Early Days [P106/976]
St.Enda's letter, Sept 1912 [P106/527]
St.Enda's letter, Jan 1913 [P106/519]
1916 Rising [P106/384]
1922 raid [P106/978(1)]
1922 raid [P106/1991]
1922 raid (Aodogán)
Ailesbury Rd [P102/543]
Sighle in prison, 1922-23 [P106/979(1)]
P106/976 UCD ARCHIVE
SIGHLE HUMPHREYS MEMOIRE – EARLY DAYS, written in 1970s
A question I am very often asked is what brought me into the Republican movement. The answer is that I could have scarcely avoided becoming involved.
One of the first nursery rhymes I was taught by my mother’s sister, as a very small girl was ‘Be there a man with soul so dead who never yet to himself has said, ‘this is my nation land!’
After the death of my father in 1903 this aunt, Anno, came to live with us, us being a brother 3 years older than me, Dick, and a baby brother, Emmet.
We lived in a country house near Parteen where I spent the first nine years of my life in blissful happiness. Psychologists would probably describe it as a particularly ‘sheltered’ life which would produce many problems later. And undoubtedly the happy carefree life I led was anything but a preparation for the . . .
Our mother was a very devout person with an extraordinary love of daily mass. This meant quite a good walk every morning to Parteen church. She taught us piano and for a bedtime story told us some Bible story every night from the Old Testament.
When I was about nine my mother and aunt decided to move to Dublin.
My aunt (taught us Irish from O’Growney’s books) who, before she had left her own home in Ballylongford had become very interested in Irish and had found an old native Irish speaker with whom she tried out her slender knowledge from O’Growney No 1 and 2. Neither our teacher nor ourselves got very far in the spoken language.
. . .while I hated Dublin and its crowded streets and city life after the bud-filled (?) fields and woods, the friendship of three lovely cousins made up greatly for the loss (referring to The O’Rahilly’s children).
Strange enough my mother’s only brother Michael decided at the very same time to come back to Ireland from America. He had been living in Philadelphia from the time of his marriage to an American in 190?
From now on our two families were very close. My aunt Áine and her brother Michael joined Craobh na Cúig gCúige even before we came to Dublin and we were enrolled in the junior league and dancing classes. Long before we came to Dublin my aunt had been subscribing to Arthur Griffith’s paper. And so naturally she contacted him shortly after our arrival in the city. I must admit that whenever he came to our house I made a hasty exit, as apart from looking on him with much awe I never could think of anything to say to him. He certainly did not feel at ease with children. Later when my mother went to school in St Enda’s I naturally met Pádraig Mac Piarais very often. He also was a very shy man but covered his by inviting me to some forthcoming event in his school. As far as I can remember there was always some function coming off, either a concert, a play, lecture or aeridheact. In contrast to Pádraig, Willie was in his element with children and young people. He had a great interest in tree and birds and . .
The first time we were raided was in ___. My uncle Michael O’Rahilly used our house as a covering address for his volunteer correspondence and indeed also kept supply rifles from time to time. One night I remember a number of men coming to our house in Northumberland Rd and leaving with violin cases and bulky parcels all containing rifles.
On Easter Monday morning I went fairly early over to my uncle’s house in Herbert Park. As usual he gave me a warm welcome. His heart must have been as heavy as lead. The strong spring sun was shining in on a happy family of four young sons, the youngest under three years old. My uncle was in the act of putting on his putties, and graciously declined an offer of help from my aunt who knew he was suffering from a pretty sore septic finger.
A great wish came over me to say how proud I was of being his niece and of being alive to see such a day, but any display of feeling was absolutely taboo in our family. Indeed later that day when I said I just couldn’t/didn’t feel I could eat lunch, my mother rebuked me strongly for as she put it ‘giving in to myself.’
So, knowing how an announcement of my feelings would be frowned on I scarcely said, ‘Slán Leat’ to Michael although in my heart I knew I never would see him again.
As I felt they would like to be left alone together I proposed taking little MaoilMhuire out for a walk to Sandymount strand. On our way I heard the sound of a horn and on looking up I saw Michael driving the De Dion on its last journey. He waived gaily at us and I stood and watched it until it went out of sight. We had only got as far as the strand when we heard the first explosion of that memorable week. It was the blowing up of the magazine font in Phoenix park.
Later that evening my mother announced that she was going to go down to the GPO to try to persuade Pearse to give up his protest and leave the GPO! When my aunt asked her what reasons she’d give him she said she’d tell him that all the people were against him! As if he didn’t know this himself! I felt utterly miserable and ashamed but didn’t dare interfere as I knew I’d be snubbed and told to mind my own business if I said anything. Now, in all fairness to my mother at that stage of the fight, we did not know that any building accept the GPO had been taken over by the Volunteers. My mother had no way of knowing how many volunteers had ignored McNeill’s order and turned up on Easter Monday Morning
How eagerly we awaited her return, It must have been some hours before she returned solemn and weary, as she had to walk both ways. Slowly and sadly she told of her talk with Pearse. She said she failed utterly in the purpose of her visit. There was such a wonderful atmosphere of hope and exaltation that she couldn’t bear to introduce . . . She had brought a supply of blessed medals of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, together with a small leaflet containing a special prayer to Our L. of P.S. for Volunteers. These she gave to Pearse to distribute to the men in the Post Office. But not a word did she say of her secret thoughts (misgivings) on his . ..
Next day all her fears and anxieties returned and once again she decided she’d go down to the GPO and this time concentrate on bringing Dick home. When she explained to Pearse how if anything happened to Michael and Dick, the two families would be left with no man, Pearse readily saw her point and advised Dick to accompany her home. He very kindly added that he had shown/proved himself willing to fight and die for Ireland, but that he should now make the sacrifice of going home to help both his families. Being thus ordered by Pearse to go home he said good bye to his Commander in General and to Michael to whom he whispered, ‘I’ll be back.’
The journey back to Northumberland rd proved a pretty dangerous one while passing Boland’s Mills they were called to ‘Halt’. They promptly did so but it didn’t prevent the sentry firing one shot at them. Luckily he missed them but as Dick said later he was much safer in the P.O. than on that journey home.
The following morning Dick arose very early went to 7 o’clock mass in Haddington rd and after breakfast announced that he was returning to the GPO. This time my mother did not try to stop him.
At about 1 o’clock that day, Wednesday, we heard the tramp of marching men and looking out the window saw lines and lines of soldiers with full military kit marching towards the city. Suddenly a volley rang out from No.25 and all threw themselves on the ground. Many never rose again. Michael Malone and Jim Grace, the two volunteers who had taken over No. 25 Northumberland Rd did not open fire until the soldiers had arrived at the Haddington rd junction. The soldiers had no idea from whence the firing was coming. This attack on the soldiers threw them into great confusion and we could see a group of officials, bunched together at the corner of St Mary’s Rd evidently planning their next move. To give the officers their due they didn’t order their men to do anything they were not prepared to do themselves. At one state later in the day an officer with a bandaged arm in a sling led his men. During a lull in the firing we saw the soldiers, suddenly turn completely around and start firing up at the houses on our side of the road. As we heard the noise of shattered glass we instinctively moved back from the windows and went down to the kitchen. In a few moments a small band of soldiers with rifles at the ready rushed into the kitchen but on finding only the cook, my young brother and myself, they lowered their rifles. We must have said something to each other because one exclaimed to the other, ‘Blimey, they are speaking English.’ I then asked them, ‘why where do you think you are?’
They were little more than school boys and they told us they thought they were in Flanders!
Such is the life of a rank and file. Just canon fodder for their imperial masters.
Eventually the British officials realised that the firing was coming from No 25 and repeated efforts were made to silence the barrage coming from chiefly one window opening onto Haddington Road. But it was not until around 6.30pm that those two brave young volunteers were ___ having kept the British army at bay for over five hours.
. . . . rush up the steps of No. 25 and then heard an explosion. He had thrown a bomb at the front door.
At about 7pm we heard a loud explosion and we saw a sort of cloud of dust at the top of the step of 25. Evidently the door had been blown in after that we heard no more shot from no 25.
But . .
(THE ACCOUNT ENDS HERE)
Extract from Dick’s diary at age 15/16 -
18 Jan. 1912 ‘Nearly all the boys went out to the Panto. I went down to the Lady of the Lake, had a good time, came up and read at the fire in the linen room ‘till eleven o’clock.
21 Jan. Had no out match, played hurling with Bulfin.
23 Jan. Was stopped by a bobby coming home for having no lamp, name and address taken, but nothing happened.
25 Jan. Mr Pearse told some of the boys to get rifles.
27 Jan. Had a hurling match, rode home in the evening, took a dive from the cycle in the mud. Got the rifle with Michael at Truelocks.
28 Jan. Played a hurling match in Ringsend against Fontenoys; was late for the first half. Won by 7-2 to nil.
29 Jan. Tried the rifle. Mr Pearse cleaned it afterwards.
1 Feb. Went down to Confession after tea, walked back slowly as it was a lovely night and as I didn’t know my Euclid.
23 Feb. Michael O’Rahilly came out here and gave a lecture on ’98 in the study hall.
1 March. Had a lecture on poetry by Pádraic Colum
22nd March Pearse nearly went mad about things broken; said he would stop all half-days if culprits were not found. We had a lecture here in the evening by Mr Mopson on patriotism.
7th April. Easter Sunday, fine day. Looked for our Easter eggs in the garden, got a grand big one. Drove the motor out to Kingston.
3rd May. Had a lecture by Madame Markievicz on the Rebellion of Ireland.
Extract from Letter from Dick Humphreys to his Mother, Nell – 2 Sept 1912
Did you really think that I was going to Clongowes like that, no I couldn’t do it not if you offered me a motor cycle. I was out with Mr Pearse today and I told him why you were afraid to send me back and he told me that it was all right he has bought the place back again from the company he made in April and he expects to have the same number of boys as last year.
You need not think that I made this up in the last few days. I have been thinking of it since before going to Lisdoonvarna and I went on from day to day hating the thought of Clongowes more and more till the last week passed like a nightmare to me.
You talk about my going to Clongowes and starting a Gaelic League and a hurling team that may be alright in theory but not in practice ...
From SCOIL EANNA Jan 1913
But between 3/2/12 and the date of his leaving Dick got several small items, including some books and a cap, and boots were also repaired for him (soled, heeled and patched) during March, then with the medical attendance make up the items up to the finish 29-6-12.
Mr O’Connor tells me you seem to question the medical attendance, saying that Dick was taken home the day he got the measles. But he was with Dr Kelly four or five times earlier in the year, when his head had to be stitched and dressed after a hurt in the football field and kept bandaged for over a week. Dr O Kelly’s actual charge to me for him was £1, 10 shilling and the extra half–crown replacement bandages etc,
I need hardly say that if the matter rested with me I should not bother you about this, remembering your great generosity to St Enda’s three years ago. But the a/c is due not to me, but to the company of which Mr O Connor is liquidator, and it is Mr O Connor's duty to realise all the debts which accounting to the books, were due to the company on 30th June last . .. Forgive my troubling you in the matter.
With kindest regards to all
NELL’S ACCOUNT OF 1916
Extract from Letter from Nell Humphreys to her sister-in-law (not her cousin), a nun, in Australia:
Here in our own road two men held a house and there were over ninety soldiers killed or wounded. Anna and Sighle saw nearly all who fell.
I find I cannot write this, there is too much to tell. I will get Dick to describe the PO events and will keep it to our own family.
We had to think of Nannie before anything as you know the state she was in at the time, so I went over to her house, not seven minutes walk, and remained with her. We bore up wonderfully, but the nights were terrible, rifle firing and machine guns and the sounds of burning houses. (I cannot describe so you must imagine what occurred, and know that everything was far worse than your wildest imaginings.) Anyhow Nannie was not able to endure it longer and she sent me looking for a house in the country. On Friday morning I cycled out to Dundrum and found an empty house and she and I and the maid and the youngest boy went out there in the afternoon. That saved her, we were not continually looking at millions of soldiers, as we thought, and wagon loads of ammunition passing into the town against our handful of men.
Anna and Sighle were left alone here with our maid (who was a regular Ann Devlin) when she (Anna) could get a pass (under pretence of going to buy milk, she used a cycle out to see us, but she had no news, only wild rumours, till Tuesday morning, a week and a day after the rising began. She came out to tell us Michael had fallen. In the afternoon I came in to town. (I will never forget the way I left poor Nannie sitting in a strange bare bedroom, her head bowed down on a shabby dressing table, such a forlorn little figure.) Well I cycled into town with my cousin, the Carmelite Rector in Clarendon St, and after passing numerous sentries and riding over heaps of broken glass we got to the Morgue. There was Michael stretched out on a stand. He was even honoured there, all the others were lying on the ground and he did look fine, Nora. His head thrown back, he had a very high forehead and he looked as brave and peaceful as ever a warrior sculpted in marble on a tomb. Nobody but myself saw him, and tis a pity. If Nannie could only have had that impression for her life, it would have made up for much.
By the great kindness of an undertaker whose own two sons were out as we now say, we were able to get a plain coffin, and even buried him in Glasnevin, temporarily on Thursday.
We were only . ..
All this time our worst trouble was that we had no idea of where Dick was. On Wed morning I heard he was killed and had a very bad hour or two looking for him at all the hospitals, etc. My cousin still with me, a placid priest who gave me a good laugh all to myself, even then fancy, as he would insist on ordering a hearse and everything to take two coffins and seemed a bit put out when Dick’s body could not be found.
When I had been in prison a few days Anna came to see me indeed she came every day, in fact spent her time going around looking for us, as I always was . . . .
We have met so many of every sort and they are all proud of being Irish, of having lived and suffered for this, so anxious to do anything for the men who were out, for the wives and families of those who have fallen. It is again an exquisite charitable world as it must have been at the time of the early Christians, it is great to be alive now and to feel your heart warm as mine does over the goodness of man. You will say I am heroic and absurd, but it is what I feel, Nora. Trouble has drawn us all together as we were originally meant to be.
Did you hear at all of the part women took in the Rising? I used to feel ashamed of Sighle, as being unwomanly when Anna told me that at times it was difficult to keep her from taking a shot herself, that the way she gloried when the enemy fell was actually inhuman, and her nerve during the whole thing was wonderful.
SíGHLE’S ACCOUNT OF THE AILESBURY ROAD RAID NOV 1922, AND HER FIRST TIME IN PRISON
(this was written either in 1928 or more likely in 1931 )
As I’m continually being told that I should write an account of the women prisoners experiences in jail 1922-23, and as there are certainly many interesting things to tell, and as I shall probably never again have as muc time (being again in Mountjoy) I’m going to amuse myself going back on the past. I’m afraid it will be more an account about myself than the women prisoners, all I hope is that I wont be as bad as Benjamin Franklin.
As far as I remember the first girl to be arrested by the Free State army was a university student named – who was caught with a party of volunteers going down the country with arms. She was brought to Mountjoy and kept there for I think about 4 weeks. This was some time about the middle of September 1922.
Then about the middle of October there was a raid on the printing works of - - and Commer (?) and Honour Murphy were arrested. She was also sent to Mountjoy. When we heard of this arrest we had a momentary pang of fear in case it meant the commencement of the arrest of women, but our fear were unnecessary. Although our Headquarters were raided very often, our papers and letters torn or removed, and parts of the office itself broken, we ourselves were not arrested.
One day in October four of us thought our last hour of freedom had come, but the Free State Executive had not yet decided to arrest women – we were on one of our ‘painting’ expeditions when we used to use the walls as newspapers, we were just ‘decorating’ the old Parliament House when two armoured cars dashed down the street from the Castle and pulled up beside us. It was only about 7 o’clock in the morning and there was no chance of ‘melting away in the crowd.’ as there was practically no one else out in the streets – whenever there was time the workmen and anyone out at that hour of the morning always warned us of the enemies approach.
This time however we were caught red handed the soldiers swarmed all around us grabbed our paint pots and threw the paint all over us – they held up a woman who was passing and ordered her to search us there and then. One woman against four! We told her that if she dared a lay a hand on us we would have her shot! She decided that her life was worth a little more than that and refused to search us. Before we could realise what was happening we were taken bodily and thrown into the armoured cars, two in each, Fanny O’Dolan and myself in one, and Mrs Stack and Mary Coyle in the other.
We went as a terrific rate through the streets and although we were sitting on tins and ammunition boxes we got no jolting, I was seldom in a car which went so smoothly. It seems they are all Rolls Royces. Our first stop was Oriel House. The men in civilian clothes came out and had a look at us but said nothing. Off we went again at breakneck speed to Portobello Barracks. Evidently no one wanted us, as after a short delay here we drove again to Wellington Barracks. On the way we held long arguments with the soldiers. Three of them were actually British Tommies, one had been a Truce Volunteer and was – or pretended he was – greatly impressed by our appeals. We thought he would be throwing off his green uniform before we arrived at our destination!
There were so many machine guns drums and ammunition lying about the car that I couldn’t resist filling pockets with it – a silly thing to have done, but fortunately I got away with it, gave the bullets to the Volunteers but never told them of the foolish way I got them.
In Wellington Barracks we were put in a cell beyond the Day room just beside the main gate on the right. There was a hole into the cell beside us and it was not long before we discovered that there were Volunteer prisoners there. One was Sean Beaumont and he gave us a message for . . .
We had somehow kept a pot of paint and a brush between us and we decorated the cell with ‘suitable’ inscriptions. The soldiers amused themselves looking through the ‘Judas’ hole of the cell and making remarks to each other about us. One remark made us laugh as it was so true, looking long and solemnly at us he turned to another soldier and said, ‘Ah sure they are only four ragbags.’ That’s just what we were, and in spite of all our efforts we could not make ourselves respectable. On painting expeditions one wears one’s oldest clothes. And the splashes of white and black paint didn’t add to our appearance.
After a good number of hours we heard commotion in the passage and the noise of soldiers jumping to attention. Our cell was thrown open and a wee little officer, more like a child playing at soldiers than a real man, walked into the cell. Evidently the soldiers hadn’t told him to expect us as the expression on his face when he saw us was a study. For a minute or so he was speechless, needless to say we didn’t help him to make conversation, so we just stared at each other in silence.
Then turning to Mrs Stack, he said, ‘What are you here for?’
‘For painting,’ said she quietly.
‘For painting?’ said he absolutely puzzled. ‘For painting what?’
‘Up the Republic!’ said we all in a chorus.
He didn’t know from Adam what to make of us. He seemed never to have heard of our street painting and though we were only making a short answer when we said ‘Up the Republic.’
He asked us who arrested us and who brought us here, rather extraordinary queries to ask prisoners. However we gave him as much information as we could, giving the impression that we were four quiet inoffensive women who had been kidnapped by wicked soldiers for no reason at all. He then asked us if we had had breakfast and said he must see about getting us something to eat.
Soon after this the doors of the other cells on the passage were opened and the men were allowed out for exercise. They gathered around the little hole in our door and eagerly asked for news of the outside world. One man, either Sean or Liam Forde – I never since discovered which – gave us a big bag of chocolates. They were most welcome although we did our best to refuse them as the men needed them more than we did.
After a few more hours an orderly came along and told us to follow him. He brought us through two or three courtyards to I think the officers mess. Anyhow we were guided into a room with table set for dinner. We were given a very good dinner, the only drawback being that mess(?)-detectives, it seems – were looking in through the window and from their remarks we gathered that they recognised Mrs Stack and Mary Coyle. We had refused to give our names, for many reasons. The chief one being that the houses were being used by the Volunteers. A funny thing happened at the end of dinner as the orderly was bringing in tea – ma’s é do thoil é – he slipped and down came tray cups and saucers and all almost all were broken. We were very sorry for him and hoped he wouldn’t get into trouble.
After dinner our little officer came around and said the lorry for Mountjoy would soon arrive. At this announcement our hearts nearly stopped beating! We had taken the whole thing as a joke up till then as we all felt that we would not be kept. The thought of being sent to Mountjoy – out of which it was so hard to get – for the silly act of painting was maddening. But in all our worry we had to laugh at Mrs Stack as she sat on an old barrel composing a letter to a new maid who had only come the night before, trying the explain why she would not be home ‘for the present.’ She tore up dozens of attempts, and I’m afraid we were more of a nuisance than a help to her, tho’ she enjoyed the situation nearly as much as we did. Before she had her letter finished, our little tormentor arrived once more and being petrified with fear I could hardly believe my ears when he said we could go home.
He accompanied us to the gate and acting like an old man gave us a lecture on the dangerous game we were playing and warned us that we wouldn’t get a second chance. He was a funny little individual, and took life very seriously. He was a brother of Eimar (?) O Duffy but not a bit like what he seems to be in his books.
I shall never forget the joy of walking along the St Circular Rd – a road I always hated – and the extraordinary happiness in getting on an old tram. Our exuberance of spirits must have puzzled everyone on the tram, but we couldn’t suppress it and felt like telling everyone of the escape we had. Having experienced this same feeling every time I got out I always wonder how on earth I ever let myself run the risk again; and I expect if one was arrested often enough one would give up the game in the end.
A week or so later two members of Cumann na mBan the Merrigans were arrested and were sentenced in the Police Courts to, I think, a month.
On Saturday 25th October (1922) our home was raided by the Free Staters – this being the first raid by Staters. I cannot remember anything about it except that there was no volunteer there at the time so we had no need of anxiety. Unfortunately this raid gave us a false sense of security as they didn’t find the secret room, nor did they seem to have any knowledge whatever of it. So we foolishly allowed the Volunteers to continue coming to the house where the A.A. D.C. had his office.
On the following Saturday morning at about seven thirty or eight o’clock a gentle knock at the front door awoke me, half asleep I jumped out of bed and looked out the window where I saw three men in civilian clothes, two held revolvers, otherwise there was nothing to show who they were as there wasn’t a sign of a motor or soldiers or other reinforcements. Rushing to the door of the secret room I told E.O.M. that there were three C.I.D. men at the door but that he ought to have a good chance of escaping as they seemed to be only the three of them. Terribly wrong information which nearly cost him his life.
They certainly had information that morning about the secret room as they went practically straight to it. They opened the front of the cupboard and pushed the back of it. For a moment they seemed taken aback as nothing happened. Again they tried the inside of the cupboard and evidently it must have moved this time as one of them rushed to the front of the house and gave three or four hectic blasts of a whistle. At the sound men in uniforms and in civilian clothes seemed to run from all directions towards the house. The detectives who had already been in the house took rifles from the soldiers and commenced to batter down the back of the wardrobe. The blows seemed to continue for an eternity although it cannot have been for more than a minute or so. Then there was the noise of a panel being shattered followed by the report of a bullet. It’s impossible to describe the scene which followed, men and soldiers just dived head foremost down the stairs even around the corner. Rifles and revolvers were lying around the landing and down the first steps of the stairs – the brave staters must have thought that there was a regiment after them instead of one man defending his life. Taking this as a sample of the Staters fighting, I often wonder how on earth they succeeded in defeating the Republicans.
A horrible silence followed then hectic rush downstairs, and it was a great relief to see Ernie O’Malley coming along the passage safe and sound. But his expression told me something awful had happened even before he had time to say that Anno was shot. Strange to say I don’t remember feeling either surprised or horrified. I seemed to feel that I had always and always – for hundreds of years – known that his would happen, that it was a perfectly natural occurance and that all that mattered at the moment was to put the enemy out of the house as quickly as possilbe and keep them out.
Just like Anno, she had got a towel and was trying to stop the bleeding herself, even before Mam had time to get to her. She had been shot right through her head, the bullet had passed through her mouth and out of the back of her head. Some white sort of matter – which I thought was brain but have never liked to ask about since had come out from the wound. I thought she was done for until she began to speak, then I felt that she was as full of life, no matter how badly she was hit she would not die. ‘I knew,’ said she, ‘that something like this would happen as I saw one magpie on my way to mass.’
Two guns, a rifle and revolver which had been dropped by the Staters were lying on the landing, outside the door of my room. Ernie took up the rifle. His only wish now was to get out of the house as fast as he could before, he said, ‘he’d bring any more trouble on the house.’ But this was not so easy. After their wild retreat downstairs, the Staters had pulled themselves together and were now all in a bunch at the foot of the stairs, their rifles pointed upwards ready for their prey. TO go down that stairs meant certain death. Foolishly I thought it might be possible to get out a window but looking out we saw a number of soldiers outside their rifles levelled on the house. There was no escape.
Suddenly a voice called out from downstairs, “you, up there will you surrender, in the name of the State.’ And as quickly Ernie answered, ‘Never!’ No surrender here.’ And like a flash he was down the stairs. Reports rang out, perhaps three or four. I was ready to see Ernie stagger and fall but he was at the foot of the stairs, alone in the hall with no sight of the enemy anywhere.
Now, if only there was a tunnel out of the house! Leaving Ernie putting on boots I went out to the back garden to reconnoitre. At the side of the house crouching under the drawing room window were two soldiers with their rifles pointed towards where I was standing. Those, unfortunately and stupidly were all I noticed. Outside the front door there was a poor soldier lying apparently quite dead. Behind the front door, which was open there was a C.I.D hiding though we didn’t know this until afterwards. There was also one under Dick’s bed all the time, known only to Dick.
As far as I remember Ernie left the captured rifle saying it would be too heavy to carry over garden walls, but taking his own revolver he went out the side door turning quickly to the left he had the two crouching soldiers under cover before they were ready to fire. Anxious only to escape, and not for victims he ordered the soldiers to ‘run’ and they ran. Meanly enough I’m ashamed to say I was waiting at the front door to have a shot at them, but when I saw them running away with their backs to me, I hadn’t the heart to fire, until they or others, I’m not sure which turned at the gate to come in again. I didn’t hit anyone but they didn’t come all the same.
I thought that by this time Ernie was well away when I heard a faint call and running to the back I found him lying terribly wounded just inside the door. There had been two or three Free State soldiers stationed behind the wall next door, they had had a perfect view of everything and were only waiting to shoot him as he left the house.
Later when re-enforcements came they rushed the house and unfortunately met with no resistance this time.
SO many things happened within the following half an hour that it would be quite impossible to remember them all. It was a long time afterwards that Dick told us how he had been taken down by the C.I.D. men to the foot of the garden put against a tree and told that he was going to be shot, whether as de Valera or himself I don’t know. When they first found him in the house they thought he was de Valera.
As soon as Anno and Ernie had been taken away the C.I.D and soldiers started to search the house for papers and guns. It was only then I thought of the papers and tried to hide a note book which I knew was of some importance, but I was late. It was then they found all Liam Mellows letters which he had sent out of prison on matters of the future – most interesting and of value even if he had lived. As it is, I’d given anything to get those letters back, I believe Dick Mulcahy got them, and there are times when I think of pocketting all my pride and asking him for them. I wonder would he give them if I asked, and I wonder shall I ever ask? Probably not – on this side of the grave, and I won’t want them on the other!
I had hidden Ernie’s and the C.I.D. man’s revolvers forgetting that the CID man couldn’t possibly go back to barracks without his gun. They first begged and implored of me to give it back, saying if he went back without it, he’d be shot, then they bullied and threatened and one man with hair which stood straight up in front, called as far as I remember, Sergeant Doddy put his revolver up to my mouth and actually got the barrel between my teeth. He said something about the throat being a nice place to be shot in. Even though he had worked himself up into an awful rage, I felt he wouldn’t shoot deliberately but I was afraid of my life that the trigger would go as he had it cocked all the time, and I’m sure my hair was beginning to stand up as staight as his own.
In the middle of this disagreeable episode – as they’d say in a book – Annie (the Maid) knocked at my door to come in, and Doddy quickly put his gun where it belonged!
Annie like a real marvel had got us breakfast and as Mam always insists on eating during the very worst time, down she made us come to breakfast which we all enjoyed as we knew that time we were going to be arrested. It was during breakfast that Mam thought of phoning for Nannie to come up so that there would be some one in the house when we’d leave. She got permission to phone and rang up Hayes, Cunningham Robinson in Ballsbridge and asked them to send a message down to 40 Herbert Park to ask Mrs O’Rahily to come up to 36 Ailesbury Rd. They hailed a passing boy, gave him the message, and he very kindly and obligingly went off gaily to 40. Little he knew what was before him. The house was occupied by the F.S. Soldiers who arrested him and kept him in the Wellington for ten days or a fortnight! I’m sure he has been slow to go on messages again!
Well anyhow they allowed him deliver his message and up came Nannie as fast as she could to be arrested on her arrival at our house. In spite of all our troubles we had a great laugh when the soldier or C.I.D. told her she would have to ‘come along also.’
Nannie gallantly refused to go in the lorry, so they had to stop a private car which was passing, belonging to a man down the road, and make him drive us to Wellington.
On arriving at Wellington they brought us into a large room with a fire in it, and a number of men working at desks. The most important of them – a man with a large hook nose – was given all the captured papers. It was damnable to have to look on helplessly while he went through them one by one, putting the more important aside to examine more thorough later. There was that black note book of E.’s (Ernie O’Malley), he didn’t seem to notice its importance and threw it carelessly among the less important group. I thought of making a dash for it and throwing it into the fire but felt I wouldn’t succeed and would only look foolish.
After about half an hour or so we were brought out again and invited into a Ford Car. As we were going out the gate of Wellington Barracks a man passed in – Batt O’Connor. It was he who had built the secret room and meeting him there, so early and on such a morning suggested the suspicion that he was the informer. Personally I don’t believe he was, as he had been too good a man, too short a time before that.
The drive through town was uneventful as has been ever drive to prison since. Sensations, on these occasions, follow each other with such rapidity that one’s brain seems to set/get . . .
‘Hope springs eternal,’ and until the prison gate is finally closed behind one, one never despairs. Though indeed my wish to escape that morning was not as keen as on other prison rides, as curiosity to see what Mountjoy was really like had shut out all other feelings.
Usually one almost prays for an accident or break-down or any miracle which might offer some means of escape. One envies the passers-by and wonders at the many who look so gloomy, one feels like asking them what they are so sad about when they have the most precious thing in the world – freedom.
But then again have they freedom? Under this rotten government and rotten social system, who has freedom? A handful of capitalists!
It was some time before midday when we arrived at Mountjoy. We were only kept a few minutes in a little room near the gate while they sent for a wardress. When she arrived she seemed far more nervous and embarrassed than we were. She was wearing a bonnet – the like of which no one off a stage ever wore – blue straw with long blue ribbons tied in a large bow almost at her waist.
She escorted us to a basement of one of the wings called, ‘The Reception’ from the fact that all new comers are first brought to this basement, where they are searched given a bath, prison clothes and sheets and pillow slips, before being brought up to whatever division or class they belong to. In the men’s prison I believe they remain the first night in a cell in the Reception.
Now all the prisons I had read of were grey grim dark buildings of stone with heavy iron doors full of mystery and dignity, and in my youthful pride and folly I had pictured myself pining away ‘for my country’ in these terrible surroundings. My day dreams had a rude awakening in this Reception wing painted all over in white and, what Dick calls, Holy Mary Blue, with cream coloured doors and almost lady like looking locks and bolts.. At the sight of that pale blue paint vanished all the glory and heroism of prison. This was no prison but a penitentiary – that dreadful named institution – and a dirty penitentiary at that. I shall never forget the oppressive atmosphere, the unappealing odours and smells of that place. How any one came out of it alive is a miracle. And thereby hangs a tale of how one poor girl did not come out alive. She was slowly murdered by the Free State government, a nameless victim of their brutality.
When the Free State Authorities started to arrest Republicans on a large scale sometime after the capture of the Four Courts they had no internment camps ready and had therefore to bring all prisoners to the ordinary prisons. To make room for the political prisoners in Mountjoy, they removed all the ordinary (or ‘criminal’) men prisoners from the male prison over to the female prison. At the same time a large number of the women prisoners were released and the rest were put down in the Basement or reception wing. This wing was partly underground and prisoners were only supposed to be left at most one night in it. Now among these prisoners put into that basement were two young girls from South County Dublin. They had been on a raid with men- whether IRA men or merely escapaders I know not – for arms and in the course of the raid finding the house empty the girls took away some blouses frocks, etc. Undoubtedly it was a shabby, mean – and if they were Republican, disgraceful – thing to do, as it brought such dishonour on the IRA, but the sentence they got was out of all proportion to the crime. Either three, or five years penal servitude.
Now from the day of their sentence these girls refused to go out on exercise, as for lack of space all the women prisoners exercised together around a small patch of grass opposite the front gate. A soldier sentry patrolled one boundary of their exercise ground and a few military police usually congregated to watch the slow procession of women so repulsively dressed in their badly made dirty drab grey frieze uniforms, white aprons and absurd little white caps, perched at all angles on their untidy looking heads. Naturally enough the sight of these men looking at them as if they were wild animals in a zoo roused the pride and anger of all whose spirits were not crushed. So they cursed and swore and sometimes shrieked and yelled and called the soldiers names that are not to be found in any dictionary. Now and then the soldiers would answer back, and frequently the battle of words came to such a pass that the women were taken in from exercise altogether. Needless to say practically all the women prisoners possessed strong Republican views!
It was no wonder that the two shy new ‘convicts’ shrunk from such publicity and decided to remain in their cell. Both, as ‘Stars’ (first offenders) or as convicts they were entitled under the prison rules to exercise apart from the local habitués, and nothing can excuse the prison officials for neglecting to provide a separate exercise ground or hour for them. They were allowed to remain from one end of the week to the other in a stuffy cell – built to hold only one - In that foul evil smelling unhealthy basement. It must have been evident, at least to the doctors, what would happen. They both got some fever, were both brought to Cork Street Hospital, but only one returned. The other died. The ghost of that girl should haunt not only Cosgrove and his ministers but the officials of Mountjoy Jail who allowed such terrible overcrowding and barbarous conditions among the ordinary civil prisoners, in order that the jails would be free to house the patriot soldiers of Ireland.
Well to return to my first few minutes in this seat of misery, a wardress – nowadays called matron – called Miss Maloney who was in charge of the ‘committals’ welcome us stiffly and producing a large book asked us our names and addresses ‘and where’ and when we were born. She began with Mam who told her to look up the files of Easter 1916 and she’d find all the information she was likely to get. At that she seemed rather taken aback and said nicely enough to Mam, ‘I should have remembered you.’ She next turned to Nannie who curtly told her she was an American citizen. That finished Miss Maloney who closed her book and asked us no more.
We were next asked to go into a room partitioned into a number of little places like bathing boxes. Each of us was allotted a ‘bathing box’ and told we were to be searched. My courage went down to zero. I wondered what the deuce I was to do as how could I put up any sort of a fight with Man and Nannie standing by. However I was needlessly alarmed. All Miss Maloney said or did was to ask me if I had ‘anything’ - in a mysterious tone- ‘on me’.
‘Yes’ said I. ‘A machine gun.’
Fortunately she thought this feeble joke funny, and laughing passed on leaving me in possession of some 8 or 10 rifle and revolver bullets. These blessed bullets gave me an awful lot of trouble and worry during the following year or so, and if I had any sense I’d have buried them in some deep hole in the exercise ground. But some spirit of stupid cussedness, and I’m ashamed to say bravado made me want to keep these bullets as sort of mascots of good luck.
However silly as I was when I discovered I had brought them in with me, I must clear myself of the charge of having them brought them in deliberately. I never remembered having put them into my pockets, but as they were plenty lying about all over the house after the fight, very probably I acted on the natural instinct to pocket them.
The wardress now told us to follow her, and dangling the keys she led the way down. through the wing. I was expecting every second that she’d stop at one of those cream coloured doors and my ‘innards’ were falling lower and lower until we suddenly came to a door or iron gate, on the left leading into the open air. ‘Never will I forget’ the relief it was to think that at any rate this smelly inferno was not to be our home. I guessed that no place else could be as bad. We were brought along a gravel path beside the Boundary wall to another white door, the door of the hospital where we were met by a charming figure in a white nurse’s uniform. Her kind, genial and sympathetic face was the last thing I expected to find in such surroundings. A book could be written on this nurse, nurse Dunne’s life. She was one of the kindest souls I ever met, and it was not only to us she was kind. Many of the ordinary prisoners told me that they often sent for her when there was nothing the matter with them but the very sight of her did them good, she was the only person . . . .
(THE ACCOUNT ENDS THERE)
Sighle’s Account of the Raid from the 1970s
On the following Sat morning at about 7.30 am or so a gentle knock on the front door awakened me. I jumped out of bed and looked out the window which was directly over the front door – where I saw three men in civilian clothes, two of them held revolvers at the ready, otherwise there was nothing to show who they were as there wasn't a sign of a motor or lorry of soldiers or other reinforcements.
Rushing to the door of the secret room I called Ernie and told him that there were three CID men with revolvers at the front door, but that he ought to have a good chance of escaping as there didn’t seem to be any more than the three of them. Terribly wrong information which nearly cost him his life.
They certainly had information that morning about the secret room as they went practically straight to it. They opened the door of the dummy cupboard and pushed the back of it. For a moment they seemed taken aback as it did not move. They paused for a few minutes. Again they pushed with great force, the inside of the cupboard, evidently this time it must have moved as one of them rushed to the front of the house and gave three or four hectic shrill blasts of a whistle. Within seconds men in uniform and others in civilian clothes rushed through the gate towards the house, in the door, and up the stairs. The three CID men took rifles from the soldiers and commenced to batter down the back of the cupboard, The blows seemed to continue for an eternity, although really it cannot have been for more than a minute or so. Then there was the noise of a panel being shattered followed by what seemed to be only one shot from a gun.
It is impossible to describe the scene which followed. Men and soldiers just dived head foremost down the stairs. One CID actually rolled down the stairs even around the corner of the bend. Rifles and revolvers were lying around the landing and on the first few steps of the stairs.
The brave Staters must have thought that there was a regiment after them instead of one man defending his life.
An eerie silence followed their hectic rush down stairs, and it was a great relief to see Ernie coming along the passage safe and sound. But his expressions told me something awful had happened even before he had time to tell me that Anno was shot. I rushed into her room, and with that wonderful courage and composure of hers she had already got a towel and was trying to stop the bleeding herself, even before my mother had got to her. She had been shot right through her head, the bullet had passed through her mouth and out the back of her head. Some whitish, greyish sort of matter like a honey comb was lying on the pillow having come out from the wound. I though it was part of her brain and that she was finished. Then suddenly she spoke in quite a strong voice and said, “I knew something like this would happen when I saw one magpie on my way to mass.’
Ernie’s only wish now was to get out of the house before as he said, I’d bring any more trouble on you; But this was not so easy.
After their wild retreat downstairs, the Staters had now pulled themselves together and were now all in a bunch at the foot of the stairs, their rifles pointing upwards, ready for their prey. To go down that stairs meant certain death. Foolishly I suggested getting out a window but looking out we saw a number of soldiers outside, their rifles levelled on the house. There was no escape.
Suddenly a sharp voice called out from downstairs, ‘You up there, will you surrender in the name of the state,’ and as quickly Ernie answered ‘Never, no surrender here.’ And like a flash, he rushed down the stairs. There was a volley of firing and I was ready to see Ernie stagger and fall but there he was at the foot of the stairs alone in the hall with no sight of the enemy anywhere. Now if only there was a tunnel out of the house!
Leaving Ernie putting on his boots I went out the side door to reconnoitre. At the side of the house crouching under the drawing room window were two soldiers with their rifles pointed where I was standing, ready to cover anyone coming out of that door. Unfortunately they were the only ones I noticed. Outside the front door there was a poor soldier lying apparently dead. Behind the front door, which was open, there was a CID man hiding, though we didn’t know this until later. There was also a CID man hiding under Dick’s bed, known only to Dick.
Ernie then decided to escape out the back garden. He left the captured rifle behind him saying it would be too heavy to carry climbing over the walls, taking his own revolver he went out the side door and turning quickly to the left he had the two crouching soldiers under cover they were ready to fire. Anxious only to escape and not victims he ordered the soldiers to ‘run’ and they ran!
I was waiting at the front door to have a shot at them but I’m glad to say when I saw them running like rabbits I hadn’t the heart to fire until some other soldiers started to come in the gate. I didn’t hit anyone but they stopped.
I thought that by this time Ernie was well away, when I heard a faint call and running to the back I found him lying terribly wounded just inside the door.
There had been two or three Free State soldiers stationed behind the wall next door from where they had had a perfect view of everything and were only waiting to shoot him as he left the house.
Later when reinforcements came they rushed into the house and this time met with no resistance.
So many things happened within the next half an hour it would be quite impossible to remember them all. Dick was taken down to the bottom of the garden by the CID men, put against a tree and told he was going to be shot, whether as De Valera or himself, I don’t know as when they first found him in the house they thought he was de Valera.
Ernie was now lying wounded and helpless in the downstairs hall. Anno was
lying wounded on her bed upstairs. The dead soldier was lying outside the
front door. Most of the soldiers were outside the front gate, but they
probably realised by now that resistance was over and that they could safely
return. But Ernie was still hoping to escape. Dick Humphreys, the eldest
son, was in the house. The younger son, Emmet, was in jail. Although Dick
had been in the G.P.O. in 1916, he had ceased to take any part in politics
[thereafter], but he was a motor-cycling enthusiast and always had a motor
cycle in the garage.
Ernie wanted to know if Dick could not put him on the back of the motor-cycle and bring him to safety in this way. But even if Ernie had been capable of holding on to the rider of the motor cycle while riding on the pillion, which of course, he was not, all the soldiers were outside the front gate so this idea was a non-starter. But the fact that Ernie even contemplated it will give a notion of the indomitable courage of the man. As he was lying on the floor all that those around him could think of giving him was a glass of whiskey, but he refused to touch it saying "I do not take any alcoholic liquor".
The soldiers finding that all was now quiet cautiously approached the house, from which they had beaten such a hasty and inglorious retreat, and met with no further resistance. The ambulances arrived to take away the dead soldier and the two wounded people.
The O'Rahilly Papers P102/543
SIGHLE’S SUMMARY OF HISTORY OF AILESBURY ROAD HOUSE
At the time the house was being built the Black and Tan war was at its height and houses of Republicans were being continually raided. Consequently many houses had secret hide outs constructed.
The builder of this house Batt O Connor was an ex-Fenian and IRA man and a very close friend of Micahel Collins. He built a secret room which in spite of many intensive raids by British Army Auxillary Forces and Units of the Black and Tans was never discovered during the Anglo-Irish war.
On one occasion, two young volunteers, member of the Dublin Active Service unit of the IRA successfully evaded capture by hiding in the room during a three hour raid.
The house also contained several under floor secret drawers which were never discovered by either British or Free State forces.
During alterations carried out by the French Authorities one of these was discovered under the floor of the Ambassadors office and when opened was found to contain a bayonet – of French make and documents.
During the years 1920-21 the house was frequently used as a meeting place for Dail Eireann Cabinet, IRA Headquarters staff and Republican Courts. Among those who attended these meetings were Pres. De Valera, Cathal Brugha, Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy, Arthur Griffith, Harry Boland.
Cathal Brugha who as Minister of Defence was eagerly sought after by the British lived in this house for long periods when ‘on the run.’ At night he slept in the secret room.
Subsequently in 1922 when the Civil War broke out between the Republican and the Free State forces, the house was used as headquarters of what today would be called the ‘Resistance.’ The assistant Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army, Ernie O Malley lived here until his capture.
On the morning in November 4th 1922 the house was . . . .
In the Spring of 1923 an attempt was made by Free State soldiers to blow up the house. A mine was placed in the hall but fortunately only the staircase and some of the furniture were damaged.
UCD ARCHIVES. P106/ 979 (1)
SíGHLE’S ACCOUNT OF HER FIRST YEARS IN PRISON 1922-23
(this was written either in 1928 or more likely in 1931 )
continued from her previous prison and raid account.
(THE ACCOUNT BEGINS HERE . . .)
Official I have known who when humanity conflicted with prison rules always put humanity first.
After showing us upstairs into a large airy room with two large windows not a bit like a cell, she left us saying she would see about dinner. In less than half an hour she returned to tell us that dinner was ready in what was called ‘The Surgery’. You can imagine our surprise to see an ordinary dinner, - meat, vegetables, ordinary plates, knives etc. and tablecloth. It was all magnificent but it wasn’t prison!
Seeing our surprise Nurse Dunne told us it was the Officer’s Mess, ordered especially by Deputy Governor O’Keefe. And we had only barely finished our repast when his Lordship, the brave Páidín arrived in person. Of all the funny sights I had ever imagined he beat them. In spite of the terrible tragedy of the civil war, there was a funny side, a grotesque side and Páidín was one of the funniest figures.
He was small, very small and used to poke his head ‘forward and to the right’ or ‘left’ as occasion demanded. He sometimes carried two revolvers, one in the ordinary place, off the belt, the other in a holster strapped to his thigh. His complexion was as fresh as a baby’s, his eyes twinkled and seemed full of fun. In short it was difficult to take him seriously at all. As a matter of fact I couldn’t speak solemnly to him and would have loved to laugh and joke with him all the time. But I had to ‘uphold the dignity of the cause’ and refuse to recognise himself or his jokes.
When he appeared I tried to remember what John Mitchel or O’Donovan Rossa did on their first meeting with the governor, and I had faint recollections of dignified bows on such occasions. I knew that where a gentleman bows a lady curtseys …but how would a curtsey coincide with non-recognition … I was in a bit of a dilemma …I could have saved my brain its workings. Páidín never noticed me, never spoke to me, hardly realised I was there. He expressed his sincere sympathy – I mean it he was sincere – with Mama over Anna, with O’Rahilly in being where she was and said that he’d do all he could to make it as little like prison as possible.
He told Nurse Dunne he would order the Officer’s Mess, cups and saucers etc. and told her to leave us at the fire in the Surgery until as late as possible. He brought with him copies of all the Daily Papers – including a Stop Press about the fight – and a big box of cigarettes. On leaving he said he’d ring up the hospital and let us know later how Anne was.
When one is feeling miserable a fire is a great comfort and we almost forgot our troubles as we huddled around that fire. It was some hours before we thought of Mary McSwiney. She had been arrested the same morning in Nannie’s house and was as a matter of fact locked into a cell beside our room. We held a conversation with her through a fairly good sized hole in the wall. Naturally she was astounded to see Nannie.
Páidín’s invitation to sit at the fire was not extended to Mary McSwiney, though she being on hunger strike since that morning needed a fire certainly more than I did but according to Páidín she was acting in direct defiance of the prison rules in refusing to eat. It seemed a bit thick to have her all alone locked in so on giving some excuse to get her door open we walked downstairs to the fire. This was my first experience of disobeying prison rules and if the wardress who was on duty at the top to the stairs only knew how my knees were quaking, she would never have let me pass so easily.
However she never even attempted to stop us and all went well until Páidín and the real governor arrived. If Páidín lacked dignity Phil Cosgrove made up for it. He was dignity personified, so dignified that he hardly stooped to speak. When he did speak it was always to say something kind. It was a shame to have him in that position. He had lovely white hair and looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. Well he only muttered something about how sorry he was to see us in jail – or words to that effect! He evidently didn’t share his brother’s maledictions who would like to see us rot there. But Páidín called Ms Rahilly out and said that we, or I think he said “that hussy,” had broken prison rules in bringing “one Mary McSwiney” down from her cell and that he’d have to change all his tactics towards us. So our royal treatment came to an abrupt end.
Next day being Sunday we went to Mass together meeting Honour Murphy for the first time. She had already been in Mountjoy for some weeks all alone. She must have been lonely tho’she said every one was very nice to her, and no wonder as she herself was so sweet. She was the sort of girl that one imagines only exists in happy novels. She was lovely to look at. As fresh as a May morning. Her hair was an exquisite shade of brown (I wonder would it be called nut brown or auburn), all wavy. Her eyes were real hazel, deep and luscious; (is this a correct adjective to use here?); her complexion pink and white and she had two dimples. Altogether she looked more suited to Manor Parks than the sordid surroundings of Mountjoy Jail.
She held very fine ideals and was in the movement because she thought it stood for everything noble. The movement did and does stand for everything ideal but its followers are only human. Unfortunately we must all have shown our feet of clay very clearly as Honour had little joy little lost faith in the movement and eventually transferred her allegiance from her country to God. Or who knows but she entered to pray for Ireland. However this is wandering from the first day in Mountjoy.
After Mass we were locked up until the breakfasts were handed in and doors locked again. Some time around 11.00 a.m. doors were opened and we were told we could go to Exercise for an hour, after which we were again locked until near 3.00 p.m. Dinner of course having been handed in.
Now I knew that this locking every minute was imposing criminal status, that the men were open all day long and I felt that to submit to it for another minute would be a complete surrender of our principles. I mentioned something of these feelings to Mama who told me not to be silly. (Mama can say this word Silly in a way that would have dampened even ODonovan Rossa’s enthusiasm)
At 3.00p.m. we were allowed another hour’s exercise and by the time 4.00 p.m. came and the wardresses waited to lock us in I had worked myself up to the belief that if I allowed myself be locked in I could never call myself an Republican again.
Through the Judas Hole of Mary McSwiney’s cell I told her my troubles and how I thought I ought to refuse to go in “By all means” said she “do so if you feel you ought to”. Wasn’t she a brick. That of course decided me and in I refused to go. At first the wardress thought I only meant it as a joke and spent a good hour or more putting up arguments that I have long since grown to know by heart. How prison rules couldn’t be changed, how neither, they, nor the Governor, was the Board nor the Home Office (as they called the "F.S“ Ministry for Justice) had power to alter the Rules, how I was only giving trouble to the wardresses and not to the people I wished to and how the correct way to go about getting any privileges and ameliorations (Lord how those words sting) was to make applications for them.
At that time I thought that writing to the Ministry was completely against our principles, as it was an acknowledgement of the very position we wanted to overthrow. I still believe this but I have learned to quote plausible reasons for surrendering this principle.
However at that time I was young and very anxious to be “agin the powers that were”, so I ignored their arguments and remained out on the landing. After a few hours the chaplain came and repeated the same old story adding that force would have to be used, perhaps by soldiers, a position he was sure I’d never allow.
As a matter of fact I hadn’t thought of that and a sudden fear struck me that I might be doing more harm than good to the cause if I allowed such a thing happen. But it was too late then to think of such things. Anyhow while I was thinking what I ought to do, Páidín arrived on the scene like a little fighting cock. He was bubbling over with authority “What do you want” says he, “To be treated as a political prisoner,” says I. “Political Prisoner how are you”, says he, “You’re no political prisoner, you’re a military captive, and I can do what I like with ye”
Well now to be a political prisoner was until then my ambition but on hearing that a “military captive” I nearly “burst” with pride. After adding a few threats of the dire consequences of refusing to go into my cell, Páidín stalked off. But he had ruined his own case whatever about a political prisoner submitting to be locked in, it was out of the question for a “military captive” to allow it. And anyhow the effect Páidín always had was to strengthen one’s fighting spirit.
After a few more hours of suspense about 8.00 p.m. there was a sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs and four or five – what they called military policemen, appeared along the corridor. Instead of being hurled headlong into my cell as I was half expecting, the leader of them said in the gentlest voice possible "no“ Sigle, do you think Emmet would like this? Needless to say I was flabbergasted. I forgot all my principles about not talking to the enemy in my eagerness to find out who he was and how he knew us. Paddy Burke was his name and he had been in the same Company and Section I think as Emmet. He had often been in our house. No wonder people say civil War is such a terrible thing. I suppose it’s the same in every country but certainly here it was the best of the country who fought on both sides. Of course, there were exceptions of people who had been on our side, and who not approving of civil war refused to fight on either side. But the vast majority of the people who didn’t take either side were just wasters with no public spirit. I know it has been said that it was better to be neutral than a traitor, but very few of them were conscious traitors
The whole of them couldn’t have lost all their idealism and patriotism (which the neutrals never had) in such a short time.
I don’t know what Paddy Burke thought he was serving, King, Country or Cosgrave, in putting me into my cell (or what I thought I was serving in staying out of it, for that matter!) but in, he eventually put me. Needless to say I didn’t get much of a reception from Maire and Nannie and I must admit I felt that I wasn’t doing much credit to the care given to my upbringing (as Jane Austin would say). In the lectures on deportment and the proper way of entering a room I don’t remember Mother Bodkin recommending this particular way. However it was lounges and drawing rooms she was talking about, and she grossly neglected her duty in not informing us how not to enter a cell in which you are going to be locked into for 22 hours!
Having once decided on an active resistance policy there was no going back of it, so next day I had to refuse to come in from the exercise ground. In due course Páidín arrived, grinned, raged, and provided great amusement until eventually he sent for a great crowd of Matrons who carried me all the way back to the cell.
After the evening exercise Honour Murphy insisted on taking part in the protest, though I begged her not to, as she didn’t approve of it and it was much harder for her to it having been on good terms with everyone. She was a real brick, as I know it was the hardest thing she could have been asked to do.
We were now beginning to be worried about Mary McSwiney, it may seem foolish to a person who was either never on strike or never watched a hunger striker, but especially to those who watch, every hour seems a week. It is hard to describe it but I really believe that the greatest torture one can undergo is to watch ones relations on hunger strike. How Mary and Annie McSwiney preserved their senses was I believe a miracle. I often think that there is some ‘gadget’ missing in my mental machinery since Anno’s hunger strike. Thinking at that time used to be so terrible that I discovered (or thought I discovered) a way of sort of putting your brain into “free wheel”, but I don’t think I ever got rightly back into top gear!
When one’s friends are on hunger strike you feel you must do something and there is usually nothing to do. We talked and talked and finally decided that the only thing was a sympathetic hunger strike. Nannie argued that she didn’t feel conscientiously justified in going on as felt her duty was to her boys and she had no intention of dying. "Neither have I" ”said Mam “but if we are all on, they cannot let us die, and your name would get publicity in America”. “Well” said Nannie “if you think I must, I will but it will only be for forty eight hours”. Maim entered into the sport of the situation and told her not to tell the authorities that anyhow and that when she’d be two days on, she might be persuaded to stay on a few more.
By this time breakfast had arrived and as we gently pushed them from us, Nannie said with a laugh “Well here’s to my hunger strike!” and thereupon took a bite out of an orange.
Such was the manner in which we embarked on our “hunger strike” no wonder it met with such a disgraceful ending. Instead of helping Mary McSwiney, we simply made her desolate. She said she felt responsible now for the sufferings of four extra people. And that the thought of Nannie and Mam killed her altogether.
On Thursday in the middle of the night that is Friday morning when we had been three days fasting (oh mighty hunger strike!) I was suddenly awakened by the voice of the Doctor talking to Mam. I caught the word “dying” which immediately made me wide awake. He was telling her that Honour Murphy was in a very weak state, owing to her heart and that he wouldn’t take any further responsibility for her life, if she persisted in the hunger strike. The reason he was telling Mam all this, was that Honour said she’d take brandy and come off if Mrs Humphreys did also. Did anyone ever hear such a thing?
Indeed this idea of the Doctors trying to get you off it when they think its getting dangerous, always amuses me. What do they think we go on for. Fun? Though’ in this particular strike I wouldn’t blame Dr O’Connor for anything he might think. Another thing which amuses me, is the effort the Doctors make to get people with weak hearts to remain off it. Every strike I was ever on the doctors came to me and asked me to use my influence with so-and-so not to go on, or to come off. At first those people with weak hearts used to have my sympathy, but the last time I felt like saying well “D- it all must we of the strong hearts suffer alone – not likely”. It’s a swing brick I must have, as May Jones used to say.
I believe Dr O’Connor was a scrupulously honourable man, but I wonder could Honour have been as bad as that; anyhow as M. didn’t want to have H’s death on her conscience, after much parlaying she promised Dr O’Connor she’d come off it.
Nannie now got a “fluttering” of the; or is it “in the” heart and the Dr begged her to come off it. Thinking I had the field clear to myself, I fell into a lovely deep sleep. But it seems Mam was only biding her time when breakfast came she announced that she hadn’t come off at all and wouldn’t unless I did!! Some hours passed, Honour heard of M’s apostasy went on herself again and when Dr O’Connor came he found all his work undone. He now turned all his heavy artillery on me, and – I surrendered. Such was the humiliating end of our first hunger strike. I’ll never forget what I felt like; I yet cannot hear Dr O’Connor’s name without a feeling of shame. I felt that “my honour was taken from me and my life was done” (with apologies to Billy).
Arrest of Suffolk Street
However we hadn’t much time to brood on our defeat as many guests had arrived during the night and were lodged in the big cell on the second landing, henceforward known as “Suffolk Street”.
23 Suffolk Street S. Fein H.Q. had been raided the night before and everyone who had been in it or who entered while the raid was on had been arrested. These included Lili O’Brennan, Mrs Gallagher, Madame Cogley, Tessie O’Connell, Miss Birmingham, Davy Devany, Rita Farrelly and Cathleen O’Carrol. The two last had met each other by chance in Grafton Street, and having heard rumours of a raid on “23” decided to see for themselves whether it were true or not. Their curiosity caused them eleven and 9 months respectively imprisonment.
When they discovered the treatment we were getting they one and all decided it was wrong, but they also decided almost one and all that my form of protest was wrong or at least futile. They agreed that the sensible thing would be to write and demand the sort of treatment we considered our right, and that if it were refused we could then decide on an active resistance policy. I felt that they were right, though’ I should have loved them all just to refuse to go in as we were by then a goodly number and would have taken some putting in.
We elected our first Council or representatives, Lili ní Braonáin and Brígid Ní Mhaoláin. Yes, I forgot to say Brigid had also been arrested the night before with Maíre McKee in the Publicity secret office. As I knew her better than the others she and I having been on the Ex. and not a few “stunts” together we asked her to come into our cell which was supposed to accommodate four. In that cell we got to know each other as we never would have outside. Bríghid is one in a thousand. She used to call herself “the devil-may care” and to a certain extend, this sums her up accurately; but it describes her mind better than her actions. Her brain was as reckless as any of Bret Harte’s characters, but it hadn’t the same power over her actions as is usual with such minds. As a matter of fact if left to herself she would be quite happy reading all day. A strange combination.
I think it was two days we had to wait for an answer to our application, which was granted, a clear victory for constitutional means!
On Saturday the 11th November while we were in the Prison Chapel awaiting a “shot at absolution” Nannie was called out and we saw her no more. We were kept in the chapel until she was safely outside the gates. I can’t describe what a terrible disappointment this was to me. I had hoped against hope that she and Mam would be released together. It seemed a bad omen for Nannie to go alone. I thought every day Mam was in was like a year, and now I knew she’d be in until Monday anyhow. Little I knew what was before her! I thought it could only be some mistake, or some delay until Dick Mulcahy would order her release. Where would he be only for Mam? Well he realised how hard it had been for her to ask certain people to keep him in the bad times. And he seemed to appreciate it. Certainly he never hesitated to ask her again and again, until he possessed all the “safest” houses in Dublin. I must be a hopeless judge of character because I swore to myself that he’d have Mam free within a few weeks. Could I foresee that within a few months he’d have shot in cold blood the nearest and dearest of his former comrades. God help you Dick Mulcahy with the conscience you must possess to-day!
Well I said above “a shot at absolution” which is a most disrespectful way of referring to Confession; but it is expressive and there was no harm meant. You see it was this way, you could go to confession alright, that is you could confess what you considered sins, but you only had a sporting chance of receiving absolution. When you had told all your sins, the priest asked you what you were in jail for? An odd person gave such a good answer to this question that the Priest gave absolution without more ado. But in nearly every case a long discussion followed and ended by the Priest saying that unless you were willing to obey the Bishops ruling – through their Pastoral – he couldn’t give absolution. I argued with one priest who finally told me he was as sorry as I was he couldn’t give it but he felt conscience bound to obey the Bishops whether they were right or wrong. I saw this point and didn’t try any more as I did not see how a priest who looked on it that way could give me absolution, so I only prayed that I wouldn’t die until I could go to Confession. I never could feel antagonistic towards the priests for their action that time, as they had to obey the Bishops. God saw our difficulty and took good care to keep us alive until we got the chance of going; and I think it was desperately wrong and wicked, besides being extremely illogical for people to have refused to go to Confession since. Its God and themselves they are hurting not the Priests. Of course I do think there was no need for the priests to ask a person what they were in jail for; if they mentioned something political, then they brought it on themselves, and if they considered it a sin well then, they shouldn’t be in the movement and should give it up. But if I sent all the F.S. Cabinet to glory during hostilities, I believe it would be a meritorious action. One day I decided that if I could go into the confessional immediately after the ordinary prisoners, particularly those awaiting trial who were dressed in their own clothes, the Priest wouldn’t recognise me as a political and would give me absolution without questioning. As soon therefore as the last “ordinary” prisoner came out of the Confessional I walked quickly towards it, ending up in a trot as I heard the fast footsteps of a wardress trying to get “in” before me. I go into the penitent’s part first, but didn’t she open his door, put her head in and I suppose announced “a croppy”! So my plan failed.
Mary McSwiney’s Hunger Strike – Mary McSwiney was now a week on hunger strike and no sign of her release. Needless to say Man. Had us all praying so hard that Bridie used to say she’d rather be on strike herself. Each evening we used to assemble on the stairs outside her door and sing hymns (it’s a wonder this didn’t kill her). Madame Cogley, who has one of the most pleasing voices in the world, used to give Ave Maria and other solos. Kathleen who also had a nice voice would contribute to the “concert”. Kathleen’s Aghadoe and “She is Calling”, were our favorites.
I had only met Mary McSwiney a few times outside, and of course knowing her worth, stood in the most awful awe of her. I thought that in speaking to her one would have to b continually quoting Tone and Mitchel and high follutin aphorisms on principles. Often two days I talked to her as I’d talk to Bridin! I know it is fatal to worship leaders, that “every time in history they have let us down” (not true) etc. etc. but one cannot help judging causes by its defenders, and I often think that if the general public only knew Mary McSwiney they would be forced to recognise the justice of our cause. Good and Honour and Suffering must and do appeal to people. Dev’s imprisonment followed by his manly and honorable announcement that a Republic was our aim helped by his stopping a run away horse, made him the hero that led us almost to the promised land. If at present people only knew how sincere and how human McSwiney is they would know we are right. But instead of that nothing is bad enough to say about all of us but especially Mary Mac. Of course one does find bad people serving good causes and good men serving bad ones, for example, I believe Cosgrave goes to daily Mass. Well now in the name of fortune what does he be saying in his thanksgiving. Or how does God allow him to go back and do such harm?
Well I’m wandering from Mary’s hunger strike. Her sense of humour was much in evidence all through the strike and it was often amusing to see some one noiselessly open the door and poke a melancholy long face around the corner to be met with a bright grin from Mary.
She wrote some magnificent letters to Dick Mulcahy during that strike which I hope are not lost. If she only knew all I went through writing those letters. She seemed to consider her life or death as events quite apart from herself, just episodes in the struggle between Ireland and England; and in a completely impersonal manner, she pointed out to Dick Mulcahy how her death would be a logical conclusion to his infamy etc. etc. Now everything she said was true; but in writing them I used to feel as if I were nailing her coffin. If I had had my way the letter I’d have written would have been “Dear Dick, I know you have been guilty of a terrible indiscretion, but I suppose every one is entitled to their opinions. However, I am now giving you an opportunity of showing your appreciation of Terence’s affection for you in that glorious past. One good act wipes out many bad ones – Mise Máire Nic Suibhne16 or 17 days on hunger strike”!! I only wish I had a copy of the letter she did write.
After a certain number of days I can’t remember exactly Mam. started vigils day and night at the altar on the top landing. We used to take it in turn two at a time for two hours. It was hard enough at any time, but the two vigils from 3 till 5 and 5-7 were the limit. Of course at the time we wouldn’t pretend to find them hard as it would be a bit thick to grumble at praying for two hours with well filled stomachs for our comrade who had been over two weeks on hunger strike. I suppose I must tell the truth here. Bridie and I did one midnight vigil together during which we laughed most of the time and had a cup of tea in the middle of it!
The attitude of the doctors during hunger strikes always amused me. As soon as a prisoner goes on hunger strike, she becomes a patient about whom the doctor is most solicitous. He calls every day and asks how you are? As if you could be anything but worse! Admittedly a sympathetic doctor can do a lot for the comfort of a striker, and Dr O’Connor was exceptionally kind. After I think about 13 or 14 days he ordered a water bed, which was of course a great boon to Mary McSwiney; but put the heart across me as I took it to be a sign that she wouldn’t be released. This of course was silly as the medical authorities from whom the bed was got had nothing to do with the people who had the ordering of her release. But in cases like these you don’t know how one looks for good and bad “signs”. Mary herself seemed the most unconcerned of all, until Annie went on hunger strike outside the gate.
On the 2nd November when she had been days on hunger strike, in the evening about 7.0 o’clock Phil Cosgrave arrived unexpectedly. I knew by his expression that he must have good news and within a few moments the glorious fact of her release was broadcast throughout the hospital. I really believe we were happier than she was. Again she was the coolest of us all, the doctor warned us that any excitement might prove fatal, so we had to contain ourselves until the stretcher disappeared out into the darkness. We were just going to let ourselves go then, when out came Mam with a suggestion of a Rosary in thanksgiving. We raced through this and at last gave vent to our feelings in singing and shouting till poor Bob Barton who was very ill at the other side of the partition sent in a request to be a little less noisy. This was a pretty state of affairs, the men having to ask us to make less noise. Ah well sure weren’t we suffering from hysteria and neurasthenia!
The Kerry Prisoners. About this time our numbers became greatly enlarged by the arrival from Kerry of over a dozen girls nearly all from around Tralee. The fight had been so hot in Kerry that the Stators arrested the girls as quickly as the men. They had been kept a few weeks in Tralee barracks and then had been brought by boat to Dublin. Words fail to describe what they suffered on the journey, but if it was inflicted and with the intention of breaking their spirit, it failed completely, as though they were dead tired physically, their Kerry spirit was ready for anything. Of course I’ll be accused of prejudice when I say that fine as all the girls were, the Kerry prisoners were the finest of all. They were of all ages from Katie Daly who though’ young could not be described as being in the movement for the “excitement of the thing”, to May Nagle and Annette Tyndall who were under fourteen. Surely dangerous enemies of the British Empire. May’s sister Sheila was also among them and it seems a third sister the most ‘wanted’ of all had evaded arrest. Aggie Sheehy the famous footballer and volunteer sister was everywhere to be seen, tall, handsome with wonderful hair and a Malodeon! Later in the Union Aggie was discovered to be as brilliant at rounders as her brother is in the field. I often think what embryo golf and tennis champions are lost to the country. Annette Tyndall was also a wonderful player. And another, Dorothy Hannifin (whom I wonder where she is) excelled any one I ever say in catching out. I never knew her to moss a catch within any possible distance of her. She could also bat wonderfully, but took her time at running. Gentle Hannah Foley must not be forgotten, nor Mary McSwiney who was told by Paídín to “stop that codding” when he asked her her name.
P106/391 Letter from Nannie O’Rahilly and Nell to Anno from Mountjoy
Dated Monday Nov 1922
A Anno a chroidhe,
Conas tá tú in aon chor. Well I’ll write this in English. Wouldn’t I love to see you and have a long talk. Oh when I heard you saying you were hit I couldn’t for the moment "visualise" it. Then I heard you saying you had seen one magpie that morning and I thought you could not be too bad. I suppose you remember I did not go near you until you were on the stretcher when you were all covered up. What do you think of me at all? What will the prisoners' dependents fund do now?
Does the wound pain you? You will say this is a stacatto letter but until I hear from your very self that you are alright I shall be anxious.
Well Anno, you missed prison again! And Nannie in, isn’t it very funny, we are all together and have a fine time really – food is excellent not like prison at all. I hope Mama and Nannie will get out before long. Poor Dick imagine his being in again, and he was so quiet that morning, imagine for him to be in the middle of such a thing!
You should have seen a letter Aogán wrote, he suggested we take a flat here in Mountjoy and invite Dick and Emmet over. Mac and Egan are terribly good. They send everything in to us 3 or 4 attaché cases full of clothes, they collected everything woollen or knitted out of two houses and sent them in. I think we shall have to ask for a trunk room here.
We have hot pipes in the cell, bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Tuesday Morning, so I’m still in bed!! The post is going so slán leat, seachain tu féin go maith, le grádh O Nannie agus Mama
P106/390 Letter from Nell to Aunt Annie Fitzgerald from Mountjoy prison
Mountjoy Prison Nov 17 1922
Dear Aunt Annie
I intended all the week to write to you but put if off from day to day. You may not believe it but there is not much time here to do things, the day is so arranged and we are out of doors so much.
Don’t imagine that I am to be pitied in here. I have been here before (Censored words) - I would be almost enjoying myself, everything is so much easier than at home.
I can get up any hour I like in the morning, our breakfast is quite good. There are four of us together and we all are out of doors for hours.
I am sure I will get fat, everybody does in prison, now my anxiety about Anna is over B. Mor le Dia. She is wonderfully well, Dick and Nannie are home, and the house is running as usual.
You must have got a great fright when you saw what happened in the papers, and I suppose you have given us up in despair, but all the same for the sake of the past go to our L.P.S – censored (Lady of Perpetual Succour)
She can make anything right,
your loving niece
P106/392 Letter from Nell to Anno from Mountjoy
Mountjoy Prison. Little Xmas Day. 8 Dec 1922
(Sighle encloses note ...)
A Aine a chroidhe,
Today I got a letter from you (with Dick, from Emmet and from Nannie. I am sending it back to let you see how much … Emmet’s was grand, he really writes a good letter, a bit goody-goody, but so wise … Things seem to be more peaceful there than here. . . .
Tell Nannie not to send anything just yet, we have only finished a turkey and when she does we would prefer ham, it is nice, who makes the cakes? They are very good, but don’t come up with things for goodness sakes. We are well off.
Last morning, we got a beautiful box of large pears from ‘Ryan’ - that’s the way ‘twas addressed, could it be our own Ryan, the box was from Terenure and how could he be there, but it seems to be her/he; wouldn’t it be nice of him, twas to Sighle.
Will you be dead from work? Is there anyone to help you and we all here idle. Pity Miss Breen went home even, it was her candles came after all. No salt, and now we have clean salt here so I don’t need it. I must write her as she wrote and the Canon sent us both cards.
P106/393 Letter from Nell to Emmet from Mountjoy prison.
A Emmet a Croi (4 Jan’23)
Only last evening I got your Christmas letters.
I was so delighted to get it and see that you are so gay and contented even to be away from home at Xmas. Really it was Dick and Anna who had the loveliest time doing nothing and they two alone in the house, when Nannie/Aine was away for Xmas night. To be honest I never had such an enjoyable time; not since I was at school, there were so many of us here together.
On Xmas eve we had ‘Suffolk Street’ as we call the seven(?) in the big cell, and who were connected with S. St. (at least the most of them were) to tea and punch . . . we played grand games, and were shocked to find it was time for Rosary and bed; then on Xmas night we had charades and a concert and a dance, and cell doors were open till 12am, and we really had a great time. I went to bed a little before the end as usual. I wonder did you have such a good time.
Nannie says she had sent you a (field?) --- work set for Christmas. I do hope you got it all right as it will help to pass time and I expect you will bring all sorts of nice things home, or one big thing. You . . . .
P106/395 Letter from Nell to Anno, circa February 1923
A Aine a chroidhe,
Just a hurried note as post is going. We got here last night at 1.30. It was a great sight to see the numbers of lorries, thirteen I think they said coming together.
The food seems to be ever so much better, and the cells are fairly clean. On the whole I think we will be comfortable here, but Sighle nor Maire haven’t come, so far at any rate.
Tell Dick I intended to write to him next but this is no letter. Did the beautiful medal he got in Paris to ---- Trail go too? It’s so dreadful that all his nice trophy got lost ..
I am fine B. le Dia and so was Sighle when I left, No news yet
Best love to you both and Nannie
P106/396 - Feb 26 1923 - Letter from Nell to Aunt Annie Fitzgerald.
Dear Aunt Annie,
What must you think of me never to have written to you. You know only a limited number of letters can be written each week and now we, Sighle, Emmet and I are in three different prisons, so that by the time I have written to them and home, my limit is up. It shows how many I used to write at home, as these . . .
How are you finding yourself this weather, this really cold time since we came to prison. I would like this place, well I mean as much as anyone can like prisons, if it weren’t so cold at this time. We have good food here and are not irritated by registration.
I am so busy from morning till night that the day flies. I try to be out as much as possible, as I find I don’t catch cold, just as you said yourself, then we say our prayers, stations, etc - the only thing we can do here.
Pity Sighle was left in Mountjoy, I miss her as she would have a great time here, there are so many girls she knows here now, and we have dancing classes and Irish, German, French, Shorthand and . . .
(A postscript at the end mentions her house was bombed recently)
From Nell to Emmet from Kilmainham jail. June 15 ’23
We arrived last evening (from North Dublin Union)… We left Anna after us there (only a limited number came so far) She is fine B. le Dia and has got a little fat since she came to prison: the rest I suppose, because it couldn’t have been the food. The grounds there are very nice, we used to be out in the sun all day, and sew and the young girls read and played rounders.
Such matches as they used to have, do you people ever play rounders? I suppose you wouldn’t condescend to them. but it can be wonderful when north plays south or Kerry, Tipperary, etc
How are you mo bhuachal? I do hope you are as well as we three are. Sighle is as brown and burnt as if she had been at the sea and I am grand too B. de Dia.
We hope to get a letter from Dick any day now he must be lonely without any of us
P106/399 Letter from Dev to Nell
Dail Eireann Oifig an Uachtaran 26-7-23
Will you pardon me for not sending you a note before this. I hope your health is no worse for the strain. How is Sighle – she has had a very bad time – and Miss O’Rahilly? What a shame! However, the road of the future is kept clean.
Every time I think of Cathal I think of you. What a tower of strength he would be if he were now alive,
le meas mór
Eamonn de Valera
June 1928 Irish Freedom
CUMANN NA MBAN
Miss Humphreys describes her reception in Mountjoy
A sudden stop of a Ford, a rush of me, a voice reading from a white sheet of paper something about a warrant . . . arrest . . . Treason Act . . . and the sickening realisation that I was once again a casualty, a good-for-nothing prisoner, useless to comrades and country.
Seldom did the trees seem so green, the sky so blue, Dublin so fair, as during the drive to the Bridewell. A few dreary hours waiting, a few seconds in the dock, another drive with strange, glum men to Mountjoy, where I was announced as ‘a committal at No. 2 gate.’ Already ‘in,’ was, I thought, not quite in keeping with the situation. Truth to tell, I felt a little sorry for myself, and hoped to get due sympathy by telling them how I felt at their long detention, especially Mrs Mac Dermott and Miss Jackson, who had been three months without a visit. But I quickly realise that they were on a far nobler plain than I was; that here sympathy was neither offered nor received. Mrs MacDermott and Miss Jackson gloried in the jury’s dis-agreeing, and only hoped the next jury will do the same, whatever the consequences may be or however long they may be kept ‘awaiting trial.’
Florence MacCarthy beamingly told me she would be out on the 16th October, as if she were saying next week. Sighle MacInerney remarked: ‘Yes, that’s the worst of my having done three months; I’m getting out on the 1st August.
Cruelly, I told them that this was to be the finest Spring and Summer we had for 25 years; but their answer was to forget the weather, and tell them how was it with the organisation and the cause. Truly, they have adopted Tom Clarke’s golden rules of life for prisoners: ‘No mooning or brown studies; keep your thoughts off yourself all you can.’ May I hope this stoicism is contagious!
My efforts to tell them what we were doing failed hopelessly, as I realised we were not doing half what was expected of us; half what we could be doing. Excuses for inactivity which pass alright outside, seem limp and hypocritical when viewed in the light of the philosophy which takes possession of one in here.
Every member of our organisation should work as if on her alone rested the responsibility of bringing about the next revolution.
Return to Sighle Humphreys.
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