Categories
1916 Rising

Bicycle Pump, The Battle of Ashbourne, 1916

On the 28th April, the Friday of the week of the Easter Rising, a group of Irish Volunteers on their way to Batterstown, Co. Meath, came upon a Royal Irish Constabulary barricade. The battle that ensued came to be known as the Battle of Ashbourne. This bicycle pump was picked up by a woman on the site of the battle later that day and kept as a souvenir, and was donated to the National Museum in 1945.

The Battle of Ashbourne was a direct confrontation and gun battle between up to 70 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and about 37 Irish Volunteers. It was one of the few engagements outside of the city centre and was, in contrast to the main Rising in Dublin, a successful one.  It was also an example of the guerilla warfare that became a normal method of operation during the War of Independence.

James O’Connor, an Irish Volunteer with St Margaret’s Company, Dublin, took part in the battle and recounted the events to the Bureau of Military History in 1948. After his battalion, which was headed by Thomas Ashe and Richard Mulcahy, was mobilized on Easter Sunday they were split into smaller groups, or flying columns, and sent north of Dublin city towards Ashbourne. Their mission was to destroy the railway line near Batterstown and disrupt the movement of British troops into the city. They set out by bicycle, armed mostly with shotguns, and after raiding a number of barracks in the area, cutting communications and collecting rifles, they reached the Cross of the Rath at Ashbourne. There they were met with a barricade that had been hastily erected by the RIC from the barracks situated there. The constables quickly surrendered and were sent to the barracks to order a full surrender. They did not return, and the Volunteers took positions across the road while O’Connor and Ashe tried to break in the door. The constables began firing from the upper windows of the building, and a gun battle broke out. The fighting intensified as RIC reinforcements arrived from Navan, Dunboyne and Slane, and O’Connor saw many falling as they were hit. Two Volunteers, John Crennigan and Thomas Rafferty were also fatally wounded. When District Inspector Gray was killed, the constables surrendered and were taken prisoner. The Volunteers gathered their arms and ammunition while Ashe warned the constables that they would be shot if they took arms against the Irish people again. Their victory was short lived, as at 2pm the next day Ashe received word of the surrender in Dublin and demobilised the battalion, sending the men home. Many, including O’Connor, were arrested within days and interned in Wakefield and Frongoch.

John Austen, a postal worker and native of Ashbourne, was an eye-witness to the event. His account of the start of the battle differs a little from O’Connor’s in that he states that the constable at the barricade did not surrender, but ran and was captured (finally being dragged out from underneath a bed), and that Ashe went to the barracks to order the surrender. Austen watched the battle from the nearby Lime-kiln Hill, and returned to the road when the shooting had stopped.

In total, fourteen people were killed in the battle, two Volunteers, eight RIC members, two civilians driving the RIC cars, and two civilians who were passing through the area. Many more were injured. Austen was asked to take the dead men off the road, and loaded the bodies of eight men into a cart with the help of two constables. The two Inspectors had already been removed, and the bodies of Crennigan and Rafferty had been taken away by the Volunteers. Austen described seeing Sergeant Shanagher – ‘He was shot right between the eyes as he left the car and slumped into a small depression on the side of the road. The road that evening was a terrible sight with blood and bandages strewn on it’.

 

The bicycle pump itself is a very ordinary object, and not one that is normally or easily connected to a battle scene. The clearest connection is probably that, as many of the accounts mention, the Volunteers arrived at the scene by bicycle. However, that doesn’t guarantee that this pump came from a Volunteer’s bicycle. Cycling was more common than travelling by car at this time, and it’s reasonable to think that the pump could have come from any bicycle, at any time, and simply could have happened to be there at that point in time. When the donor picked it up there was no indication of its ownership, but she believed it to have belonged to a person engaged in the battle and took it as a souvenir. In doing this she connected the object to the event and gave it an association and significance it wouldn’t otherwise have had. Like many museum objects, the meaning given to it by the person who witnessed or experienced an event is what gives it a place in our history, and allows it to continue telling a story long after the person has gone.

Royal Irish Constabulary Casualties

  • RIC County Inspector Alexander Gray, injured at the Battle of Ashbourne and later died of his wounds on 10th May. Shot by Volunteer Frank Lawless. Aged 57, he had served for 33 years and 5 months
  • RIC District Inspector Harry Smyth. An ex-army Englishman, aged 41, he had served for 16 years and 9 months, and had been based in Navan since 1912.
  • RIC Constable John Shanagher, No. 54677. Aged 48, he had served for 25 years and 3 months.
  • RIC Constable John Young, No. 58036. Aged 42, he had served for 19 years and 5 months.
  • RIC Constable James Hickey, No. 54582. Aged 49, he had served for 25 years and 7 months.
  • RIC Constable James Gormley, No. 66800. Aged 25, he had served for 3 years and 7 months.
  • RIC Constable Richard McHale, No. 67072. Aged 22, he had served for 3 years and 2 months.
  • RIC Constable James Cleary, No. 64900. Aged 28, he had served for 6 years and 9 months.

Irish Volunteer Casualties

  • John Crennigan, aged 21, of Swords, Co. Dublin. A member of the Irish Volunteers (Fingal Brigade). He was killed in action when shot by RIC District Inspector Smyth, at the Battle of Ashbourne.
  • Thomas Rafferty, aged 22, of Lusk, Co. Dublin.  A member of the Irish Volunteers (Fingal Brigade). He received a gunshot wound at the Battle of Ashbourne, and died later of his injuries.

Civilian Casualties

  • Gerald John Hogan, aged 26, of 9 Summerhill Road, Kingstown. A civilian, listed as being a commercial traveller.  He died in the cross fire in the Battle of Ashbourne as he tried to pass through. He is buried in Dean’s Grange Cemetery.
  • James Joseph Carroll, aged 24, of 1 Municipal Buildings, Kingstown. A civilian, listed as being a commercial traveller.  He was killed in the cross fire in the Battle of Ashbourne as he tried to pass through. He is buried in Dean’s Grange Cemetery.

© Brenda Malone. This work is original to the author and requires citation when used to ensure readers can trace the source of the information and to avoid plagiarism.

https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/referencingandcitation

Sources and general reading used in the creation of these articles are listed on the Further Reading page.

Categories
Irish Civil War War of Independence

Harry Boland’s Boots; smuggling seditious documents, 1919

A couple of previous posts have focused on the publishing of Republican material by Fergus O’Connor in Dublin, such as the Easter and St. Patrick’s Day greetings cards. While such cards saw no real obstacle to their movement, other publications by O’Connor were actively suppressed, making their distribution, particularly outside the country, much more difficult. These boots belonged to Harry Boland, envoy to the United States of America from 1919 to 1921, and were used to smuggle the document proclaiming Ireland’s Claim to Independence hidden in the soles. They were donated to the National Museum in 1935.

The Boland family had a long history of involvement in nationalist organisations and activities. Their paternal grandfather, a Fenian, had been part of the attack on the prison van transporting Irish Republican Brotherhood members Thomas Kelly and Timothy Deasy in Manchester in 1867. Later their father, James Boland, and mother had fled to America after the Phoenix Park murders of Lord Frederick Cavandish and Thomas Henry Burke in 1882, due to his supposed connections with The Invincibles, who carried out the murders. James was also friendly with well-known figures such as O’Donovan Rossa and P.W. Nally.  After his death, the family continued to be brought up in the nationalist traditions.

The three brothers, Gerald, Harry and Edmund, joined the Irish Volunteers at its inception at the Rotunda in late 1913 and took part in the Rising; Gerald in Jacob’s Factory and Harry and Edmund in the GPO.  After the surrender, Harry was arrested and sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to five years penal servitude and he was sent first to Dartmoor and then to Lewes Prison.

On his release in 1917, he opened a tailoring and outfitting business at 64 Middle Abbey Street, which became an important centre for dispatching information around the country. He was elected for South Roscommon in the 1918 General Election, and took his seat in the First Dáil in January 1919, where he was assigned as special envoy to the United States by Eamon de Valera. He spent the next three years campaigning for recognition of the Irish State, and also raising finances to help the effort at home.

In her statement to the Bureau of Military History, Kathleen Boland described her brother Harry’s secret journey. In mid May Harry went to Manchester to make preparations to go to America. He managed to get a job as a stoker on a steam ship, and arrived in New York on the 8th June, where he was met and brought safely through Customs by Jim McGee and Jim Gleeson, who were regularly engaged in the smuggling of weapons from America to Ireland. He was carrying a document, ‘Ireland’s Address to the Free Nations of the World’, otherwise known as Ireland’s Claim to Independence, which had been proclaimed at the First Dáil and published by Fergus O’Connor.  Due to its nature it had been suppressed by the British Government, and so had to be well concealed on the journey.

Harry had had a pair of stoker’s boot specially made with a hidden compartment in the soles in which he hid the document. When he reached New York he went directly to the home of Diarmuid (Dermot) Lynch, a member of Dáil Eireann for Cork South East, and National Secretary of The Friends of Irish Freedom, an organization dedicated to promoting Ireland’s cause in the United States. He ripped open the soles and delivered the document to Lynch, from where it was distributed to the Irish-American community. Lynch kept the boots and later donated them to the Museum. For more on Boland’s time in America, and the activities of Clan na Gael and The Friends of Irish Freedom, see the Further Reading section.

Harry Boland returned to Ireland in 1921, and, despite his close friendship with Michael Collins (which had survived even through their rivalry over Kitty Kiernan), took the side of the Anti-Treaty forces.  On 31 July 1922, one month into the Civil War, he was shot during an attempt by Free State troops to arrest him, and died two days later in hospital. When Kathleen asked him who had fired the shot he refused to tell her, saying ‘The only thing I’ll say is that it was a friend of my own that was in prison with me, I’ll never tell the name and don’t try to find out. I forgive him and I want no reprisals’.

An old museum exhibition label for these boots talks about how they illustrate the difficulties in getting communications out between Ireland and America during this time. This is certainly true, but, like so many objects in the collection, they also represent the personal belief individuals had in Ireland’s right to independence, the risks they faced and the personal sacrifices they made to play a part in achieving it.

© Brenda Malone. This work is original to the author and requires citation when used to ensure readers can trace the source of the information and to avoid plagiarism.

https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/referencingandcitation

Sources and general reading used in the creation of these articles are listed on the Further Reading page.

Categories
1916 Rising Commemoration

Republican Easter Card, Fergus O’Connor, 1918

Recently I posted about a Cumann na mBan St. Patrick’s Day card, which was published in 1918 by Fergus O’Connor. O’Connor was one of the main publishers of republican material, and the National Museum has many examples of his work. There is also a large collection of material published by O’Connor in the National Library of Ireland. This postcard was published for Easter 1918, and was given to the National Museum as part of a collection of similar items by Sean Prendergast, Commanding Officer of ‘C’ Company, 1st Battalion of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, who served in the Four Courts in the 1916 Rising, and later of the Irish Republican Army.

Fergus O’Connor was born in Cork City, the son of Thomas and Ellen O’Connor. Thomas was a sergeant in the Royal Irish Constabulary originally from Co. Offaly, and Ellen was a native of Cork.  In 1901 the family are listed as living in Number 2 Dyke Parade in Cork City, and Fergus, aged 25, was working as a clerk in a bakery. Sometime after this he started publishing picture postcards, mostly featuring Cork and its environs. He also published the typical early 20th century images of Ireland and the Irish, including thatched cottages and their interiors.

 

Having spent the first years of his professional life in Cork, the family moved to Dublin. By 1911 they are recorded as living in 44 Eccles Street, where Fergus established his publishing business. Though he does not appear to have taken any major part in the 1916 Rising, O’Connor was interned, first in Dartmoor in 1916, and later transferred to Lewes Prison in 1917, most likely for publishing pamphlets such as the ‘Oration of P.H. Pearse over O’Donovan Rossa’s Grave’ in 1915, which would have been seen by the British government as seditious material.

He was one of the 120 Irish Prisoners in Lewes Gaol who signed a list, giving his prisoner number as 194, and his sentence as 3 years. He is mentioned in the Bureau of Military History witness statement of Robert Brennan of the Wexford I.V. Brigade, who was also interned in Lewes, as always planning some trick or another, and describes one he played on a particular prisoner officer. Fergus clearly not only had a sense of humour, but a bit of daring about him too!

 

O’Connor was released from Lewes sometime in 1917, and started publishing republican material again, largely due to his business relationship with Sean O’Casey (for whom he published ‘Songs of the Wren’).  O’Casey was a friend of Thomas Ashe, who was imprisoned in Lewes Gaol (it is possible that O’Connor had also known him there) and later Mountjoy in Dublin in 1917. Ashe died on 25 September in Mountjoy of force-feeding whilst on hunger strike. In the autumn of 1917 O’Casey instructed O’Connor to publish the ‘Inquest on Thomas Ashe, The Verdict of the Jury’, and also ‘Let Me Carry Your Cross For Ireland, Lord’, the last poem of Thomas Ashe, in time for Ashe’s funeral, which was attended by tens of thousands of people. ‘The Story of Thomas Ashe’ by Sean O’Casey was also published by O’Connor in November 1917. In the following years O’Connor published numerous republican pamphlets, including ‘A Call to the Women of Ireland’ by Constance Markievicz in 1918, and ‘The Declaration of Irish Independence’ at the First Dáil in 1919, which was suppressed by the British government.

This Easter greeting card was sent by Countess Constance Markievicz to Sean Prendergast on 31 March 1918, signing herself as ‘The Little Countess’ on the reverse. Sean had been a member of the Dublin Branch of Fianna Eireann, which was co-founded by Markievicz in 1909, so was probably acquainted with her from this time onwards.

The imagery on the card is typically republican; it features an image of an Irish Volunteer in full uniform, Celtic designs to side, and the Irish tricolor flag planted in a nest of three eggs, also in green, white and gold. The card is primarily a memorial to Thomas Ashe, who died just six months previously, with his photograph in the top centre and a verse of his poem ‘Let Me Carry Your Cross For Ireland, Lord’ to the side.  The celebration of Easter was, for nationalists, now firmly linked to the commemoration of the 1916 Rising.

© Brenda Malone. This work is original to the author and requires citation when used to ensure readers can trace the source of the information and to avoid plagiarism.

https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/referencingandcitation

Sources and general reading used in the creation of these articles are listed on the Further Reading page.

Categories
1916 Rising

Death of a ‘Boy Soldier’, Memorial Card of Charles Darcy, 1916 Rising

Anyone who’s been listening to RTE’s The History Show recently will have heard about the making of a list of the children who were killed in Dublin during the 1916 Rising.  Joe Duffy began to compile this list as a result of a collaboration with the Jill and Jill Foundation (a children’s charity) and has requested listeners to contribute any information about these children and how they died. Working with various historians and record holders including the General Records Office, Glasnevin Cemetery and the National Museum of Ireland, the list currently stands at 38 children under the age of 16.  Given that about 390 civilians died in the week of the Rising (not counting the rebels, police and army), the children represent about 10% of those who died in the various battles and crossfire throughout the city and suburbs. Some of these children were themselves attached to organisations such as Fianna Eireann (14 year old Sean Healy), and the Irish Citizen Army.  One member of the ICA was Charles Darcy, a 15 year old from the Gloucester Street area who died on Monday 24 April, the first day of the Rising.  This is his memorial card, which was donated to the National Museum along with a small collection of other papers by his mother, Elizabeth Darcy, in 1970.

Charles was born in about 1901 to James Darcy, a labourer, and his wife Elizabeth, both from Co. Wicklow. In the 1911 census the family are recorded as living in No. 4 Kane’ Court, a two-roomed labourer’s cottage off Gloucester Street, with six children; Thomas, James, Charles, Edith, Patrick and Agnes. In 1916 the family were living in a similar dwelling at No. 4 Murphy’s Cottages, Gloucester Place, between City Quay and Great Brunswick (Pearse) Street on the southside of the city centre.

Charles had attended the Pro-Cathedral School on Lower Rutland Street since it was opened in April 1912, and was educated there until May 1914, when, at age 13, he was no longer obliged to attend school.  A letter of reference written by his schoolmaster Mr A. Scully describes him as obedient and respectful to his teacher, regular and punctual in attendance, attentive to his lessons and well conducted in every respect. He was also a member of the Boys’ Sodality attached to the Pro-Cathedral on Marlboro Street, and attended regularly to his religious duties.  Having left school at this age, which was normal in the early 20th century, he found work in a draper’s shop as an assistant.  He also appears to have joined the Irish Citizen Army around this time.   When the rebellion broke out, he reported for duty at Liberty Hall.

The details of Charles’ death are contained in a letter from Elizabeth to Lieutenant A. Rasdale of the Office of the Adjutant General in 1923 during the process of claiming a military pension on Charles’ behalf. Charles was under the command of Captain Sean Connolly in the City Hall garrison, and was allotted to a section under Sergeant E. Elmes to take possession of Henry & James’ premises (a clothiers) as a support to City Hall itself. He met his death on the roof of those premises on the evening of Easter Monday. Charles was shot by a British military sniper from a position around Dublin Castle, and his body was brought into the grounds of the Castle on Tuesday 25 April. His death certificate lists his cause of death as a gunshot wound, and notes that there was no medical attention. It also states that his mother Elizabeth was informed of his death as the next-of-kin.

 

After the formation of the Irish Free State the Military Service Pensions Act (1924) was instigated, and any persons with proven service during the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence were to be awarded a Certificate of Service and were also entitled to a military service pension.  In 1923 Elizabeth started the process of claiming the pension on Charles’ behalf, which resulted in a series of written communications between her and the Ministry of Defence.

In May 1924, Elizabeth received a letter confirming that she would receive a one off gratuity payment of 150 pounds in recognition of Charles’ service.

 

All such persons were later also eligible to receive the 1916 Medal. These were awarded in 1941 on the 25th anniversary, and Elizabeth received one for Charles at this time, who would have been 40 if he had survived. The medals were not generally awarded with inscriptions unless the recipient was killed in the rising; this medal has Charles’ name and a number. This medal, along with the various papers relating to Charles’ service and claim, are now with the National Museum of Ireland.

 

I always find it poignant that the last paragraph of school master Scully’s letter of reference for Charles reads ‘I have much pleasure in bearing testimony to his good character and shall always be pleased to hear of his success in life’.

He is buried in the 1916 Plot of Glasnevin Cemetery.

© Brenda Malone. This work is original to the author and requires citation when used to ensure readers can trace the source of the information and to avoid plagiarism.

https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/referencingandcitation

Sources and general reading used in the creation of these articles are listed on the Further Reading page.

Categories
1916 Rising Irish Women

St. Patrick’s Day Postcard, Cumann na mBan, c.1917/18

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Cumann na mBan!  This lovely colour postcard depicts the Cumann na mBan emblem of the organisation’s initials entwined with a rifle, held by ribbons in the green white and gold of the Irish flag with a spray of shamrock above. It also includes the brass button of the Irish Volunteers – the Irish harp separating the ‘I’ and the ‘V’.  This card, unused, was published by Fergus O’Connor in Dublin and probably dates from around 1917 or 1918. It came to the museum via Sean Prendergast, an Officer of the Irish Volunteers in Dublin between 1914 and 1916, and Captain in the IRA in 1921.

This card was probably commissioned by Cumann na mBan as part of their fundraising activities.  After the 1916 Rising and the near destruction of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army through the execution of their leaders and internment of so many members, they became highly involved in a number of activities; organizing commemorations, producing propaganda, opposing conscription and campaigning for the 1918 General Election.

Kathleen Clarke, from the Boston College University Library

Kathleen Clarke, a founder of Cumann na mBan and widow of Tom Clarke, along with Sorcha McMahon and Áine Ceannt, established the Irish Republican Prisoners’ Dependents’ Fund, which aimed to provide for the wives and children of those who died or were imprisoned after the rising.  The proceeds from the sale of cards such as these not only helped the families, but also raised funds which enabled the Republican movement to continue.

The card is full of symbols of the Irish nation; the tricolour dates back to the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848 (based on the French idea) and had resurged in the 1916 Rising, and the shamrock and Irish harp have been used as far back as the late 18th century. St. Patrick himself as a symbol has long been the embodiment of ‘Irishness’. He is now more associated with ‘Catholic Ireland’ and the Republic, but as far back as the Reformation he was considered by many as a Protestant saint, with claims that the church he founded had no Roman elements and was closer to that of the established Anglican Church of Ireland. One example of Patrick as a Protestant is The Benevolent Society of St. Patrick, founded in the late 18th century by a group of Irish Protestant M.P.s in British Parliament. The society was a charitable organisation whose mission was to raise funds to support the destitute Irish and their children living in London by providing schooling and training to enable them to provide for themselves. However, in the 19th century, with the increasing strength of the Liberal Protestants in English parliament and the advent of Catholic Emancipation, St. Patrick and Patrick’s Day became something that both of the dominant religions in Ireland could embrace as a symbol of nation which crossed the Catholic / Protestant divide, a shared culture, when other days of celebration such as the Williamite commemorations were increasingly seen as divisive and destructive.  The work of the Gaelic League led to the establishing of St. Patrick’s Day as a national holiday in 1903. Today it is a bank holiday in both the North and South of Ireland, though the extent to which it is celebrated in the North still depends on which side of the political divide you happen to be.

© Brenda Malone. This work is original to the author and requires citation when used to ensure readers can trace the source of the information and to avoid plagiarism.

https://libguides.ucd.ie/academicintegrity/referencingandcitation

Sources and general reading used in the creation of these articles are listed on the Further Reading page.