ON THIS DATE (27TH MAY) 143 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT MEMBER-IN-WAITING.
‘Francis Sheehy-Skeffington did not enter his wife Hanna’s details on the 1911 Census form at their home…as the suffragettes had a campaign of non-cooperation with the 1911 Census. Francis recorded four people in the house : himself (aged 32), his one year old son (Owen) and two female servants, Philomena Morrissey (aged 23) and Mary Butler (aged 21).
The enumerator, James Crozier, attempted to circumvent the boycott by recording Hanna’s details. Almost all of the information was incorrect. He entered her name as Emily, (but her correct name was Johanna), had the wrong age of 28 (her real age was 33), he recorded their marriage as 3 years in length (but they had been married for 8 years) and recorded her place of birth as Dublin (she was born in Kanturk, Co. Cork). He was correct in recording that they had had one child and that this child was alive (Owen Lancelot). The enumerators, who were from the police force, had extensive powers to make enquiries locally about those who refused to fill out the form.
Johanna Mary Sheehy (pictured, in 1912, on her release from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin), known as Hanna, was born in Kanturk, County Cork, in May 1877. She belonged to a prosperous farming and milling family. Her father, David Sheehy (1844-1932), was a member of the IRB and later an MP, and had been imprisoned no less than six times for revolutionary activities. Hanna was a highly influential figure during the suffragette movement and was also active in the realms of socialism and Irish independence. She married Francis Skeffington in 1903. They joined their names together on marriage, a symbol of the equality in their relationship. Both were founder members of the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1908 which fought for women’s suffrage. They had one child, Owen Lancelot, in 1909. She was fired from her teaching post in 1912 following her arrest for breaking windows during a militant suffragette protest. In 1912 she and her husband founded the ‘Irish Citizen’ newspaper. She was active in the labour movement assisting in the soup kitchen at Liberty Hall in 1913.
Like her husband Hanna was a pacifist. She attended a meeting in Wexford organised by John Redmond for conscription to the British Army. Huge crowds attended as conscription was so popular and trains had been organised from Waterford and Kilkenny. Redmond was about to address the audience when a very heavily veiled Hanna stood up on a box asking people to repudiate Redmond and his recruiting. She was torn down from the box by the crowd and her clothes almost ripped from her. She was very badly mistreated by the crowd and if it were not for the intervention of the police and some members of the public she would have been thrown into Wexford Bay ; “A much battered and torn and, I am sure, very much bruised, Mrs Skeffington was rescued”.
During the Rising Hanna did not join the rebels but she brought food and messages to the various outposts. Her elderly uncle, a priest named Eugene Sheehy, a well-known Land League and IRB member, was at the GPO as a confessor to the rebels. She was in the confidence of some of the leadership as they selected her to act as a member of a civil provisional government to come into effect if the Rising was prolonged (she was to be one of five members of the Provisional government to be set up once the rebellion was victorious). She considered the Rising as the first point in Irish History where the struggle for women’s citizenship and national freedom converged. Her husband Francis, who was not involved in the Rising, was arrested while trying to prevent looting. He was detained by Captain Bowen-Colthurst and shot without a trial. She refused £10,000 in compensation and instead looked for a court martial for her husband’s killer.
After the Rising she worked tirelessly to convince the American public to support the Irish cause and conducted a series of lectures there to raise funds. She went to America with Margaret Skinnider and Nora Connolly but the US authorities did not want her there as she was “talking too much” and so she returned to Ireland. In 1917 she was appointed to the executive of Sinn Féin, rising to become the Director of Organisation. In the War of Independence she served as a judge in the Republican law courts in Dublin and during the Civil War she helped to set up the Women’s Prisoners’ Defence League. In the 1930’s Hanna was assistant editor of An Phoblacht. She died in April 1946 and is buried beside her husband Francis in Glasnevin…’ (from here.)
The inscription on the Sheehy Skeffington headstone reads – ‘Sacred to the memory of Mrs. Rose Skeffington, born Magorrian in Ballykinlar, Co. Down. Died at Ranelagh, Dublin 16th April 1909. And Francis Sheehy Skeffington her son / murdered in Portobello Barracks April 26th, 1916 and his wife Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Feminist, Republican, Socialist. Born May 1878 / Died April 1946 And their son Owen Lancelot Sheehy Skeffington, born May 19th 1909, died June 7th, 1970 who, like them, sought truth / taught reason & knew compassion.’
(That headstone dates Hanna’s death as ‘May 1878′, and other sources cite her date of birth as ’24th May’. But, either way, in our opinion, the Lady deserves a write-up and also deserves to be remembered more than she is.)
‘AMERICAN ITEMS OF INTEREST…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.
The Sinn Féin Committee will continue its activities after the elections, and one means by which it hopes to bring the message of Republican Ireland to New York is by playing a more active part in circulating the ‘United Irishman’ newspaper among the scores of thousands of Irish here.
The Prisoners’ Aid Committee are stepping up activities during the summer months. The May 28th dance at the Jaeger House will probably end this type of money-raising for some time as the New York summer heat makes such social activities impossible. Meanwhile, however, the Committee have a table at Gaelic Park where tickets for a prisoners raffle are sold every Sunday, and copies of the ‘United Irishman’ newspaper, detailing the work of the Prisoners Committees in Ireland and England, are available also.
Joseph Sullivan (Louth), an AFL trade union official in New York, is organising a Labour Committee of the prisoners aid so that the thousands of Irish trade unionists in this city may play their part in support of the men in jail. Indeed, many trade unionists are already active in the work of the prisoners aid committee ; among them are Tim Murphy (Kerry), the President of the Compressed Air Workers Union… (MORE LATER.)
KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS…
The heavy-handed official response to a number of Irish publications and websites has drawn attention to this country’s growing satirical network. Which can only be a good thing. By Noel Baker.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, July 2002.
One feature in the February edition of ‘The Slate’ magazine, entitled ‘Blacks in the Jacks’, drawing attention to the growing number of black people working in the toilets of Dublin night spots, attracted strong criticism from some members of the public and sections of the press.
Issue 6 had the papers incandescent with rage over a jokey feature about the Bulger killers fronting Louis Walsh’s new boy band and, more recently, the Garda Siochana claimed that ‘The Slate’ had a hand in the May Day ructions on Dame Street in central Dublin, when images of rampaging gardai battling with demonstrators were beamed into our homes. ‘The Slate’ responded with a ‘Dame Street Massacre Commemorative Issue’ and a front-page headline which blared ‘PIGS OUT!’
The furore prompted thoughts of another satirical monthly which ran into a spot of bother within the last six months – except this one, being web-based, won’t be finding a glass case any time soon. Spoof Northern Ireland (sic) website ‘The Portadown News’ is one of a growing number of satirical efforts that are finding their niche online – and finding controversy there, too.
Website editor ‘Newt’ was forced to quit his job as a technical author at a computer company after pro-republican (sic – that publication is a Provisional Sinn Féin mouthpiece, not “pro-republican”) newspaper ‘The Andersonstown News’ accused him of ‘sectarian bias’ and contacted his employer to complain that he was working on the website while at work, thereby breaching the terms of his contract. The row made it on to the pages of the ‘Observer’ newspaper and ‘BBC Online’, assuring publicity for a website which delights in slamming both sides of the sectarian divide in the North. And it was a personal victory for ‘Newt’, as he explained to ‘Magill’ via email last week – “I got the last laugh because (a), I hated my job, it was unbelievably boring, and (b), I then got offered work at the BBC, ‘Sunday People’ and the ‘Irish News’, which is much more entertaining”, he says, not unreasonably… (MORE LATER.)
‘EITHNE NIC SUIBHNE…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.
Eithne Nic Suibhne (pictured) stated, in her letter –
“Let England clear out of our land and then we can review the situation. If you could get them all on the one cry of ‘let England get out before anyone discusses anything with her’ and if we see any reason for going to war we shall do it when we please, but our present position is neutrality.”
Referring to our October issue and the extracts from speeches made by Mr. Kelly (now a Fianna Fail member in Leinster House) made in May 1916, condemning the Easter Rising, Eithne Nic Suibhne wrote – “…you could tell them (the Councils) that they had better not go on record like that. You might get results..!” These extracts show what a lively interest and a clear, keen understanding she had of current political events and, it need hardly be added, that her insistence on neutrality was with regard to international war.
On the issue of Irish independence, and the clearing-out of the British occupation forces from every inch of our national territory, she certainly was not neutral. How she exulted in the brilliant success of the Armagh Raid ; how gladly she would have read of the raid on the Omagh Barracks only two days after her death! Like her immortal brother, Terence, she would make no compromise. Ar dheis láimh Dé go raibh sí.
(END of ‘Eithne Nic Suibhne’. NEXT – ‘Leinster House Debate ; A Terrible Message For The North’, from the same source.)
Thanks for reading – Sharon and the ‘1169’ team. Stay safe, and ‘play’ safe. Or at least don’t be as reckless as the old you. Or, if you must be, don’t get caught. But if you do get caught, leave our name out of it (especially if we were out partying with ya, but done a bunk out the side door before the Covid Cops arrived)…!