Category Archives: War of Independence

Unleashed, the Black and Tans

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.

Sources

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.

100 years ago, The Black and Tans deployed Joseph E.A. Connell Jr, History Ireland, Issue 2 (March/April 2020), Volume 28

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 25 September 1920

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 23 October 1920

Curfew Ditty, Ireland 1920

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.

Sources

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 28 February 1920

Martial Law in Dublin

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!

Sources

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 28 February 1920

Turbulent Twenties

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.

Burnt out buildings during the War of Independence

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.

Sources

Dublin Evening Telegraph 03 January 1920

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 27 November 1920