ON THIS DATE (18TH SEPTEMBER) 168 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF AN IRISH HEROINE.
‘Anne Devlin was born in County Wicklow around the end of the 1770s into a nationalist family. In 1800, Anne met Robert Emmet and moved into his house to assist him in his plans for an uprising in Dublin. On the evening of the 23rd July, 1803, the rising went ahead in Dublin, but despite taking the British authorities by surprise, the rebellion collapsed.
Anne and her eight year old sister were arrested. She was interrogated and tortured in order to get information about the whereabouts of Emmet. She refused to speak. On the 20th September 1803 Emmet was executed on Thomas Street, Dublin.
She was kept in solitary confinement in Kilmainham Gaol in squalid conditions and was subjected to brutal treatment, but consistently refused to cooperate despite the fact that her entire family were also being held. She was finally released in 1806. Anne Devlin died in September 1851 in the Liberties area of Dublin’s city centre (‘1169’ comment – she died from starvation on the 18th of that month ; 168 years ago on this date). She was buried in a paupers plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, but following the efforts of a Doctor Richard Madden she was exhumed and reinterred with a headstone..’ (From here.)
On the 2nd March 1914, Patrick Henry Pearse, 37 years of age, delivered the following address to a packed venue in the ‘Academy of Music’ in Brooklyn, New York : “Wherever Emmet is commemorated let Anne Devlin not be forgotten. Bryan Devlin had a dairy farm in Butterfield Lane ; his fields are still green there. Five sons of his fought in ’98. Anne was his daughter, and she went to keep house for Emmet when he moved into Butterfield House. You know how she kept vigil there on the night of the rising. When all was lost and Emmet came out in his hurried retreat through Rathfarnham to the mountains, her greeting was — according to tradition, it was spoken in Irish, and Emmet must have replied in Irish – “Musha, bad welcome to you! Is Ireland lost by you, cowards that you are, to lead the people to destruction and then to leave them ?” “Don’t blame me, Anne, the fault is not mine”, said Emmet. And she was sorry for the pain her words had inflicted, spoken in the pain of her own disappointment. She would have tended him like a mother could he have tarried there, but his path lay to Kilmashogue, and hers was to be a harder duty.
When Major Sirr (pictured) came out with his soldiery she was still keeping her vigil. “Where is Emmet?”, they demanded to know. “I have nothing to tell you,” she replied, and to all their questions she had but one answer : “I have nothing to say ; I have nothing to tell you.” They swung her up to a cart and half-hanged her several times ; after each half-hanging she was revived and questioned : still the same answer. They pricked her breast with their bayonets until the blood spurted out in their faces. They dragged her to prison and tortured her for days. Not one word did they extract from that steadfast woman. And when Emmet was sold, he was sold, not by a woman, but by a man — by the friend that he had trusted — by the counsel that, having sold him, was to go through the ghastly mockery of defending him at the bar. The fathers and mothers of Ireland should often tell their children that story of Robert Emmet and that story of Anne Devlin. To the Irish mothers who hear me I would say that when at night you kiss your children and in your hearts call down a benediction, you could wish for your boys no higher thing than that, should the need come they may be given the strength to make Emmet’s sacrifice, and for your girls no greater gift from God than such fidelity as Anne Devlin’s..”
Anne Devlin was an Irish republican famous for her involvement with the United Irishmen, and enduring terrible conditions, as well as torture, when imprisoned by British forces in Ireland. She died, aged 71, on the 18th September, 1851 – 168 years ago on this date.
ON THIS DATE (18TH SEPTEMBER) 173 YEARS AGO – BIRTH OF A ‘FENIAN UNIONIST’.
James Standish O’Grady (Anéislis Séamus Ó Grádaigh, pictured) was born on the 18th September, in Cork, in 1846 – 173 years ago on this date.
He was a ‘mixed bag’ of a person, having been born into the ‘landlord class’ but, at the same time, possessing enough cop-on to realise that if a political/financial/social system lacked the (minor) benefits to the less well-off of a ‘trickle down’ effect, then trouble was guaranteed.
He was of the opinion that he had more in common with the Irish ‘aristocracy’ than he had with his own ‘class’ in the fine halls and castles of Westminster and, witnessing the suffering in Ireland, apparently felt that England had somehow betrayed its standing and reputation (!) in the world because of the way the Irish were been treated.
‘The Pictorial Times’, a popular newspaper of the day, described the then attempted genocide of the Irish people in the following report, dated the 10th October, 1846 – ‘Around them is plenty ; rickyards, in full contempt, stand under their snug thatch, calculating the chances of advancing prices ; or, the thrashed grain safely stored awaits only the opportunity of conveyance to be taken far away to feed strangers…but a strong arm interposes to hold the maddened infuriates away. Property laws supersede those of Nature. Grain is of more value than blood. And if they attempt to take of the fatness of the land that belongs to their lords, death by musketry is a cheap government measure to provide for the wants of a starving and incensed people..’
Mr O’Grady realised that the unrest among the Irish could at least be lessened, if not smoothed-over completely, if only his own type on what he no doubt regarded as ‘the main land’ would be ‘fair’ towards those they were thieving from and, to that end, he wrote to those that had influence over those he called ‘the landlords of Ireland’ – “I say that even still you are the best class in the country, and for the last two centuries have been ; but, see, the event proves that you were not good enough, had not virtue enough. Therefore you perish out of the land, while innumerable eyes are dry.
Christ save us all, you read nothing, know nothing. This great modern, democratic world rolls on with its thunderings, lightnings and voices, enough to make the bones of your heroic fathers turn in their graves, and you know nothing about it, care nothing about it.
Of you, as a class, as a body of men, I can entertain not the least hope ; indeed, who can? If you are quite satisfied to lose all that you have inherited, to be stripped naked, and in the slime to wrestle with dragons and gorillas hereafter for some morsel of official income which you will not get, then travel that way. If you are satisfied to see all the worth, virtue, personal refinement, truth and honour which you know to be inherent in your own order wiped, as with a sponge, out of Ireland – maybe a bloody sponge – then travel that way.
If you wish to see anarchy and civil war, brutal despotisms alternating with bloody lawlessness, or, on the other side, a shabby, sordid Irish Republic, ruled by knavish, corrupt politicians and the ignoble rich, you will travel the way of égalité.”
His plea for ‘fair play’ for the Irish fell on deaf ears, but he was right in regards to this State (‘the republic’) ‘being ruled by knavish, corrupt politicians and the ignoble rich..’, and that remains the case, but that would probably be little comfort to him as he lay on his deathbed in Shanklin, Isle of Wight, in England, in 1928 – he was 81 years of age when he went to his grave, leaving behind a reputation, among some, of being a ‘Fenian Unionist’.
‘ISSUED BY THE ARMY COUNCIL, ÓGLAIGH NA hÉIREANN, NOVEMBER 1954…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.
“The principle which republicans have held down through the years has been that England had no right to legislate for Ireland, that England had no right to set up these two States and, since they were founded on the ‘Better Government of Ireland Act’, no republican could give allegiance to either of them without a breach of principle, no matter what internal changes may have been brought about in either or both.
The constitutional changes in the 26-County State have made no change in the principle involved and the declaration of a Republic which recognised the unnatural division of our country and expressed only a pious hope for future re-integration did nothing more than make confusion more confounded and the glib use of such terms as ‘freedom in this part of Ireland’ has served only to lull the youth of the country into a false sense of national well-being.
The stand republicans have always taken is that Ireland is a single entity and that it is as great an insult to the people of the 26 Counties to have the Tricolour and the National Anthem banned in Belfast as if the same ban were in force all over Ireland. As long as one square foot of Irish soil is occupied by a foreign army Ireland cannot be said to be free. The ideals of our patriot dead have not being realised and as long as that army of occupation holds a part of our country by naked force it is idle to express hopes for unification somewhere in the distant future and an illusion to think that Britain, who never gave anything to anybody except under duress, will suffer a change of heart and in a burst of magnanimity will hand back that portion of our country which she has annexed by force and holds with an army of occupation…” (MORE LATER.)
ON THIS DATE (18TH SEPTEMBER) 152 YEARS AGO : TWO IRISH FENIANS RELEASED FROM BRITISH PRISON VAN.
“These Irish are really shocking, abominable people. Not like any other civilised nation…” – the words of Britain’s ‘Queen’ Victoria, on hearing about the ‘Manchester Outrage’, as she called it. Her comments were replied to by one of the ‘uncivilised Irish’ people she was speaking about : “I will die proudly and triumphantly in defence of republican principles and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people…” – the words of 18-years-young William Allen, from Bandon, County Cork. The “outrage”, as far as the British are concerned, anyway , began on the 11th September that year (1867) (…although, in reality, it began for us Irish in 1169) when, in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, 11th September 1867, two men were arrested by police in Shudehill, Manchester, on suspicion that they were about to commit a robbery.
The two men were charged under the ‘Vagrancy Act’ and were detained in police custody, and it was then they were recognised, by fellow Irishmen in British police uniforms, as Colonel Thomas J.Kelly and Captain Timothy Deasy (both pictured), two known Fenians. Their comrades in Manchester, which was the ‘Bandit Country’ of its day, vowed to free the two men and, on the 18th of September, 1867 – 152 years ago today – as a prison van carrying the two men (and a 12-years-young boy, plus three female prisoners) was travelling on the Manchester to Salford road, on its way to ‘deposit the cargo’ in Belle Vue Gaol on the Hyde Road in Gorton, Manchester, accompanied by a team of 12 horse-mounted policemen, it was attacked by about 50 Fenians. Kelly and Deasy were handcuffed and locked in two separate compartments inside the van, guarded by a police sergeant, a Charles Brett, and, as such, were unable to assist their comrades outside.
The mounted police escort fled the scene on seeing the number of attackers but Brett was obviously unable to do so : the Fenian rescuers were unable to force open the van and advised Sergeant Brett that it would be for his own good to open the doors and let the prisoners go. Brett refused the offer, and was looking through the keyhole to further assess his situation when one of the rescuers decided to shoot the lock apart – the bullet went through the keyhole and hit Brett in the head, killing him instantly. One of the female prisoners had the good sense to take the keys from his pocket and hand them out through an air vent to those outside, and Kelly and Deasy were taken to safety.
Twenty-six men were later arrested and tried for playing a part in the rescue, and five of them were detained to stand trial, on 1st November 1867, for their alleged part in what the British called the “Manchester Outrage” : all five were actually sentenced to be hanged, but one was granted clemency and another was ‘pardoned’ as the evidence against him was found to be perjured. The other three – William Allen, Michael O’Brien and Michael Larkin – the ‘Manchester Martyrs’, were hanged in front of thousands of baying spectators on Saturday, 23rd November 1867 – 149 years ago on this date – in Salford, Manchester, outside the New Bailey Jail. In an address to the court, William Philip Allen (pictured), 18, stated – “No man in this court regrets the death of Sergeant Brett more than I do, and I positively say, in the presence of the Almighty and ever-living God, that I am innocent ; aye, as innocent as any man in this court. I don’t say this for the sake of mercy : I want no mercy — I’ll have no mercy. I’ll die, as many thousands have died, for the sake of their beloved land, and in defence of it.”
“I will die proudly and triumphantly in defence of republican principles and the liberty of an oppressed and enslaved people. Is it possible we are asked why sentence should not be passed upon us, on the evidence of prostitutes off the streets of Manchester, fellows out of work, convicted felons — aye, an Irishman sentenced to be hanged when an English dog would have got off. I say positively and defiantly, justice has not been done me since I was arrested. If justice had been done me, I would not have been handcuffed at the preliminary investigation in Bridge Street ; and in this court justice has not been done me in any shape or form.
I was brought up here and all the prisoners by my side were allowed to wear overcoats, and I was told to take mine off. What is the principle of that? There was something in that principle, and I say positively that justice has not been done me. As for the other prisoners, they can speak for themselves with regard to that matter. And now, with regard to the way I have been identified. I have to say that my clothes were kept for four hours by the policemen in Fairfield station and shown to parties to identify me as being one of the perpetrators of this outrage on Hyde Road. Also in Albert station there was a handkerchief kept on my head the whole night, so that I could be identified the next morning in the corridor by the witnesses.”
“I was ordered to leave on the handkerchief for the purpose that the witnesses could more plainly see I was one of the parties who committed the outrage. As for myself, I feel the righteousness of my every act with regard to what I have done in defence of my country. I fear not. I am fearless — fearless of the punishment that can be inflicted on me ; and with that, my lords, I have done.” However, he then added the following – “I beg to be excused. One remark more. I return Mr. Seymour and Mr. Jones my sincere and heartfelt thanks for their able eloquence and advocacy on my part in this affray. I wish also to return to Mr. Roberts the very same. My name, sir, might be wished to be known. It is not William O’Meara Allen. My name is William Philip Allen. I was born and reared in Bandon, in the County of Cork, and from that place I take my name ; and I am proud of my country, and proud of my parentage. My lords, I have done.”
Michael Larkin (pictured), 32, lived in the Banagher region of County Offaly and was a tailor by trade. He was not of good health and himself and his two comrades were captured as they carried him away from the scene of the rescue. He, too, addressed the court : “I have only got a word or two to say concerning Sergeant Brett. As my friend here said, no one could regret the man’s death as much as I do. With regard to the charge of pistols and revolvers, and my using them, I call my God as witness that I neither used pistols, revolvers, nor any instrument on that day that would deprive the life of a child, let alone a man. Nor did I go there on purpose to take life away. Certainly, my lords, I do not want to deny that I did go to give aid and assistance to those two noble heroes that were confined in that van, Kelly and Deasy. I did go to do as much as lay in my power to extricate them out of their bondage ; but I did not go to take life, nor, my lord, did anyone else. It is a misfortune there was life taken ; but if it was taken it was not done intentionally, and the man who has taken life we have not got him. I was at the scene of action, when there were over, I dare say, 150 people standing by there when I was. I am very sorry I have to say, my lord, but I thought I had some respectable people to come up as witnesses against me ; but I am sorry to say as my friend said — I will make no more remarks concerning that. All I have to say, my lords and gentlemen, is that so far as my trial went, and the way it was conducted, I believe I have got a fair trial. What is decreed a man in the page of life he has to fulfil, either on the gallows, drowning, a fair death in bed, or on the battle-field. So I look to the mercy of God. May God forgive all who have sworn my life away. As I am a dying man, I forgive them from the bottom of my heart. God forgive them.”
Michael O’Brien (pictured), 31, from Ballymacoda in Cork, was a lieutenant in the US Army and was better known in England by the name ‘William Gould’. He delivered the following speech to the court : “I shall commence by saying that every witness who has sworn anything against me has sworn falsely. I have not had a stone in my possession since I was a boy. I had no pistol in my possession on the day when it is alleged this outrage was committed. You call it an outrage, I don’t. I say further my name is Michael O’Brien. I was born in the county of Cork and have the honour to be a fellow-parishioner of Peter O’Neal Crowley, who was fighting against the British troops at Mitchelstown last March, and who fell fighting against British tyranny in Ireland. I am a citizen of the United States of America, and if Charles Francis Adams had done his duty towards me, as he ought to do in this country, I should not be in this dock answering your questions now. Mr. Adams did not come, though I wrote to him. He did not come to see if I could not find evidence to disprove the charge, which I positively could, if he had taken the trouble of sending or coming to see what I could do. I hope the American people will notice this part of the business.” He then read a passage from a paper he was holding – “The right of man is freedom. The great God has endowed him with affections that he may use, not smother them, and a world that may be enjoyed. Once a man is satisfied he is doing right, and attempts to do anything with that conviction, he must be willing to face all the consequences. Ireland, with its beautiful scenery, its delightful climate, its rich and productive lands, is capable of supporting more than treble its population in ease and comfort.
Yet no man, except a paid official of the British Government, can say there is a shadow of liberty, that there is a spark of glad life amongst its plundered and persecuted inhabitants. It is to be hoped that its imbecile and tyrannical rulers will be for ever driven from her soil amidst the execrations of the world. How beautifully the aristocrats of England moralise on the despotism of the rulers of Italy and Dahomey — in the case of Naples with what indignation did they speak of the ruin of families by the detention of its head or some loved member in a prison. Who has not heard their condemnations of the tyranny that would compel honourable and good men to spend their useful lives in hopeless banishment?”
“They cannot find words to express their horror of the cruelties of the King of Dahomey because he sacrificed 2,000 human beings yearly, but why don’t those persons who pretend such virtuous indignation at the misgovernment of other countries look at home, and see that greater crimes than those they charge against other governments are not committed by themselves or by their sanction? Let them look at London, and see the thousands that want bread there, while those aristocrats are rioting in luxuries and crimes. Look to Ireland; see the hundreds of thousands of its people in misery and want. See the virtuous, beautiful and industrious women who only a few years ago — aye, and yet — are obliged to look at their children dying for want of food. Look at what is called the majesty of the law on one side, and the long deep misery of a noble people on the other. Which are the young men of Ireland to respect — the law that murders or banishes their people or the means to resist relentless tyranny, and ending their miseries for ever under a home government? I need not answer that question here.
I trust the Irish people will answer it to their satisfaction soon. I am not astonished at my conviction. The Government of this country have the power of convicting any person. They appoint the judge ; they choose the jury ; and by means of what they call patronage (which is the means of corruption) they have the power of making the laws to suit their purposes. I am confident that my blood will rise a hundredfold against the tyrants who think proper to commit such an outrage. In the first place, I say I was identified improperly by having chains on my hands and feet at the time of identification, and thus the witnesses who have sworn to my throwing stones and firing a pistol have sworn to what is false, for I was, as those ladies said, at the jail gates. I thank my counsel for their able defence, and also Mr. Roberts, for his attention to my case.”
All three men shouted the words “God Save Ireland!” at different times during the ‘trial’, perhaps realising that, then, as now, the British were going to get their ‘pound of flesh’ one way or the other. The three men were hanged by the British on the 23rd November, 1867, but are still remembered and commemorated today by Irish republicans ; they gave their lives that their comrades may live again.
ONE IN FOUR ON LOW PAY…
Colm Keena reports on a new survey on low pay and talks to workers caught in the trap.
By Colm Keena.
From ‘Magill’ Magazine, May 1987.
Rita, who works for ‘International Contract Cleaners’ in Ringsend, Dublin, says – “You only work for a couple of hours in the evening, after 5pm. Usually you would be out of the place by 7pm or so. It’s not very hard work, really.” Most of the people working with her are women, and most are around her age. They are paid £2.75 per hour and, for about ten hours work, she receives about £20 or a little more.. “..after insurance and other stoppages. It’s handy money.”
British studies show that if it were not for the number of wives working in such jobs, contributing to the family budget, the number of families suffering from poverty in Britain would triple. In the weeks before the recent general election, the then Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, said that more jobs could be created if young workers, starting in their first job, would accept lower rates of pay (‘1169’ comment – some neck on any of our well-to-do/millionaire politicians to suggest something like that!).
In response to that statement, the assistant secretary of the ICTU, Peter Cassells, said such a policy would “further increase the level of inequality in Irish society” and he argued that Ireland will never be able to compete against low wage, newly industrialising countries, where wages are far lower than those that exist here. He advocated the development of “a highly productive, export-oriented, high-wage economy.” Policies to tackle the current jobs crisis “must include policies to tackle low pay and to improve living standards”, he said… (MORE LATER.)
‘STUDENTS HISTORIC DEMONSTRATION…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, January 1955.
In Dublin, on December 11th last (1954), 2,300 students marched through the principal streets pledging support for the republican prisoners in what was undoubtedly the most forceful student demonstration ever staged in this country. Chanting anti-British slogans and singing national songs, the demonstrators marched behind a coffin draped with the Union Jack and borne along on the shoulders of six six-foot, determined, young men, to a mass meeting in O’Connell Street.
Seosamh MacCriostail, UCD Law, addressed the meeting ; “I can ask for no better answer,” he said, “except one – your pledge to fill the places left vacant by your fellow-student, Philip Clarke, and his comrades in the ranks of the Republican Movement. Tonight, I ask you to declare your allegiance for or against the teachings of Padraig Pearse. The republicans in Belfast and in English jails are waiting for your answer, for on it depends the extent to which each of you will influence the destinies of our Nation in the years ahead.” He then dwelt on the teachings of Pearse and quoted from an essay by Phil Clarke to show how closely Clarke followed Pearse ; “To those who accept Pearse, there is only one road and that one has been pointed out to you by Clarke and his comrades. It leads you into the Republican Movement and ultimately into battle with the occupation forces.”
We publish here an extract from the essay written for ‘The United Irishman’ twelve months ago by Philip Clarke (UCD), now a prisoner in Belfast – ‘Maybe the peace which you are prepared to accept is what Pearse called a “a sinful peace” ; ‘peace with the devil’. And, Pearse added, “We have known the Pax Britannica, let us bequeath to our children the ‘Peace of the Gael’ “. Remember that in the near future a stand must be made. If you are a genuine Irishman you will be a participant. The road to freedom is a tough, unchartered highway. It is a road strewn with setbacks, worries, cares, misfortunes and mistakes. The job ahead is tough and materially unrewarding but it is a glorious way, blazed by the deeds of the noblest-minded in each generation and paved with the sacrifices of the best that this country has produced. For God’s sake, for Ireland’s sake, for your own sake – make one resolution for the New Year : the resolution to be an Irishman in fact as in name.”
(END of ‘Students Historic Demonstration’. Next – ‘Pattern Unchanged’, from the same source.)
Thanks for reading, Sharon.