Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 21 October 2021
Journeys to a Truce: Commemorating Terence MacSwiney, One True Man
October 1921 coincided with the first annual anniversary of Terence MacSwiney’s death. He was commemorated through a number of means – many of which were politically linked to the formal opening of the Treaty negotiations in London. First up on Sunday 16 October 1921 Dublin’s Abbey Theatre presented Terence’s play The Revolutionist (1915), which was presented by special permission by the MacSwiney family. The proceedings were in aid of the Irish Republican Prisoners Dependents’ Fund.
During the play’s interval, an interesting address was delivered by Richard Mulcahy, Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army. He expressed regret that the committee of the fund had been unable to get Mary MacSwiney to deliver an address. He said that Terence MacSwiney needed no introduction to them. Mr Mulcahy referred to some of his associations with Terence mentioning that his first introduction to him was through reading some “wonderful articles” on the pages of the newspaper entitled Irish Freedom. Irish society, said the speaker, was “on the threshold of big things” and they faced a future with the realisation that all of them had certain duties if they were going to win. He noted: “A few men could do very great things, but it was the people of Ireland who are fighting against the enemy. The few men doing great things could be undermined if the people of Ireland did not realise that these great things were to be done and if as a whole, they do not make themselves one in the work and on the outlook of those great men”.
On 23 October 1921, a demonstration in commemoration of Terence MacSwiney was held in Trafalgar Square. The members of 40 branches of the London district committee of the Irish Self Determination League (ISDL) of Great Britain, many of which were Sinn Féin supporters, were present at full strength. These contingents were headed up by banner bearers and accompanied by pipers, brass and reeds, and fife from drum bands. They marched through different thoroughfares on their way to the square.
At Trafalgar Square, Republican colours were worn by large numbers of the crowd while colour draped banners hung in different positions around the plinth of the Nelson monument. A number of these banners contained models, one of which attracted a good deal of attention been written as follows – “In loving memory of Terence MacSwiney, Irish Patriot, who died for his country in Brixton Gaol, October 25th, 1920 – One True Man”.
The audience heard stirring speeches, which made reference to Terence’s great sacrifice. Art O’Brien, Vice President, ISDL of Great Britain, and Sinn Féin London correspondent & Dáil Éireann Envoy to London, opened the proceedings. After him the crowd was addressed by other speakers from three platforms. Alderman Liam de Róiste was present, representing Cork and the municipality. Liam was greeted with loud cheers and cries of “Up the Rebels” and “Up Cork”. He said as a friend of Lord Mayor MacSwiney and as a representative from his city he deemed it his duty to attend the demonstration to honour an Irish patriot. He highlighted that it was important that Terence’s memory should be honoured in London because “it was in an English gaol, he laid down his life for Ireland” and that his memory is honoured in Cork and in Ireland and throughout the world.
At the conclusion of the addresses, a resolution was simultaneously submitted from each platform and the following was adopted unanimously and enthusiastically;
“That this meeting of Irish residents in London expresses its reverent admiration for the glory of sacrifice made by Terence MacSwiney in defence of the rise of his country, and its sincere respect for his memory; and the Irish residents in London further take this opportunity to call for the release of all Irish prisoners and internees who, like Terence MacSwiney, have been seized and imprisoned by the British government on account of the part they have taken in Ireland’s fight for freedom”.
On the anniversary of Terence’s death on 25 October 1921 at Saint Georges Cathedral, Southwark, London, a requiem mass was held for him. It was attended by the Irish delegates to the peace conference negotiations as well as by other Irish people living in London.
In Cork on 25 October, high mass was celebrated for the repose of the souls of Terence MacSwiney, Michael Fitzgerald, and Joseph Murphy at the North Cathedral. Bishop Daniel Cohalan presided. There was a full attendance of clergy, and members of Cork Corporation, Cork Harbour Board, the Cork United Trades and Labour Council, the University College, and the city’s hospitals – were all represented.
In addition, a beautiful portrait of Terence got a formal showing and was unveiled at the Munster Fine Art Club in the gallery of the Crawford Municipal School of Art. It was completed by the school’s principal Hugh Charde.in late 1920. A native of Cobh, Hugh Charde (1858-1946) was Principal of the Crawford School of Art from 1919 to 1937. He was a teacher in the School as far back as 1889 and received his early tuition in the Drawing School of the North Monastery. He later studied at the School of Art under Mr James Brennan, RHA. Apart from instructing and encouraging young art students, during his forty-eight years connection with the School of Art, Hugh Charde was a painter of great ability himself. Of latter years he specialised in water colours. Hugh Charde was also the founder of the Munster Fine Art Club, of which he was President for very many years. The Terence MacSwiney painting is still a much favoured piece within the collection of the current Crawford Art Gallery.
1122a. Hugh C. Charde’s Portrait of Terence MacSwiney, 1920, oil on canvas, 77 x 64 cm. Collection Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. Many thanks to Michael Waldron for his help at the gallery.