In March 1920, a new ‘branch’ of the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary), were unleashed on the streets of Ireland. They were mostly unemployed soldiers who returned from the battlefields of WWI, provided with casual looking uniforms of dark green tunics, over khaki trousers, a large black belt and RIC cap. Their distinctive attire earned them the name of Black and Tans, their colours not unlike a pack of foxhounds, but that is where the resemblance ended. They were poorly coordinated by the powers that be resulting in brutality above and beyond the call of duty. Below is a report from Tralee, Co. Kerry where the towns people suffered repeated brutality at the hands of the Black and Tans. It was only the tip of the iceberg of what was all too common occurrences during the War of Independence. Emily would herself come face to face with the ruthless pack.
Below is a picture taken outside a bank in Phibsborough, Dublin of the aftermath of the shooting of a civilian was shot dead and a soldier wounded. It was one of many of such incidences, which went on for over a year.
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!
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.
November 11th 1919 marked a full year since the Great War ended. It was almost a year since the beginning of another, the War of Independence. To an onlooker, it might have been hard to believe there was any conflict at all in most part of the country, apart from Munster and Dublin. There were plenty reports in the newspapers, telling of guerilla warfare such as ambushes and arson attacks on the authorities.
In the wake of the Uprising of 1916, when martial law war was declared, then relaxed when thing quietened down. But on July 5th 1918 – Sinn Féin, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and the Gaelic League have all been proclaimed as illegal organisations by the Lord Lieutenant and banned. From time to time the papers contained notices such as the below reiterating the ban.
At the time Emily was living in Dublin at the time at an address in Ranelagh, away from her home in Achill. She had found employment in her old profession as a nurse, the previous year on the outbreak of Spanish Flu. She was in serious debt, having to work all the hours she could to save her home. She had little time to take part in political activities, but it did not stop her selling flags for the listed organisations, as an act of defiance as much as a support to them.