In July 1913 the Irish Republican Brotherhood published an anti-enlistment leaflet entitled “War – England, Germany and Ireland”
Among those who distributed the leaflet was IRB member Art O’Donnell, from Tullycrine, Co. Clare. O’Donnell followed in his father’s footsteps when he joined the brotherhood in 1908 and was sworn in by his first cousin Con Colbert (later executed in 1916). Art handed out the anti-enlistment leaflets after Mass on a Sunday. It read..
War is imminent between England and Germany.
England’s cowardly and degenerate population won’t make soldiers.
Not so the Germans.
They are trained and ready.
What will England do?
She will recruit Irishmen to fight Germany for her.
She will then, when finished with them, fling them back to the workhouses of Ireland reeking with foul filthy diseases.
A London daily newspaper, The Morning Post, mistakenly reported that the Dublin Vigilance Committee was behind the leaflet. This inaccurate reporting culminated at the same newspaper in 1920 when it published a series of articles based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Witness Statement of Art O’Donnell, Commandant of the West Clare Brigade (Bureau of Military History, 1955)
The events of the 31st March 1913 in Limerick City (taken from my live tweet session in 2013)
“The time is midnight. William Street, so busy during the day is now quiet, those who live on the street are all inside their homes. Nothing stirs on the street except Mr. Joseph Griffin who is locking up his shop (No. 54) for the night.
He suddenly hears the “repeated crash of glass” and loud cries of “Fire!” coming from further down the street, he runs to help. He sprints further along the street and sees that George Clancy’s premises, a drapery, is on fire (No. 48).
The fire started on the ground level (which is the location of fire escape) and to the rear of the building (location of the stairwell). This mean that the five people inside the building are cut off and their only means of escape is via the front windows (the 3rd and 4th floors)
Mr. Griffin sees George Clancy (the owner) at the 3rd floor window and his assistant, Michael Higgins at the 4th floor window. The fire is spreading rapidly. Luckily someone had left a ladder outside Tyler’s Boot Stores (which was in the process of being repainted) on the same street.
Griffin was then joined by James Ledden (who was staying in the building beside Clancy’s) and James Dickson (Mungret St.) They used the ladder to rescue George Clancy, but soon realised that the ladder was too short to reach the 4th floor where Higgins was.
taken from the Introduction to Poems of the Irish revolutionary brotherhood (Padraic Colum, 1916)
“The years that brought maturity to the [poets] who were foremost to sign, and foremost to take arms to assert, Ireland’s Declaration of Independence, may come to be looked back on as signal days in Irish history. They were days of preparation. The youth of Nationalist Ireland had turned to a task – the task of learning – of learning first the Irish language, of learning then about Irish public affairs, and at the end of learning arms and about the handling of men.
The generation that became conscious twenty years ago turned with hope, faith and reverence to Gaelic Ireland. From the remnant of the Gaelic speaking people they would learn what civilization their country was capable of attaining to. Those who regarded themselves as the historic Irish nation were then rediscovering their origins and their achievements : they were Celts; they were of the race of Brennus and Vercingetorix, of Cuchullain and Maeve, of Columbanus and Scotus Eiriugena; they were of the breed of the warriors who had shaken all empires although they had founded none; of the race of the missionary saints, and of the lovers of learning who had made themselves the patrons and protectors of European culture. The Ireland they willed would not be an autonomous West Britain, but a resurgent Gaelic nationality. And their race-dream was as fantastic perhaps as the race-dream of any other reviving people.
Those who mastered the Irish language began to learn it in classes spontaneously organised in the cities and the villages, and they made themselves fluent by living with fishermen and small farmers in far islands and remote villages. Classwork made a comradeship between young men and women. Their first control was over classes and their first intervention in public affairs was from the lecture platform.
Padraic Pearse was the first of the young men to be seriously spoken of in the Gaelic League. He had learned Irish in one of the few schools where it was then taught, and he took up Irish studies in University College, then part of the old Royal, and now part of the new National, University. He graduated from University College and was called to the bar. Meanwhile he had mastered the language and had learnt about Gaelic life by living for long spaces of time in a cottage he owned in one of the poorest districts of West Connacht.
George A. Bermingham (the pseudonym of clergyman and novelist Rev. James Owen Hannay) published a study of twelve different Irish ‘types’ in 1913. The illustrations of each Irish type were taken from oil paintings by Jack B. Yeats. These descriptive paintings are a contemporary and unique glimpse of pre-war Ireland. Hilary Pyle (a Jack. B. Yeats’ biographer) wrote that
The illustrations are fine achievements, paintings of typical characters making up the Ireland of the day, parish priest, businessman, farmer and so on, the results of carefully trained observation combined with a natural and intuitive creativity, and they demonstrate individuality, good draughtsmanship, a sense of design and gift for dramatic narrative.
The courts of petty sessions were local courts that dealt with minor cases, both criminal and civil. They are an invaluable resource for local historians as they offer a glimpse of the social landscape in Limerick at this time, as well as giving a voice/platform to the ordinary person who is otherwise omitted from the “public record” of the contemporary printed media. Here is a list of the more interesting cases I have stumbled upon in the Limerick Leader and the Limerick Chronicle newspapers (1912-1914) as well as some from other counties that caught my eye. The tone of the reporting is interesting and in many cases there is laughter in the court room at some of the evidence given. Did individuals attend the petty sessions as a form of entertainment? The contrast between the sentencing is telling. Petty crime often resulted in a prison sentence whereas something like the negligent management of a factory (which could lead to death) resulted in a token fine.
Croom Petty Sessions: Ann Meehan, convicted on a charge of assault, was stated to have 600 convictions recorded against her. She is 77 years of age, and was alleged to have been drinking whiskey since she was 17. The police said the Cork jail authorities refused to keep her on a former occasion; and the Chairman of the Court said she would not be kept in a Home. She would not remain in a Workhouse and she could not be sent to a Lunatic Asylum. It was decided, in the Chairman’s words, “To try the jail again.” (03/1912)
City Petty Sessions: Bridget Morrissey imprisoned for a month for stealing two pairs of boots. James McCarthy fined 5s for assaulting his wife. (03/1912)
Bruree Petty Sessions: Three boys from the village of Bruree were brought before the court on suspicion of being “dangerous, quarrelsome and scandalous..they are night-walkers who sleep in the day and go abroad at night; likely to disturb the peace, are idle, vagabond and persons of evil fame.” They were accused of assaulting a young girl by putting a rope around her and of throwing a man’s donkey-cart into the river. When the Judge asked why was there none of the injured parties in court, the prosecutor replied “they may be called informers then, you know the country as well as I do.” The case was dismissed and the boys got off with a curfew warning.
Special Court in Glin: Mary Neville, with a child in her arms, was charged with being drunk and incapable, and was sent to Tralee Prison for one month’s hard labour. Her three children were conveyed to the Listowel Workhouse. (03/1912)
On Friday 27 September 1914 the West Limerick Executive of the United Irish League held a meeting at the Carnegie Hall in Rathkeale, Co. Limerick. The meeting dealt with some cases of evicted tenants before the President of the Executive, Rev. Fitzgerald, made a remarkable speech that denounced both John Redmond‘s call for the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army and the entire plausibility of the effective enactment of Home Rule. What follows is a transcription of his speech that was recorded in the Limerick Leader on the 30th September 1914, and I’ve changed it from third person (as reported) to first person with edits.
I suppose the present state of affairs in the political arena called for a few words…the opinions I am about to express are my own – I do not think that they will coincide with those of the other members present. However, at this meeting we are all free lances and every man is entitled to speak out his own mind. The vital question before us at present- a question which we had so often discussed at previous meetings of the Executive – was the attainment of our National rights, which meant the opening of a native Parliament in Dublin. As we are all aware the Home Rule Bill had received the Royal Assent and had been placed on the Statute Book of England.
That, of course, would be all very fine and would meet with the desires of the Irish race, for, although the Home Rule Bill was not up to our expectations, at the same time it gave us substantially what we had been looking for. But there was a danger in the whole situation, and the danger was the Amending Bill. Of course the situation would not be all bad if we only knew what the Amending Bill was, but we did not know, and, perhaps, it might tear the original Bill to shreds. What they did know was from statements that had been made by prominent Ministers of the Government, and by members of the Opposition Party. Carson and his crowd declared that they would not have Home Rule at all, and, on the other hand, Mr. Asquith and other members of the Government, said they would not force the Bill by force of arms on Ulster, or coerce that province into submission to the Act.
This is my article on the launch of the Limerick City corps of the Irish Volunteers that appeared on The Irish Story
The 25th of January 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the launch of the Limerick corps of the Irish Volunteers. This inaugural public meeting was held at the Athenaeum Hall on Cecil Street on a cold Sunday night. As the crowds arrived at the hall, handbills were circulated which aimed to reassure those present that the Volunteer movement was not a threat to Home Rule.
The handbill stated that the Irish Volunteers were apolitical and open to “Irishmen of every creed and class” which would help to “maintain the rights and liberties common to all the people of Ireland.” The symbolism on display that night was carefully arranged. Projected on to a screen in the hall was a “lime-light” picture of the Sarsfield Monument as well as a picture of the Assembly of the Volunteers at College Green in 1782.
Both of these evocative images were of Nationalist movements, yet neither was Republican. This is surprising when you consider that the provisional committee included members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) (inc. George Clancy the future Sinn Fein Mayor of Limerick who was murdered by British forces in 1921). It is difficult to say if this was a shrewd, realpolitik decision by the organisers to cloud their true intentions by pre-empting any accusations of “Fenianism”, or simply honest admiration.
Kathleen Clarke maintains that this was a sleight of hand and part of Tom Clarke’s long term strategy. But another explanation is the strong presence on the committee of the pro-Home Rule Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), which was an unofficial auxiliary of the Irish Parliamentary Party.
In any case, playing down the radical character of the Volunteer movement was wise. One can only imagine what the reaction would have been in the offices of the unionist Limerick Chronicle newspaperif their reporter had returned with an account of a militarist meeting in the city which featured images of Robert Emmett and rebel pikemen.
Michael Joyce was the MP for Limerick City in 1914. He served the City in the House of Commons as a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to 1918. Dr. Tadhg Moloney, author of “Limerick constitutional nationalism, 1898-1918”, tells us more about his career, life and legacy.
The Limerick Vigilance Committee was especially active from 1911 to 1914. They first came to notice in 1911 when they succeeded in confiscating a consignment of English newspapers at the train station, which they burned in public. For this act they garnered the National headlines and were looked upon as the vanguard of the movement by other Vigilance Committees. They held their largest rally in Limerick city on the 29th November 1913.
This large meeting was attended by nearly 5,000 citizens of Limerick who protested against “the sale of evil literature in the city.” The meeting was organised by the Limerick Vigilance Committee and was held at the O’Connell Statue. Several city bands were also present and the Limerick Chronicle made note of those who were present on the platform addressing the crowd, the lists includes politicians, public servants, professionals, the clergy and business men.