The Wheels of 1917: Legacies of the Manchester Martyrs
This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Manchester Martyrs – they were William Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O’Brien, all born in Ireland but living in Manchester and active Fenians. In 1867, after a most unconvincing trial, they were executed for their part in a successful ambush to free two Fenian leaders from a prison van in which a policeman Sergeant Brett was shot dead.
One hundred years ago, on Sunday 26 November 1917 the fiftieth anniversary of the Manchester Martyrs was celebrated in Cork by Sinn Fein and the re-organised Volunteer battalions. a public procession through the principal sheets of the city and a meeting at the National Monument, Grand Parade. The procession was an impressive one, and the route was through North Main Street, North Gate Bridge, Pope’s quay, Bridge Street, King Street, Brian Boru Street and bridge, Merchant’s Quay, St Patrick street, and Grand Parade. The Volunteer Cycle Corps was in the front, then came the, Pipers’ Band, followed by the Irish Volunteers, the Cork Workingmen’s Brass and Reed Prize Band. When the different contingents reached the National Monument, orations were delivered, which compared the IRB / Fenian movement with the ongoing Independence campaign in the post 1916 era.
The Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was founded in Dublin and New York in 1858. The founders included James Stephens, John O’Mahony, Charles Kickham, John O’Leary, Thomas Clarke and Michael Doheny, all of whom had been connected in a post-famine rising in 1848. In addition, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa established his Phoenix Society at Skibbereen, County Cork. The belief of the IRB or later to become known as the Fenians was similar to that of the ideas of Thomas Davis on Irish nationality, and they also believed that Britain would never concede independence without the use of physical force. Their central focus was to concentrate on the independence of Ireland from Britain. The followers of this organisation were primarily working men, in particular small farmers. By 1867, thousands of such persons had enrolled and preparing themselves for action.
On 5 March 1867, risings took place in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, On the night of Shrove Tuesday, 5 March 1867, over 2,000 Fenians in Cork City were ready for action. The rallying point was at Limerick Junction and the Cork Fenians were to meet with forces from Kerry and from Mallow and surrounding areas in North Cork. With not that many weapons between the groups as a whole, it was planned to raid private houses and barracks for guns and ammunition and hope that munition shiploads would arrive from the USA in Cork. However, the plan was not to be that straight forward. Cork weather in the form of a blizzard and high resistance among munition stations hampered the quickness of an attack. Thus, instead of advancing, the Fenians were forced to retreat with the eventual order being given to disperse.
The rising had failed and in the days following the event, a large force of marines were drafted in from Southampton to Cork; Victoria Barracks (now Collins Barracks), Elizabeth Fort and Cat Fort were reputed to be filled to capacity with troops. These militia men were to patrol the streets of the city by day and by night. Involvement in this rising was to result in arrest and the local newspapers of the time, the Cork Examiner, Cork Constitution, the Cork Herald and the Southern Reporter carried daily reports of these latter arrests
On 11 September 1867, Colonel Thomas J Kelly (Deputy Central Organizer of the Irish Republic) was arrested in Manchester, where he had gone from Dublin to attend a council of the English ‘centres’ (organisers), together with a companion, Captain Timothy Deasy. A plot to rescue these prisoners was hatched by Edward O’Meagher Condon with other Manchester Fenians. On 18 September, while Kelly and Deasy were being conveyed through the city from the courthouse, the prison van was attacked by Fenians armed with revolvers, and in the scuffle Police Sergeant Charles Brett, who was seated inside the van, was shot dead. The three Fenians, who were later executed, were remembered as the Manchester Martyrs.
On the same day as the executions in November 1867, Richard O’Sullivan Burke, who had been employed by the Fenians to purchase arms in Birmingham, was arrested and imprisoned in Clerkenwell Prison in London. In December, whilst he was awaiting trial a wall of the prison was blown down by gunpowder in order to affect his escape. The explosion caused the death of twelve people, and injured one hundred and twenty others. A week later the Foaty Bay Martello Tower in Cork Harbour was attacked by Fenian members on St Stephen’s Night, 1867. William Lomassaney O’Connell from Passage West with an alias of Captain Mackey led the attack. The tower garrison consisted of two gunners of the Royal Artillery. He and other members took a number of eight-pound cartridges, variously stated from ten to twenty, besides a quantity of fuse. After staying for some time, they left the tower, to which it is supposed they had come to in boats. William Lomassaney was a wanted man by the police for the raid on the Martello Tower. He was arrested with two of his accomplices at Cronin’s public house in Cornmarket Street, Cork on 7 February 1868.
923a. Depiction of Manchester Martyrs 1867 (source: Cork City Library)
923b. Prisoners leaving the new Bailey for the Assize Court, Illustrated London News, November 1867 (source: Cork City Library)
To ask the CE, as the south docks area develops in the Navigation House area, what plans and measures are in place to reduce the increasing congestion of traffic in the morning and evening times? (Cllr Kieran McCarthy)
That the City Council provide better pedestrian priority measures as Boreenmanna Road meets Rockboro School; the visibility of the traffic lights and luminous areas needs to be improved as do widening the footpaths from the school to Castlegreina Park (Cllr Kieran McCarthy)
One hundred years ago, on 16 November 1917, Terence MacSwiney was court martialed in Cork for wearing an Irish Republican Army (IRA) uniform and drilling and training volunteers on 21 October 1917. Terence’s arrest was part of Westminster’s Defence Against the Realm Regulations. It was part of the rounding up of forty-seven Sinn Féin officers who were openly drilling, training, parading and wearing uniforms. The arrested men were from Cork, Kerry and Limerick and were lodged in Cork County Gaol, next to University College Cork.
Prohibitions against drilling, wearing uniform, carrying arms or even hurleys, had been announced by the British authorities. The ﬁrst public challenge to these restrictions on a national scale was made by Sinn Féin in October 1917. On Sunday 21 October public parades were held all over the country in honour of Thomas Ashe who had died on hunger strike in Mountjoy Gaol, Dublin on the previous 25 September.
Terence MacSwiney organised a public parade of the two city battalions. Battalions mustered several hundred men outside their closed hall in Sheares Street and marched via Lee Road to Blamey and back again to the city. Tomás MacCurtain led the recitation of the rosary at the National Monument at the conclusion of the parade. Tomás MacCurtain, Terence MacSwiney and the officers were subsequently arrested.
According to the recorded proceedings of the court martial trial on 16 November 1917, Terence MacSwiney did not answer when called upon, and subsequently answered in Irish. Asked if he found any objection to being tried by the Court, he again replied in Irish, and the President of the court martial session noted that if he did not answer in English he would be committed for contempt. Terence repeated his observation. Evidence was then given to drilling at Mount Desert by a party of about 500 men who subsequently marched through the city. Tomás MacCurtain and the other five prisoners adopted a similar approach to that of Terence MacSwiney in speaking in Irish. The companions included John O’Sullivan (Abbey Street), Frederick Murray (Sunday’s Well Road), John Murphy (Friar’s Walk), Christopher O’Gorman (O’Connell Street), and Patrick Higgins (Dominick Street). Each were sentenced by the court to one year-imprisonment without hard labour.
Terence MacSwiney went on a hunger strike for three days prior to his release. He was rearrested four months later to complete his sentence. Terence’s internment in March 1918 caused him to miss two major life events – the birth of his daughter, Máire, in June, and his election to the first Dáil as TD for Mid Cork, in December. Released in Spring 1919, he took his seat.
In 1916 there were a handful of hunger strikes, contesting punishments imposed by the prison authorities. The technique was adopted in earnest in 1917. Forty prisoners on hunger strike were forcibly fed, and this procedure killed Thomas Ashe. Originally from Kerry and a teacher by profession, Thomas Ashe was a prominent activist in most of the major nationalist organisations of the pre-independence period, including the Gaelic League, the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and the Irish Volunteers. Ashe was responsible for leading the Irish Volunteers at the battle of Ashbourne in County Meath, the most significant military engagement outside Dublin during the Easter Rising. He became a key figure in the reorganisation of republicanism in 1917. Thomas Ashe was arrested in August 1917 and charged with sedition for a speech that he made in Ballinalee, County Longford. He was sentenced to two years hard labour.
Whilst in Mountjoy Gaol, Thomas Ashe (32) and other prisoners demanded prisoner of war status instead of that of ordinary criminal. As a result of prison staff taking away their beds, bedclothes and possessions, they went on hunger strike on 20 September 1917. Forcible feeding began on 23 September. When Thomas Ashe was forcibly fed and immediately collapsed afterwards. He was transferred to hospital where his condition continued to deteriorate, and he passed away.
Over the next two and a half years, hundreds of prisoners went on hunger strike; almost all gained concessions and often release. This strategy was release and re-arrest, legalised by the ‘Cat and Mouse’ (Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge of Ill Health) Act of 1913. It had been utilised with some success against the suffragettes. Under the Act, the hunger striker would be released when their condition had deteriorated considerably; when she had recovered her health, they served the rest of their sentence. In practice, released prisoners were re-arrested only if they participated in militant protest. The Act proved effective by deterring the activities of leading militants—if not in prison, they were either physically incapacitated or preoccupied with escaping recapture.
There are many examples of the above Cat and Mouse Act revealed across newspapers such as the Cork Examiner. For example, four Dunmanway men – Messrs O’Mahony. McCarthy, Ahern and O’Neill, who had been released from Cork County Gaol and their hunger strike on 17 October 1917 were re-arrested on Thursday 6 November. They resumed the hunger strike, refusing to take any food in the prison. Another example took place on Monday morning at 7am, 19 November when sixteen prisoners, just tried by court martial for offences were removed from Cork County Gaol and taken to Dundalk prison. Whilst the deportation went on, from noon on that day approximately twenty prisoners who had been court martialled and jailed in Cork County Gaol over the previous weekend in consequence of their demands to be recognised as political prisoners went on hunger strike.
Secret Cork, which is my 2017 book and published by Amberley Press, is now in Cork bookshops.
922a. Depiction of Terence MacSwiney, 1910s (source: Cork City Library)
922b. Cork County Gaol adjacent UCC, c.1920; it is now the site of the Kane Science Building. Only the entrance portico has survived. (source: Cork City Library)
This week, one hundred years ago, the Cork cargo steamer SS Ardmore was attacked and sank without warning at 10.30pm on Tuesday night, 13 November 1917. In an account of the History of Port of Cork Steam Navigation by William J Barry in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society (1918) he relates the SS Ardmore made her maiden voyage from London to Cork in 1909 and kept sailing on that line, even after the start of World War I. The ship had carried men during the war to the French coast. She had a stationary crew of 27 and was under the command of Captain Richard Murray.
The SS Ardmore left London and set sail for Cork on 13 November 1917 with her crew of 27 and general cargo onboard. The chief engineer of the ship on this trip was Michael J O’Sullivan, three of whose brothers were also steamship engineers. He was not permanently attached to the SS Ardmore but an event necessitated Michael remaining ashore for some days. That caused a transfer of another engineer officer to his former ship, and he being again fit for duty, was posted to the SS Ardmore on her voyage.
Before the ship left London, her crew were told to be extra careful during the voyage as a large amount of German U-Boat activity was reported with several ships being hit and sunk in the area only days before. The crew were given detailed orders when they started their voyage. They were instructed to sail to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales first and wait until it became night, so the SS Ardmore could cross the Irish Channel under the shield of the darkness of night.
In accordance with instructions she called at Milford Haven, leaving shortly after. At 10pm on 13 November, when about six miles off the Coningbeg Light Vessel, on the Wexford coast, a challenge was flashed out by morse signal asking: “What ship is that, where bound?” Captain Murray, in accordance with sailing instructions ordering him to answer challenges, replied: “Ardmore, London to Cork”. The night being hazy, it was problematic to view objects at very great distance, sometimes the haze developed into a dense fog, and although the outline of the vessel suggested a patrol boat, there was agreement in the post attack and report writing phase that it was a submarine, which sent the SS Ardmore to the bottom of the sea.
At about 10.30pm, when Captain Murray and Richard Jagoe, chief officer, were on the bridge, an enormous explosion happened on the starboard side forward of the bridge, quaking the ship from stem to stern, at the same time shattering g all the glass in the wheel-house. The Captain ordered the boats to be launched immediately, and with the chief officer assisted to lower the forward starboard lifeboat, some of the crew being already in it. The ship remained upright for a very short time, then suddenly plunged head foremost into the depths of the sea, taking everything and all on board down with her.
The chief engineer Michael O’Sullivan and engine room staff were killed by the torpedo explosion. The second mate before jumping into the sea. put a coloured signal light in his pocket, and when clinging to the broken boat managed to ignite it. The flare enabled the drowning men to secure pieces of wreckage, which kept them afloat. Captain Murray and the second-engineer. who was injured, spent a terrible night, clinging to the up turned boat, with seas breaking over them.
Many of the hands were left struggling in the water. The captain and six others managed to reach one of the starboard lifeboats, and when the swirl of waters calmed down over the sunken vessel, searched about in the inky gloom for any who might be afloat. Through the night they drifted to and fro.
A poignant tragedy was that listed amongst those lost were two men both named Timothy Twomey. They were a father and son, and residents of Mill Cottages, Glanmire. The younger man could have been saved, but he went to the rescue of his father who was trapped below and even though both were strong swimmers they were lost. The younger Twomey had a baby son, Jimmy, of fifteen months. He grew up to be a well-known GAA figure in the Glanmire-Glountane area and was a prominent hurler with Sarsfields Hurling Club.
The two rescue boats, one was a patrol boat called Au Breitia and the second was an American steamship called IH Lookingback. One of the first survivors to be picked up was Corkman Michael Walsh who was the cook on the ship. He had spent some considerable time in the water, hanging on to a cattle board spar, and was suffering severely from shock. He was immediately conveyed to hospital, and at first it was thought that he was the only one saved from the ill-fated vessel. Later, however, news reached the port that seven other members of the crew had been rescued. Later another vessel came across a boat with the captain and six men, took them on board, and conveyed there to Queenstown. There were no further survivors.
Note: My public historical walking tours are finished till next Spring; thanks to everyone who came out and walked the different suburbs this year. Secret Cork, which is my 2017 book and published by Amberley Press, is now in Cork bookshops.
921a. SS Ardmore, c.1910 (source: Cork City Library)
921b. Coningbeg Lightship off Wexford coast, early twentieth century (source: London Metropolitan Archives)
(A) To ask the CE about the progress of ongoing considerations for a tree replanting programme for the 500 fallen trees lost from Storm Ophelia? (B) Plus to ask about the number of trees removed as part of the ongoing City Centre Traffic Strategy and the reasons why? (Cllr Kieran McCarthy)
That the City Council works towards preparing an application for the EU Green Capital Award. The Awards aim to reward the efforts of cities who strive to improve the lives of their citizens, become role models and commit to environmental, social and economic sustainability (Cllr Kieran McCarthy).
That the translation of the TomÃ¡s McCurtain diaries, being currently led by the Cork Decorative Fine Arts Society in association with Cork Public Museum be supported by Cork City Council as part of the Decade of Centenaries (Cllr Kieran McCarthy).
Douglas Road and Independent Cllr Kieran McCarthy is expecting the end of the upgrade works at Douglas Pool car park to be in the next four to five weeks; “Everything will be finished and the adjacent field be put back in place as before”.
The works consist of the following: provide and place new kerbing and a footpath from Nursery Drive along the access road and on the swimming pool, kerbing in the car park area along with cutting the trees back from the existing street lighting to provide more light, new gullies and drainage works along access road and car park including a soakaway in the sports ground field, new macadam surface in car park and access road including road marking for cars/buses in car park.
Cllr McCarthy continued; â€œContractors began their work on site starting 11 September. The phasing of the works is in four different phases. Phase three of four involves opening up all the car park, placing kerbing, footpath and drainage works along access road. These works will be carried out through a combination of traffic lights and ‘STOP/GO’ flagman system. The intention is to place the first layer of macadam on the access road. This work will be carried out using a ‘STOP/GO’ flagman system. Complete access will also be maintained to all other properties during this phase save for the macadam surfacing which will take approx 2 days to complete. The footpath, kerbing and drainage works will take approx three weeks to complete with the surfacing taking approx 2-3 days to complete”.
“Phase four involves Site clean-up, placing topsoil, placing the final layer of macadam on car park and placing road markings. The placing of the final layer of macadam will be carried out in 3 parts. These works will take approx. 1-2 weeks to complete. I look forward to seeing the actual project complete. “This has been a very difficult project to secure funding of e.300,000 for and there has been much frustration by local residents, pool users and I in trying to get the project in place. I would like to thank Stephen Scully in the City Councilâ€™s Recreational and Amenity Directorate for his help and support on this project”.
This month St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Glasheen marks its 150th anniversary of its opening for public burials. Since mid-November 1867, this beautiful cemetery has become an iconic space of reflection, art and architecture. Its back story is a long and complex one and this article attempts to shine some light on it.
The Burial Ground Act of 1856 gave great legal and financial powers to Cork Corporation for attaining cemetery ground. A growing population and limited cemetery space in graveyards such as St Joseph’s in Cork City led the Cemeteries Committee of the Corporation in late February 1863 to seek new burial ground. The Committee publicly sought in newspapers like the Cork Examiner tenders for forty acres of ground in or adjacent to the northern suburbs of the City, and a similar acreage on the south side. Sealed proposals were to be lodged on or before 28 October, to the town clerk, Alexander McCarthy, whose office was at 33 South Mall. Some ideas were received but a lack of momentum existed to pursue the matter.
Nearly seven months later, a meeting at the Mayor’s Office at no 20 South Mall on Saturday 25 May 1864 was held for the purpose of considering the defective state of burial accommodation in the City. The Mayor, Sir John Arnott in the chair, resolved that a company be formed, on the principle of limited liability, with a capital of £10,000 in 2,000 shares of £5 each, with power to increase it if it was necessary. It was decided that when the company was formed, sites should be advertised for and the most suitable should be selected for shortlisting. The committee consisted of the Mayor, Sir John Abbott, C J Cantillon, J P Booth, Thomas Jennings, Dominic O’Connor, Alderman Hegarty, Alderman Keller and M J Collins.
In late June 1864, daily advertisements by the Cork Cemeteries Company in the Cork Examiner sought twenty acres of land to purchase, to be situated within three miles of the City. Sealed proposals, stating particulars of title and cost, were to be lodged at Alexander McCarthy’s office on the South Mall. In the autumn of 1864, three sites were discussed at length in the Cork Examiner. The present site St Finbarr’s Cemetery on Glasheen Road was pitched but there was initially limited support for it within Cork Corporation. In late September 1864, Fred G Deverall, County Surveyor inspected the lands called the Commons, part of the Corporation’s lands, situated on the north side of the City, He examined the ground and found three sites, which could be made available for the purpose, one of which. contained twenty acres held by one tenant. His team dug six trial pits to ascertain the nature and depth of the soil in different places, and found an average of over seven feet of dry clay and gravel.
The third piece of ground proposed was close to Wellington Square, comprising six acres. It was not supported by those living and working within the vicinity. The Jennings estate was nearby as well as 31 inhabited cabins within a radius of 100 yards, and 55 within a distance of 200 yards. It was also in the immediate vicinity of the County Gaol and the Queen’s College. In Wellington Square there was a well or pump, which was the source of water used by the residents of the locality, and would be within twenty-three yards of the cemetery. The Professor of Geology in Queen’s College, Cork testified that the ground in some places was deficient in depth of soil.
By spring 1865, the Cork Cemeteries Company failed to get the public investment it needed and the company folded. The search for a burial ground continued for another year into early 1866. However, a sum of finance was acquired from the Westminster Treasury on favourable terms through the intervention of Cork MP John Francis Maguire.
By late November 1866, the Corporation’s cemetery committee and the Corporation selected 15 acres of flat and rectangular ground at Glasheen. The cost would be £600 to the occupying lease-holder and Â£125 to the tenant who was growing crops on the site. The Cemetery Committee prepared to receive proposals for building a boundary wall, to enclose the land taken by the Corporation for the cemetery. The ground combined the various qualities required for a cemetery as the soil was dry, sandy and deep. A plan of the intended cemetery was prepared by Sir John Benson, the city engineer. The ground was to be laid out much on the plan of Glasnevin in Dublin, and planted with ornamental shrubs, and divided by walks.
A fourth of the entire new cemetery space was to be allotted for the burials of persons of the poorer classes who would not be able to pay the charge to be made for interments. Two thirds of the cemetery were to be reserved for Roman Catholics and one third for Protestants. Each religion was to have a mortuary chapel for its separate use. By mid-January 1867, the Cemetery Committee sought tenders from competent parties for the erection of two chapels on the grounds of the new cemetery. In late April 1867, the Committee sought proposals from competent parties for the building of a registry office at the entrance to the cemetery.
920a. St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
920b. Ornate statue, St Finbarr’s Cemetery, present day (picture: Kieran McCarthy)
Thanks Lord Mayor; the annual budget evening for me offers lenses to see where the Council is progressing.
It is important to note that 2009 coincided with an expenditure of e.200,427,800 whereas today its e.160,241,400. And that drop in support for Ireland’s southern capital needs to be consistently highlighted.
In a year where the debate rages on the city pursuing an expansion, I would like to thank our twitter team during the week for drawing out some big picture positives on how much is spent per citizens on a multitude of services.
I am glad that we remain championing competing demands across the city’s social, economic, cultural, environmental and infrastructural development.
It is important that the Council does not become a one trick pony. Too often this Council is pulled into silo-ised debates on housing and roads. It is true to say they are very important but only make up about 45 per cent of the total budget. An increased homelessness budget is welcome but does show the increased homelessness challenge. I don’t want to welcome an increased budget for homelessness, I want the issue addressed and that there should be no need for a budget line on homelessness.
Need for Holistic Vision:
We need to retain a holistic vision for this city. Cork has such great gorgeous public spaces and we should never forget to call to mind our urban space and to celebrate our historic urbanism. The 500 trees recently blown down need to replanted; our parks and graveyards need to be maintained. I see next week St Finbarr’s Cemetery is celebrating its 150th birthday since its opening and its story is one of the Corporation of Cork seeking to expand its service but in 1860s Cork.
And I note with joy that funding for the 180 acres Tramore Valley Park has been allocated. This will be as the CE notes in her introduction as a “tremendous facility”, but it is also a serious advancement of the city’s investment in all things green, in renewable energy from beneath the park in the decaying landfill, in family life, in community life, in our parks development, in our Healthy Cities programme, in thinking in creating a series of regional park, and engaging all of the citizens in it.
We also have aspects such as the Local Economic and Community Development plan, which I would like to unpack and move forward with plus I think there should be more focus on showcasing the Local Economic Development Fund and getting more and more visibility to the many entrepreneurs, start-up and SMEs in the city. Streets such as the South Mall should be fully re-imagined as start-up street.
Interestingly from the outside looking in, the city is known for education and learning and its creativity and culture. Education and culture matters in this city as do many other aspects.
These concepts were also borne out as well with the UNESCO conference. We need to celebrate this city’s drive and ambition more. Yes, there are challenges but there are also multiple layers of success stories.
Being pro-active and not reactionary:
I think the future when the expansion takes place into the County will require experience of multiple strands of imagination, and pro-active pursuit of challenges to meet in an enlarged city. To be stuck in the gear stick of reactionary local government instead of a pro-active one does not help this Council or any other one.
So I would like to think this budget is an ongoing toolkit of sorts on what the priorities in an enlarged city will lie. Many are positive investments. And in a week where this Council and the County Council made joint submissions on the draft National Planning Framework a core message must be to give local authorities access to further funding streams. And I don’t think the game is with increasing the Local Property Tax here – our Council require millions of euros to advance any national urban agendas.
And as before we gained large scale funding from European Structural Funds – because of our re-territorial classification as a much improving state, any of the new infrastructure coming online such as the Merchants Quay Bridge and Marina Park come from small EU urban agenda grants.
It is difficult to raise locally the funding required for large scale infrastructure and once again I call for a second EU officer who is tasked to track down future funding schemes.
I am very proud of some of the finished capital projects this year such as Blackrock Pier Regeneration project or the methodology adopted by our housing officers to accumulate near e.100m to pursue inner city renewal social housing projects. I think giving senior officers time to think through future funding avenues is highly important.
And we need to acknowledge v talented staff to bring such work forward.