Dunmanway and 1916

Dunmanway and 1916

Today was a beautiful morning in Dunmanway as the statue of Sam Maguire waited to welcome the 1916 Parade commemorating the volunteers who marched through the town ready to fight in the Easter Rising 100 years ago today.

On Easter Sunday, 23rd of April 1916, 54 members of the Irish Volunteers from Lyre, Behagh, Ballinacarraiga and Dunmanway, marched to Inchigeela to be addressed by Tomás MacCurtain and Terence MacSwiney. What happened is available as witness statements on www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.com

With well known member of the local community Margaret Collins at the commemoration. Margaret  is wearing an original Irish women’s cloak in her family since 1846

With well known member of the local community Margaret Collins at the commemoration. Margaret  is wearing an original Irish women’s cloak in her family since 1846

The columns of volunteers in West Cork and Kerry were expecting to receive arms and ammunition from the German ship disguised as a Norwegian vessel, Aud-Norge which had 20,000 rifles and a million rounds of ammunition. The ship was intercepted by the British and scuttled by its German crew as it entered Cork Harbour. Sir Roger Casement who organised the shipment was put ashore from a German U-Boat at Banna Strand in Kerry and captured some days later. The local Irish Volunteers were ordered not to attempt to rescue him so as not to alert the British to the rising and Casement was controversially hanged for treason at Pentonville Prison in London in August 1916. The reference in the 1916 Proclamation of Independence to Ireland’s “gallant allies in Europe”  designed to spur the Germans into supporting the Rising virtually guaranteed the execution of the signatories and of Sir Roger – the British (and at the time, many Irish) regarded them as traitors in war time.

What the strategy of the Irish Volunteers in Cork was is a matter of some historical speculation. Some have suggested that they were to cut off access roads to Kerry & West Cork to allow the arms to be distributed in support of the 1916 rising. However the arms were old from 1891, no training had been provided by the Germans and only 10 machine guns were in the cargo, so it is doubtful if they would have made a great difference. So the formations of volunteers including the 19 who had come through Dunmanway were disbanded at Inchigeela and told to disperse to avoid capture. The next few years of the Irish War of Independence in the “Rebel County” of Cork were portentous for those involved including those who did not survive to see an independent Ireland.

Irish revolutionary Michael Collins (1890 – 1922) dressed in the uniform of Commander-in-Chief of the Irish National Forces.

Cork itself had a long military tradition with major British Naval bases at Cobh and Berehaven, bases which Britain retained after Irish Independence until 1938. In an indication of the divided loyalties in the “Rebel County”  Inchigeela, the destination of the volunteers was also the home village of Michael O’Leary the first Irishman to win a VC in the Great War. Tom Barry who later lead the 2nd Cork Flying Column which ambushed and killed 17 Auxiliaries (Black and Tans) at Kilmichael in 1920 had enlisted in the British Army in 1915. Captain Talbot Crosbie who had set up and trained the Irish Volunteers in Cork encouraged then to join the British Army in 1914 to defend small nations and gain Home Rule for Ireland. In Cornmarket Street Cork,on August 30, 1914, 1,000 members of the Irish Volunteers had to make a hard choice: support John Redmond’s call to fight in Flanders or stay loyal to republican beliefs in an armed rising in Ireland. Captain Talbot Crosbie repeated Redmond’s call. Then drill orders rang out and the vast majority, some 950 volunteers, marched away to join Redmond’s National Volunteers. Only some 50 Irish Volunteers still stood firm, lonely figures in a city run by Redmondites.

 

Tomás MacCurtain was elected Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork in January 1920. On 20 March 1920, his 36th birthday, Mac Curtain was shot dead in front of his wife and son by a group of men with blackened faces, who were found to be members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) by the official inquest into the event. In the wake of the killing which was in revenge for the shooting of a policeman, Mac Curtain’s house in the city’s Blackpool area, was ransacked. After his friend’s assassination Terence MacSwiney was elected Lord Mayor of Cork. He was arrested by the British on charges of sedition, tried by a military court and imprisoned in Brixton Prison in England. His death there in October 1920 after 74 days on hunger strike brought him and the Irish struggle to international attention and in particular inspired Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Independence movement. One of the volunteers who had come through Dunmanway, Michael McCarthy, was killed in the Kilmichael ambush between Dunmanway and Macroom, in November 1920, one of the decisive attacks on British Forces in the War of Independence.

There were many from Cork, primarily General Michael Collins who participated in the 1916 Easter Rising who were to be decisive in the years afterwards. Some are household names, others have been overlooked but a move is on to honour, as a group, all those from the West Cork region who fought in Dublin during the Easter Rising.

Cork County Council is examining the possibility of erecting a memorial to 10 men from the region who were involved in the uprising in the capital. Councillors have said a memorial garden near the model railway village station in Clonakilty may be an appropriate location.

While Michael Collins, from Woodfield near Clonakilty, and Sean Hurley from Drinagh — the only Corkman to die in the Dublin action — are already being honoured at some events, other participants have been overlooked — up until now. Historians have forwarded the name of eight others to the council. They are:

  • Con O’Donovan, born in Casheliskey near Clonakilty, who fought under Commandant Edward Daly in the Four Courts
  • Gearóid O’Sullivan, born in Coolnagurrane near Skibbereen, who raised the Irish Flag over the GPO at the start of the Rising;
  • Sean Hayes from Glandore, who fought in the GPO and later became a TD;
  • Dan McCarthy, born Main St in Dunmanway;
  • Joe O’Reilly, born in Bantry in 1893, fought in the GPO and later became Michael Collins’ right-hand man;
  • Diarmuid O’Hegarty from Schull;
  • Diarmuid O’Shea, born at Reenmeen, Glengarriff;
  • JJ Walsh, born Rathroon near Bandon in 1880, who fought in the GPO. He later became Minster for Post and Telegraphs.

Another somewhat unique commemoration of the 1916 rising can be seen in the window of the local library in Market Square – itself a community focus being run by a mixture of staff and volunteers. 100 years on the Easter Rising has been commemorated in wool thanks to the efforts of a local knitting group who have knitted and crocheted a perfectly scaled replica of the GPO. Dunmanway Knit and Natter Group meet every Friday in the local library and just before Christmas librarian, Aine O’Brien came up with the idea of knitting a replica of the GPO to mark the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and her call to needles was met with an enthusiastic response.


Today in the fine spring sunshine in Dunmanway these events which were being commemorated seemed far away in a close knit and supportive community which wants to preserve its memory while moving forward and provide a better life for future generations in an Independent Ireland.


The words of the Proclamation of Independence echoed across the Market Square still providing a call to action and a reminder that there is still much to do for Ireland to meet the standards set out in that proclamation. They include the declaration of “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland” that the form of government was to be a republic; a guarantee of “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”, the first mention of gender equality, given that Irish women under British law were not allowed to vote; a commitment to universal suffrage, a phenomenon limited at the time to only a handful of countries, not including Britain; a promise of “cherishing all the children of the nation equally”. Although these words have been quoted since the 1990s by children’s rights advocates, “children of the nation” refers to all Irish people; Disputes between nationalists and unionists are attributed to “differences carefully fostered by an alien government”, a rejection of what was later dubbed two-nations theory.