Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 19 September 2019
Tales from 1919: An Independence War Intensifies
One hundred years ago, British forces attempted to re-emphasise their control over the country, often recoursing to random reprisals against republican activists and the civilian population. An unofficial government plan of reprisals commenced in early September 1919. In Fermoy 200 British soldiers looted and burned the principal businesses of the town, after one of their members – Private William Jones – a soldier of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry who was the first British Army death in the campaign had been killed in an armed raid by the local IRA on 7 September 1919.
Meanwhile in Dublin, the Michael Collins’ IRA Squad continued its campaign of killing Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) intelligence officers. Established in July 1919 the Squad’s campaign was based on information gleamed by an active web of spies among sympathetic members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) G Division and other vital divisions of the British administration
Continued local and regional agitation by the IRA led to the 10 September 1919 proclamation signed by the Viceroy, Chief Secretary suppressing Sinn Féin Clubs. The proclamation also covered Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, and the Gaelic League. The County of Cork and the City of Cork was focussed on as well as seven other districts – Dublin City, County Dublin, Tipperary South Riding and North Riding, Limerick City and County Limerick, and County Clare. The proclamation declared such association to Sinn Féin to be dangerous, and they were accordingly prohibited and suppressed. Within days a proclamation was spread to prohibition and suppression within thirty-two counties and six county boroughs of Ireland of Dáil Éireann. The order was signed by the Chief Secretary and General Sir Frederick Shaw, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland.
The Cork Examiner details that on 12 September members of the Cork RIC, accompanied by parties of military, left Union Quay Barracks moving to enforce the Order issued for the suppression of the Sinn Féin and other organisations. The Sinn Féin clubs in the city were visited between 9am and 12noon, at which the police carried out a very exhaustive search of the rooms at each centre, with soldiers with fixed bayonets stood at the door. The police were also armed, some with carbines and others with revolvers.
The raids were not altogether unexpected by Sinn Féin Clubs in Cork, and in most cases anything that was deemed advisable to remove from the rooms of the clubs had been removed shortly after the issue of the proclamation.
The north side of the city was the first district to receive RIC attention, and the only articles they thought worth taking from premises there were six haversacks. The Shandon Street Sinn Féin Club, Coburg Street Sinn Féin Club, and rooms at Watercourse road were carefully searched, and a visit was also paid to the shop of a Mr D Curtin in that district.
The Thomas Ashe Club, which was situated on Charlotte Quay (now Fr Mathew Quay), came in for an exhaustive inspection. It was after 12noon when the party reached it. The soldiers, about twenty in number, ranged themselves along the hall leading from the door to the stairs, and with fixed bayonets waited until the police had completed their examination of the contents of the rooms. Here a dummy rifle, one of a dozen, was taken possession of, together with a number of membership cards. The flooring of a small apartment used as a bathroom was torn up, but there were no finds. The apartments occupied by the caretaker, Mrs Horan, next received attention, the bedding being carefully examined without result. Mrs Horan was reminded by the search party that the Sinn Féin organisation had been proclaimed, and she was ordered to remove her furniture as speedily as possible.
The Grand Parade Club at 56 Grand Parade, which was the headquarters of the Sinn Féin party in Cork, was searched about 11am. About twelve soldiers in charge of an officer, and a number of police searched the premises. There was no one on the premises at the time, and the doors of the rooms, which were locked, were broken open. The search occupied about an hour. Soon after the soldiers and police had withdrawn members of the club arrived, and one of them at once wrote and placed on the window a card bearing the words, “Business as Usual”.
Whilst the inspection was in progress, the doors of the rooms were damaged in the forced opening. A half-dozen dummy rifles which had been stored in a room on the second storey remained untouched, but the picture of Thomas MacDonagh, who was executed in 1916, and that of Joseph McGuinness, MP, were removed from the walls and destroyed. A different party visited the Cumann na mBan rooms on the South Mall.
Over an hour’s stay was made at the premises of Mr Wickham, tinsmith, Merchant’s Quay, the search proving futile. Another house visited was that of Mr Lucy, vintner, Pembroke Street, was the same result.
The residence of Mr Liam De Róiste, MP, was amongst the houses searched by the police and military. They spent a considerable time in the house and took with them a number of Sinn Féin pamphlets. Among other houses visited were those of Mr Patrick Corkery, Friar Street, and Mr Sean O’Sullivan, Abbey Street. Nothing, however, of any consequence was declared to be found.
1015a. Former site of 1919 Cork Sinn Féin Headquarters, 56 Grand Parade (pictures: Kieran McCarthy)
1015b. Protruding building onto present Fr Mathew quay above red cars is the site of the former Sinn Féin Club of 7 Charlotte Quay
Kieran’s September Historical Walking Tours
Saturday 21 September 2019, Stories from Blackrock and Mahon, historical walking tour with Kieran, meet at entrance to Blackrock Castle, 11am, (free, 2 hours, finishes near railway line walk, Blackrock Road).
Sunday 22 September 2019, The Battle of Douglas, An Irish Civil War Story, historical walking tour with Kieran, from carpark and entrance to Old Railway Line, Harty’s Quay, Rochestown; 2pm, (free, 2 hours, finishes near Rochestown Road).