Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Irish White Cross and the Black and Tans

The Irish White Cross was founded to bring help The information regarding the family circumstances of Connor and Lacey was supplied to the committee by PJ Walker, who was the national school teacher in Barrowhouse. The central committee of the Irish White Cross subsequently forwarded to Athy’s town clerk a cheque for £50, which was to be divided between Mrs Margaret Connor and James Lacey. It is not clear whether this was the only aid paid to the families of the two young men killed in the Barrowhouse Ambush.

The local committee held a church gate collection in Athy on Sunday 7 August 1921 and those involved, apart from the earlier mentioned committee members, were John A Butler, Peter P Timmons, Michael J Egan, John Bradley and urban councillor Thomas O’Rourke. It is interesting to note the level of support for what was essentially a Sinn Féin organisation (although I wonder if Canon Mackey was aware of this connection). The results of the church gate collection in Athy were: Barrowhouse Church, £14.13.0; Dominican Church, £29.13.4; and Parish Church, £105.2.2.

The three collection points for the Parish Church were designated “Parochial House Gate”, “Fr Nolan’s Gate” and “Front Gate” and £60.15.8, £38.1.6 and £6.5.0 were collected at each during the four Sunday Masses which were held at 7am, 8am, 10am and 12 noon. A total of £149.8.6 was forwarded by the committee secretary Joseph Lawler to the White Cross in Dublin and a further £187 was subsequently collected by way of house to house collections and private donations. The largest donation of £5 was received from the Duke of Leinster and William J Fennell of Burtown House.

An entry in the minute book of the White Cross Committee meeting held in the urban district council offices on 19 September 1921 speaks volumes of the unhealthy religious divisions which were then part of Irish provincial life. “Collectors shall be appointed to collect subscriptions in Athy and District from the non- Catholic portion of the community.” David Walsh, who was one of those appointed to do this, later reported that the sum of £13.18.0 had been collected.

Ellen Lynch, whose brother had already received assistance from the committee, applied on 13 September 1921 for “£50 to purchase clothing for herself, sister and nephew which were lost when her brother’s house was burned on 17 May last by the Crown Forces.”

Her claim was recommended to the central committee in Dublin, following which an engineer, PH McCarthy, was appointed to visit the Lynch’s in Barrowhouse to finalise the family’s claim.

Another beneficiary was Mrs Jane Bradbury of Woodstock Street, who received an allowance of 25/= a week from the Dependents Fund. I have been unable to find out the circumstances which gave rise to this payment, but perhaps some of my readers can help me here.

Patrick Keating of Barrowhouse applied for £63.5.0 compensation for clothing and furniture destroyed by crown forces when his house was also burned following the Barrowhouse ambush. The local committee, however, was not satisfied as to the extent of his loss and were unwilling to consider his claim after discovering that he had made a collection in the town for the same purpose, from which he realised £17.

A total of £1.3 million was distributed nationally on behalf of the Irish White Cross to assist Republicans and their families, who suffered financial hardships through involvement in the War of Independence, and also to aid Catholic workers expelled from employment in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland.

The last entry in the minute book maintained by the Athy White Cross Committee was dated 9 December 1921. The central committee issued a report for the period to 31 August 1922 in which it is noted that a total of £125.15.0 was paid out in relief in the Athy area. This was a very small amount and reflects the minimal activity by crown forces and Republican activists in this area during the Irish War of Independence.

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