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ATTENTION COACH and TOUR OPERATORS

ATTENTION COACH and TOUR OPERATORS
Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ireland To Get Extra Seven Bank Holidays

For a number of years there has been a discussion about creating a Republic Day to celebrate our independence as a sovereign nation. We do celebrate St Patrick’s Day but that is a celebration of our tribe not our nation. But if we create a Republic Day as an extra Bank or Public Holiday when should be celebrate it?

The creation of an extra bank holiday has its own issues. There is a cost to the employer with Bank Holiday rates. There is a cost to the Government as productivity is reduced and costs rise. There is a threat to the economy as it recovers from years of austerity. A Bank Holiday to celebrate our nationhood should benefit all our citizens’ not just Civil Servants with an extra paid day’s leave or public service workers with increased bonus payments. Children get a day off school and college but parents who work may have to pay for extra childcare. Hospitality workers work extra hours including extended opening hours in the bar industry on the Sunday eve of a bank holiday. Old age pensioners who have worked all their lives receive no benefit from a bank holiday and feel less inclusive. A Republic Day should be a day off for everyone and the State should provide the financial bonus to all our citizens young and old. Emergency services and armed Forces personnel should be paid an extra bonus or be provided time in lieu.

So perhaps to the most important question. When? There are a number of dates.

April 24th – The day that the Easter Rising begun. This will often create an extra Bank Holiday in the month of April as Easter falls primarily in April. The next question is should it always be April 24th even if that falls on a Saturday. Traditionally Bank Holidays are on a Monday or maybe we could choose

April 18th – The date in 1949 when the Republic of Ireland Act cam into force and the nation of whom we wish to celebrate The Republic of Ireland came in being

December 6th – The date in 1922 when the Irish Free State became a legal entity and we achieved our independence from Britain

January 21st – When the first Dail met in 1919, the lineage of today’s Irish parliament t and they declared independence.

August 22nd – In 1798 and a Republic of Ireland is declared by the invading French forces in Connacht and John Moore named as the Republics first president

July 23rd – The declaration of a republic as Robert Emmet’s rebellion is launched on this date was the first declaration of an Irish Republic although that referred to a 32 county Ireland not the presently constituted 26 counties.

March 5th – The 1867 proclamation of an Irish Republic has as much validity as the proclamation in 1916 and perhaps it should be recognised as a more neutral non political date to celebrate Republic Day.

Ireland to get an extra seven bank/public holidays? I wish but if no decision can be made, make them all Bank Holidays and we can have an extra week of holidays in the year.
Perhaps as a neutral alternative we could have a President's Day when we can celebrate the role of our President of the Republic of Ireland.

  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Summerhill Publican Mentioned in the House of Commons


There are not many Dublin public houses who have found themselves at the heart of political debate and even fewer who have been mentioned on the floor of the House of Commons at Westminster. But in March 1871 this is exactly what happened.

Cavan born Charles Lynch was running a public house at 121 Summerhill on the corner of Summerhill and Lower Gardiner Street. In early March his brother Owen was taking over the business. Owen was already running a pub on Mabbot Street. As it required today the licence needed to be transferred from one brother to the other. On March 6th 1871 Owen had his officially opening at Summerhill. His pub was full and as was and is customary the new publican provided free beer, wine and spirits for those who were invited to the event.

Closing time in 1871 was 10 p.m. and shortly after that hour the local police arrived at the door. Police Constable Mark Byrne of C Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police stated after that when he arrived at the door of the pub he ‘found it crammed full of people who were drinking and they were very disorderly’. Another Constable stated that many of the patrons were ‘in a drunken state and quarreling with each other’ although they were packed so tightly in that they had no space to fight. The policemen asked the Lynch’s to clear their pub but they either refused or were under the impression that they were to be given a little bit of leeway from the local inspector. Several customers who had become belligerent were arrested and taken to the police station. The aftermath of the raid was that Charles Lynch was fined one guinea while it appeared that the licence had not in fact been transferred and therefore Owen Lynch opened his pub without a licence and was illegally selling alcohol drinks. Owen was fined five guineas.

One of those arrested was local labourer thirty six year old William Keely who the police stated was arrested for his own protection as he was highly intoxicated. At 2 a.m. in the police cell he became quite ill and the decision was made to transfer him by police horse and car to the Mater Hospital but he was dead on arrival. A post mortem was performed by Doctor R W Egan and death was caused by ‘apoplexy the result of excessive drinking’. At an inquest it was revealed that Keely had drunk a pint of whiskey which he, like most of the others in the pub that night, had received gratis.

On March 8th 1871 reports appeared in the Freeman Journal and the news that Keely had died basically from alcoholic poisoning with free drink given out at a pub opening which seemed to be commonplace in Dublin at the time caused a public outcry. Dublin was a city struggling with a drink problem and topped with the rise of the Temperance movement throughout the mid 19th Century, this story was big news, so big in fact on March 16th it reached the floor of the House of Commons. A bill was proceeding through Parliament attempting to limit drinking excesses by decreasing the number of licences across Britain and Ireland and increasing penalties for drunken behaviour. The Dublin M.P. Jonathan Pim believed that putting an end to the practice of giving out free drink at events such as pub openings should be included in the new piece of legislation, The Licensing Bill (Ireland), Excessive Drinking in Public Places 1871.


He posed a question to the then Chief Secretary to Ireland the Marquis of Hartington.
In Hansard’s historic record of debates Mr Pim
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the circumstances connected with the death of William Keely, who, as stated in the "Dublin Freeman's Journal" of March 8th, died of apoplexy after drinking "more than a pint of new whiskey," given him In a public house which was re-opened by a new proprietor, who, as it seems is usual with the trade on such occasions, supplied to all comers 'drinks' gratis: whether the Law affords any means of preventing such an objectionable mode of advertising the opening of a new public house, or of punishing the trader who supplies spirits in such quantity as to be equivalent to poison; and whether, in case the present Law does not afford the means of prevention or of punishment, he will consider the subject with the view of providing a remedy under the Licensing Bill which is intended to be brought in for Ireland?’

to which the Chief Secretary replied

‘his attention had been called to the circumstances. With reference to the statement that the man had drunk more than a pint of new whiskey, he was informed that nothing of the kind was proved at the coroner's inquest. No doubt Keely had drunk to great excess at the opening of this house, and being an habitual drunkard he died in the course of the night. The explanation made by his hon. Friend rendered it unnecessary for him to add that the most respectable publicans in Dublin entirely denied that any such custom as free drinking prevailed on the opening of new public houses. The law did afford the means of punishing a person guilty of the irregularity which was said to have occurred on that occasion. He had a report from the police to the effect that the proprietor had been summoned for allowing drunken and disorderly conduct in his house. The house had been placed under restriction, and the proprietor had since left it, and given it up to another man. No doubt the law could provide effectual means of making parties so offending amenable.’


The case slowly drifted away and the practice of free drinks at pub openings still prevails today in Ireland.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Multi Racial 1916 Easter Rising

While much has been written the multi-national makeup of both sides of the battles during the 1916 Easter Rising very little has been written on the multi racial make up of forces especially on the British side.

When the battle between the Michael Malone led group of rebels at Mount Street Bridge and the arriving reinforcements of the Sherwood Foresters ended and the general surrender order was delivered to DeValera at Boland's Mills, the prisoners from the 3rd Battalion of the Irish Volunteers were marched not into the city centre with much of the other forces but out towards Ballsbridge and the grounds of the RDS.

According to Andrew McDonnell of Rathgar, Dublin in his witness statement.

We were left in the stalls on the damp ground for some days. Meals were a movable feast: some days we got food and on others we got none. We were taken to the toilet under armed escort. This was at the end of the road near the gate leading on to Simmonscourt Road. We were objects of interest to the British troops who were in the stables opposite and came to grin at us over the half door of the stall. One of the British soldiers was black, a negro and his broad grin was most annoying until a well aimed tobacco spit made him give the half door a wide berth.
It must have been a strange sight for the exhausted combatants to espy a coloured gentleman in British military uniform in what at the time would have been a very white almost Anglo Saxon island.

Stephen Bourne in his book Black Poppies which dealt with the subject of Black servicemen in the British Army during World War One remarked
The near-total exclusion from our history books of black servicemen in the First World War is shameful…. Some black servicemen made the ultimate sacrifice … and like Walter Tull, died on the battlefields but with the passing of time, with the exception of Tull, the contributions of black servicemen have been forgotten.
The main protagonists of World War One all had their colonies and many of the British servicemen of colour were from the Caribbean so it is probably that the soldier at the RDS especially with his happy outlook was most likely from the opposite side of the Atlantic. By the end of WW1, 15,000 West Indians had joined and served in the British Army. As rebels are marched along the quays of the River Liffey towards ship in Dublin port to take them to prison and internment camps a photograph taken as they crossed O'Connell Bridge may have snapped that very same British soldier acting most likely as an ADC to his commandant on horseback.





Friday, August 18, 2017

Somethings Never Change

"A lodge of Orangemen, were attacked, simply because their appearance gave offence to a number of men who hold different religious opinions. We can only characterise such conduct as disgraceful in the extreme. We are quite prepared to admit that an Orange Lodge may be an eyesore to some few bigoted Catholics, on just the same grounds as bigoted Protestants may feel offended at the sight of the Hibernian Society in regalia but the fact that a man feels hurt at another man parading his opinions does not give him the right to attack him, tear off his regalia, and beat him. If this conduct were allowed, we should soon have graceless zealots of either persuasion wanting to tear down the chapels and churches of those who differed from them.
If the "wearers of the green" wish to show their opposition to Orangemen, it would be an easy matter' for them to get up a counter procession, with their , own banners and distinctive badges. Surely that would be a bettor kind of opposition than dealing in bludgeons, shillalahs, and similar weapons. This sort of thing must be stamped out at once. Public safety demands it. The right of every man to enjoy his own opinions, and of every body of men of one mind to walk through the streets without fear of molestation, must be upheld. We therefore trust those who have outraged the public peace will be punished severely not only because their offence is great, but also because the hatreds and dissensions must be prevented from taking root amongst the youth of this country."


A December 1879 newspaper article describing sectarian riots in Christchurch, New Zealand

Monday, July 3, 2017

Irish born Statesmen Abroad - NEW ZEALAND

Much has often been written about the ancestral connections of US Presidents with Ireland but Irish citizens have travelled the world becoming much loved and treasured statesmen in other nations. Ireland has produced three Irish born Prime Ministers of New Zealand. These are their stories.

DANIEL POLLEN

On July 8th 1875 Daniel Pollen became the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Daniel was the son of Hugh Pollen, a dock master at the mouth of the newly opened Grand Canal as it entered the River Liffey and Elizabeth O’Neill. Daniel was born on June 2nd 1813 when the family lived in what later became known as Pollen Cottage in Ringsend. Hugh Pollen received both the house and an annual salary of £100 per annum for his role as dock master.

Little is known about the early part of his life, but it is supposed that he grew up in Ringsend before emigrating to New Zealand in 1840, shortly after his father died in 1837 and the role of dock master and use of the house was taken over by Thomas Pollen, brother of the late Hugh. He arrived at the Bay of Islands settling in a town called Parnell near Auckland which probably made him feel right at home. He practiced as the local doctor but Daniel also became actively involved in politics with the formation of the Auckland Province in 1852 and was well regarded as a great debater and famous for his wit.

Two years after he was appointed the local coroner in 1846 he had married Jane Henderson a daughter of a Royal Naval officer and they went onto to have four sons and four daughters. Pollen entered politics first serving on the local provincial council representing Auckland East and then became a member of the New Zealand Parliament on May 12th 1873.  He rose through the political ranks and served in the Government of Julius Vogel as Colonial Secretary but when that Prime Minister left New Zealand to travel to Great Britain, Daniel Pollen from Ringsend in Dublin was appointed July 6th 1875 as Prime Minister of New Zealand. He held the position until the return of Vogel on February 15th 1876 when he returned to the position of Colonial Secretary and continued in that position under the following Prime Minister Harry Atkinson before he retired from politics.

Pollen died at his residence ‘The Whau’ in Avondale in 1896.

JOHN BALANCE

The 14th Prime Minister John Balance was born in Ballypitmave near Lisburn in County Antrim in March 1839. Born into a farming community to father Samuel, John Balance was the eldest of eleven children. As an eighteen year old he headed for Belfast City before crossing the Irish Sea to live in Birmingham. While there in 1863 he married a butcher’s daughter Fanny Taylor. His new bride became ill and the decision was taken in 1866 to immigrate to New Zealand where Fanny’s brother lived.

Once in New Zealand after a brief period as salesman he studied to become a journalist and from journalism he found his way into local politics. The move for the Balance couple down under proved futile as two years after their arrival down under Balance’s wife passed away. Two years later he married Ellen Anderson and the couple adopted a daughter Kathleen.

He was first elected to parliament in 1879 only to loose his seat in the subsequent election by just four votes when a horse drawn coach shed a wheel and seven of his supporters inside failed to register their vote. He won the seat back in 1884 and joined the Julius Vogel cabinet as Minister for Native Affairs. Out of Government, Balance accepted the role as leader of the then opposition Liberal Party. When the Government of Prime Minister Atkinson resigned, Balance became the Prime Minister in January 1891.

As Prime Minister he attempted to turn his Liberal party into a nationwide party rather than just regionally based. He was not known as a charismatic leader or a good public speaker, he was described as honest, courteous and displayed great patience and integrity. His wife became a leading figure in the fledgling feminist movement in New Zealand. His success as a Prime Minister was short lived as he developed cancer and passed away on April 27th 1893 receiving a state funeral in his home town of Wanganui. His wife Ellen outlived her husband by forty two years. 

WILLIAM MASSEY

The 19th Prime Minister of New Zealand was William Massey who was born in Limavady, Derry in March 1856. He was a member of the Reform Party, a political force he helped to found, when he became PM in 1912. Born into a farming Presbyterian family, the family moved to New Zealand in October 1862 without young William who remained in Ireland to complete his education. He followed the family over to the far side of the world in December 1870.

He became involved in local politics through the local school board before being elected in an 1894 by election for the constituency of Waitemata before contesting the 1896 General Election for the neighbouring constituency of Franklin which he represented until his death in 1925.

After founding his reform Party in 1909, they became the largest party after the 1911 General Election but the incumbent Liberal Party remained in power with the support of Independents. The Liberals lost a vote of confidence in Parliament and Massey was invited to form a new administration and officially became Prime Minister on July 12th 1912. His first years in power were a period of great industrial unrest and his use of force to break strikes did not endear him to either his electorate or party colleagues but like many other politicians across the world the intervention of the First World War diverted attention from domestic matters. In the 1914 General Election no party won enough seats to be effective as a Government and Massey invited the leader of Liberal Party Joseph Ward to be party of a national unity Government in time of war.

Massey signed the Versailles Peace treaty on behalf of New Zealand at the end of the war. With war at an end the unity coalition fractured and in the 1919 General Election despite the rise of the new Labour Party, Massey and his Reform Party won a majority. He governed a troubled New Zealand both socially and economically until the 1922 General Election where he failed to win his majority winning just 37 of the 80 available seats but clung to power with the support of Independents.

His health deteriorated in 1924 and he passed away in 1925.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

1917 What was on Easter 1917


One year on from the momentous events of the Easter Rising and Dublin was still recovering, the centre of the city still a bomb site. April 9th was Easter Monday and Dublin was cold, windy with snow and sleet, a far cry from the sunny climate of Easter week. The British authorities had taken no chances and banned all outdoor gathering and processions to ward off trouble. The First World War continued and throughout 1917, Irishmen were still joining up. Many of those arrested after the Rising were still in prison in Britain and Ireland was suffering from rationing, job losses and steep increases in both food and alcohol prices.  Ireland though is changing as the radical nationalism of Sinn Fein begins to replace the moderate Nationalism of Redmond’s Home Rule party.

The main page of the Sunday Independent barely mentioned Ireland and its only reference was to possible nationalisation of the Liquor industry in Britain and Ireland due to wartime conditions. This was also leading to concern as many jobs were being lost at breweries and distilleries especially in Dublin as restrictions on production was imposed. Much of the news columns covered America’s declaration of war on the German Empire on April 6th. The Easter weekend had been a period of religious reflection with many businesses closed for the Holy Week.

The ban on meetings did not apply to indoor events and so the Dublin GAA annual convention went ahead as planned in the Mansion House. There was plenty of sport to occupy the mind but weather conditions reduced the attendance numbers at most events, which was a bonus on the Monday for theatres and cinemas.

The Grand National went ahead at Faiyhouse where Pay Only picked up the first prize of two hundred pounds. Second place despite all their efforts only won twenty pounds. There was whippet racing at Shelbourne Park, hockey in the Phoenix Park, soccer matches in the Leinster Senior League and club GAA matches at Croke Park and Ringsend Park.

The back page of the Freeman’s Journal on Monday along with actions photos of the Louth v Wexford GAA match was the news that the eldest son of British Prime Minister Lloyd George, Major Richard Lloyd George had got married. But as the year anniversary arrived on Easter Monday the theatre and cinemas were busy.

The D’Oyly Carte theatre company whose run at the Gaiety Theatre had been shut down as events unfolded on O’Connell Street and nearby St Stephen’s Green, were once again opening at the Gaiety with their production of The Gondoliers. The Theatre Royal’s acts on Monday night included Miss Marie Loftus, opera singer, George Forde, ventriloquist and Fred Curran, comedian who would become the opening act for Harry Houdini. The Abbey Theatre was performing G B Shaw’s ‘ John Bulls Other Island’ with Fred Donovan playing the role of Father Keegan. The Empire show was headlined by Miss Victoria Monks, while the Tivoli had Cooper and Lait topping the bill with comedian J B Strain. At the Queens the play ‘Under Two Flags’ was being performed.

Cinema was also growing rapidly although many of the cinemas in the centre of the city had been destroyed during the Rising bombardment. The Grafton Picture House
was showing ‘The Majesty of the Law’ accompanied by a performance by a visiting Russian violinist. The Pillar Picture House had Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Pawnshop’. Across Ireland various Chaplin movies were on Easter Monday. At Mullingar you could have caught his film ‘in two parts’ The Fireman while Police was being shown at the Coliseum in Cork City.

On Easter Monday just before midday a crowd gathered outside the ruins of the GPO and a rebel flag was hoisted on a temporary flagpole at the corner of the building. It was lowered to half mast the stroke of one. As the police attempted to arrest those with flags, they were attacked and stones thrown gathered from the rubble of the street. There were a number of baton charges on O’Connell Street and Eden Quay with skirmishes continuing into the afternoon. The newspapers reported that a heaviy snowfall just after 10pm cleared the street of the ‘rowdies’. The only mention in Monday’s paper of any republican activities was a gathering of about a hundred ladies in Glasnevin where they laid wreaths on the graves of Volunteers killing during the Rising.


One strange quirk of the weekend in Dundalk related to the merging of Irish time and London time in October 1916 when Catholic churches in the town advertised Mass in Irish Time while the Protestant services were advertised in the new time leading to confusion in the town.     

Saturday, May 27, 2017

1917 The Banned Movie

British sensitivities were still on heightened alert as 1917 began. In January 1917 a film opened to packed houses in the Rotunda Picture House. ‘Ireland A Nation’ had been shown to and passed in December 1916 by the censor

The film itself had actually first been shown in 1914 and was made by the Gaelic Film Company. A silent movie it told the story of Ireland from the time of the 1798 rebellion, Robert Emmet in 1803 and up to the planned arrival of Home Rule, itself having been put on the back burner in 1914. It used dramatic scenes and screen titles to tell its story.  The film website IMDB described the film as,
‘The story of Ireland and her fight for Home Rule, as seen through the experiences of Father Tom Murphy, a patriot with a price on his head, and the famous Irish leader Robert Emmet.’

The film was produced by Lismore, Co Waterford born Walter McNamara. McNamara who according to the magazine ‘Moving Picture World’ was a vice president of the Gaelic League and one of the founders of the Irish Club in London. He had been educated in Wales before heading to the United States and became involved in the silent movie business.

The movie had its exterior shots filmed on location in Ireland including at Glendalough and the Vale of Avoca in Wicklow. The interior shots were filmed at  Ec-Ko Studios at Kewbridge in England which led to many continuity errors which was perhaps the least of its problems as it was often factually inaccurate as well. It starred Barry O’Brien as Emmet. O’Brien was an actor born in London in 1893, passing away in 1961.  Dominick O’Reilly played the role of Napoleon Bonaparte with supporting cast including Patrick Ennis and Barry Magee. Interviewed by George Blaisdell, McNamara spoke about his time in Ireland making the movie.
“Did I have any difficulties finding locations? Yes in one instance when I tried to find a mud hut and failed. Parnell wiped those out. I did though get some wonderful backgrounds.  We had a fort built by Oliver Cromwell and to this day no real son of the old sod passes it without spitting, that’s the only way they can adequately express his feelings for the builder. Were obstacles placed in my path in the making of Ireland a Nation? Yes indeed by the soldiers. Sometimes we would start a scene with not a soul in sight. It seemed sometimes that in two minutes soldiers would come from everywhere and demand to see a permit. The military tried in every way to handicap us. That’s why we were five months over there. The Nationalist Party gave us unofficial sanction.”

When he arrived in Ireland he was arrested by the British on suspicion of importing arms illegally but these weapons were discovered to be props for his film. McNamara was released but his props were not returned to him.

Even though the censor passed the film, he did so with some cuts to the original. Scenes including the interruption by British soldiers of a hillside Mass being celebrated by a Priest and the execution of Robert Emmet plus some of the intertitles were cut including one that told viewers that ‘a price of £100 dead or alive on the hed of every priest’.

On Wednesday September 23rd 1914 it had its premiere at the 44th Street Theatre in New York and played to big audiences in New York and Chicago despite being panned by most critics.
The tag line for the movie on its release was
‘Made in Ireland by Irish Actors, 116 years of Irish History in 5000ft of film’
Shown twice a day, tickets cost the movie goer either 25c or 50c.

A copy was being sent to Ireland for showing in May 1915 but it was on board the Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine. The intervention of the Easter Rising prevented another copy arriving and so it was January 8th 1917 before the Irish public got to see the film although with cuts to the original implemented by the censor. Newspaper advertisements called the film "The Greatest Patriotic Picture Ever Screened".  The Rotunda’s 1500 seats were sold out for two consecutive nights but when reports after the first couple of nights that audiences were cheering the death of British forces in the film’s depiction of the 1798 rebellion and roaring ‘up the Republic’ during some scenes, the military authorities banned the film.

The film would not be seen again in Irish cinemas until 1922 when extra scenes of the aftermath of the Rising, the War of Independence and DeValera’s visit to the United States were included.

Bibliography

 ‘A Special Relationship, Britain Comes to Hollywood’ by Anthony Slide
IMDB
Trinity College Archives
New York Tribune
Silentera.com


Thursday, May 25, 2017

1917 Another Potato Famine

A year after the Easter Rising the preoccupation of British newspapers with the Irish question wasn’t the reaction to the rebel executions, the rise of Sinn Fein or the massive amount of arms still in circulation on the island but headlines blazed about the humble potato.

The British were relying on food crops grown within the British Isles as German submarines were having an affect on imported goods and ships were being used for military purposes rather than food transport. The potato harvest in both Ireland and Scotland had been particularly poor in 1916 and the word ‘famine’ was again circulating. The yield in Ireland in 1916 was a quarter of a millions tons less than a year earlier and exporting from Ireland had been interrupted by the events of Easter week. Towards the end of 1916 the British Government prohibited the export of potatoes from Ireland to Britain leading to major shortages in Britain.
The Belfast News wrote,
“From Clare to Donegal and Dublin to Sligo thoughtful men are asking ‘what will happen if the people’s food is sold for export?’ there is only one answer –famine”

The Donegal Vindicator added
“The crisis has found Ireland as unprepared as the war found Great Britain. The potato famine is upon us and so are the exporters. The farmer who sells his potatoes for export today must be restrained by his more sensible neighbours. There is a food crisis.”

By early 1917, the wholesale cost of the spud had mushroomed. A ‘CWT’ (8 stone bag) of potatoes that cost between four and eight schillings in 1916, a year later was costing between eleven and fourteen schillings. Some Irish exporters had been accused of withholding supplies for export to take advantage of the ever increasing wholesale prices. The embargo was lifted on the Irish potato in July 1917 but not before the British Government ordered the Irish farmer to sell his crop for a maximum of £6 10s per ton or 1s per stone down from the reported £14 some farmer had been receiving.    

By March there were prosecutions in Ireland of those appearing to profiteer. Potato sellers Thomas Sheridan and Sons were fined £5 and £2 costs for selling potatoes wholesale to Mary Keating of Arklow for 11s 6d a CWT on March 9th when the maximum at the time was 10s 10d per CWT. There were many such prosecutions during the following six months across the country.

One newspaper editorial in Wales, an area that had been severely affected by the potato shortages wrote,

“Potatoes are not worth buying if they cost more than 4s a cwt. They have been as high as 8s this spring. The potato is of very little value as food. There is not more than   two per cent of nutriment in the potato. Potatoes at 8s a cwt are equivalent in price to oatmeal as 1s per lb which is absurd. We have largely become the victims of the potato habit. In the early part of the nineteenth century potatoes could be had for two or three shillings a cwt. In those times anybody could live for about a shilling a week on potatoes. The root had very little dietetic value; but it was "filling" and cheap at the price. When however the potato begins to cost the price of a genuine food, it is time- its character was exposed. If you have a. good dinner it is all very well to have a few potatoes as "extras" just as you would have a few tomatoes or Brussels sprouts but to regard the potato as an article of diet in itself is rank folly. If the potato were relegated to its proper place the consumption of that fraudulent tuber would decrease and its price would fall accordingly. People acquired the taste for the potato in an age of poverty and they go eating it quite regardless of the fact that its food value is almost nil. The extraordinary prices which potatoes reached in the spring were due to the rebellion in Ireland. They grow huge quantities of potatoes in Ireland but they are not so foolish as to eat them. The Irish labourer has long ago got over his partiality for potatoes. He lives on tea "soda-bread" and American bacon. Liverpool, Fleetwood, .Glasgow and Bristol all receive daily shiploads of potatoes from Ireland. There is never usually more than a week's supply of potatoes in hand in the big towns of England and Scotland. When the Sinn Fein flare-up took place all shipping between this country and Ireland was held up for a couple of weeks, and it was a month before things became normal. In the meantime the grocers in this country were getting desperate for potatoes. Travellers from Manchester and Edinburgh were scouring the wilds of Wales offering any prices for a few sacks of potatoes. The only cure for the high price of potatoes is for people to use less of them. Those who eat meat can do with less potatoes. Puddings are cheaper than potatoes just now. Those who don't use meat should not use potatoes at all. As a food they are useless; their proper function is to serve as an adjunct to meat. Our fathers formed dietetic habits when certain articles of food were cheap. When circumstances alter the habits should alter. The only point in favour of the potato is its cheapness. Once it ceased to be cheap, it ought to be discarded.”

In parts of England especially Lincolnshire,a good potato growing county, there was a different kind of Irish problem when it came to harvesting the potato crop. In 1917 the ‘Irish Need Not Apply’ signs went up at farms, pubs and shops. The local community turned on Irish labourers who would travel across the Irish Sea for seasonal work as local Englishmen serving in the British Army who were conscripted and had been sent to Ireland during and after the Easter Rising were paid one schilling per week but the Irish who had replaced them in the fields and were exempt from conscription in what locals saw as appeasement were being paid between five and seven schillings a week to replace them.


By the end of 1917, the price had stabilised and the threat of famine in both Ireland and Britain had receded but by the end of that year consumers had discovered alternatives to the potato like swede, turnip and parsnip and as the First World War came to a conclusion the potato crisis had abated.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

1917 Ireland's Top Sportsman


In 1917, Wexford won the All Ireland Football Final which Dublin secured the title in Hurling. In soccer Glentoran won the double taking both the League and the Cup, while for a number of months Ireland was the only place in the British Isles to the support the sport of Kings, horse racing but the most famous Irish sportsman in the United States at the time played none of these sports.

Bernard Michael Riley was born in 1891 in Ballinamore, County Leitrim before his family immigrated to the United States. By eighteen years old he was known as ‘Irish Mick’ or ‘The Wild Irish Rose of Skidom’ as Barney as he was now known became the US National Amateur Champion Ski jumper.

The Riley family had settled in Coleraine, Michigan an area of the US where many Scandinavians settled and they brought their tradition of snow sports to the North East of the continent.  And while names like Solberg, Bergensen, Olsen and Jensen dominated the ski slopes in the US, an Irishman would break their stranglehold.

In February 1910 Riley was crowned US National Champion in front of 6,000 spectators setting a world record jump on his way to the title. He defended it successful y the following year and I 1911 even won the prestigious Nor Trophy, a competition set up by and dominated by Norwegians who had like Riley found a new home in the United States. He also picked up the $300 defeating a future Olympic bronze medallist Anders Haugen who competed for the USA despite being born in Telemark, Norway.
The newspapers of the day reported
‘At the Norwegian games he (Riley) was the possessor of enough medals to decorate a German prince, all won by his skills on the skis’

In 1913 Riley turned professional and toured the growing and successful skiing circuit. The First World War would intervene and Riley joined the US Army in 1917 being posted to France when that nation entered the war, serving as a railway engineer in France. Riley entry into the US Army made headlines on the sports pages of late 1917 as his fame as a ski jumper had continued to expand.

After the war he returned to ski jumping and his Irishness was trumpeted in advertising for various metes including the 1924 inaugural event at the Chester Bowl in Duluth, Minnesota, the state that Riley now called home. He won the inaugural event with a jump of 137 feet. He would later exchange holder of the ski jump world record with Anders Haugen at one tournament out jumping the Olympic medallist with a jump of 154 feet only to fall on landing. He would never again hold the record.


Barney Riley died in February 1939 when he suffered a heart attack and died as he was moving his car from his garage at home. In 2011, the ‘Wild Irish Rose of Skidom’ was inducted into the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame.      

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Carlow 1916?

Carlow as a county has often been ridiculed as the only county never to have won a senior GAA football or Hurling title despite at times having produced excellent club teams at All Ireland club level but statistics from police records in 1916 also show Carlow as a county with a number of other duck eggs. Along with The Kings County (Offaly), Carlow were the only county's where no recorded rebellious activities took place and the only county with no arrests in the aftermath of the Rising.



No doubt the confusion in orders did not help activities in the Barrowsiders county.