.

Another possibility was a police raid. The “Prevention of Terrorism Act” in force since 1974 in Britain specifically targeted the Irish community and gave the police the power to detain someone for up to five days without access even to a lawyer.4

Early arrivals started to knock at the door and I was in a quandary – until I had some reliable able-bodied people to staff the door, I didn’t want to start letting people in. On the other hand if we were going to be attacked, I couldn’t leave them outside either. So it was open, let them in, lock the door again, open, let some more in …. until the arrival of some I could ask to mind the door (after I’d told them about the “extras” in case they were needed).

Then there were sound amplification checks and gradually the hall was filling up. I was to be MC and so on duty inside the hall but kept checking the lobby to see everything was ok. And of course people wanted to chat about the news so would stop me and ask me about it …

For the evening’s program, the MC was to welcome people, introduce the Irish ballad band and have them play for an hour. Then intermission, MC on again with a few words on behalf of the local organisation, introduce the featured speaker, get the band on again for an hour or so to finish. So, some time to kill, to worry before the hour for which the band was booked.

The time came but the band didn’t. At half an hour late I started to worry and the supporter who had booked the band on behalf of the branch couldn’t get any reply from them by phone. As MC I apologised to the attendance and asked for their patience. Over an hour late, the band’s manager finally phoned to say they would not be coming. Because of worry arising out of the media reporting.

A few of us in the organising group held a quick conference. Nothing for it but to face the music – or rather its absence – and so I got on the stage and told the audience that the band had pulled out and everyone was entitled to a refund of their ticket price without any hard feelings whatsoever or …

Before I could lay out the alternative, a guy sitting near the stage jumped up and shouted “We will NOT accept our money back!” to the applause of some others. A little taken aback, I thanked him for his spirit but said people should have the choice and laid out the alternative, which would be to hear the speaker and just socialise for the rest of the evening. Nobody made a move to get up and approach the door so ….. I introduced the speaker, who that year might have been from the IRSP (a previous speaker had been Michelle Gildernew, then representing Sinn Féin in Britain). He did his bit, I did mine, much of that not surprisingly being devoted to censorship, intimidation and repression of the Irish community as well as the commemoration of our history.

Then a guy approached and said he’d play guitar and sing, so he went up on stage, I followed with a few songs acapella, someone else sang a few …. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the evening, there was no trouble at the door …. and because there was no band to pay, we made more money than we had ever done for function organised by the local IBRG branch!

But there were to be two dramatic sequels to this controversy. And tensions between myself and the Centre Manager would follow.

THE “MAC CHICKEN BROTHERS”

The professional name of the Irish ballad band was The Mac Namara Brothers but Brian, a resilient Dublin comrade from a deprived background, that night baptised them the Mac Chicken Brothers (a play on the Mac Donald chain’s naming of items and a reference to the band members’ cowardice.

Our event had been on a Friday night and they were due to play Sunday afternoon at an Irish bar a five minutes’ drive from the Lewisham Irish Centre. We didn’t see how we could let them do that without confronting them. In discussion I suggested we present them with some white feathers and denounce them and Brian was all up for that; he was taking the kids to the seaside and would pick up some white feathers around the beach. But, unbelievably, he could find none. Nor could I in a local park. In the end, I opened a pillow and took out handfuls but they were all small.

The next day, we declined to invite anyone who might get hurt without being accustomed to defending themselves or who might not be sufficiently disciplined in behaviour and of the remainder, only myself and Brian were available. The pub, The Graduate, was under new management, one of three sisters from the Six Counties (perhaps Armagh), who lived in South-East London. I knew her from when she had been barmaid and perhaps manager at the Woodman, another Irish pub in the general area, where I attended Irish traditional music sessions (and sometimes a lock-in for an extra hour or so).

On Sunday we were a bit late in getting going but Brian drove us there and we entered the crowded area that would have been the public bar before the lounge and that area were combined. I bought us a round and we tried to act as relaxed and natural as possible, nodded to people we knew … It was certain that many of those present already knew what had happened but no-one came to ask us about it.

The “Mac Chicken Brothers” were playing and I was unsure whether we had perhaps missed their break. I got another round in but that was going to be my limit. To our relief, the band took a break but now my tension racked higher as I positioned myself nonchalantly near the stage and waited for the band to get ready for the second half of their act.

Finally, I saw them coming and with a small plastic bag in my hand I jumped up on to the low stage, Brian ready to handle any trouble from the floor.

“Ladies and gentlemen!” I called out loudly and got instant attention. “A few nights ago the British press ran a scare story about a 1916 Rising commemoration in Lewisham,” I continued. “This band here was booked to attend but didn’t turn up, leaving a couple of hundred people waiting. This is what we think of you,” I said, turning to the band members and threw a handful of the feathers from the bag in their direction.

“Hear, hear!” shouted someone in the crowd and I got down from the stage, glanced at Brian and made for the door, with him following closely behind. Incredibly I heard one of the band members say to me: “You might have told us you were going to do that!”

As we walked away outside, my heart thumping, the manager came rushing out.

“You had no right to do that,” she said, her eyes flashing fire. “Not in my pub!”

“Sorry, Bridget,” (not her real name), I replied, “It had to be done!”

“Not in my pub!”

“But that’s where the band was! It just had to be done.”

Now a customer came haring out looking for us and, from the look on his face, it wasn’t to offer congratulations. I felt Brian beside me change his stance to take him on but the manager took the guy by the arm and talked him back inside and we got in Brian’s van and car and drove off. “Bridge” wouldn’t talk to me for some years afterwards, though one of her sisters would.

The following day, I wrote a letter about the matter to the Irish Post5, attacking the Labour Council for its cowardice, the band for failing to comply with their booking and the Evening Standard for its felon-setting. Since I was Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Centre, which was already under some pressure, I wrote it under a pseudonym. The letter was published.

I felt that not only our branch of the IBRG but the Irish community had been attacked and we had responded appropriately and publicly, both locally and in the wider context. We would now face the next move, if one was to come, from the Council, as an Irish community with pride.

Part of IBRG Ard-Choiste delegation after lobbying Mo Mowlam in Westminster, London, 15 February 1995: (r-l) Laura Sullivan, Diarmuid Breatnach, Virginia Moyles, Pat Reynolds. (Photo source: Irish Post).

But at the next monthly meeting Management Committee, I was surprised to find that Brendan, the Centre Manager, believed that either Lewisham IBRG had organised the event jointly with 32CSM or that I had placed the advertisement. But worse, I was genuinely shocked to see that he believed my use of a pseudonym for the Irish Post letter was an attempt to distance the IBRG and myself from the controversy and leave him to face it alone. Brendan and I disagreed politically (he was a Sinn Féin supporter and I was by this time hostile to the party’s new trajectory with respect to the conflict in Ireland) but I supported him as Manager of the Centre while as Irishmen we stood together against oppression. But no matter what I said now, I seemed unable to convince him that the use of a pseudonym, far from being a device to have a say and protect myself at the same time, was to protect the Centre and himself as its Manager.

We got through the meeting and the Council officials seemed happy to let the matter rest, since the Standard lost interest and moved on to the next sensation.

But a more direct attack than that of Barker and the media was being planned somewhere.

Ard-Choiste meeting of the IBRG at the Working Class Library & Museum, Salford, 1992. (Photo source: Bernadette Hyland)

ARSON ATTACK ON THE CENTRE

In the early hours of one morning a couple of weeks later, I received a phone call from the Fire Brigade, attending at the Lewisham Irish Centre. I was one of the emergency nominees. When I got down there, Pat Baczor6, another member of the Management Committee and also an emergency nominee, was there already. So were the Fire Brigade and the police.

There had been an arson attempt and a hole was burned in the wood of the front door. We opened up and let the Fire Brigade in, who came out a few minutes later, pronouncing the building safe. A container with some inflammable liquid had been set by the door and had burned a hole about the size of my fist but the floor inside was tile and had not caught.

In response to the police, I said while we had received no threats, there had been some controversy in the media about a history commemoration and though I would suspect local fascists, I had no specific individuals in mind.

If we hadn’t wire screens on all the external windows, it would have been easy to smash a glass pane and to throw in the container with a lit fuse. The flooring of the whole hall was wooden and the result would have been quite different. I was very glad that during discussion on the refurbishment of the Coop Hall for use as an Irish Centre more than many years earlier, as Chair of the Steering Group, I had made a point of insisting on the wire screens. An Irish Centre in Britain could expect to be the target of an attack some day.

Christmas lunch in the hall of the Lewisham Irish Community Centre, 2014. The photo is taken with back to the stage, facing the door to the lobby on the way to the front door of the Centre. (Photo source: Lewisham Irish Centre website)

AFTER ALL THAT


We weathered that storm and the following year’s 1916 Rising commemoration took place without incident.

The next crisis for the Irish Centre came some two years later when the Council’s Labour Party Leadership, which had been “Blairite before Blair” as one local Leftie commented, listed the Centre for cuts to our total staffing: one (underpaid) Manager and one part-time caretaker-handyman. There were heavy cuts planned to the whole Council-funded service sector across the Borough of Lewisham so, although in our case the cuts would have meant wiping out our entire staffing, it was difficult to say whether the controversy some years earlier had played a role or not.

But that was another day’s battle.

End.

Publication of the IBRG (Intended to be quarterly, it ran to perhaps four editions more widely spaced apart before it ceased publication. (Photo source: Internet)

FOOTNOTES

1The wider IBRG had been founded in 1981 and consolidated in 1982. The Lewisham branch was founded from an initiative by a core of people who had taken over organising the 1985-1986 Irish Aspects course at Goldsmiths (then) Community College from its original organiser, Derry-born Peter Moloney, who was stepping down and invited them to run it in his place or that the course would come to an end. Peter was one of founding members of the branch and active within it for a few years.

2The intentions of this bombing are still the subject of dispute. The killing of civilians would have been against the interests of the organisation and in the event were strongly so; it strengthened the hands of the authorities in enacting further repressive legislation and also ideologically for the authorities and the Provisionals in gathering support for the Good Friday Agreement and in neutralising its opponents within the Irish Republican movement. Over the years the Wikipedia page on the bombing has changed substantially as cases against accused collapsed, including one in which the Gardaí were found to have concocted notes of an interview and revelation has followed revelation of intelligence services awareness of elements of the plans and failure to alert the RUC (colonial police) on the ground. Four defendants were found responsible in a controversial civil case and it seems clear that that Mickey Kevitt’s criminal conviction on questionable evidence in another case in 2003 was related to his believed involvement as was the refusal to apply all possible reductions which would have seen him released in 2016. McKevitt died of cancer on 2nd January 2021, still serving his sentence of 20 years. The full truth may never be known.

3Pat Reynolds, PRO of the IBRG throughout most of its existence, in his year-by-year review of the IBRG commented: “The London Evening Standard with a long history of anti-Irish racism came out with the headline London fundraiser for the Omagh Bombers alleging that the event was organised by supporters of the real IRA. The IBRG were seeking legal advice on the article as the event was organised by Lewisham IBRG.” Busy with more practical organising and without perhaps the right contacts, Lewisham IBRG never did take up the misreporting legally or with the Press Council.

4As Irish community activists warned the British public, it would lead to wider repressive legislation if permitted to stand, which it did. The 2006 Act allows for detention up to 28 days without charge.

5The Irish Post was founded in 1971 as a newspaper aimed at the Irish community in Britain and played a generally progressive role until its editor-owner, Brendan Mac Lua and Thomas Beattie sold the title and company to Thomas Crosbie Holdings (TCH) in 2003. In 1981 the founding of the Irish in Britain Representation Group was in part inspired by comment in the paper’s “Dolan” column (a pen-name of Mac Lua’s). In later years the newspaper suffered competition from other titles aiming at the same community, The Irish World and The London Irish News(?). More about the Post’s later history (but next to nothing about it earlier work including promoting the cases of the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven etc and also covering protests against anti-Irish racism and promoting new Irish writing) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Irish_Post

6Patricia Ellen Baczor owed her surname to having married a Polish man. There were many such marriages between Polish refugees and servicemen who met young Irish women at Catholic parish social events in Britain during WW2. Pat was a strong widow and supporter of the rights of the Irish community, progressive in her thinking, anti-racist but not one to push herself forward. She was generally very supportive of me as Chair of the Management Committee and appreciative of the other hat I wore in the local and ‘national’ IBRG and the tensions thereby I sometimes had to negotiate.

ANARCHIST, SUFFRAGETTE, IRISH PATRIOT, DOCTOR AND STRIKE ORGANISER: GERTRUDE KELLY

Geoffrey Cobb

(Reading time: 15 mins.)

(Article originally published 2017 in New York Irish History, journal of the New York Irish History Roundtable, abbreviated slightly and reprinted here with kind permission of the author)

In her article, “Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly: A Forgotten Feminist,” Wendy McElroy summarizes the paradoxes in Dr. Kelly’s worldview that make her a complex, seemingly contradictory figure: A labor radical who was deeply skeptical of unions, a medical doctor who opposed state licensing of medicine, a staunch anti-statist who broke with the most prominent individualist anarchists of her day, an ardent feminist who denied that there were “women’s rights” as distinct from “human rights.” (McElroy, “Gertrude B. Kelly”)

Gertrude Kelly (photo sourced: Wikipedia)

          Kelly’s seemingly paradoxical and contradictory juxtapositions come into focus, though, in the light of her Irish birth and anarchist beliefs. Individual anarchists, like Kelly, were a group of anti-authoritarian radicals who regarded total individual autonomy and free labor as the answer to the social and economic problems of the day. Kelly believed that overthrowing power structures and maximizing individual autonomy and responsibility would create a truly free society, which would evolve organically once society had liquidated the oppressive state. Because individualist anarchists regarded labor as the source of value and exchanges of unequal values to be exploitative, they may be regarded as a part of the broader socialist movement. Kelly’s views not only were highly uncommon and radical, but they also placed her in direct conflict with the establishment: the church, the state, and the capitalist order.

Nameplate of the New York, Chelsea area playground named in Gertrude Kelly’s honour.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Shaping Kelly’s perspectives was that in her eyes, Ireland was victim of both capitalism and the British state.

Although she left Ireland at age eleven, the experiences and opinions of her parents profoundly shaped Kelly’s perspectives. She was born into a family of Irish nationalist educators in 1862 in Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary (Co. Waterford identifies Kelly as being born in the same year but in Ballyneale, across the border from Tipperary). Her father was a schoolmaster apparently forced out of his job for his Fenian sympathies. He left Ireland in 1868, five years before Gertrude would join him in New Jersey in 1873. He would become a high school principal, but he and the whole family remained passionately devoted to Irish affairs. Her older brother, John, played a huge role in shaping her anarchist worldview.

Kelly was one of twelve children, but little is known about any of her other siblings except for John who had a profound influence on her attitudes towards Ireland and anarchism. John graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and went on to earn a Ph.D at age twenty-two in electrical engineering. An assistant for a time to Thomas Edison, Kelly became one of the world’s foremost experts in using dynamos to transmit telephone signals. During Kelly’s lifetime he held over seventy electrical related patents and pioneered high voltage electricity generating and transmission systems.

However, he was not just a man of science; he was also devoted to Ireland and used his considerable wealth generously to advance the cause of Irish freedom. In the 1880s, he wrote articles for individualist anarchist publications including Liberty, Alarm, and Lucifer, which must have greatly influenced his sister. John Kelly spent the last years of his life supporting Irish causes, working closely with his sister. From 1916–18, he served as the president of the Massachusetts State Council for Friends of Irish Freedom. From 1920–21, he wrote a third of the Irish World’s anonymous political commentaries, and in 1921, from July to December, he and his young sister agitated for a nationwide boycott of British goods.

Despite being in America, Kelly still remained keenly interested in events within Ireland. Although she was busy with her medical studies she followed Ireland from articles in the Irish World, published in New York, and the Boston Pilot. Both newspapers featured several stories on the failure of the Irish Land Act of 1870 to improve the lot of tenant farmers, the formation of the Irish Land League in 1879, the subsequent Land Wars, the No-Rent movement, and the indiscriminate evictions of Irish tenant farmers from their land by agents of absentee English landlords. These stories cemented Kelly’s rejection of British imperialism and private ownership of land.

In 1879, John Devoy of Clan na Gael in the United States forged a broad-based coalition called the “New Departure,” with Michael Davitt of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Charles Stewart Parnell of the Home Rule League to create a joint front that united believers in physical force, agrarian agitation, and constitutional nationalism to aid the suffering Irish tenant farmer and demand Irish Home Rule from England. Parnell and Davitt were also members of the Irish National Land League. In support of that initiative Fanny and Anna Parnell founded the Ladies Land League in America in 1880 with branches in Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, and Patterson.

Building on Parnell St. junction with O’Connell St Dublin which was the HQ of the Ladies Land League in ireland. They ran the whole campaign while the male leaders were locked up in Kilmainham.
(Photo: D. Breatnach)

Fanny Parnell who with her sister Anna formed the Ladies Land League. Fanny died of an illness very young.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Young Gertrude Kelly became an active member of the League and a vocal supporter of a No-Rent Manifesto published by the National Land League in 1881. Kelly’s understanding of individualistic anarchist philosophy was strengthened by the columns of “Honorius” in the Irish World, an organ of the Irish No-Rent movement. Honorius was, in fact, a pseudonym for the American natural rights advocate Henry Appleton, who contributed frequently to the early issues of Liberty, both under his own name and under the pen name of “X.”(McElroy, “Gertude B. Kelly”)

PROLIFIC WRITER AND FEMINIST

          Anger at how British imperialist government had subverted its proper role in Ireland shaped Kelly’s anti-authoritarian worldview. Kelly was not only a dedicated Irish-Nationalist, but she was also a prolific writer and insightful social and political commentator. In articles published in the individualist periodical Liberty and the Irish World she expressed her indignation and abhorrence at the lack of fairness empathy or sense of humanity inherent in the attitude of the ruling elite towards the poor of Ireland. She contributed a number of other well-received articles for Liberty whose founder and editor, Benjamin Tucker, said of her “Gertrude B. Kelly…by her articles in Liberty, has placed herself at a single bound among the finest writers of this or any other country.” (McElroy, “Gertrude B. Kelly”).

(Photo sourced: Internet)

Kelly, however, would later break with Tucker and cease writing for Liberty, a sign of her fiery independence. Kelly was more than a mere analyst of Irish anti-imperialism. She was also an avant garde feminist who understood the struggles that women faced, especially poor women, with whom the doctor had a lifelong affinity and her articles for Liberty reflect a keen understanding of the special problems females faced. In one of her articles for Liberty she developed a highly controversial argument about prostitution. Instead of seeing prostitutes as “fallen women,” Kelly saw them as economic victims. Her first article in Liberty, “The Root of Prostitution,” claimed that women’s inability to earn enough money through respectable forms of labor was the root cause of sex work. She wrote: “We find all sorts of schemes for making men moral and women religious, but no scheme which proposes to give woman the fruits of her labor. In her writing, she railed against men forcing women to conform to paternalistic codes of behavior. Men…have always denied to women the opportunity to think; and, if some women have had courage enough to dare public opinion, and insist upon thinking for themselves, they have been so beaten by that most powerful weapon in society’s arsenal, ridicule, that it has effectively prevented the great majority from making any attempt to come out of slavery.” (McElroy,“Gertrude B. Kelly”)

Despite Kelly’s sincere feminism, she could make the following statement that must have alienated her from many of the leading feminists of her day: “There is, properly speaking, no woman question, as apart from the question of human right and human liberty.” She added: “The woman’s cause is man’s— they rise or sink/Together—dwarfed or godlike-bond or free.” She saw women’s struggles in the wider context of humanity’s struggle against all forms of coercion. Women would gain their deserved social status only when all of society had also liberated itself. Kelly also became a militant suffragette, believing that women with the power to vote could solve many of the issues they faced. (McElroy, “Gertrude B. Kelly”).

In Kelly’s eyes both women and men were in fact the victims of a coercive capitalist society. Radical individualists of nineteenth-century America, like Kelly, saw capitalism as the root cause of poverty and social injustice. Kelly subscribed to the labor theory of value espoused by the anarchist individualist theoretician Josiah Warren who posited that capitalists stole the fruits of labor by underpaying the worker for his or her efforts. She also accepted the popular radical belief that capitalism was an alliance between business and government, in which the state guaranteed the rich their privileged position. Kelly considered all forms of capitalism to be what individualist anarchists called “state capitalism.”

In Irish-America, where so many fellow immigrants had climbed the ladder by joining the civil service, her anti-government stance was especially incendiary.

KELLY’S WORK AS A DOCTOR

          Kelly’s becoming a physician is an extraordinary story in itself. She became one of the very few women to study medicine and become a doctor thanks to two English sisters, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell who set up the first school to grant women licenses to practice medicine, the Women’s Medical College of New York. Kelly graduated from Blackwell’s school in 1884 with an M.D. degree and became an accomplished surgeon.

If Kelly is recalled today in New York City, it is not for her important role in agitating for Ireland, but in helping the city’s poor through her work as a doctor. Although she campaigned for many deserving causes during her lifetime, her primary focus was on treating the downtrodden and poor working women and their families in the clinics she worked in. She set up such a clinic in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood where she became legendary for surreptitiously leaving cash under her dinner plate when she made house calls at the homes of impoverished patients. Kelly was also a renowned surgeon who, in addition to her work at the clinic, was a member of the surgical staff at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the institution where she had received training. During her medical career she authored and co-authored papers on abdominal surgical procedures and other medical and health care-related issues.

Dr. Gertrude Kelly practiced at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, founded by the Blackwell sisters and Marie Zackrewska, now known as the New York Presbyterian – Lower Manhattan Hospital.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

KELLY AND THE RISING

          Kelly would play an oversized role in the events before and after the 1916 Easter Rising. In 1901, John Redmond, who assumed leadership of the reunited Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), established the United Irish League of America to raise funds for the IPP and promote its Home Rule agenda in the United States. Dr. Kelly supported the United Irish League, even though its acceptance of continued British sovereignty over Ireland disturbed her. In accepting home rule, she reasoned that it could serve as an intermediary step before launching a nonviolent, anti-British, grassroots campaign that would lead to an independent Irish Republic.

In October of 1914, Kelly issued a call to “women of Irish blood” to join the first chapter of Cumann na mBan formed in the United States. Hundreds of women met at the Hotel McAlpin, where Kelly, Mary Colum, and Sidney Gifford, a recently arrived émigré from Dublin outlined the aims of the organization. Their chapter would follow the lead of Cumann na mBan in Ireland by raising funds and garnering support for the Irish Volunteers formed in 1913 in response to the formation of the anti-independence Ulster Volunteer Force the previous year. The declared aim of the Irish Volunteers was “to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland.” (“Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net). Chosen as president of the organization, Kelly helped set-up other branches and arranged for speakers from Ireland to address its members, conduct lecture tours and help in fundraising efforts.

When Redmond in a speech called on young Irishmen to enlist and fight in the British Army, it was too much for the anti-imperialist Kelly, who issued the following statement: “May I, as a woman, an Irishwoman and physician, spokeswoman of hundred, thousands of my sisters at home and abroad ask our leaders what it is they propose to Ireland to do—commit suicide? Admitting for the moment that this is “a most righteous war” not—”a war of iron and coal”—a war between titans for commercial supremacy— why should little Ireland have to do what the United States, Switzerland, etc., do not. Is Home Rule to be secured for the cattle and sheep when the young men of Ireland are slaughtered, the old men and old women left sonless, the young women obliged to emigrate to bring up sons for men of other climes.” (“Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net)

After the Easter Rising, Cumann na mBan’s fundraising efforts were redirected to the support of the thousands of families of imprisoned Volunteers. Kelly and other Irish women activists including Margaret Moore, a Land League veteran and labor leader Lenora O’Reilly led the highly successful fundraising campaign.

In 1917, America entered World War I on the side of the British. President Wilson threatened members of any organizations that protested against the British Empire with jail sentences. Nevertheless, in the same year Dr. Kelly was part of a group that formed the Irish Progressive Party, whose aim was to lobby the government in Washington to protest British imperialism and recognize the Irish Republic.

In 1920, Dr. Kelly would perform her greatest services to Irish freedom. She understood that women could take bold actions, such as in public protests, that would capture popular attention and focus the American public on the continued presence of Britain in Ireland, which violated one of the Fourteen Points identified by Wilson in 1918 as necessary for world peace—self-determination for small nations. The first official meeting of the activist group, American Women Pickets for the Enforcement of America’s War Aims, was held in New York on April 20, 1920, organized by Gertrude Kelly.

Women supporters of the Irish struggle and others in the USA tearing a Union Jack flag. Date uncertain but after WW1. (Photo sourced: Internet)

With Irish men in America mired in fighting one another, this women’s movement grabbed headlines through a succession of highly effective public acts, some of which created chain reactions across the eastern seaboard of the United States. In September, 1920, Kelly was one of the organizers of a female blockade of the British Embassy in Washington as response to their actions in Ireland. Kelly was arrested for her part in the agitation.

One of the Women Picketers in 1920, Mae Manning, being issued a ticket by a policeman outside the White House. (Photo sourced: Internet)

In December, 1920, the women pickets and the Irish Progressive League organized a strike at a Chelsea pier in Manhattan to protest the arrests of Irish-born Australian Archbishop Daniel Mannix, an outspoken foe of British rule in Ireland, and Terence MacSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, who was on hunger strike and near death. Kelly, Leonora O’Reilly, Hannah SheehySkeffington, and Eileen Curran of the Celtic Players assembled a group of women who dressed in white with green capes and carried signs that read: “There Can Be No Peace While British Militarism Rules the World.”(“Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net)

The strike which, lasted three and a half weeks, was directed at British ships docked in New York. Striking workers included not only Irish longshoremen but also, Italian coal passers, AfricanAmerican longshoremen, and workers on a docked British passenger liner. According to a New York Sun report it was “…the first purely political strike of workingmen in the history of the United States. The strike became famous and spread to Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Boston. When reporters asked who exactly was behind these protests, Dr. Kelly responded “American women.” (“Gertrude B. Kelly” in Irish Echo).

Aerial view of New York Harbour, 1920s, showing many of the multiple wharves and docks both sides of the river. (Photo sourced: Internet)

By the end of 1920, many thought the only prospect for an independent Ireland was an acceptance of partition. Dr. Kelly was a fiery opponent of division and expressed her views on Ireland being divided: “The thing itself is absolutely unthinkable. We have always been slaves, but unwilling slaves. Now we are subscribing to our slavery. I cannot believe that the Irish people will do this. The whole thing is a fake from start to finish. Summed up I would say that after 750 years we have given England moral standing in the world when she has none: it’s a tremendous defeat.” (“Gertrude B. Kelly” in Feniangraves.net)

Women protesting in the USA in solidarity with the Irish struggle in 1922.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

Nevertheless, partition did take place, much to Kelly’s dismay. Bitterly disappointed, she continued her work treating the poor of the city. In the first quarter of the twentieth century she was on the “must meet” list of every Irish political and literary figure who came to the United States.

Kelly passed away on February 16, 1934. The poor of Chelsea mourned her and remembered her acts of kindness. In 1936, Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia named the Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground located in Chelsea west of Ninth Avenue between Sixteenth and Seventeeth Streets in her honor. It was one of five model playgrounds developed in New York City during the mid-1930s. (“Gertrude B. Kelly Playground” in NYCgovparks.org)

The playground is perhaps the only public tribute to a woman who made an outsized contribution to Irish independence and to the City of New York. Perhaps in the future Dr. Kelly will garner more.

End.

The original article in full may be found here, including also a list of sources: nyih32.CobbG_pdf2%20(3)%20(1).pdf

An internal view of the New York, Chelsea area playground named after Gertrude Kelly.
(Photo sourced: Internet)

James Connolly on St. Patrick’s Day

The National Festival

by James Connolly

From Workers’ Republic, 18 March 1916.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
Proofread by Chris Clayton, August 2007.

James Connolly poster by Jim Fitzpatrick.
(Image sourced: Internet)

The question often arises: Why do Irishmen celebrate the festival of their national saint, in view of the recently re-discovered truth that he was by no means the first missionary to preach Christianity to the people of Ireland? It is known now beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Christian religion had been preached and practised in Ireland long before St. Patrick, that Christian churches had been established, and it is probable that the legend about the shamrock was invented in some later generation than that of the saint. Certainly the shamrock bears no place of any importance in early Celtic literature, and the first time we read of it as having any reference to or bearing on religion in Ireland occurs in the work of a foreigner – an English monk.

But all that notwithstanding there is good reason why Irish men and women should celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They should celebrate it for the same reason as they should honour the green flag of Ireland, despite the fact that there is no historical proof that the Irish, in the days of Ireland’s freedom from foreign rule, ever had a green flag as a national standard, or indeed ever had a national flag at all

Shamrock for sale in Moore Street last year, one of the few times in the year they are permitted to sell something outside the vegetable-fruit permit. They were not finding many buyers during the past week.
Photo: D.Breatnach

The claim of the 17th of March to be Ireland’s national festival, the claim of St. Patrick to be Ireland’s national saint, the claim of the shamrock to be Ireland’s national plant, the claim of the green flag to be Ireland’s national flag rests not on the musty pages of half-forgotten history but on the affections and will of the Irish people.

Sentiment it may be. But the man or woman who scoffs at sentiment is a fool. We on this paper respect facts, and have a holy hatred of all movements and causes not built upon truth. But sentiment is often greater than facts, because it is an idealised expression of fact – a mind picture of truth as it is seen by the soul, unhampered by the grosser dirt of the world and the flesh.

The Irish people, denied comfort in the present, seek solace in the past of their country; the Irish mind, unable because of the serfdom or bondage of the Irish race to give body and material existence to its noblest thoughts, creates an emblem to typify that spiritual conception for which the Irish race laboured in vain. If that spiritual conception of religion, of freedom, of nationality exists or existed nowhere save in the Irish mind, it is nevertheless as much a great historical reality as if it were embodied in a statute book, or had a material existence vouched for by all the pages of history.

It is not the will of the majority which ultimately prevails; that which ultimately prevails is the ideal of the noblest of each generation. Happy indeed that race and generation in which the ideal of the noblest and the will of the majority unite.

In this hour of her trial Ireland cannot afford to sacrifice any one of the things the world has accepted as peculiarly Irish. She must hold to her highest thoughts, and cleave to her noblest sentiments. Her sons and daughters must hold life itself as of little value when weighed against the preservation of even the least important work of her separate individuality as a nation.

Therefore we honour St. Patrick’s Day (and its allied legend of the shamrock) because in it we see the spiritual conception of the separate identity of the Irish race – an ideal of unity in diversity, of diversity not conflicting with unity.

Magnificent must have been the intellect that conceived such a thought; great must have been the genius of the people that received such a conception and made it their own.

On this Festival then our prayer is: Honour to St. Patrick the Irish Apostle, and Freedom to his people.

James Connolly monument, Beresford Place, Dublin.

COMMENT:

I seem to recall that Connolly wrote something else about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps when he was living and working in the USA but can’t find it now.  For similar reasons to what he lays out here, I supported and indeed organised public celebration of the feast day in London.

And I might have agreed with Connolly in the case of Ireland at the time he wrote it: the whole country under British occupation, in the middle of the First World War with thousands of Irish casualties in the British armed forces and coming up to the 1916 Rising.

But now?  I don’t think so, neither with what it celebrates nor how it is celebrated, which always makes me want to get out of Dublin.  Republic Day, which Connolly was party to creating but could perhaps not have anticipated being a national festival day, is what we should be focusing on now, I think.

 

REFERENCE:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1916/03/natlfest.htm

 

FLAGS OF THE RISING OVER THE CITY CENTRE AND IN MOORE STREET

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 7 minutes)

The Save Moore Street From Demolition group runs a campaign stall every Saturday on Moore Street; it was founded in September 2014 and is independent of any political party or organisation. In addition to the banner announcing its nature and purpose, the group displays four flags every week. Three of those are copies of flags that were flown during the 1916 Rising and all them in locations close by Moore Street, each also with a very strong migrant connection – all three also survived the conflagration resulting from British artillery bombardment.

The Irish Republic flag, made by Constance Markievicz (born in England), flew at the Princes Street front corner of the GPO, 1916. (Photo source: Internet)

1) The “Irish Republic” flag was made from drape material by Constance Markievicz (born in England) and was flown on top of the GPO at the Princes Street corner. She was a member of the Irish Citizen Army (see (3)) and third-in-command at the Stephens Green/ College of Surgeons garrison during the Rising.

Volunteer Markievicz was sentenced to death after the Surrender but her sentence was commuted to imprisonment. In the UK General Election of 1918, Markievicz was elected as a part of the Sinn Féin coalition on an abstentionist policy and became the first woman elected to Westminster, though she did not take her seat. In the later banned First Dáil of 1919, Markievicz was elected the first Minister of Labour in world history and one of very few female cabinet ministers of her time.

2) The Tricolour was also hoisted on the GPO but at the Henry Street corner by Eamon Bulfin, born and raised in Argentina. In addition, the Tricolour, based on the pattern of the French Republican Tricolour but signifying unity for Irish freedom between descendants of the native Irish on the one hand with descendants of English and Scottish colonists on the other, had been presented to the Young Irelanders by French revolutionary women in Paris, in 1848.

The Irish tricolour flag, granted to Irish revolutionaries by women in revolutionary Paris, 1848. The Irish Republic flag at the Princes Street front corner of the GPO, 1916. It was raised by Eamon Bulfin from Argentina and flew on the front Henry Street corner of the GPO. (Photo source: Internet)

Volunteer Bulfin was part of the Moore Street/ GPO Garrison surrender, was taken prisoner and later deported by the British back to Argentina. While there, Bulfin became the Latin American publicity correspondent for the Irish Republican movement, later returning to Ireland to participate in the War of Independence (1919-1921).

3) James Connolly, born and raised in Edinburgh but Commandant of the 1916 Rising, sent ICA men to hoist the Starry Plough, flag of the Irish Citizen Army, on top of Clery’s building, across from the GPO. The design is based on the star constellation of Ursa Mayor, the Great Bear, which in Ireland is known as “The Plough” and therefore an instrument or tool of labour. The original design in gold on a green background, with the seven stars in silver, includes the cutting tool, the share, in the shape of a sword; this is apparently an anti-war message, evoking the King James Bible passage in Isaiah II: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” The 1916 Rising was the first rising against the imperialist First World War, preceding the next (in Russia) by nearly a year.

Design of the Starry Plough flag of the Irish Citizen Army, erected on top of Clery’s during the 1916 Rising on the orders of James Connolly, born and raised in Edinburgh and Commander-in-Chief of the Rising.
The Irish Republic flag at the Princes Street front corner of the GPO, 1916.
(Photo source: Internet)

The Irish Citizen Army included women in its membership and they fought alongside male members during the Rising, some of them as officers; Volunteer Winifred Carney entered the GPO with a Webley pistol in one hand and an Olivetti typewriter in the other and was in Moore Street at the surrender. A number of male ICA members fought in Moore Street and at least one was killed there.

During the Surrender, James Connolly, with a shattered ankle and gangrene, was carried from Moore Street to Dublin Castle where he received medical treatment, was tried by court martial and sentenced to death. Connolly was one of the last of the 14 executed in Dublin, shot in Kilmainham Jail while strapped to a chair on 12th May 1916.

4) The Cumann na mBan flag with its lovely colours and design was not seen during the Rising, although many of that organisation participated in the Rising, two of them in Moore Street to the end: Volunteers Elizabeth O’Farrell and Julia Grennan. Cumann na mBan was the first revolutionary female organisation in world history to have its own uniform, under its own officers, while participating in an uprising.

As always you can support the campaign by sharing their Facebook posts from time to time.

The Cumann na mBan flag was not flown during the 1916 Rising, though many of the organisation participated in it.
(Photo source: Internet)

People signing petition and talking to some of the activists at the SMSFD stall in January this year.  The Cumann na mBan flag is draped over the table.
(Photo source: Bart Hoppenbrouwers, SMSFD)

USEFUL LINKS:

https://www.facebook.com/save.moore.st.from.demolition/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/757869557584223/

https://www.facebook.com/SaveMooreStreet2016/

A COWARD’S CURSE

A poem by Scarecrow.

“No need for a blood sacrifice”, I hear you say…

“Unnecessary violence. Dead innocent children of

a badly thought-out revolution.

Home rule was on the way.” Really?

Defeated three times by those who made the promises …

What trust you must have in our oppressor!

An Englishman’s empty hollow word, and his deeds … full,

Dublin’s main street, then Sackville, now O’Connell, showing British artillery and fire damage 1916.
(Image sourced: Internet)

Ripe with Irish blood and you trust them.

As still, to-day, our North, a thousand years, lies wrapped in chains.

 

You, in your suit — and your middle class condescending education.

may sound profound in your leafy suburban period home:

Well fed, well watered, well waxed and shod.

 

You dare to preach: “No mandate”. For a revolution?

Plauseless re-writing of history

To suit an establishment bent on bending

To the power that was, and still does.

When did power ever concede willingly?

When did power ever concede to power?

When did power ever concede without blood?

Never, is the answer.

 

Yet pundits heap plaudits upon our enemy.

Praise at every turn. Entertain us with lies. Re-write history.

Ensure the next generations forget, and fall into

a slumber of cheap aristocratic swaddling.

Devoid of meaning, soothing unsettled questioning minds.

Endless obfuscation with mirrors and smoke to thwart newcomers

to this one truly remarkable moment of Irish life.

It was “doomed to fail”…. Did I hear you right?

So, don’t even try? Sit and wait, for the greediest hand

To throw crumbs at you? Give up, let the rot eat

Deeper into the psyche, burn into the soul.

 

Easy …. condemning, from your comfort, fools for company ….

Sweeping, arrogant, baseless statements …

by fat, lazy, unburdened donkeys …

Always the carrot, never the stick … and preach.

Fat, and warm, surrounded with servant-jesters,

Condemn those who have provided the foundation to build this new Nation.

From which you stand today and look, mealy-mouthed … across the water.

at the old empire for guidance on how to think.

 

Inhabitants of Dublin tenement house
(Image sourced: Internet)

Not a word from you about starvation. The death toll.

The mortality rate. The worst poverty on all this planet,

in this falling squalid Empire you speak of so lovingly.

Never the smell of fetid flesh, falling, rotting and falling

from living children even before they die … for want of a piece

of bread, from your mouth.

The squalid rancid overcrowding in crumbling Dublin.

As the poorest and lowest, coughing themselves to death.

100 souls in a single house, a toilet, a tap, no furniture, sleep on the floor.

Enough straw for only a cat …. in England’s ‘Second City’…

is four-star accommodation, by your records.

 

Festering dysentery, cholera, typhus and tuberculosis, every dying breath laboured.

The endless hungry crying of little children…the eternal ‘slumber song’ of the slum.

… And worse again, how horrible that sound, in the silence …. when even they give up…

 

”It’s safer in Flanders Fields, than in Dublin’s slums”

was your recruitment cry …

Where the strongest Irishmen bartered themselves to

serve their enemy, for a meal, and committed murder for the Crown.

Won your war for you….Won all your bloody wars for you…

Cost them their souls,

their dignity, sanity, their families, their heritage… Hunger, hunger, hunger…

Died in thousands .. Two of every Three Irishmen, in the English Army …

No condemnation from you for the sea of Irish blood spilt by the Crown?

For the Crown?

Soldiers of British Army, WW1, blinded by gas.
(Colour-enhanced image sourced: Internet)

 

“No need for blood sacrifice”?

What fool today preaches such compliance,

Washing centuries of Irish blood from England’s hands?

Blood: Imperial currency.

What ignorance today speaks such nonsense?

Those who condemn the oppressed. And exaltation for the oppressor?

The agitator, dictator, the sadist, savage, the sick cruel impostor.

Clothed in Ermine and Fur … Dripping in stolen gold and poached Diamonds.

Ignore the strains of ‘Our nearest neighbour’ to

strip all wealth, dignity, labour, song, dreams and aspiration,

from every beating Irish heart, no matter the cost, no matter the pain,

no matter the suffering. Empty the fields. Steal the food from the mouth

Of a hungry nation. Watch as millions starve, while you

… dine on our bounty.

 

It’s easy, stand back and act like you slew a giant —

when that giant is already dead

which took an empire to bring down.

 

What callous fool will today condemn those who sought to better their lot:

to stand tall, bear arms against their barbaric persecutors.?

To bring an end to their own subjugation and slavery.

End their tormentor’s grip. Their torturer’s whip.

End the deliberate impoverishment of their own lives ..

What fool would dare condemn any man or woman this right?

What person would judge guilty, this father, mother son or daughter …

who sought a better life for all, at the risk of losing his own?

 

I’ll tell you:

A coward.

The kind of man who licks the boot that kicks him.

Kisses the foot on his neck.

A man with no blood in his veins, or heart beating in his chest.

A man who thinks that power comes from the Throne and not his own people.

A man who would sacrifice all for a clap on the back from a gloved hand.

Or kiss, on bended knee, a stolen ring.

A compromised man, a weak crawling man.

A man without empathy for his own people.

A man who would see his own suffer, if he would gain

just a little affection from his oppressor ….

A traitor.

 

Scarecrow May/2016.