One hundred years ago today, 3 May 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, the partition of Ireland took place. The then Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland divided Ireland into two self-governing zones, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Emily had Northern Irish family origins, in Ardglass, Co. Down when her maternal grandfather, Richard M’Arthur was born, as was her mother.
It is one hundred and five years since the first executions of the 1916 Rebels began, starting with Patrick Pearse.
Also one hundred years ago on this day the Tourmakeady Ambush took place in Co. Mayo. The South Mayo Flying Column, backed by local volunteers staged an attack on a convey of lorries carrying supplies to the RIC station there. Read more:
As the Anglo Irish War raged on and the violence escalated houses of known and suspected Republicans were searched by by the British Military. They literately, knocked on and in some cases knocked down doors hoping to throw a spanner in the Republican works. If nothing if interest was uncovered or any arrests were effected they turned their attentions on ordinary civilians. On the night of February 25th 1921 the military were particularly active in Dublin.
There was great military activity in the city last night. About 7 o’clock 4 armored cars passed through Westmoreland Street, flashing searchlights on pedestrians on each side of the roadway. Between 8 and 10 o’clock Crown forces were particulary active in Dawson street. Several houses were visited but as far as it known no arrests were effected. In on house searched near the Stephen’s Green end of the street, some books and papers were thrown from an upper window.
Dublin Evening Telegraph 26 February 1921
Darrell Figgis was not arrested, but his wife Millie, was hauled off to Dublin Castle and interrogated for about an hour. Finding and hearing nothing of interest the RIC released Millie without charge. Darrell Figgis was safe up the Dublin Mountains at the time, staying with their friend Mrs. Fox, as was Commissioner, Kevin R. O’Sheil, who like the Figgis’ was avoiding detection by the Crown Forces. Millie who was less of a suspect made the journey to the city every day to check on their property. Every night she returned with the same story. More leaders home were ransacked, but their remained untouched. Figgis was put out about the fact that his house was ignored when others were targeted. Until one day Millie came back flushed and excited as O’Sheil remembered in his witness statement many years later;
“The week of raids and arrests had nearly elapsed, the flat of Figgis in Kildare Street untouched and unharmed, when Milly arrived one evening, her face glowing with pride and excitement, “Darrell, we’ve been raided! They’ve pulled your books about and made an awful mess. something dreadful.”
BMH.WS1770 Section 5
Millie didn’t make too much of a fuss about her arrest, treating it as a matter of course, just like the raid. She was the latest of Emily’s friends, who found themselves at the mercy of the Crown forces.
“So on this 19th day of January 1921 they took us back to Galway Fail which now admitted both of us. In the jail we fund another political prisoner, Miss Anita MacMahon, of a writer and a worker for Land Reform in Achill. She had been there for some time a and showed the signs and strain of imprisonment”. Alice M Cashel, recalled in her witness statement decades later. Anita was more than half way into her six month sentence for possession of seditious documents.
Anita who was used of having more freedom than most in her time must have found incarceration very difficult. Moreover, she had to endure being locked up while her friends were free and able to participate in the war against the British forces. Emily would have visited her if at all possible, although it may have been difficult for her to leave Dublin while she was working as a nurse or traveling when nearly every train was held up due to ambushes, searches and sometimes violent attacks. The latter would have been less of a problem for Emily than missing work.
WS Ref #: 366 , Witness: Alice M Cashel, Member Cumann na mBan, Galway; Vice-Chairman Galway County Council, 1920-1921
By 1920 Cork had become the epicentre of the War of Independence. That year the city had lost two mayors to murder and hunger strike in a short succession of time. Cork was still reeling for their deaths, as well as other atrocities in the form of reprisals by the Crown forces since the war began in January 1919.
On the night of December 11 1920 The IRA carried out an ambush on a party of British Auxiliaries at Dillon’s Cross. At least one member of the forces was killed and many more wounded. Reprisal was immediate, two IRA members were killed and the British military and police forces went on a government sanctioned rampage which resulted in the burning of Cork.
Members of the Black and Tans who were noted for their brutality, joined by the RIC went torched the city’s commercial district. Many were drunk, swigging from whiskey bottles while more tore down awnings, which were put up each night by shop owners to protect their property due to the escalating violence that the city had become subject to. Pouring cans of petrol in the buildings they set the shops well stocked with Christmas merchandise alight causing millions worth of damage.
The fire brigade were called out but their job hampered, their hoses cut and were even shot at by crazed auxiliaries, who were given leave to do as they wished. The firemen were even denied water to quench the flames. Looters were free if they dared to help themselves to what they were able to grab from the burning buildings or salvage from the char.
"It will be represented no doubt, that this was part of the campaign of unauthorized reprisals by servants of the Crown. What seems to us more more probable is that this was the reply of the rebel element to the proclamation re Martial Law."
Five acres of the commercial centre of Cork was razed to the ground, causing millions of pounds worth of damage and thousand’s lost their livelihood as a result. The City Hall and Carnegie Library were completely destroyed, and the epicentre of the fire was likened to O’Connell Street in Dublin after the Easter Rising.
In the initial inquiry the British government denied that the Crown forced were responsible for the fire, instead blaming the IRA, but later conceded that it was in fact the Auxiliaries.
It did not take long for ditties to be composed such as Greenwood’s Logic below, which appeared in the Freeman’s Journal on December 14th 1920:
The above headline was one of the many gracing the newspaper columns on November 20th 1920. It drummed up a fever for the All-Ireland Final that was due to take place the following day. The headlines of the 22nd of November, however, did not report on the football match or announce the winning team instead they described a horrific massacre. One of the darkest day in the Irish War of Independence, which went down in history as Bloody Sunday, was the news of that day.
On Sunday morning, 21 November 1920, Michael Collins gave the command to his team of assassins, the Squad to kill 12 alleged British intelligence agents at their lodgings on Dublin’s South Side. The plan was to scupper the intelligence operations of Dublin Castle. Retaliation was inevitable.
Tension permeated the air of the capital as news of the morning’s massacre did the rounds. Everyone knew that there would be reprisal, in the eye for eye tooth for tooth war which was growing more vicious by the day. Could anyone have guessed that it would happen so soon? Within hours armored trucks pulled up outside Croke Park, while the game was going on. Nobody in the field, as it was not a staduim at the time were caught completely unawares, when the police began firing directly into the crowd. The gunfire that lasted only ninety seconds claimed the lives of fourteen. Among the dead were people from Dublin and the country alike, men women and children. In all, 30 people died that day.
Bloody Sunday 1920 was one of the darkest days in the Anglo Irish War but it was not the last, as the conflict would endure for another eight months.