Dail Eireann assembled at the Mansion House on January 21st 1919, issued it Declaration of Independence, and formally andlegally established the Republic of Ireland, electing Cathal Brugha as its first President, De Valera and Griffith, although members of the Dail, were in jail, but Brugha and Collins had escaped the round-up.
Remembered by Seamus G. O’Cellaigh
The proceedings, which will open with the election of a person to fill a post equivalent to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons, will e conducted partly in the Irish language, and are expected to last about 2 hours, after which an adjournment will take place and a date to be fixed. A committee will arrange Irish titles for the different offices afterwards. the Feisiri Dail Eireann (or F.D.E.), as the Republican members are in future to be known, who are to be present numbers only 29 (the majority being interned or in prison).
Dublin Evening Telegraph, 22 January 1919
Members of the First Dail
A limited amount of tickets were issued for the first sitting, and were made available for journalists and the general public. Emily may have applied for a ticket however it is unlikely that she was present.
The first sitting of Dail Eireann in January 1919, was a momentous historical occasion. As there was a public meeting order put in place since July 1918 to prevent organisations such as Cumann na mBan, the Gaelic League, the Irish Volunteers and Sinn Féin gathering as they were all ‘deemed dangerous’. But for the occasion the ban was lifted, due to public interest.
With the order lifted, a limited amount of tickets were issued to the press and public, but had to be applied for through Sinn Fein headquarters at 6 Harcourt Street.
On January 6th 1839 a storm hit Ireland that is still talked about nearly two centuries later. It did not occur in Emily Weddall’s lifetime, but it did during her parent’s. That year her father was in his early career as a priest, and her mother was a girl of about twelve. No doubt they would both talked about during any night of high wind thereafter.
Today it is 180 years since that storm and 110 years since the Old Age Pension was paid to those over seventy in Ireland. Even though it doesn’t look it the two events are bizarrely linked. In the early 1900’s most people had no formal forms of identification the authorities had to rely on other ways of determining age. A lot of the census records from the 1840’s and 50’s had been destroyed so they had to rely on other sources. One of such was the would be recipients ability to recall the Night of the big Wind in 1839 but:
The truth of course was different: since their ages could not be proven one way or another, tens of thousands of Irishmen and Irishwomen aged well under 70 could not be denied the pension. Throughout the country, old people – and many not so old – testified to “eating a potato out of hand” on the night of the “Big Wind” in 1839, so much so that remembering “Oíche na Gaoithe Móire” soon had to be discarded as a test of old age.
From: “The greatest blessing of all: the old age pension in Ireland”, by Cormac Ó Gráda is professor of economics at UCD published in Past Present in 2002
Below is an example of how the ‘pension qualifying story’ traveled well:
Nonetheless it was still held in memory in 1937 when school children collected folklore from their parents, grandparents and neighbors. Here is an excerpt recorded by Kathleen Glynn, a schoolgirl from in County Galway, told to her by her father:
Long ago the old Irish people witnessed a lot of great storms, thunder and lightening. The biggest storm ever witnessed in Ireland was the Night of the Big Wind in 1839. This was a terrible storm. It swept the sea water in from the seas, and brought it miles inland. Cattle, sheep, and all kinds of animals were lost. It knocked houses, hay-ricks, and every kind of corn. There was hay and corn brought miles from people. It knocked houses and plenty of trees all over Ireland. It also left some poor people homeless. Some people were so horrified that they began to say the Rosary and continued praying until the storm was over.
School’s Collection (National Folklore Archive)
If the storm did untold damage in Rural Ireland, it was just as fierce in the Cities and Dublin did not escape its destruction but on a lesser scale
Dublin was described as resembling in many places *a sacked city”. The majority of Dubliners quitted their beds and remained all night in ‘indescribable terror’. The river Liffey rose many feet and overflowed the quay walls. On 6 January the Bethesda chapel in Dorset Street had given thanks at its Sunday noon service for being delivered from a lire which was thought to have been extinguished on Saturday. During Sunday night the wind must have revived the flames, for the chapel, orphan house and female penitentiary, together with five adjoining houses, were burned to the ground. Destruction of property in the capital was estimated, from police statistics, at £6405, or £3 per house on average (Pettigrew and Oulton. 1840). Nevertheless, the Dublin Evening Post (10 January 1839) concluded that the city has suffered less than might have been expected … certainly less — relatively — than other parts of the country.
Emily’s mother lived in Dublin at an address on Clare Street in 1839. She was about 12 years old and no doubt had a memory of the night. She was probably one of the “bed quitters” that took refuge in churches and other more robust buildings. Emily and her siblings may have heard the tale from her mother when they took refuge of a different kind in churches too.
Just as 1918 turned into 1919 the third wave of Spanish Flu stuck the country. The far reaches of Achill was no exception. Glancing through the death records on Achill of early 1919 the majority of deaths were either influenza or related illnesses such as pneumonia. Nobody had medical attendant, as few could afford a doctor. It was a rough winter on the island as it was most places in rural Ireland. Food was in short supply after the end of the war.
Due to the shortage of medically trained, people had to care for their ailing loved ones at home. Emily if she was not in working in Dublin, no doubt would have selflessly attended to the sick, just as she did in the Typhus outbreak of 1913. The district nurse in Achill at that time was Linda Kearns, who like Emily was a Republican and who was involved in the 1916 Rising.
Linda Kearns, a district nurse in Achill in the epidemic, lost no patients to the flu, and attributed her success to her ‘use of poitín as medicine’.
The use of alcohol as medicine during the flu epidemic was not uncommon as there was no other cure.
D.W. Macnamara, who was a junior doctor in the Mater during the outbreak, reflected that whiskey or brandy in ‘heroic doses’ had been a particularly popular option among ‘the older men’.
Dublin Evening Telegraph 13 January 1919 https://civilrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/churchrecords/civil-search.jsp
Cultures of Care in Irish Medical History, 1750–1970. Edited By Catherine Cox; Director, Centre for the History of Medicine, University College, Dublin. Maria Luddy; Professor of Modern Irish History, University of Warwick
As 1918 changed to 1919, life for Emily remained the same. The Spanish flu was still rampant throughout the world, and as a nurse she worked flat out nursing its victims. Financially she was no better off . She still hung on to her house on Achill, but only just. However, politically things in Ireland were on the brink of great change, that was something she could smile about.
Dail Eireann assembled at the Mansion House on January 21st, 1919, issued its Declaration of Independence, and formally and legally established the Republic of Ireland, electing Cathal Brugha as its first President. De Valera and Griffith, although members of the Dail were in Jail, but Brugha and Collins had escaped the round-up.
The Derry Journal, Wednesday, 21st December, 1955
The Derry Journal, Wednesday, 21st December, 1955
MS 46 328/2 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007. National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts.