Emily had many heroes in her lifetime, most of whom were Irish Patriots especially if they took part in a rebellion against British rule. One of those perhaps closest to her heart was Fr. Manus Sweeney. He was born in Dukinella, a stone’s throw of her house on Keel Sandybanks.
Fr. Sweeney was hanged in 1799 in Newport for his supposed part in the Rebellion of the previous year. There are many legends attached to his life and death, many seeped in the supernatural.
In 1942 Emily and her friends Anita McMahon, Eva O’Flaherty, used their influence to gain publicity for the funding of a monument dedicated to the patriot priest to be erected outside his birthplace on the Island. Sculptor, Peter Grant won the commission, which was completed, and inaugurated in August 1944.
“Denying the right of the British Government to enforce Compulsory service in this Country we pledge ourselves solemnly to one another to resist Conscription by the most effective means at our disposal.”
Above is the wording of the Anti-conscription Pledge devised in April 1918. During the summer after a major offensive by the Germans in April there was a conscription crisis in Britain. Ireland had been exempt from enforced conscription since 1915. To read more about how it came about:
Within weeks of the World War One beginning in the summer of 1914, there were already some who, fearing that conscription was likely, emigrated from Ireland. From the summer of 1915 compulsory military service had become a live possibility. Read more
The papers contained many articles as the one below in The Irish Independent of 25 June 1918:
In future Irishmen crossing to Great Britain for munition or Government work will be called up for military service in the same manner as other British Subjects, Mr. Beck told a questioner in Parliament yesterday but Irishmen in munition factories will not be compulsorily recruited before they are given an opportunity of returning to Ireland.
It was stated that 40,000 had crossed since Oct. 1916, but that the undertaking given to them would be unaltered at present. “The new decision – which Mr. Beck told Mr. Lough he didn’t think would require legislation – will not affect those brought across by the Ministry of Labour. or those holding employment Exchange certificates.
Sir Edward Carson put a couple of questions about hose men being younger than men called up for service, and Mr. Beck had no doubt many for them were. The men referred to would be liable to military service only for administrative action protecting them on the ground that they came over in response to a Government request.”
The women of Ireland did not want to see their sons partaking in a war that was not of their making.
To find out more watch the informative YouTube video; Filmed by Marcus Howard. Liz Gillis gives a talk on women in the 1918 Anti Conscription Campaign. The talk was filmed at the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Anti Conscription Conference in The Mansion House. Liz Gillis is a historian, author and researcher having written “The Fall of Dublin”, “Women of the Irish Revolution”, “The Hales Brothers and the Irish Revolution” and “May 25th: The Burning of the Custom House 1921”.
In 1942 Eva O’Flaherty, Anita McMahon and Emily along with the local parish priest and school teacher began their campaign to erect a monument dedicated to the Achill born Patriot Priest of the 1798 rebellion, Fr. Manus Sweeney. Fr. Sweeney was executed for his alleged part in the insurrection in 1799.
The well planned campaign began two years before the priest’s 180th birth anniversary in 1942. The project could easily have become impeded with obstacles, as it in the middle of World War Two. Ireland was a neutral country, and was experiencing “the Emergency”, where the flow of goods, services and transportation was slowed down. But the monument was going to be unveiled to mark an date, and that was how it was going to be. The well organised committee got in touch with the media, announcing their intention to the country. Below is one such article.
After the 1912 Scoil Acla session ended in early September Emily Weddall and An Paorach [Francis Hugh Power] made a visit to Connaught Irish College in Tourmakeady, in Co. Mayo. Scoil Acla had just enjoyed a good run and the pair may have been making a return visit to the Irish College.
Another item on their agenda was the payment of school teachers. Fr. Meehan, who visited the college too, made the point that teachers who could teach in both English and Irish should be paid at a higher rate than those who only taught through English. An Paorach was a bi-lingual teacher, who taught on Achill Beg. Part of his wages were paid the department of education, the rest by Emily Weddall, who was independently wealthy and happy to fund anything that encouraged the revival of the Irish language.