Bad News for Emily

Early in 1917 the Russian Revolution broke out. Emily having visited Russia as a young woman had a affinity with the country and its people. Why she went to Russia and how she got there is unclear, but it left deep impression on Emily. She must have relayed the story to her biographer Iosold ni Dheirg when the young girl visited Emily at St. Mary’s nursing home in Dublin. Iosold recalled;

On her travels to an unnamed place in Russian in the early years of the twentieth century, Emily was asleep in her room one night. In the early hours she was wakened by a commotion outside the window. Peering out she noticed a group of men all shackled together moving as a unit through the streets. On inquiring Emily was told that they were all being sent to Siberia to work in the salt mines as punishment for what would have been termed a crime. The ‘crime’ may have been as little as stealing to provide for their families. The unfairness of their situation left a deep impression on Emily, that along with the struggles of her early childhood perhaps inspired her to take up arms and fight for her country years later.

In 1917 Ireland was in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Emily had lost some of her friends and more were still in prison. Emily was as always lending a hand to help those less fortunate than herself, and not paying attention to her worsening financial situation. When she finally decided to confront it, it was perhaps too late. When she got back form Dublin she asked a friend to accompany her to her house. Emily did not say a word but took a pile of envelopes from the cupboard, a collection of unpaid bills and documents reminding her of her dire financial state. On top of that her income from Russian industries dried up as a result of the Revolution there.

Emily was never one to complain or burden others with her problems. It was becoming clearer that she would have to find the finances somewhere, which was in her case going back to work. In 1917 Emily turned fifty, hardly old age but, she had not worked since she married in 1908 except when she lent her nursing skills during a typhus outbreak in 1913.

Emily probably had an inkling earlier on in 1917 when the Revolution broke out first in the spring. She make not have paid any attention to it but when the October Revolution re-surged (November now as they used a different calendar in Russia back then), the full realization may have hit her.

The October Revolution

The Kornilov affair created a power vacuum. The immediate threat of a military coup had become non-existent. However, the PG also became almost powerless. Supporters on the right, especially the crucial officers, hated Kerensky for his apparent betrayal of Kornilov. However, Kerensky gained no corresponding credit with the Soviet because he was tainted by his initial collaboration with Kornilov. The process of dissolution of power that began in February, had reached its lowest point. Central power and authority had been dissipated. The popular movement reacted to the attempted military coup with a defensive radicalisation. Having assumed, perhaps naively, that their great goals would inevitably be achieved, the Kornilov affair showed they were, in fact, under threat. To defend the gains of February, they re-asserted their initial objectives. Most important, the first big wave of peasant land seizures began in September and October, also provoked by a “now or never” reaction to the Kornilov affair. Read More

Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Baile Atha Cliath: Coisceim, 1995.
Photo of Iosold Ni Dheirg courtesy of John ‘Twin’ McNamara