“So on this 19th day of January 1921 they took us back to Galway Fail which now admitted both of us. In the jail we fund another political prisoner, Miss Anita MacMahon, of a writer and a worker for Land Reform in Achill. She had been there for some time a and showed the signs and strain of imprisonment”. Alice M Cashel, recalled in her witness statement decades later. Anita was more than half way into her six month sentence for possession of seditious documents.
Anita who was used of having more freedom than most in her time must have found incarceration very difficult. Moreover, she had to endure being locked up while her friends were free and able to participate in the war against the British forces. Emily would have visited her if at all possible, although it may have been difficult for her to leave Dublin while she was working as a nurse or traveling when nearly every train was held up due to ambushes, searches and sometimes violent attacks. The latter would have been less of a problem for Emily than missing work.
WS Ref #: 366 , Witness: Alice M Cashel, Member Cumann na mBan, Galway; Vice-Chairman Galway County Council, 1920-1921
One hundred years ago, Emily’s friend Anita McMahon gets sentenced in Galway District Court, after being charged before a court-martial, the previous month. Anita stood silently before the jurisdiction, and was not represented by a lawyer, as she refused to recognise the court in which she was brought before, a British Court. Her address was given as Keel, Achill.
Anita was arrested on September 30th at her home, where a copy of the West Mayo Brigade Orders, the local Branch of IRA, dated 10th September. Among the documents were a pamphlet entitled “The Faith and Morals of Sinn Fein” and various other papers that were considered seditious. A week or so later the house, which was by then under surveillance by the local RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary), was searched again. More ‘seditious’ papers were found, this time a typewritten sheet, containing subversive phrases, enough to have Miss McMahon, hauled off to the local RIC station, possibly at Dugort or Achill Sound and then on to Galway.
MacSwiney’s 74-day hunger strike captured the attention of the international press and raised the profile of calls for an independent Ireland. It also kicked off protests in cities around the world such as New York. At the time Eamon de Valera was on an eighteen month tour of America on a mission to establish the Ireland as a Republic and to help raise finance for the independence movement. The event of the Lord Mayor’s death garnered a lot of support from the American’s. He was the second Lord Mayor of Cork to die in the dark days of the War of Independence. In March On 20 March 1920, his was shot dead Thomas Curtain by the RIC, (Royal Irish Constabulary) in front of his wife and child. It was his thirty-sixth birthday.
His death, the second death of a Cork mayor that year, made headlines around the world and brought international attention to the campaign for Irish freedom.
After his death further his family suffered the further fear that his body would be, like most prisoners interred in the grounds of Brixton Prison, as his funeral would certainly be a huge political affair. The British Home Office allowed his body to be put on board a ship and be sailed directly to his hometown Cork, bypassing Dublin completely. If it were to go to the Irish capital MacSwiney would certainly be given a state funeral, which would only turn up the heat on the political situation. His family won out in the end and they were granted permission to bring his coffin to St. George’s Church in London. It was the first of three funerals for the patriotic Lord Mayor. Thousands, many British filed by his remains before being removed to an awaiting ship to make his final journey home to the country he gave his life for.
His body was brought from the Cathedral in London, put on a train, accompanied by a large group of mourners, it was also accompanied by police, which arrived at Hollyhead early. The ship, which his family, mourners and Nationalists hoped would dock in Dublin for a funeral there, but it was not to be. His body was taken directly to Cork, vetoed by the authorities, to avoid large demonstrations in Dublin. Incensed Nationalists were not deterred from giving MacSwiney the funeral he deserved. A day of mourning and funeral procession went ahead even without a body. A Requiem Mass was said at the Pro-Catherdral attended by a crowd that spilled out onto Marlborough Street.
An hearse, without a coffin followed by thousands of mourners, made its way along the lined streets of Dublin to Kingsbridge Station, the same route that would have been followed if a real funeral was permitted. All the same it was followed lorries of British soldiers and met at the station by an armored car.
Terence McSwiney’s body arrived in Cork city. His family with guard of Irish Volunteers brought the body to Cork City Hall, where it lay in state for the citizens to pay their respects. His funeral at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne on October 31 attracted enormous crowds. He was buried in the Republican Plot of St Finbarr’s Cemetery, where Arthur Griffith gave the oration.
MacSwiney’s hunger strike instead had an international effect. The British Government was threatened with a boycott of goods by Americans, countries in South America pleaded with the Pope to intervene, while protests took place in Germany and France.
Terence McSwiney’ death was a source of inspiration to freedom fighters such as Gandhi, who also used hunger strike as a quiet power against the British government. he also inspired writers and poets such as Lousiene Murphy below:
His writing was published after his death such as the poem below.
The death of Terence MacSwiney was one of a myriad of events that lead to the burning of Cork, a pivotal event in the War of Independence a little over a month later.
One hundred years ago this week, Cork Lord Mayor Terrance MacSwiney died, after being on hunger strike for 73 days. His refusal to eat began on the day of his arrest on charges of sedition, in August 1920. He was one eleven Republicans from Cork to embark on a hunger strike as a form of protest.
Hunger striking had become a was a way of wielding power over the British Government by Irish Republicans during the revolutionary period. In 1917, Thomas Ashe was one of the first to die from the refusal of food, with many Irish political prisoners following in his footsteps. Most survived as they were released from jail, putting an end to their protest. After the death of Terence MacSwiney and two other Cork hunger strikers, Michael Fitzgerald and Joseph Murphy, acting President of the Republic, Arthur Griffith called for the surviving nine to end their fast. By early November all the Cork hunger strikers began taking food again.
Lady Rachel Dudley was celebrated as one of the beauties of her generation. A favorite of the Prince of Wales she turned heads everywhere she went. The loveliness of her face was far surpassed by her generosity and willingness to help those less fortunate.
Born Rachel Gurney, to a family of Quaker bankers, she showed talent as a singer as a young girl. Her golden voice captured the attention of the Duchess of Bedford, who took her and her sister on as protegees, paying for lessons by renowned Italian composer and singing teacher Paolo Tosti. The young Rachael was about to embark on a singing career but fate intervened.
Miss Gurney was about to adopt music as a profession when at that junctuire her friend Lady Edith Ward, came riding by with her brother Lord Dudley, who fell in love first with the voice and then with the singer. “I wanted to marry the most beautiful woman in England – I could not marry you so I will marry Rachel Gurney.” Lord Dudley was heard to have said to his mother.
The Nottingham Evening Post 28 June 1920
The wedding took place in Christchurch, Chelsea, London on 18th September 1891 (which happened to be Emily’s 24th birthday). The wedding aroused much curiosity in population, who all but stampeded to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bride!
Christchurch Times 19 September 1891
Belfast News-Letter 26 April 1920
12 July 1924 – Weekly Irish Times – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland