Category Archives: Friends

The Burning of Sligo Railway Station

Darrell Figgis Questions the Minister for Defense

On January 11 1923, Sligo Railway Station, one of the country’s finest at the time, was set alight by Republican forces. They managed to douse it in gasoline under the cover of darkness. It took no time for the inferno to take off. Both the ticket and parcel offices were completely destroyed, causing damage worth £80,000. It was one of many stations wrecked at the time. The railways were being destroyed at such a rapid rate that numerous newspapers at the time coined the phrase “War on the Railways.”

Because Sligo was a garrison town with a large number of army troops on duty, many questions were raised about its station’s destruction. The number of soldiers on duty was greatly exaggerated in the press, which suggested that a garrison of 500 men was present in the town the night of the attack. There were only 70. They were distributed at four locations around the town, one of which was guarding 100 prisoners as well as at least three strategic posts. The matter was brought before the Dail by Darrell Figgis, who questioned the Minister for Defense, Richard Mulcahy:


Irish Weekly and Ulster Examiner 10 February 1923

Freeman’s Journal 20 February 1923

Larne Times 27 January 1923

More Burning of the Big Houses

Moore Hall

During the Civil War, Republican forces revived their campaign to burn down big houses. The campaign was facilitated by the absence of any forces of law and order in the countryside as a result of the withdrawal of the Crown forces in 1922 and the abolition of the RIC, but the elimination of signs of British rule in Ireland was the underlying motivation behind the destruction. The Republicans were also running dangerously low in arms so destruction of property was one of few acts of guerrilla warfare left at their disposal.

The big houses were burned down during the War of Independence as a way for the IRA to assert their authority. However, during the Civil War, many of the mansions abandoned by their owners for fear of attack were taken over by the anti-Treatyites and only destroyed when they were forced to leave when the National Army moved in on them.

Below were a few of many set alight in early 1923:

January 29 The Earl of Mayo’s Dublin residence is set alight by Republicans.

Sir Horace Plunkett’s Art Treasures are Destroyed

1 February: Moore Hall near Claremorris in County Mayo is burned down by Republicans.


Irish Times 6 February 1923

Freeman’s Journal 6 February 1923

Weekly Freeman’s Journal 3 February 1923

Further reading:

Emily’s 70th Anniversary

Seventy years ago today, Emily passed away in St. Mary’s nursing home on Clyde Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin, at the age of 85. Her funeral was held in Glasnevin Cemetery, attended by many of her friends, both old and new. Even though it was a cold and wet November day, the turnout to pay their respects reflected her acclaim. Peadar O’Flaherty, a friend and fellow Republican, delivered her eulogy.

Her obituary appeared in both local and national newspapers, paying tribute to her courage and generosity, as well as her great zest for life:

“An early co-worker with An Craoibhin, she started a Gaelic Summer School in 1912 at Keel, Achill, where she lived for many years. After the Rising she worked for the National Aid, organised Cumann na mBan and was imprisoned. During the Black and Tan period and subsequently, she gave devoted service, succoring men “on the run” to whom her unconquerable spirit and boundless generosity were an inspiration.”

Irish Independent 1905-current, Friday, November 28, 1952; Page: 6

In spite of her final resting place being in the famous Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Emily’s grave remained unmarked for six decades. She had no close family member to have a gravestone erected on her grave, and she did not leave any instructions in her will as she died intestate. But in 2012, as a mark of gratitude, the committee of Scoil Acla unveiled one that befitted her character completely. The gravestone contains a stained-glass window inspired by the one, made by artist Wilhellmena Geddes, that she purchased in 1924. It depicts the image of St. Brendan the Navigator, which is installed in Our Lady Queen of the Universe Church in Curran.

On the day of its unveiling, November 24, 2012, 60 years to the date of Emily’s death, the committee of Scoil Acla traveled to Glasnevin Cemetery to honor her. On her newly adorned grave, they left gifts symbolic of her life: a wreath made from Achill heather inscribed O Acla (from Achill), a replica of the one she and the Figgis laid on the grave of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in 1915, along with her biography by Iosold ni Deirg and a photo of her in her Celtic costume.

Glasnevin Cemetery was founded by Daniel O’Connell (The Liberator)


Irish Independent 1905-current, Friday, November 28, 1952; Page: 6

Mayo News 1893-current, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Irish Independent 1905-current, Friday, November 28, 1952; Page: 6

Illustrated London News 14 August 1847

Mayo News 1893-current, Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Erskine Childers is Executed

On this day 100 years ago, Erskine Childers faced the firing squad. Like Emily Childers was vehemently opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was quite vocal about it. In a dawn raid at his cousin Robert Barton’s home in County Wicklow by the National troops, a revolver was found. He and another man, David Robinson, were duly arrested.

Wicklow Gaol

Born in London in 1870, Erskine Childers was the second of five children. His father was Robert Childers, and his mother was Anna Childers (née Barton). Robert Childers (1838–1866), who was appointed to the Ceylon Civil Service in 1860, became the private secretary to Governor Sir Charles McCarthy. In his time there, he studied Sinhala (and possibly Pali) and became a student of Buddhism. After returning to the UK, he kept up his studies and, in 1872, published the first volume of the Pali dictionary. Unfortunately, his life was cut short when he died at the age of 38, leaving behind a young family. After his death his family moved to Co. Wicklow the ancestral home of his mother.

Mount Lavinia Hotel, formerly the Governor’s Palace, Sri Lanka

Young Erskine received a good education, taking classics and law at Trinity College and then Cambridge, where he studied law in which he came out with a first in the subject in June 1893. He also showed great literary promise and was editor of Cambridge Review. Childers took the civil service entrance exams and excelled, earning the position of joint assistant clerk at the House of Commons. When the Boer War broke out in 1898, he enlisted and volunteered as an artillery driver.

After he returned, his novel, Riddle of the Sands, was published. The novel, which he began in 1901, was loosely based on his own experiences. The book, often cited as one of the great works of espionage, is about the main character, who is invited by his friend to go on a yachting expedition, and their subsequent adventures. Childers, a keen sailor, was one of the crew of the Asgard. In May of that year, he traveled to Hamburg with Darrell Figgis to broker an arms deal there. They successfully sourced 1,500 Mauser Model 1871 rifles with 49,000 rounds of ammunition at a good price. In August, Childers and his wife, Molly Spring Rice, along with Gordon Shephard and two fishermen from Donegal, arrived at Howth with an arsenal of weapons.

The guns were purchased for the Irish Volunteers, who had it in mind to use them to defend Home Rule for Ireland, but they ended up arming the rebels for the 1916 Rising. Read more:

Childers returned to London, where he served in the Royal Naval Volunteers for most of the Great War. In 1917, he was assigned as assistant secretary to the Irish convention, where he began to gravitate toward the Irish cause. In 1919, he relocated to Dublin and was elected to the Dáil in 1921. The same year, he was appointed Minister for Propaganda as well as Secretary to the Irish contingent of the treaty negotiating team. Childers, like Emily, was vehemently anti-Treaty and was quite vocal about it too. He was not fully trusted by either side and was suspected by the British and Irish provisional governments alike; it was only a matter of time until he was captured in November 1922. He was sentenced to death and executed at Beggars Bush Barracks. A true gentleman to the end, it was said that he shook hands with each member of the firing squad before he faced his death.

Thirty years later to the exact day Emily died in St. Mary’s Nursing Home. She too was buried near the Republician plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.


The Sphere 02 December 1922

Freeman’s Journal 11 November 1922


Freeman’s Journal 25 November 1922

100 Years Ago; The Irish Constitution; by Darrell Figgis

WHAT IS A CONSTITUTION? During the early days of the second French Republic a customer entered a bookseller’s and asked: “Have you a copy of the French Constitution?” “We do not,” the bookseller politely replied, “deal in periodical literature.”


In March 1922, Michael Collins charged Darrell Figgis with writing the Constitution of the Free State. Although Collins never fully trusted him, he did recognize Figgis’ superior writing skills, appointing him vice-chairman of the committee assembled to draft the constitution. Figgis inadvertently ended up chairing many of the meetings as Michael Collins, occupied with other business, missed many of them. Figgis proved to be very effective at the helm, completing the constitution in a record quick time in September 1922. The sad irony was that Michael Collins did not live to see the work completed. He had died the previous month.

Darrell Figgis published, the Irish Constitution Explained, later in 1922 to Arthur Griffith, who died a week before Michael Collins.


Londonderry Sentinel 07 September 1922