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“He is a man of lofty character and of high ideals, and evokes in men of the most diverse opinion a common admiration of his chivalry and honour”
Irish Literature-Volume 7 (1904), taken from the entry on John O’ Leary

Recently, we posted a series of images and audio recordings from the launch of a plaque to the memory of the Connolly siblings of the Irish Citizen Army. That plaque was put in place by the excellent North Inner City Folklore Project.

Yesterday, another most welcome plaque was unveiled north of the Liffey, this time in Palmerston Place. The plaque marks the home of Tipperary born Fenian leader John O’ Leary, and acknowledges his role as editor of The Irish People newspaper.

“…O Donovan Rossa, O’ Leary, Luby and others long associated with separatism and republicanism were regularly to be found in or around the Irish People office. And the paper always made the most of the fact that the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States was not a secret organisation…”
– Taken from The Green Flag by Robert Kee

(more…)

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In the Dublin of the revolutionary period, ‘G Men’ would have been a familiar sight on street corners, never quite as inconspicuous as they sought to be. G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police served as the eyes and ears of the intelligence community, tasked with observing political subversives in the city. Their ‘Movement of Extremists’ files record the whereabouts of republicans, socialists and other radicals in the city, noting where they loitered and who they talked to.

One business they would have come to know quite well was found at 21 Henry Street, the location of the Irish Farm Produce Company, a shop and restaurant (specialising in vegetarian cuisine) run by veteran nationalist campaigner Jennie Wyse Power. It was popular with Dublin’s small Indian community (and perhaps even smaller vegetarian community) but owing to its proprietor it also became a rendezvous point for advanced nationalists. A plaque on the site today marks the fact that the drafted 1916 proclamation was signed on the premises days before insurrection.

Amidst the wave of cultural nationalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an ‘Irish Ireland’ movement emerged which sought to promote the native language, native games and native culture over that of the neighbouring island; Archbishop Croke (he of Croke Park fame) complained that the Irish were importing from England, “her fashions, her accents, her vicious literature, her music, her dances, and her manifold mannerisms, her games also and her pastimes” among other corrupting influences. But what about what was on our tables? The Irish Farm Produce Company boasted of its “all-Irish produce”, a reminder that even dinner could be a political choice.

Jennie Wyse Power, born in Baltinglass in 1858, moved through the ranks of many important political movements in her lifetime, and had earned the respect of the men and women who frequented her business. Active in the Ladies Land League of the 1880s, which sought to advance the rights of Ireland’s tenant farmers, she was later a founding member of the Sinn Féin political party and close to Countess Markievicz.  While serious about her politics, Wyse Power was also regarded as one of the friendliest faces in Irish nationalism. Sinn Féin Executive member Seamus ua Caomhanaigh remembered that “she always left out the Wyse part of her name. She said there was nothing ‘wise’ about her. She was a remarkably able woman, very brainy, full of fun and a great teller of humorous stories.”

Some of the most watched individuals in the city frequented her restaurant in the years before the Rising, including Major John MacBride, who had fought in the Second Boer War alongside his Irish Brigade. Seán T. O’Kelly, later President of Ireland, remembered holding court there most days in the company of MacBride and Arthur Griffith. Wyse Power’s business remained popular after the Rising too, though unsurprisingly the authorities were still vigilant. P.J Paul, a prominent republican in Waterford, remembered visiting the restaurant while in Dublin, as “most of the Volunteer and Irish-Ireland people went there.” On one occasion during the War of Independence, he was having a meal “when suddenly a number of Auxiliaries rushed into the shop and began turning the place upside down.”

Dublin’s small Indian community, primarily formed from medical students in the city, would be drawn towards Wyse Power’s restaurant too, at a time when there was little in the line of vegetarian offerings in the city. Dublin’s first vegetarian restaurant, The Sunshine (advertised as ‘vegetarian dining rooms’), had opened its doors in the 1860s on Grafton Street, though such endeavours tended to be short-lived. Indian students in the capital during the revolutionary period included V.V Giri, later President of India, who studied under the poet and revolutionary separatist Thomas MacDonagh. As historian Conor Mulvagh has suggested, “in searching for routes of entry for Indian students into Irish radical politics, it is perhaps the dinner table as much as the lecture theatre that provided them with introductions.” The cause of the Indian people received sympathetic coverage in Irish nationalist newspapers, including Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin and The Irish Volunteer.

While the female republican body Cumann na mBán flatly rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, Jennie Wyse Power came to support it, which created friction between her and many former comrades. In 1923, her business premises was entered by young men who at first appeared to be ordinary customers, but “as the tea was about to be served the raiders suddenly took petrol bottles from their pockets and announced their intention of setting the house on fire.” Her other business premises, located on Camden Street, had already been attacked by republicans, with “bombs being hurled through the plate glass window.”

Despite her support for the Treaty, Wyse Power later joined the Fianna Fáil party, and elected for the party in the 1934 Seanad elections.  She died in January 1941, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The plaque on Henry Street today honours the signing of the proclamation on the premises, but in truth there was much more to the story of the Irish Farm Produce Company, and its place in Dublin’s political and culinary history should be noted.

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I’ve had the image below for quite a well now, a fantastic old press snap of two Gardaí inside Connolly House (located on Great Strand Street) after the attack on the premises in March 1933 by an anti-communist mob. Accounts of the night are always chaotic, for example in Pat Feeley’s wonderful article “The Siege of 64 Great Strand Street” (Old Limerick Journal,Vol. 9, Winter 1981) it is noted that:

“As the house filled with smoke and the mob began to occupy it, the defenders were making their escape across the rooftops. The fire brigade tried to rescue two women who were in difficulties on the slates but they were prevented by the crowd who slashed their water hose”

The fact a Webley and Colt. 45 Revolver were found by the Gardai behind the shop counter perhaps best indicates the political tension and state of fear at the time.

Feeley’s article also mentions a meeting held a number of days later where Maud Gonne McBride condemned those behind the scenes at Connolly House, to which a voice in the crowd responded that those involved were Catholics. When she continued to speak, and condemned the broader attacks of the street mobs:

Again the voice repeated, “It was Catholics”. To which this time she replied, “They were hooligans”

Bob Doyle, one of the men who was in the mob that attacked Connolly House, would go on to join the International Brigade forces opposing fascism in Spain. In his memoirs Brigadista, he wrote that:

“I had attended the evening mission on Monday 27 March 1933 at the Pro-Cathedral, during the period of Lent where the preacher was a Jesuit. The cathedral was full. He was standing in the pulpit talking about the state of the country, I remember him saying – which scared me – “Here in this holy Catholic city of Dublin, these voile creatures of Communism are within our midst.” Immediately after the sermon everybody then began leaving singing and gathered in a crowd outside, we must have been a thousand singing “To Jesus Heart All Burning” and “Faith of our Fathers, Holy Faith”. We marched down towards Great Strand Street, to the headquarters of the socialist and anti-Fascist groups in Connolly House. I was inspired, of you could use that expression, by the message of the Jesuit. There was no attempt by the police to stop us”

This, and other insightful accounts, can be read on the fantastic ‘Ireland and the Spanish Civil War’ website located here.

Connolly House, the headquarters in Dublin of the Irish Revolutionary Workers Group was set on fire after an attack made on the building by several hundred young men. Twenty were injured in the disturbances.

Photo shows:- Police officers on guard in one of the rooms after the attacks. Note the tin of petrol left by the raisers.

Grif March 31st 1933 PN.

Two stamps on the back of the photograph point to News Media companies in both London and New York.

ACME, Newspictures, Inc.
220 East 42nd St. New York City
‘THIS PICTURE IS SOLD TO YOU FOR YOUR PUBLICATION ONLY AND MUST
NOT BE LOANED OR, SYNDICATED OR USED FOR ADVERTISING PURPOSES
WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION FROM US.

COPYRIGHT
PLANET NEWS LTD.
3, JOHNSON’S COURT
LONDON, E.C 4

The Communist Party of Ireland site notes, in its biography to Charlotte Despard (an unlikely rebel, owing to her brother being none other than Lord Lieutenant of Ireland John French) that:

“On the 29th the mob attacked Charlotte Despard’s house at 63 Eccles Street, also home to the Irish Workers’ College and Friends of Soviet Russia, but a defence had been prepared in the form of a large crowd of workers, and it escaped with broken windows. Also attacked were the offices of the Workers’ Union of Ireland in Marlborough Street and the Irish Unemployed Workers’ Movement in North Great George’s Street.”

On a lighter note, notice the can of petrol left behind by the mob is ‘BP’, or British Petroleum. You couldn’t make it up.

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Dublin Fire Brigade Piper Bernard Mulhall at Liberty Hall

“O branch that withered without age!
Would we could see you where you’re missed
Step airy on the Abbey stage
Play there ‘The Revolutionist’
Or fill with laughter pit and stalls
With Bartley Fallon’s croak and cry
What led you to those castle walls?
We mourn you Sean Connolly”

Lady Gregory.

Another plaque in place, another important part of working class Dublin history marked.

The home of the Connolly siblings, at 58/59 Sean McDermott Street Lower, now boasts a new plaque from the North Inner City Folklore Project. Captain Sean Connolly and his siblings Katie, Joseph, George, Eddie and Mattie all fought with the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter rebellion. The plaque also pays tribute to young Molly O’ Reilly, who raised the green flag over Liberty Hall in 1916.

Among the crowd were historians, trade unionists, activists,relatives of members of the City Hall Garrison and members of the local community. The Dublin Fire Brigade were represented too, due to Joseph and George Connolly serving within its ranks. Joseph was a firefighter at the time of the insurrection. The Fire Brigade can therefore boast something very few others in the city can, in the form of a real connection to the Easter Rising.

Conor McCabe at Dublin Opinion has some more images worth a look over at their blog.

Speeches and audio

James Connolly Heron speaks at the site of the plaque. His speech covers not alone Sean Connolly and his siblings, but the campaign to save 16 Moore Street.

Las Fallon, of the Dublin Fire Brigade Museum, speaks of Joseph and George Connolly.

Dublin Fire Brigade piper plays outside 58/59 Sean McDermott Street Lower.

Wind, coughing, and all the other things nature/people can whip up when you’re trying to record something, but still….

Images

Dublin Fire Brigade members at Liberty Hall

Fittingly, a relative of James Connolly presents a relative of Molly O' Reilly with the green flag to raise.

The raising of the flag

The flag is raised.

Dublin Fire Brigade colour party

Citizen Army uniforms today, spot on right down to the red hand!

Dublin Brigade- Irish Republican Army

Las Fallon, Dublin Fire Brigade, speaks of George and Joseph Connolly.

Banner marking the role of women in the revolutionary years

A poem is read prior to the unveiling

A small selection of the fantastic collection of images from the period on display afterwards

The Starry Plough blows in the wind with the new plaque behind it.

Dublin Fire Brigade trade unionists pay respect. Firefighter Russ McCobb laid this on behalf of Impact workers.

Another snap of the brief talk on the Connolly connection to the Dublin Fire Brigade

The plaque itself

After the ceremony, we decided to visit Glasnevin Cemetery. There, we thought it only fitting to undertake a search for a particular grave with the day that was in it.

The grave was that of Captain Sean Connolly, Irish Citizen Army.

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The poster in a recent post on archives and the burning of the Four Courts reminded me to root out this old punch cartoon upstairs.

Taken from the July 12th 1922 edition of Punch, or the London Charivari, it shows the ‘Spirit of the Law’ in discussion with a menacing looking republican figure, with the smouldering remains of the Four Courts in the background.

OUT OF THE ASHES.
Spirit of Law (To Irish Rebel): “You may have destroyed my courts and my records, but you have not destroyed me!”

At least two thirds of Come Here To Me will be at this, feel free to say hello.

Here is that poster one more time, as posted by jaycarax

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