Lady Rachel Dudley was celebrated as one of the beauties of her generation. A favorite of the Prince of Wales she turned heads everywhere she went. The loveliness of her face was far surpassed by her generosity and willingness to help those less fortunate.
Born Rachel Gurney, to a family of Quaker bankers, she showed talent as a singer as a young girl. Her golden voice captured the attention of the Duchess of Bedford, who took her and her sister on as protegees, paying for lessons by renowned Italian composer and singing teacher Paolo Tosti. The young Rachael was about to embark on a singing career but fate intervened.
Miss Gurney was about to adopt music as a profession when at that junctuire her friend Lady Edith Ward, came riding by with her brother Lord Dudley, who fell in love first with the voice and then with the singer. “I wanted to marry the most beautiful woman in England – I could not marry you so I will marry Rachel Gurney.” Lord Dudley was heard to have said to his mother.
The Nottingham Evening Post 28 June 1920
The wedding took place in Christchurch, Chelsea, London on 18th September 1891 (which happened to be Emily’s 24th birthday). The wedding aroused much curiosity in population, who all but stampeded to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bride!
Christchurch Times 19 September 1891
Belfast News-Letter 26 April 1920
12 July 1924 – Weekly Irish Times – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
“In the summer of 1920, while the War of Independence was raging, Lady Rachel came once more to Screebe Lodge. She was alone. On the morning of June 26, she went for a swim, and never returned. Her body was later retrieved from the sea.”
On June 26th 1920 after traveling from England to Screebe House, the family’s summer residence in Connemara just the day before, Lady Dudley went for a swim to freshen up. After a long and tiring journey, she decided to take a dip as a way of revivification. She did not return.
Lady Dudley was swimming off the jetty at the back of her residence and had taken a lifebelt with her when she entered the water. On the jetty observing her was her maid, Ms Norman, who remarked that Lady Dudley had swum 30 yards from the jetty and appeared to be enjoying herself when she suddenly got into trouble. She threw her hands in the air and sank below the water’s surface. She disappeared from sight and only her lifebelt came to the surface. Her body was later recovered.
In August 1920 an exhibition opened at St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin showing the work of Ireland’s finest artists of the day. Paul and Grace Henry had spent almost a decade painting on Achill, its unique landscape and people proving a backdrop and subjects for their visual accounts of the epoch. Leticia Hamilton along with her sister Eva spent time painting on the island too, capturing it in all its splendor. One hundred years later these artists along with many others are celebrated in Mary J Murphy’s book, Achill Painters, an Island History.
On August 1st 2020, under the auspices of Scoil Acla, Achill Painters was launched in Lourdie’s (The Pub) car park, by Achill poet John F. Deane complemented by Anne Burke and local Historian John ‘Twin’ McNamara. The book is a written and visual love letter to Achill, by the artists who found their inspiration on the island, in the words of Mary J. Murphy. It is available from Kennys and Charlie Byrnes of Galway both in store and online. It is also available from Achill Tourism and in other outlets on Achill and Co. Mayo.
In late June 1920 a section of the Connaught Rangers stationed in Punjab State, Norther India staged a protest. Outraged by the activites of the Crown Forces in Ireland they simply refused to preform their military duties. A few days later their counterparts in Solon joined the demonstration, by flying the Irish tricolour, wearing Sinn Fein and engaging in other acts of disobedience, whilst singing rebel songs.
The protests took a violent turn, when the soldiers armed with whatever weapons they had to hand, tried to take possession of their rifles held in the magazine. The on duty guards opened fire, a shootout ensued resulting in the death of two, putting an end to the mutiny. The protesters at both camps were captured and placed under armed guard. Sinn Fein were blamed for engineering the plot, and sixty one were charged for their part in the mutiny. Fourteen men in total were sentenced to death by firing squad.
In the summer of 1920 there was an escalation of conflict between the Crown forces and the IRA. Ordinary civilians were often targeted as reprisals for
This triggered a grave escalation of the conflict as the new forces carried out reprisals on the civilian population for IRA attacks – in the summer of 1920 burning extensive parts of the towns of Balbriggan and Tuam for example. The IRA in response formed full-time Flying Columns (also called Active Service Units), which in some parts of the country became much more ruthless and efficient at guerrilla warfare.
Alongside the limited armed campaign there was significant passive resistance including hunger strikes by prisoners (many of whom were released in March 1920) and a boycott by railway workers on carrying British troops.
Another way of passive resistance was refusing to provide troops with food and other necessities, as was the case on Achill in summer 1920.
MARINES ON ACHILL
A detachment of 25 marines landed at Purteen Harbour, Keel, Achill, and occupied the local coastguard station. they were refused supplies at the shop of Miss M’Hugh and Lr. Achill Co-op. Society. a man bringing turf to the coastguards was turned back. Posters warning the people against dealings with the marines were torn down by the officer.