15-4-1950. FERMANAGH IN EASTER WEEK. BY EAMONN MacAINDREIS (Eamon Anderson.)
“Right proudly high o’er Dublin Town
They hung out the flag of war
’Twas better to die ’neath an Irish sky,
Than at Suvla or Sud-el-Bar.
And from the plains of Royal Meath
“Strong men came hurrying through,
While Brittania’s sons with their long range guns
Sailed in by the Foggy Dew.”
THIRTY-FOUR long years have passed away since the beginning of the last fight for Irish freedom—a fight that must go on till the last square inch of Irish soil is free from the rule and laws of foreign invaders and native traitors. The Rising of Easter Week 1916 was the trumpet blast, which started to awaken the Irish people from the torpor and misery of the “Slave Mind.’’ O’Connell, greatest of our Irish “ Constitutionalist ” leaders died of a broken heart in Black 47 ” after his life-long efforts for “ Repeal of the Union ” had ended in dismal failure, and the corpses of a million victims of an English-made famine lay rotting in the fields and cabins and graves all over Ireland, whilst another million tried to cross the Atlantic, but at least a third of them never landed as they died of famine going over. Later in the last century came Butt and Parnell, also Constitutionalist leaders, who did their best during their lives. Parnell did his best during the whole of his short life for the reduction of rack-rents and the amelioration of the conditions under which the poor Irish tenant farmers had to live, and no Irish Catholic leader—except those who have shed their blood for Ireland— has as high a place in the affections of the Irish people, even to the present day, as the Protestant Charles Stewart Parnell.
SINN FEIN. In 1903 Arthur Griffith started the Sinn Fein movement. Although the name ’Sinn Feiners’ was given by the English to those who rose with the gun in Dublin in 1916, Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Fein policy simply meant passive resistance and he was, through all his life, totally opposed to resistance with gun. The words “Sinn Fein ” are Irish words meaning “We ourselves,” and one of the mottoes of the movement was “Burn everything English except English coal.” To withdraw all our elected representatives from Westminster, and start a National Assembly in Dublin (Just as was really done here after the General Election of 1918—years before the Treaty was signed). To keep all the money possible at home in Ireland and start home industries of all kinds with it, so as to stop emigration. A verse of the song “ Sinn Fein ” made about 1904 said:
“We cultivate each root and plant ’neath Irish skies;
We wear our Irish home-made goods, our flannels, tweeds and frieze,
And every product of the earth, old Ireland does contain
To keep Irish hands from foreign lands, is the motto of Sinn Fein.”
But although many of the brainiest people in Ireland joined and supported the Sinn Fein movement from the start it was not a success and a young man named Dolan went forward as a Parliamentary candidate in Leitrim in 1907 on the Sinn Fein policy, and was beaten, although not very badly—as he got all the votes of the survivors of the Fenian movement there. I think it was the same Dolan who was really elected for North Leitrim in the General Election of 1918, but any way I am glad, to say that most of us who were attending Kinawley School in 1907 took his part at that time, although some of us were only about 11 years old at the time. But I was just after finishing the reading of A. M. Sullivan’s ‘Story of Ireland,” which gave no very nice picture of British misrule in Ireland, and which ended with a description of the great 11 days snowstorm—from 5th to 16th March, 1867, which prevented or put a stop to the Fenian Rising. In 1914, when the first European War started, every able-bodied man in Ireland was drilling and some very disabled men too; First Carson started the Ulster Volunteers to fight against even a very mild form of Home Rule for any and every part of Ireland, and then John MacNeill started the Irish Volunteers to fight for it if necessary.
In a little village and countryside like this 160 men of the Irish Volunteers drilled almost every evening, their drill instructors being veterans of the South African War—only about a dozen years over at the time. And then came the first Great European War starting on 4th August, 1914. A Home Rule Bill, (awaiting amendment, was rushed through the British House of Commons, but not to take effect till the War was over, and, on the strength of that doubtful promise the Irish Party at Westminster made the terrible mistake of starting to recruit for the British Army. Some of us were very fond of reading the Dublin “Leader,” edited by D. P. Moran at the time, and, though not an “extreme” paper by any means, it was very severe in its criticism of the Irish Party for the stand they were taking. The christened the Irish Party “The All is Won Brigade” and said week after week “We do not desire the death of the All is Won Brigade, but that they be converted and live.” Also the question and answer—”When is a Home Rule Bill not a Home Rule Bill…” “When it is awaiting amendment”; also “We have always admired the Irish Party, but we now want to take the recruiting streamer out of their hats.” The ’Leader’ called the European combatants “The British pot, and the German Kettle ” and gave the recitation of an argument between the Pot and Kettle in which both cast up their misdeeds to each other:
“Upon a kettle, plenty black, its not for pot to make attack ” says the kettle; the pot cast up “ the Church of Rheims destroyed by fire,” but the kettle replied “Ah March, 1867, which prevented or think so much of Papist art— which must be full of superstition, of ignorance and Rome’s tradition.”
“When in doubt, consult the “Leader” was another headline in Moran’s paper. The recruiting policy of the Irish Party naturally split the Irish Volunteers from top to bottom. More than 200,000 took Redmond’s advice and joined the British Army—while John MacNeill, founder and leader of the Volunteers, was totally opposed to recruiting at all times. A party in Knockninny parish “who had never lost the old Fenian faith” (i.e., the faith in an Irish Republic) separated from, the rest and went out. and drilled by themselves, whilst we, the 160 Volunteers of the Fermanagh part of Kinawley Parish, avoided the difficulty by ceasing to drill altogether. ”
If an odd unfortunate man did join the, British forces, the saying always was: “He must have been drunk! when he threw himself away like that.
More than a year and a half of the Great War had passed away when the startling news came of the Rising of Easter Week. Although the fight had been going on from noon on Monday the news did not come to to our part of the county till Thursday morning, and I must say that very few understood it or approved of it at the time. However, that day I met an old man named Owen Jones on the road, who had been a long time in America in his day, and he said “It’s time for us to hear good news like this. What are these men only the Fenians? What is this only the Fenian Rising—50 years delayed?”
SIX FERMANAGH MEN. As far as I can find out up to the present at least 6 Fermanagh men; all of them living in Dublin at the time, took part in the Rising. Of course there may have been more, but anything I can find I will publish here—
le cúnamh Dé (With the help of God.). The names of the 6 men were;—George Irvine and a man named Wilson, both natives of Enniskillen; Philip Cassidy and Owen Green, natives of Mullaghdun; and two men named Maguire and Meehan, natives of Derrygonnelly. George Irvine was a captain in the Irish Volunteers, and a Professor in Trinity College. In the early part of his life he lived in East Bridge Street, Enniskillen. but left it when very young. On the 29th June, 1917, he was chaired through the streets of Enniskillen, by a great cheering crowd of Fermanagh Nationalists.
Wilson kept a boot shop in East Bridge Street about 50 years ago, but his place was burned—he lost his money and goods and then went to live in Dublin. Both Irvine and Wilson were Protestants. Owen Green was in business in Dublin at the time, and now owns and works a farm and drapery store at Kinlough, County Leitrim. He was wounded in the Rising and interned after it. Maguire and Meehan were also in business in Dublin at the time. I have not yet found out their present whereabouts, but it is believed they are in Glasgow. They fought in the G.P.O. Philip Cassidy (trocaire De are a n-anim) passed away in Dublin on 5th May, 1938. His remains were brought home and interred in Arney Churchyard, where a crowd gathers every year at Easter to pray for the repose of his soul. At the time of the Rising he was a young man in business in Dublin and bought his own rifle, revolver and uniform. He fought beside Patrick Pearse in the G.P.O. He had 6 brothers and 3 sisters. Two of his brothers have also passed away. Patrick passed away on 1st June, 1933 in Glasgow. His remains were also brought home and interred in Arney Churchyard. Charles was killed in an accident in New York. Henry emigrated to Australia and lives in Brisbane, Queensland. He is a great writer in Australian papers on Irish affairs and especially on the Border question.
Thomas Gregory is a Civic Guard in Ballyconnell, Co., Cavan. Maurice runs a business in Belmore Street, Enniskillen, while John runs a farm at Carrigans, Enniskillen. Miss Barbara Cassidy also lives with her brother at Carrigans, while Mrs. Alice Corrigan, another sister, lives at Mullaghdun, and Mrs. Annie MacManus. another sister, whose husband is a Free State Customs and Excise man lives at Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. John Cassidy has also suffered great hardships for his country during the trouble, which has left him disabled, long before his time. He did 21 years in the old prison ship in Belfast Lough, the Argenta. Some day before long, I must give the experiences of all the Fermanagh men who have suffered in this way, after having a chat with them one by one. Another man, named Tom O’Shea, who worked in Enniskillen for a while in his time, also took part in the Rising. He was a native of Donegal. He was sentenced to be hanged, was in Peterhead Prison for a while, and also in Derry Jail. I have heard that a number of Volunteers in the Belcoo district were away from home during the whole of Easter Week, but it is not known whether they were in the Rising or not.
George Irvine was over 50 at the time of the Rising. The others were all young men in their 20’s. Much has yet to be written about the War of Independence and Fermanagh’s part in it, but I am now going to finish up this article with a few extracts from the pen of Henry J. Cassidy—written about 5 years ago in the “Brisbane Leader ” on the evils of Partition in Ireland:
“Partly as a result of clever propaganda, many people have a vague sort of idea that the North- Eastern part of Ireland is somewhat like a piece of Great Britain placed on the wrong side of the Irish Sea. In reality this mutilated portion of Ireland’s Northern Province is in most ways about one of the most distinctively Irish parts of Ireland: It even includes one of Ireland’s all too few remaining native Gaelic-speaking districts (despite the fact that Irish is treated as a foreign language by the Six-County education authorities). The North-East corner has rather more than its proportionate share of links with Ireland’s patron saint and her glorious early centuries of Christianity. The ancient city of Armagh with its splendid Cathedral, is the Archiepiscopal seat of the Cardinal Primate of all Iceland, who is the lineal successor of St Patrick. The much-abused “Ulster” has been for such a long time misused and misapplied that it has come to signify in the minds of many people the term “Orangemen.”
In contrast to this loud-mouthed plantation “Ulster” there is the real original Ulster of the Red Branch Knights – an Ulster nurtured on countless generations of legend and folklore, history and tradition, blending and harmonizing with and being part and parcel of the inspiring legends, history and traditions of an unconquerable and indivisible Ireland. This invincible spirit of Irish patriotism is just as vital and indestructible in the Six-Counties cut off from the rest of Ireland, as in the 3 Ulster counties which were left to form part of “Southern Ireland.” “One learns with some misgiving that there is a number of quite sincere Irish patriots, who seemingly hold the belief that Partition must continue till the Orange brethren in the North-East can be won over in favour of a United Ireland. It would appear that these extremely moderate Irish people think their country should submit to mutilation and Six-County Catholics put up with being trodden in the dust for another few generations or so.