Monthly Archives: November 2015

Drafting The Constitution at the Shelbourne

The chair in the Shelbourne Museum inscribed; Darrell Figgis

The chair in the Shelbourne Museum inscribed; Darrell Figgis

In 1922  the Provisional Government under Chairmanship of Michael Collins was formed. On January 30th a Committee set up to draft the Free State Constitution . Darrell Figgis, was eleced the Vice Chairman, and the acting Chairman was Michael Collins.

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In May 1922, The Shelbourne played host to its most historic meeting – the drafting of the Irish Constitution. Bunreacht na hÉireann was drawn up in room 112, under the leadership of Michael Collins. This room is now The Constitution Room.

The Free State Constitution was ratified by the Irish Provisional Government December 5th 1922.

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The Constitution Room is preserved pretty much as it was when the Constitution was drafted. The table pictured below is the original. It is used by head concierge and historian Denis T. C. O’Brien when he gives his historical talks on the third Sunday of every month.

DSCF2030Denis C. T. O’Brien, head concierge and historian at the Shelbourne

Darrell Figgis is well credited for the part he played in the creating the first Constitution of Ireland, in the Shelbourne Hotel. The Chair he sat on is on display in the museum as is a copy of the original draft. They have even paid tribute to Figgis by naming a suite after him on the third floor, the only dedication to him anywhere.

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Sources
http://www.marriott.com/hotel-info/dubbr-the-shelbourne-dublin-a-renaissance-hotel/history/wqhhfdg/home-page
Thanks to
Denis C. T. O’Brien, Shelbourne Hotel
Edward King, Achill
Photos by courtesy of the Shelbourne Hotel

 

Elections, the Dail and a Narrow Escape

From 1918 until 1923 Darrell Figgis was seldom out of the political spotlight. The first Dail met in Janruary of 1919, and in June he was elected to the Ard Chomhairle of Sinn Fein, however the Dail was decalred illegal earlier on that year.

During the election campaign he narrowly escaped death by hanging by Captain Crawford, following arrest at Dail Court at Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim.

DSCF34531919 – 1921 – Irish War of Independence raged until the Truce  of July 11th 1921. During that period Darrell Figgis and his wife Millie went into hiding at their friend’s house in the Dublin Mountains close to the Hell Fire Club, a place that would feature in their lives again but under circumstances so tragic they could not possibly imagine at that time. In the early summer of 1920 they stayed in a cottage owned by the Fox family, as it was too dangerous for people with a profile to stay safely in the city. Most of the leader’s homes were under surveillance and searched as was the Figgis’.

In 1922 – Dail Eireann approves Treaty by 64 votes to 57. Arthur Griffith becomes President of Dail. The Provisional Government was under Chairmanship of Michael Collins and on January 30th a committee was set up to draft the Free State Constitution  with Darrell Figgis, Vice Chairman, and acting Chairman for Michael Collins.

Sources
http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS1770%20Section%205.pdf#page=105

 

Thanks to
Edward King, Achill
Prison Boards of Ireland

 

 

Politics, Prison and Emily’s Intervention

Photo courtesy of Prison Boards of Ireland

Photo courtesy of Prison Boards of Ireland

1918 proved to be another eventful year for Darrell Figgis. His political career was flourishing and he was touring the country giving lectures. But as it happened he was captured yet again by the authorities in May and arrested for “Entering into treasonable communication with the German enemy.”

The warrant for his arrest was as follows;

…The Chief Secretary for Ireland ordered that the said DARRELL FIGGIS should be interned in His Majesty’s Prison at Durham and should there be subject to all the regulations applying to persons therein interned and should remain there until further orders:..

This time he was held at Durham Gaol, in the worst conditions yet as it was working prison holding to make matters worse there was an outbreak of flu which was claiming lives of thousands, nobody was spared. Darrell Figgis was struck down with it, but recovered. Then back home in Dublin his wife Millie contracted it too. It was much more complicated as she had underlying heart problems. Her doctor Alice Barry wrote to the authorities;

“Mrs Darrell Figgis is suffering form influenza and is not making satisfactory progress, and that owning to an old cardiac lesion the disease may take a grave form.”

Emily, who was a qualified nurse looked after Millie through her illness. Realising that Millie may not pull through,she sent a telegram to the Chief Secretary for Ireland requesting that Darrell Figgis be granted parole from prison.

“I wish to draw your attention to the urgency of the matter placed before you in regard to Mrs Darrell Figgis.

Weddall Nurse”

Dr. Barry and Emily’s intervention did not carry any weight with the authorities, Darrell Figgis was not granted parole. Millie made a full recovery. He was eventually released in early 1919.

 

Sources
Liverpool Echo 18 May 1918. P 4
CO 904/201/141
Thanks to
Edward King, Achill
Prison Boards of Ireland

Prison

When Darrell Figgis was released from prison in December 1916 his freedom was short lived. Two months into 1917 he along with other Sinn Fein activists were ordered under Defence of the Realm Act to leave Ireland and reside at Fairford, Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire

Gloucestershire

It was more of an exile rather than imprisonment. Figgis and his fellow Sinn Fein  ‘detainees’ were allowed a certain amount of freedom and were at liberty to travel within the UK, even free to attend concerts in London. The only condition was they were not under any circumstance to return to Ireland.

That is exactly what they did. In the event of the north Longford Election of 1917 it was decided that some of them should return to Ireland for it. Darrell Figgis was one of three that did, managing to slip in and out of the country undetected.

In July of that year the order was rescinded and Figgis was free to return to Ireland. His political career was resumed and a month later in August 1917 he was addressing a Sinn Fein meeting in Castlebar, which Emily and Anita McMahon attended. By October Figgis was elected as joint secretary of Sinn Fein along with Austin Stack.

 

 Special thanks;
Edward King, Achill
Sources
http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0766.pdf#page=62-
Tuam Herald

Achill and Arrest

During the Easter week 1916 Darrell Figgis had been busy with his writing. He had now idea about the events that were unfolding in Dublin over the last few days. The only idication that there was anything out of the ordinary was the post was late.

It was not till some hours after noon that, looking along the road for the post that was so unaccountably late, I saw a friend making her way toward to house on her bicycle. As she come nearer and dismounted I could see the traces of tears on her cheeks, and wondered.

“The post is very late, ” I said.

“There is no post,” she replied, “but there’s terrible news. “There has been fighting in Dublin…”

The woman was possibly Emily and the event in Dublin was the Easter Rising. Darrell grew nervous he knew that he was under scrutiny from the authorities since the Howth Gunrunning in 1914. His fears were not unfounded, a few days later the dreaded knock came to the door.

A large number of men were passing round the house. We [he and his wife Millie] leapt out of bed, and, peering through the windows, could see two peelers [policemen] at each window, with rifles at the “ready.”

he was hauled off to Castlebar Jail and then transferred to Richmond Gaol in Dublin before been sent to Stafford Gaol in England before serving further time in Reading Gaol, before he was released in December of that year. This was not the last time he would see English prisons…DSCF2503

 

Sources

Figgis, Darrell, and William Murphy. A Chronicle of Jails. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2010.
Thanks to;
Edward King, Achill