Category Archives: Friends

History of Rockfield House; Part 1.

Edward and Emily Weddall arrived on Achill as newlyweds sometime in 1906, where took up residence at Rockfield House in Keel. The couple’s new home was acquired through contacts with the mission estate in Dugort, where Emily’s father lived for some time in the 1840’s. Although the mission was well disbanded at that state they land was still in the hands of

Rockfield was a former school house for orphaned boys, when her father lived on the island, it closed as a school some time afterwards and may have been occupied by many people over the six decades before Emily occupied it.

Although it is unclear when the house was finally Emily’s, it was owned by the Mission Estate at Dugort, when she and Captain Weddall moved in in 1906. Six years later the Land Agitation episode of the winter of 1912/1913 changed the land ownership of the Island for good.

This event in history was recorded for the National Folklore Commission; The Schools’ Collection in 1937/38. The informant was by Pádhraic Mac Pháidín, the headmaster of Tonatavally, on Achill. 

St Thomas' Church on the Achill Mission Estate

St Thomas’ Church on the Achill Mission Estate

About 30 years ago the C. D. B. [Congested District Board] was buying up the estates in the poorest part of the West. The people wanted the “Achill Mission” to sell and they refused. An agitation was commenced and eventually they agreed but wanted to retain the lands of the Colony and other Protestant Settlements in the Island. the Protestants became infuriated at this juggling and the Catholics promised them support moral and material. This was in 1912. the leaders were Rev. Fr. Colleran, Darrell Figgis and William Egan, a Protestant gentleman of Slievemore.To these must be added the name of Walter Bourke another Protestant, who by verse and organising ability gave impetus to the movement…

…A system of boycotting was adopted, and Grierson was compelled to get two “Emergency men” from outside. A mass meeting was convened and the people marched in a body to the Rent office and demanded that the land should be sold…

Master Mac Pháidín remembers that the Agitation went on for the entire winter of 1912/13, but was resolved eventually in the Spring. With the perseverance of the locals and under the guidance of   Fr. Colleran the Land Wars ended quietly, the people of Achill the victors.

Mr Scott sold out immediately at the commencement of the agitation and Mr Pike did likewise a short time afterward. the Achill Mission and Mrs McDonnell did so at last.

The remarkable thing about the whole saga was it disproved the popular opinion that Catholics and Protestants were on opposite sides. In a letter to the Mayo News Anita tells of how the people of Achill from different backgrounds and religion united to sort out the situation for the good of all.

In conclusion it is pleasant to be able to state that Achill offers an emphatic denial of the much talked of division between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. In Achill, if anywhere for reasons too long to explain here we might expect to find sectarian feeling very strong. Yet today, in striking vindication the Irish Protestant from the Irish Catholic we find the Protestant Dugort  tenants united with their Catholic neighbors, and as anxious as they are to free Achill Island from the blighting influence of the Achill Mission trusteeship…

The victory over the establishment was the end of the old system and the beginning of the new, although it would take almost a further decade. It would take nearly two decades before Emily would finally have full ownership of the house and land only to have to sell it again.

Sources
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0086, Page 318 Tonatanvally, Co. Mayo
The Mayo News, April 12 1913

Obituary

On this day in 1952 Emily M. Weddall died. She was 85. She had been failing for some time. In her last days she was attended to by her old friend Dr. Kathleen Lynn, who was by then an old lady herself. Dr. Lynn recorded Emily’s last days in her diary;

15th November 1952

A brighter day, not quite as dismal, did round in car & was late in Teac about 2 at s. Mary’s, they have the loan of 2 sisters fr. S John’s and they are a wonderful help Poor Mrs. Weddall knows no one now and easy to manage now…

25th November 1952

Such a day of rain and wind. E. S. and some snow. Mrs Weddall’s funeral fr. S. Mary’s at 10. Several in the chapel there & then to Glasnevin to Republican Plot.

When the sad news reached Achill, her old friends were sad to hear of her passing. They paid tribute to the generous lady who lived among them and helped them out unselfishly during “the critical days of the Republic”. Brian Corrigan wrote her obituary, which appeared in the Mayo News, the paper Emily was a regular correspondent with in the lead up to and during the period mentioned in the tributes paid to her after her death.

She was laid to rest near the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, where her grave was unmarked for sixty years. In 2012 a gravestone was unveilled to mark her final resting spot, by the current members of Scoil Acla, a tribute to a lady that was never forgotten.

Sources
Diaries of Kathleen Lynn
Irish Independant
Mayo News

 

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 https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/revolutions_russian_empire

Sources
https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/revolutions_russian_empire
Ní Dheirg, Íosold. Emily M. Weddall: Bunaitheoir Scoil Acla. Baile Atha Cliath: Coisceim, 1995.
Photo of Iosold Ni Dheirg courtesy of John ‘Twin’ McNamara

Honeymoon

It is hard to say if Emily went on honeymoon with her new husband, Captain Weddall. At the time between them they certainly had the means to do so. It was just becoming fashionable to do so. The newlyweds were not in any way stingy in fact they spent their cash freely. This was displayed on many occasions throughout Emily’s life.

Below is an advert from the early 1900’s advertising honeymoon hotels in London. Similar ad could be found in the daily newspapers advertising similar hotels all over Britain and the Continent.

 

Edward Weddall may have brought his new bride to meet his family in Pocklington, Yorkshire. The couple would have arrived at the local station depicted below. It was not the first time Emily was in Yorkshire as she visited her half brother William in Barnsley under less joyful circumstances when she was still in her teens in 1888.

 

Courtesy of http://www.pocklingtonhistory.com

Courtesy of http://www.pocklingtonhistory.com

The above photo is of Regent Street in 1905 the same year Emily and Edward married. If she visited her news husband’s hometown she would certainly have walked down the street. There is a possibility the couple may have lived there for a while before the moved to Ireland the following year.

 

Sources
12 September 1903 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – Dundee, Angus, Scotland
Barnsley Chronicle, etc. 12 May 1888
Thanks to
Andrew Sefton, Archivist/Webmaster of pocklingtonhistory.com , by whose kind permission the old photos of Pocklington are reproduced.

http://www.pocklingtonhistory.com

The Last Days of Darrell Figgis (3)

The photo below is of modern day Grenville St. Bloomsbury in London. Somewhere on this street Darrell Figgis spent his last night.

 

His last days were filled with misery after loosing his wife and the added trauma of the death and the circumstances surrounding it of his mistress. His friend  of many years, Frank Julian Maurice described the Figgis he encountered just before his death below:

On his last night he spent a few hours at the Automobile Club but not be persuaded to join friends for a drink instead he returned to his lodgings on Grenville Street alone.

His funeral was made more poignant by it’s austerity. Few mourners showed up, his family and one or two friends. His father seemed to be absent, this however could have been due to bad health, according to his brother Bryan. His mother an elderly woman made her way from Ireland accompanied by his siblings, to his burial at West Hampstead Cemetery. His grave would be all but forgotten for decades until it was rediscovered a few years ago.

Whatever was thought of him in life one thing that cannot be denied he was never dull, and he is perhaps remembered more that what written history would suggest. There is a rumor that fans leave cards and other offerings each year on his birthday.

Sources
Weekly Irish Times 07 November 1925
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser 04 November 1925