In February 1920, while the War of Independence was ratcheting up the authorities introduced a curfew, to quell the violent tactics of guerilla warfare. Introduced in Dublin first, the law caused all sorts of chaos for ordinary citizens going about their daily business. The Defense of the Realm Regulation clearly stated:
“Every person abroad between the hours mentioned in the foregoing Order when challenged by any policeman, or by any officer, non-commissioned officer or soldier on duty must immediately halt and obey the orders given to him, and if he fails to do so it will be at his own peril. “
The above first verse of a “ditty” penned by an anonymous songwriter, tells as much as any newspaper notice or article.
When you come to the start of a Curfew night,
and try to get home by ten –
Altho’ it is only broad day light,
You are dodging the Tans again,
When the lorries dash out on the streets,
The best is to be out of sight,
O, you want to to be smart upon your feet,
At the start of the Curfew night.
The potential barbarities caused by the legislation was nothing in comparison to actual ones, when a month later the Black and Tans were released on the country.
In February 1920 when the War of Independence was but a year old a curfew was enforced on the people of Dublin:
At the time Emily was resident in Ranelagh and employed as a nurse. Fortunately, for Emily, exceptions were considered for Clergymen, doctors and nurses engaged on duty. As might be expected she had to apply in writing to the permit officer at Dublin Castle. She may well have applied, but not necessarily for medical purposes. It was not uncommon for members of Cumann na mBan, like Emily to move about the city delivering secret messages between Irish Republican Army members. Hiding behind her nurse’s uniform, she was almost above suspicion, however she could be challenged by any policeman, non-commissioned officer or an on duty soldier. If she failed to comply with orders in any way it would have been as advised on notices at her own peril. None of the rules would have bothered Emily!
In February 1920 Anita McMahon wrote to three national newspapers making a good case for why the Achill Railway should have been extended as far as Keel. It make a lot of sense at the time, “motor services” were thin on the ground, with few cars and lorries on the road. Goods were transported locally by horse and cart. Times were changing even then.
The fishing industry on Achill could flourish and provide more local employment was not flourishing as it could. The fish caught on the island was going to waste as there was no way to transport it inland while fresh. There were other industries on the island that could benefit from a better goods transport system too.
Anita explained that Achill had a very large population, about 6000 at the time, who were very intelligent and industrious. A extension to the railway at Achill Sound would not be wasted as there would surely be developments in the industries already on Achill, should the extension be built. She also pointed out that “the Congested Districts Board would of course welcome any project to develop the Island.” The reply:
The railway was never extended to Keel. Years later in 1937 the railway closed for good. The reason at the time was that the roads were to be developed and the railway was no longer required.
Dublin Evening Telegraph 26 February 192026 February 1920
27 February 1920 – Irish Times – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
07 July 1951 – The Sphere – London, London, England
It was almost a year since the first shots of the War of Independence were fired. The conflict which was ratcheting up all over the country at the dawn of 1920. The country was heading fast into one of the most turbulent times in Irish history. The attacks and ambushes that typifies guerilla warfare were commonplace. There was no knowing when a brutal attack would occur.
Emily who was no stranger to violence. As a daughter of convert priest, brutal attacks on her and her family were all too frequent. She was more equipped than most to deal with the turmoil that was unfolding in her country. She traveled between Dublin and her home in Achill. Her financial situation which fell on hard times in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917, when her shares in Russian industry were wiped, forced her to return to her old profession of nursing to keep her house in Keel. She was living at an address in Ranelagh, Dublin in the early 1920’s and was working as a nurse in the old Meath Hospital at the time. There was evidence by the way of the local Gaelic League that she spent time in Achill.