“In the summer of 1920, while the War of Independence was raging, Lady Rachel came once more to Screebe Lodge. She was alone. On the morning of June 26, she went for a swim, and never returned. Her body was later retrieved from the sea.”
On June 26th 1920 after traveling from England to Screebe House, the family’s summer residence in Connemara just the day before, Lady Dudley went for a swim to freshen up. After a long and tiring journey, she decided to take a dip as a way of revivification. She did not return.
Lady Dudley was swimming off the jetty at the back of her residence and had taken a lifebelt with her when she entered the water. On the jetty observing her was her maid, Ms Norman, who remarked that Lady Dudley had swum 30 yards from the jetty and appeared to be enjoying herself when she suddenly got into trouble. She threw her hands in the air and sank below the water’s surface. She disappeared from sight and only her lifebelt came to the surface. Her body was later recovered.
In August 1920 an exhibition opened at St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin showing the work of Ireland’s finest artists of the day. Paul and Grace Henry had spent almost a decade painting on Achill, its unique landscape and people proving a backdrop and subjects for their visual accounts of the epoch. Leticia Hamilton along with her sister Eva spent time painting on the island too, capturing it in all its splendor. One hundred years later these artists along with many others are celebrated in Mary J Murphy’s book, Achill Painters, an Island History.
On August 1st 2020, under the auspices of Scoil Acla, Achill Painters was launched in Lourdie’s (The Pub) car park, by Achill poet John F. Deane complemented by Anne Burke and local Historian John ‘Twin’ McNamara. The book is a written and visual love letter to Achill, by the artists who found their inspiration on the island, in the words of Mary J. Murphy. It is available from Kennys and Charlie Byrnes of Galway both in store and online. It is also available from Achill Tourism and in other outlets on Achill and Co. Mayo.
In late June 1920 a section of the Connaught Rangers stationed in Punjab State, Norther India staged a protest. Outraged by the activites of the Crown Forces in Ireland they simply refused to preform their military duties. A few days later their counterparts in Solon joined the demonstration, by flying the Irish tricolour, wearing Sinn Fein and engaging in other acts of disobedience, whilst singing rebel songs.
The protests took a violent turn, when the soldiers armed with whatever weapons they had to hand, tried to take possession of their rifles held in the magazine. The on duty guards opened fire, a shootout ensued resulting in the death of two, putting an end to the mutiny. The protesters at both camps were captured and placed under armed guard. Sinn Fein were blamed for engineering the plot, and sixty one were charged for their part in the mutiny. Fourteen men in total were sentenced to death by firing squad.
In the summer of 1920 there was an escalation of conflict between the Crown forces and the IRA. Ordinary civilians were often targeted as reprisals for
This triggered a grave escalation of the conflict as the new forces carried out reprisals on the civilian population for IRA attacks – in the summer of 1920 burning extensive parts of the towns of Balbriggan and Tuam for example. The IRA in response formed full-time Flying Columns (also called Active Service Units), which in some parts of the country became much more ruthless and efficient at guerrilla warfare.
Alongside the limited armed campaign there was significant passive resistance including hunger strikes by prisoners (many of whom were released in March 1920) and a boycott by railway workers on carrying British troops.
Another way of passive resistance was refusing to provide troops with food and other necessities, as was the case on Achill in summer 1920.
MARINES ON ACHILL
A detachment of 25 marines landed at Purteen Harbour, Keel, Achill, and occupied the local coastguard station. they were refused supplies at the shop of Miss M’Hugh and Lr. Achill Co-op. Society. a man bringing turf to the coastguards was turned back. Posters warning the people against dealings with the marines were torn down by the officer.
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.