ON THIS DATE (26TH JULY) 103 YEARS AGO : HOWTH GUNS AND A BRITISH MASSACRE ON THE DUBLIN QUAYS.
‘A nationalist depiction of the shootings at Bachelor’s Walk, in which British troops killed three civilians…’ (from here.)
In the early afternoon of Sunday, 26th July, 1914 – 103 years ago on this date – a consignment of over one-thousand rifles and ammunition for same was landed at Howth harbour, in Dublin, and unloaded by the newly-formed ‘Irish Volunteers’, assisted by members of Na Fianna Éireann. On its way in to Dublin city, the republican convoy was halted by a force of about fifty British RIC ‘policemen’ and over one-hundred British soldiers from the ‘Kings Own Scottish Borderers’, known as the ‘Kosbies’.
A large crowd of civilians gathered to watch the confrontation ; the Assistant British RIC Commissioner, William Harrell (‘..a vehement unionist..’) , approached the republicans and demanded that their weapons be handed over. Two of the rebel leaders, Thomas MacDonagh and Darrell Figgis, left the main body of armed republicans and marched over to Harrell and told him it was their understanding that he (Harrell) had no legal authority to issue such a demand!
While RIC Chief Harrell issued chapter and verse of how, and from whom, he derived his ‘authority’, the two Irish republicans were quoting him chapter and verse of why it was that his ‘authority’ was not valid in Ireland ; Harrell’s RIC colleagues were lined-up on the road about ten feet behind him and the British ‘KOSBIES’ were, in turn, lined-up behind the RIC men – both groups were concentrating on the verbal sparring-match between Harrell, MacDonagh and Figgis. But the group of Irish republicans, standing in military formation behind MacDonagh and Figgis, had directed their concentration elsewhere : as the verbal disagreement continued, republicans at the very back of the gathering simply walked away in the opposite direction with their weapons under their coats and other men in the republican contingent handed their weapons to known members of the public who, again , walked off with the equipment under their coats!
Meanwhile, after about half-an-hour of trying to get the better of MacDonagh and Figgis, RIC Chief Harrell gave up and ordered his men, and the British military, to move-in and seize the guns – they got 19 of the 1000 rifles, the rest having been spirited away. The British were not amused, but the crowd that had gathered to watch the confrontation cheered, clapped and laughed at the RIC and the British KOSBIES, as the two British gangs formed-up for the march back into the city centre. Word of the incident had spread at this stage and a large number of the public decided to walk alongside the British, laughing and jeering at them. When the procession was about three miles from Dublin city centre, they were joined by about fifty more members of the KOSBIES who fell in behind their colleagues. Likewise, dozens of men, women and children – out for a Sunday walk – had heard about the ‘disappearing rifles’ and joined with their neighbours in walking beside the British, poking fun at them. It being a Sunday afternoon, families were out in force in the city and were lined-up along the Quays, having heard that the British military detachment was headed that way : people spilled-out from the old tram terminus on Bachelors Walk to view the spectacle.
The British were by now near breaking-point ; they were more accustomed to being feared or, at best, ignored, by the public, and were seething with rage now that they were being laughed at by them. An Officer in charge felt the same, and ordered one line of his men (approximately twenty soldiers) to halt and turn to face the jeering crowd ; when the soldiers had done as commanded, he instructed them to “ready weapons” and fire on the crowd, if he so ordered. It is not clear whether the order to “fire” was given or not but, regardless, the British did open fire. The people on the footpaths – men, women and children – were easy targets. Forty-one people were hit : a man in his mid-forties died on the spot, as did a woman in her early fifties, and a teenage boy. Of the other thirty-eight people, one died later. Such was the outcry from Ireland and abroad, the British Government decided to hold a so-called ‘Commission of Inquiry’ into the shooting and, in August that year (1914), that body announced its conclusion and, as expected, the ‘Commission of Inquiry’ was nothing of the sort. It amounted to a mere ‘slap-on-the-wrist’ for those who pulled the triggers.
The ‘Commission’ simply stated that the actions of their gunmen on that day, Sunday, 26th July, 1914, was “..questionable and tainted with illegality..” and scolded their soldiers for “..a lack of control and discipline..”. The British Army soldiers responsible for the massacre, the ‘Kings Own Scottish Borderers’, within hours following the shootings, found themselves even more reviled by the Irish than they had been – their very presence on the street now guaranteed trouble. They were shipped out of Ireland only days after the incident, to the Western Front. The Irish, meanwhile, had buried their dead : on 29th July, 1914, literally thousands of Irish people followed the coffins of those shot dead three days earlier and Dublin city came to a standstill as thousands upon thousands of people filled the footpaths along the funeral route, from the Pro-Cathedral to Glasnevin Cemetery. An armed Company of Irish Volunteers, with weapons reversed, led the mourners to the gravesides.
While the British political and military administrations claim jurisdiction over any part of Ireland, the incident outlined above can happen again. That British claim must be dropped and the political and armed thugs enforcing same must be re-called to their own country. Any other ‘solution’ only postpones a proper peace.
JOKER IN THE PACK?
Padraig Flynn (left) has been facing the flak since he became Minister for the Environment. But Michael O’Higgins finds that nothing phases him. He retains the same certainty he had when saying quite different things. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.
After twenty years in politics, ten of them in the Dáil (sic – should read ‘Leinster House’) Padraig Flynn retains an irrepressible enthusiasm for the work. But he might reasonably have expected that his elevation to Minister for the Environment would have been easier, giving him greater scope for his boundless confidence. Fianna Fáil had given undertakings in their election manifesto which should have brought the incoming Minister for the Environment ample opportunity to generate good news. Indeed, the coalition’s minister, John Boland – almost alone among the senior ministers in that government – had been able to derive considerable personal prestige from that role : he had sustained a popular campaign against the building societies and overseen the operation of a range of housing grants which brought a response from the public far exceeding anything that could have been anticipated.
For Padraig Flynn, however, things were to be quite different. The new government’s budget ended the house improvement grants, the builder’s grant and the grant towards purchase of local authority houses – and that was just the beginning of his troubles. The resentment at that move has been matched by the irritation of councillors around the country (sic – it’s the State that is being referenced here) – not least Fianna Fáil councillors – at being forced to impose or increase charges for local authority services, even to introduce the domestic rates which Fianna Fáil abolished following the landslide 1977 general election win in which Padraig Flynn came into the Dáil (sic – it’s the Leinster House/Free State institution which is being referenced here)… (MORE LATER).
“We British are sometimes told we do not understand the Irish but, if this is so, the failure to understand is a two-way street. Everything on which the IRA is currently engaged suggests that it does not understand us at all.” – So wrote Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for ‘Northern Ireland’, last July in ‘The London Evening Standard’ newspaper. More august* persons such as CJ Haughey and Garret Fitzgerald have also said the same from their varying points of view. By Cliodna Cussen, from ‘Iris’ magazine, Easter 1991. (‘1169′ comment : *’August’ as in ‘ dignified and impressive’? Haughey and Fitzgerald? How so? From what point of view? Certainly not from a republican perspective, anyway…)
A continuing symptom of this colonised mentality is the refusal of the intellegentia to promote or maintain the Irish language. Trivail items pointing to this are the ‘Windsor Heights’-type names on housing estates, the recent adoption of pseudo-English accents by RTE announcers and newsreaders, and Radio Eireann’s constant use of British correspondents in countries, like the Philippines, where many Irish are resident. The cosy feeling of being an integral part of Hewitt’s ‘British Archipelago of Islands’ gives constant comfort to a section of Irish people.
It is almost as if they believe that a healthy sense of Irish national identity was in some way reprehensible. As if being pro-Irish made people in some sense anti-English. As if Irish nationality was to be defined only in relation to the British Islands, not in relation to the Irish Islands. This internalised defining of ourselves only in relation to one of our neighbours gives us a feeling that only our relations with England are real and important… (MORE LATER).
ON THIS DATE (26TH JULY) 161 YEARS AGO – BIRTH OF A BRILLIANTLY CONFUSED IRISHMAN.
“Power does not corrupt men ; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power” – George Bernard Shaw, dramatist, critic and social reformer (pictured, left).
An enigma, I think, is the best way to describe ‘GBS’, who was born in Dublin on the 26th of July 1856 – 161 years ago on this date – and was known to be a ‘problem child’ – he grew into what many of his contemporaries and, indeed, society at large, considered to be a ‘problem adult’!
In relation to Irish politics, he supported ‘Home Rule’ within the British ’empire’ (“..socialism can be brought about in a perfectly constitutional manner by democratic institutions..” [which might indeed be possible elsewhere, but the Leinster House institution is not a “democratic institution”, as far as Irish republicans are concerned]) and constantly voiced opinion against Irish separatism yet, at 90 years of age, in 1946, he refused an award from Westminster of an ‘Order of Merit Honour’ ; in 1916, at 60 years of age, he condemned “militant Irish nationalism” and accused those attempting to overthrow British misrule in Ireland as having ‘learned nothing and forgot nothing’ and again voiced his opinion that independence from England ‘was impractical’, although he did object to the British executions of the rebels that followed.
He supported Mussolini (“..the right kind of tyrant..”) ,spoke of his admiration for Stalin and Karl Marx, condemned all sides in the ‘First World War’, flirted with ‘Fabianism’ and ‘Eugenics’ and flirted occasionally with ‘Flat Earthism/Zeteticism’! ‘GBS’ departed this Earth (flat or not!) on the 2nd November 1950 at the grand age of 94. “Dying is a troublesome business,” the man himself opined, ” there is pain to be suffered, and it wrings one’s heart ; but death is a splendid thing – a warfare accomplished, a beginning all over again, a triumph. You can always see that in their faces.” And, in the opinion of this blogger, this world needs more ‘faces’ and free-thinking attitudes like that of ‘GBS’ today, even if I wouldn’t agree with all of his political positions.
In regards to the ‘Irish question’, he stated (in ‘Man and Superman’, 1903) – “The Famine? No, the starvation. When a country is full o’ food, and exporting it, there can be no famine. Me father was starved dead; and I was starved out to America in me mother’s arms. English rule drove me and mine out of Ireland” – and, unfortunately, as long as Westminster continues to claim jurisdiction over any part of Ireland, the potential to ‘drive us Irish’ out remains.
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH…
SIN SCÉAL EILE.
By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.
His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!
We kept looking in his direction and giving him dirty looks. I have to say at the end we got on very well and he was a good man. Cage 10 in 1973 was a cage with open huts, that is, no cubicles. There were two toilets at the end of the hut facing where I slept, and next to me was a comrade from Ballymurphy whom we’ll call ‘Buff’, and it was he who found out about the phone call from Liverpool.
Lights went out at midnight but there was still plenty of light for reading and stuff. I heard bare feet padding up the stone floor of the hut – I looked round to see ‘The Caller’ making his way towards the toilets and I turned to Buff – “Can you not think of a nickname for our comrade there..?” I asked. “Yeah..” said one of the other lads, “..right enough, Buff, you haven’t gave him a nickname yet, but you gave all of us ours.” Buff didn’t even blink. He just started singing – “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone..”.
The Intelligence Officer, Buff and myself were gripped by an uncontrollable fit of giggling. “What’s going on here?” asked the Officer Commanding, which prompted the I.O. to advise ‘The Caller’ to tell all before everyone found out from someone else. ‘The Caller’, before telling his story, spent the first five minutes apologising for his stupidity, and for the next week all you could hear was that song – “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone..”
Thanks for reading, Sharon.