Monthly Archives: March 2016

Ella and Emily

Emily and Ella’s paths would have intertwined quite a bit between the early days of  Scoil Alca and when Ella left for the States in the mid twenties. They shared similar interests and would have mixed in both Gaelic League and Nationalist circles. They also met socially in artistic circles too. In an Irish Times article Irish Artists “At Home”, both Emily and Ella were listed as attendees at the exhibition opening. Quite a few Nationalists were present too, names such as Countess Markieviez, whose husband was showing work, the Gifford sisters and a Miss Comerford, all future members of Cumann na mBan. In a few short years these women would meet up again but under completely different circumstances.

DSCF3596Mr. George Russell’s Pictures
By Our Lady Correspondent.
On Saturday afternoon Mr, George Russell, Mrs Baker, and Count Markieviez were “at home” to their friends to their friends at the Hall, Merrion Row. The gathering was extremely interesting, and representative of the artists who are taking a prominent part in the Irish renaissance. Painters, actors, dramatists, and poets were there in genial intercourse, and the “rigidity” of the ordinary “at home” was entirely absent in the atmosphere of Upper Bohemia…

In 1912 Ella moved to rural Co. Wicklow. She was part of a network of people that stored guns obtained from the Howth Gun Running incident of 1914.The same year Cumman na mBan was formed but she did not join the organisation at the time, but she did begin writing for Sinn Féin.  She was in Dublin at the time, but did not take part in the Easter Rising for she was not informed of the plans, as she was seen to be more of an artist that a revolutionary; Helena Molony who was in Liberty hall during Easter week explains Ella’s position in her Witness Statement to the Bureau of Military History many years later.

“About 6.30 or 7 on Holy Saturday evening, while the shop was still open, I went out for a half an hour to give a letter to Ella Young. I knew I was going to fight the next day and I wanted to hand it to her her, so that I must have then that the Rising was to be on Easter Sunday. I should think I knew it a week beforehand, although I cannot now say how I knew it. I do not remember being told definitely I intended to race to where Ella Young lived and leave the letter not telling her anything about the coming fight. I was closely associated with her and she was very much with us but was more of an artist.”

She was a suspect but evaded imprisonment. In the following posts there will be a day to day account of the Rising, as  documented by Ella.Influenced by the Rising and Countess Markievicz’s release from prison in 1917 Ella Young Then became a member of Cumann na mBan, and in 1919 began distributing arms again.
After the Ireland gained its freedom she went to the US on a lecture tour and  ended up staying on, lecturing in Celtic Mythology in Berkeley University in California.

After touring the US as a lecturer for six years, she was granted citizenship and settled in California to teach at the University of California at Berkeley and continue her folklore studies, shifting her focus to Mexican and Native American legends. Retiring only when she no longer had the energy to teach, she lived out the rest of her life gardening, writing, and attending to the whims of her cats. Read more

Ella's cat Mascot. Courtesy  of National Library of Ireland

Ella’s cat Mascot. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland

In 1951 at the age of 81 she wrote her autobiography Flowering Dusk; Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately. She died in the USA in 1956 aged 88 never having returned to live in the country that she played a part in freeing.


Irish Times Articles, Monday September 13 1913 Page 9
No Ordinary Women; Irish Female Activists in the Revolutionary Years 1900-1923, McCoole Sinead,2003, The O’Brien Press, Dublin, Pages 213-214.
Flowering Dusk; Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately, Young Ella, 1945, Logmans, Green and Co., New York, Toronto. 1945

Ella Young

Emily Weddall made many friends through the Gaelic League and the cultural circles that were associated with the movement. One such person was Ella Young. Ella was no stranger to Achill as she spent time there in the early 1900’s, learning the folk and fairy lore of the Island. Her and Emily’s paths may have crossed then for the first time. Later she would attend Scoil Acla classes, where the two women would have definitely met. Over the years they would have moved in the same circles and would have had many friends in common such as the Pearse family, George Moore, George (AE) Russell and the Trench sisters Cessca and Margot.

Ella Young was born in Co. Antrim in 1865. Sometime in early childhood her family moved to the Bog of Allen, a area that left a deep impression on her, in her autobiography; Flowering Dusk: Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately, she recalled: ” what did I carry away from that countryside of horizons? I sense of spacious skies of great embattled clouds, of fiery sunsets and rose-red dawns”. Later on her family relocated to Rathmines, Dublin. She graduated from the Royal University of Ireland (UCD), originally on Earlsfort Terrace in history and law. It was was there that she  first took an interest in Irish mythology and folklore.

Ella; produced by kind permission of the National Library of Ireland

Ella; produced by kind permission of the National Library of Ireland

Young, Ella, and Stephen Griffin. Flowering Dusk: Things Remembered Accurately and Inaccurately. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., 1945.
Mayo News June 5th 1915



When Anita McMahon arrived on Achill in 1912 to learn Irish she could not have imagined that the Island would become her home for most of her life. Fate stepped in and put her in the way of the people and events that would shape her life from there on in.

Emily Weddall was one of those people,Eva O’Flaherty was another, Darrell Figgis, Paul Henry and Claud Chavasse would have their influence on her too. No only did she make friends with this group of people she also collaborated on many things with her Achill cohorts.

Shortly after Anita arrived on Achill in late 1912 early 1913 the Achill Land Wars were in full swing. Again she put her journalistic skills into practice, reporting on the event and writing letters to the Mayo News supporting those affected by the agitation.  Emily, herself was a Protestant tenant of the Achill Mission Estate, the one at the centre of the controversy.

This event in history was recorded for the National Folklore Commission; The Schools’ Collection in 1937/38. The informant was by Pádhraic Mac Pháidín, the headmaster of Tonatavally, on Achill. 

St Thomas' Church on the Achill Mission Estate

St Thomas’ Church on the Achill Mission Estate

About 30 years ago the C. D. B. [Congested District Board] was buying up the estates in the poorest part of the West. The people wanted the “Achill Mission” to sell and they refused. An agitation was commenced and eventually they agreed but wanted to retain the lands of the Colony and other Protestant Settlements in the Island. the Protestants became infuriated at this juggling and the Catholics promised them support moral and material. This was in 1912. the leaders were Rev. Fr. Colleran, Darrell Figgis and William Egan, a Protestant gentleman of Slievemore.To these must be added the name of Walter Bourke another Protestant, who by verse and organising ability gave impetus to the movement…

…A system of boycotting was adopted, and Grierson was compelled to get two “Emergency men” from outside. A mass meeting was convened and the people marched in a body to the Rent office and demanded that the land should be sold…

Master Mac Pháidín remembers that the Agitation went on for the entire winter of 1912/13, but was resolved eventually in the Spring. With the perseverance of the locals and under the guidance of   Fr. Colleran the Land Wars ended quietly, the people of Achill the victors.

Mr Scott sold out immediately at the commencement of the agitation and Mr Pike did likewise a short time afterward. the Achill Mission and Mrs McDonnell did so at last.

The remarkable thing about the whole saga was it disproved the popular opinion that Catholics and Protestants were on opposite sides. In a letter to the Mayo News Anita tells of how the people of Achill from different backgrounds and religion united to sort out the situation for the good of all.

In conclusion it is pleasant to be able to state that Achill offers an emphatic denial of the much talked of division between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. In Achill, if anywhere for reasons too long to explain here we might expect to find sectarian feeling very strong. Yet today, in striking vindication the Irish Protestant from the Irish Catholic we find the Protestant Dugort  tennants united with their Catholic neighbours, and as anxious as they are to free Achill Island from the blighting influence of the Achill Mission trusteeship…



The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0086, Page 318 Tonatanvally, Co. Mayo

The Mayo News, April 12 1913

Anna Agnes Mary McMahon

Anna Agnes Mary McMahon was born on 16 May 1871 in Cork city and christened in St Finbar’s Church. Anna Agnes appeared on her birth certificate and baptisimal record, but was known to family and friends as Antia.

Her father Thomas John McMahon was the manager of the National Bank on the South Mall in the city. Little is known about her early life, given her father’s profession she must have enjoyed a relatively comfortable existence. She qualified as a journalist and may have studied in University College Cork, or Queen’s College as it was known at the time. There was a degree course in journalism there in the early 1900’s, which she may have attended. She worked on Fleet St., London for some time.

Some time in the beginning of the 1900’s like Emily Anita began mixing in Gaelic League circles, which in turn inspired her to sign up for Irish language classes run by Scoil Acla. The summer school and/or the people she met there had a profound influence on Antia’s life. She more or less made Achill her home for life.DSCF1639




“Ireland Births and Baptisms, 1620-1881,” index, <i>FamilySearch</i> ( : accessed 15 Sep 2014), Anna Agnes Mary Mc Mahon, 16 May 1871; citing Cork, Ireland, reference v 10 p 202; FHL microfilm 255824.