Category Archives: Friends

St. Patrick’s Day 100 Years Ago

St. Patrick’s day 1918 fell on a Sunday, it was still war time, so the celebrations were kept to a minimum. The official holiday was only fifteen years in existence, since it started in 1903. Drinking alcohol was allowed on St. Patrick’s Day in 1918, it was banned in 1927 till the 1970’s when the population was again free to indulge in “the drowning of the shamrock”.

Some prominent people were against drinking on the holiday, including Countess Markievicz who was opposed to drinking, as she put it:

“I do not see why rich people should not be kept off their drink as well as poor”.

James O’Mara the Irish MP, in Westminster, who introduced the bill later opposed any drunken revelry, citing that it was “a direct insult to the Saint”. The Gaelic League were pro preserving the day as a dry holiday too.

The holiday went ahead on Achill, where it was celebrated since 1882:

“When the local clergy called for a special effort to be made on Saint Patrick’s Day 1882 to celebrate fourteen and a half centuries of the arrival in Ireland of Saint Patrick 432 A. D. the Dooagh musicians and their members from Keel decided to parade to Mass at Dookinella, the only church in Lower Achill. The people who normally walked to Dookinella anyway, paraded behind the Band. The first Parade was such a success that the custom has continued ever since.”

More fact about St. Patrick’s Day

Sources
Weekly Freeman’s Journal 16 March 1918
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/festivals/st-patricks-day/17-things-you-didnt-know-about-st-patricks-day-26713114.html
As Time Marches On; A Brief History of Dooagh Pipe Band 1882-1982, J.J. McNamara & J. McNamara N. T.

George Moore

“To E. Weddall; Thanks for a fish”. Was the message written by George Moore on the front page of his book, Hail and Farewell, when he signed it for Emily Weddall in 1913. The meaning of that dedication is lost in time, and can only be guessed at. Perhaps she gave him a fish or served it up at a dinner he attended at Rockfield House on his visit to Achill that year.

He and Emily had become friends or at least acquaintances sometime in the early 1900’s or even earlier if it was though the Gaelic League.

Emily and George Moore had quiet a few people in common, besides the Gaelic League they met in artistic circles too.  His sister Nina Moore  was married into Emily’s good friend Eva O’Flaherty’s family. He was a friend of George Russell and mixed in similar circles to Darrell Figgis.

George Moore was born in 1852 to landed gentry in Moore Hall on the shores of Lough Carra in County Mayo. He was educated in a catholic school, Oscott College. He had little interest in study and at the age of 16 he was expelled for “Idleness and general worthlessness”. A further vain attempt was made to educate his further by the old parish priest. George went to live in the family home in London, where he developed a love for horse racing and art.

After his father’s death he inherited a substantial amount of land in Mayo and Roscommon, which was poor and did not yield a great income. He did not enjoy being a landlord and went to live in Paris to become an artist instead. He did not have a great talent for painting but found success as a writer. He returned to Ireland in 1901 and became involved in the Celtic Revival in Dublin.

Sources
Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Baile Atha Cliath: Coisceim, 1995.
Achill’s Eva O’Flaherty – Forgotten Island Heroine, Mary J. Murphy, 2012
By Kevin Coyne.http://www.mayo-ireland.ie/Doon/gmoore.html. retrieved 16/01/2012
The Warder (27.4.1844)

100 Years Ago 1918

Year 1918

March

1st. Richard Mulcahy, second-year medical student at UCD, is appointed Chief of Staff of the IRA in spring 1918.

11th. In a military base in Kansas, there are outbreaks of an unusually severe form of influenza, which are later understood to be amongst first recorded cases of the Spanish Flu.

April

21st. A bill was passed by the British Government to enforce conscription on all Irish men of military age, an Anti-conscription pledge signed by Nationalists.

November

11th. End of WW1

December

14th. 1918 Elections. Sinn Féin win landslide in general election.

The above are some of the events that shaped 1918. Emily had her own personal ups and downs that year too. The Great War was over and a sort of peace was restored, but in Ireland that would not last.

1917, the previous year saw the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Emily had investments in Russian industry, which were wiped and she lost her income. The realisation of her predicament did not hit her till the following year, 1918, when she returned home from her travels to be met with a pile of bills and bank statements that revealed her dire financial state. Emily had no choice but to return to work. Luckily she had her nursing career to fall back on. Her skills would become a necessity. In March of 1918 the first cases of Spanish Flu were reported.

“In a military base in Kansas, there are outbreaks of an unusually severe form of influenza, which are later understood to be amongst first recorded cases of the Spanish Flu. Over the coming year, this strain of flu kills an estimated 50,000,000 people.”

Later on it would come to Ireland. “Republican women in Cumann na mBan and the Citizen Army opened emergency hospitals during the epidemic.” Emily would find employment in the Meath Hospital, where she would remain for the duration of the epidemic and beyond. Most of her friends and colleagues would catch the flu, most would survive but her friend Cessca Trench would succumb to it. Emily herself escaped it completely.

In the wider world women would get the vote and for the first time. In Ireland after a long campaign they succeeded in getting the right for women to vote too. But they had to be 30 years of age and own property. Emily, who fell into that perhaps tiny category would have embraced the opportunity to cast her vote. 

Sinn Fein won the the General Election of that year, but they did not take their seats in Parliament, abstention being their policy. Emily’s fellow Cumann na mBan member Countess Markievicz was the first woman elected, but did not take her seat in Westminster, probably to Emily’s satisfaction.

Sources
http://centenaries.ucd.ie/1912-1923-timeline/#year-7
http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/05/16/ireland-and-the-great-flu-epidemic-of-1918/#.Wkq0HKI4ZsM
https://www.vote.ie/why/its-your-right.html
Nottingham Evening Post 20 May 1918

 

Visitors to Rockfield House, Artists Paul and Grace Henry

Faitle Roimh Geach Gael was the wording on the sign on Emily’s gatepost at Rockfied House or Teach na Carraig, as it became known. The sign on the gate attracted many, mostly from the Gaelic League and later from Nationalist circles. It later became a haven for those on the run during the Independence and civil wars.

Paul Henry in his later years

In the early 1910’s the door of  Rockfield House was open to artists and writers too. Emily was an excellent hostess, she knew how to entertain, and people felt at ease in her hospitality. One such visitor was the artist Paul Henry, who credits Emily in his autobiography, An Irish portrait; the autobiography of Paul Henry; with the only baths he had on Achill.

 “It was to her kindness I was indebted to the only baths I ever got there.”

Besides providing washing facilities for the Henry’s she welcomed them to her home and ensured that they were introduced to the Achill people, and more to the point “the ways peculiar to the island”. The fire place below could well have thrown out heat and light on the cold winter nights that the Henry’s may have spent at Emily’s.

The hearth in Emily’s house “Rockfield”

Sources
Irish Times 18 February 1956
Henry, Paul. An Irish Portrait; the Autobiography of Paul Henry. London, New York: B. T. Batsford, 1951.

 

History of Rockfield House; Part 2

 

Emily and friends outside Rockfield House

Emily’s ownership of Rockfield house was short enough lived. In the winter of 1918 she was on the brink of loosing it again, but it was nothing to do with the Mission Estate this time, it steamed from an event that was unfolding over three thousand miles away, the Russian Revolution. Emily had stocks and shares in Russian industry, which generated a substantial income for her for more at least a decade. These investments became worthless overnight and she lost her financial mainstay.

In a letter to her friend Margot Trench, she expressed that her income had been “denied from Russia” and was in great financial difficulty. She had at that stage returned to work as a nurse to survive. It is an ill wind that does not blow some good as the old saying goes, in Emily’s case it was the flu epidemic of 1918, where her services as a nurse were in great demand. She got a post at the Meath hospital straight away. It was at that time that perhaps the full extent of her financial woes were realized and the possible loss of her home.

“I had to leave Rockfield as I am getting no money from Russia… Miss O’Flaherty is at Rockfield now for the winter and it is nice to know she is in the house and looking after things…”

Emily did not loose the house then and there, but held on to it until 1925, when she got her husband’s estate sorted out nearly two decades after he died!The house and grounds were bought by the Catholic Arch-Bishop of Tuam Dr, Gilmartin.

Sources
National Library of Ireland. Department of Manuscripts, MS 46,331 /6 – 10 Coffey and Chenevix Trench papers, 1868-2007.
http://www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie/
Photo courtesy of John ‘Twin’ McNamara