Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Athy entries in the Irish Bulletin July 1919 to May 1920

Two years ago Aubane Historical Society reprinted in book form as Volume 1 Reports from the Irish Bulletin for the period 12th July 1919 to the 1st May 1920.  Earlier this year Volume 2 was published by the Belfast Historical and Educational Society bringing the Reports up to the 31st August 1920.  Further Volumes are expected to complete the work.  The Irish Bulletin was the official organ of Dail Eireann during the 1919-1921 period. It was started by Laurence Ginnell, a former M.P. who in 1919 was Director of Publicity of the Dail.  At the start, it was issued as a “Summary of Acts of Aggression” by the Crown Forces and later evolved into a fortnightly new sheet before being eventually issued as a weekly.

The Bulletin was intended for foreign journalists and Members of Parliament in Westminster to highlight aggressive acts of Crown Forces in Ireland.  Frank Gallagher, later editor of the Irish Press, was the principal compiler of the bulletin under the editorship of Desmond Fitzgerald (Father of Garret Fitzgerald) and following Fitzgerald’s arrest under the editorship of Erskine Childers.  Volume 1 of the Irish Bulletin as published by the Aubane Historical Society includes a number of references to Athy including the following:

“In Athy County Kildare on Monday evening (21st July 1919) 40 demobilised British Soldiers rushed up Duke Street and forcibly entered the shop owned by a Sinn Feiner.  After destroying everything they could lay their hands on, they completely wrecked the cycle stores in front of the shop, smashing the cycles and windows.  They then tore down and burnt the banner with an Irish Motto in Leinster Street.  Volunteers had to guard the houses and premises of other Sinn Feiners in the town”.

I first heard of this occurrence when interviewing the late Hester May many years ago.  The cycle shop was rented by Bapty Maher from  Tom Downs and was located where Mrs. Flaherty’s betting shop operated until recent years.  Bapty Maher was a member of the local IRA and was imprisoned in Ballykinlar Prison of War camp with Athy men Joe May and Dick Murphy. 

The banner in Leinster Street torn down and burnt by the Ex-British soldiers was part of street decorations for an Aeriocht which was to be held in Geraldine Park.  It was outside the premises of Mrs. Darby whose daughter Bridget was Secretary of the Gaelic League and in later years a member of the local Urban District Council.

As a result of the mob violence, the local Urban District Council as reported in the Irish Bulletin “found it necessary to take action to protect the lives and property of the people of the town. The following resolution was passed at their last meeting -  in view of recent wanton and malicious disturbance of property and the organised attempt to terrorise the people of the town by a section of demobilised soldiers and the inadequate protection afforded by the civil authorities, we call upon the well disposed citizens of Athy to enrol themselves with the Town Clerk to preserve the peace, property and civil liberties.  The Chairman of the Council, Mr. P.P. Doyle stated that he had written a letter to the District Inspector of Police pointing out that a number of police stood idly looking on when the mob was destroying private property”.

Further reports in the Irish Bulletin later in the year noted a raid by a large party of police on the residence of a farmer in Ballycullane. The raid took place on Saturday, 22nd November 1919 but the name of the farmer was not given.    That same day, Edward Malone of Dunbrin, whom I believe to be Eamon Malone, was arrested.  He would later serve time in Mountjoy Jail where he participated in a hunger strike. Eamon Malone served for a time as Officer Commanding the Carlow Kildare Brigade IRA.  The small Council Housing Estate at Woodstock Street is named Malone Place in memory of the IRA leader.

The Irish Bulletin reported a raid on Monday, 12th April 1920 by Military Police on the home of Thomas O’Rourke who had been elected as a Sinn Fein Member of Athy Urban District Council some time previously. Following that raid, four of his sons were arrested.  Thomas Junior, James, Francis and Michael O’Rourke were apparently not charged and presumably were released soon afterwards.

The O’Rourke family lived at Canal Side where Thomas was a Lock Keeper. Following his death, his widow moved to live at the 5th Lock in Inchicore, Dublin where it would appear that her son Michael also lived.  Michael was listed as Captain of A Company, Carlow Kildare Brigade in 1921 and 1922 with an address at the 5th  Lock Inchicore.

I have in the past sought information on the O’Rourke Brothers and while some details have been furnished to me, I am still hopeful of getting more background information on the O’Rourke Brothers who played important roles during the War of Independence.

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