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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The 1916 Rising and The Public House

The Irish are synonymous with the consumption of alcohol and having a good time in our pubs and bars but have you ever wondered about the connection between beer and spirits and the foundation of the State. Alcohol, the production, the service or the consumption of alcohol has played a key role in Irish affairs since the iconic and momentous events of The Easter Rising in 1916. Public houses were at the heart of the action unfolding on the streets of Dublin.

As the rebels secured their headquarters in the GPO a detachment on men were sent to seize buildings in Abbey Street. They attempted to gain entry to Mooney’s pub but the manager slammed the door in their faces and not even a shot at the lock could gain entry. They instead seized The Ship Tavern which they had been familiar with as it had been a magnet for nationalists. But the attitude of the rebels towards drink is best served by William Daly,
“In passing, I wish to record with pride that a few of the men I was In company with, although hardened drinkers, were stationed in the Ship Tavern, and had the taking of anything that was there, not touch anything and refused the offerings of the barmen”
As a consequence of the British bombardment during Easter Week, the Ship was completely destroyed.

A group of rebels seized J.T. Davy’s pub at Portobello Bridge. Their mission was to delay reinforcements from the Rathmines Barracks. Once they were in control the next couple of hours were taken up with securing the premises and setting up sniping positions. They used whatever they could to barricade the windows including most of Davy’s family furniture.

The British sent some soldiers in the direction of Portobello Bridge three hundred yards from the gates of the barracks but as soon as they got close the rebels opened fire pinning them down in the gardens and the doorways along Rathmines Road. The soldiers eventually made their way to the small wall on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. The police arrived and attempted to keep curious onlookers out of harms way and the firing continued intermittently caused even lock keeper Joseph Parsons to peer out his window and watch the commotion. Against the odds Superintendant Kiernan and Sergeant Crosbie of the Dublin Metropolitan Police kept the ever increasing crowd back from the frontline action.

Most of the rebels were based on the second floor as the third floor view was obstructed by advertising hoarding along the canal. Gunfire was indiscriminate with the gas lamps on the bridge taking a number of direct hits. Late on Monday evening the Army crouched down in strict military fashion behind the canal walls on the southern side, the first line lying on their stomachs, the second kneeling behind with their commander standing tall behind them directing their fire. A machine gun was wheeled up from the barracks and positioned on the bridge and began almost immediately to pepper the building continuing for nearly two hours.

Hundreds of rounds were fired at the pub until a ceasefire was ordered as soon as the British realised that there was no returning fire coming from the pub. Perhaps they were all wounded or dead. The order was given to enter the building breaking through the glass plate windows on the ground floor. When they entered neither rebel nor corpse was found. With their intimate knowledge of the pub the rebels had broken through the cellar walls into the adjoining buildings and eventually into a nearby lane making good their escape long before the British had opened fire on the building. Their mission had been a success as they held up the British long enough to allow the rebels in the centre city to reinforce their defences and barricades.

On Monday night rebels seized Delahunt’s Pub at 42 Camden Street. The raiding party was led by Lieutenant Shiels with the aid of George Heuston of E Company 2nd Battalion who was a barman in Delahunt’s. He was one of the lucky rebels not to be captured in the aftermath of the Rising. When the British troops attacked the position Richard O’Carroll was fatally wounded. He had been travelling along Camden Street when he was pulled from his motor cycle by a British officer Captain Bowen-Colthurst and shot. He died nine days later in the Portobello Hospital.

Further down the street opposite Jacobs Factory was the Swan Pub and it too was seized.
“Orders were also given that we were to burrow through from Jacob's to a public house at the corner facing Aungier Street. We had two masons in our party and the burrowing was made easy. Strict instructions were given that no Volunteer was to take any drink from the public house. And although I am not a drinking man myself I must say that this order was strictly obeyed.”
Michael Molloy Witness Statement

Around the corner on Cuffe Street beside the College of Surgeons which had been captured by Michael Mallin, Phillip Little’s pub was seized at 8pm on that Easter Monday by Sergeant James Kelly and some of the retreating forces from Davy’s Pub and Harcourt Street Railway station. Laurence Nugent’s Witness Statement
“They also evacuated Davy's on Richmond St. and Harcourt St. station as these two posts were attacked from Portobello Barracks and there were only a few men to defend them. The early evacuation of Little's public house at the corner Cuffe St. seemed strange as if it were attacked there was a good line of retreat to the College of Surgeons. The Citizen Army men who occupied these posts were by Wednesday confined to the College of Surgeons.”

Nearby Bowe’s pub on William Street was seized by the rebels and used as a sniping position but was abruptly abandoned leaving the valuable weapons behind and it was left to member of Cumman NaBan to retrieve them. Annie O’Brien takes up the story,
“Word came in from a sniping post, a publichouse called Bowe's at the corner of William St. and Coppinger Row and that the two snipers at that post had evacuated it, leaving their arms behind them, and they sent word to Dawson St. to have their arms collected and put into safe keeping. The two of us went to the post and found the house locked up. We went to the house next door where we found a friendly man who showed us up to the skylight which we got through and on to the roof of the publichouse. Its skylight was a bit small and only my sister, who was small, was able to get through. She went down and opened the door of the publichouse for the rest of us. We had to search the whole of the house for the arms and at last we found the two loaded rifles in an office” 

Once the rebel garrison had secured their headquarters at the GPO on O’Connell Street, the poor of the city slums on the Northside of the city began to riot and loot. Padraig Pearse attempted to stop this and sent out a patrol to expel the looters. Two men crossed onto North Earl Street and ‘banished’ a number of troublemakers but as they made their way back towards their HQ they heard noises from inside Meagher’s pub. They looked in but initially saw the premises as deserted. As they were walking out they could hear roaring and shouting coming from the direction of the cellar. The went behind the counter and noticed the trap door to the cellar open and candle light coming from the cellar. One of the Volunteers took the first steps down into the cellar and saw three women known as ‘shawlies’ drunk out of their heads. They were drinking the wine from saucers. He roared at them ‘in the name of the Irish Republic you need to leave this pub and go home to your families’. There was a moment of silence followed by a barrage of verbal abuse and a shower of bottles. The rattled rebel scarpered back up the steps and he and his colleague returned to the safety of the GPO. They reported the events to Pearse who asked them why they had not followed orders and ejected the women,
            ‘We would rather fight the British guns than tackle those three auld ones’.

On the Northside of the city O’Reilly’s now The Tap pub on North King Street was seized by the rebels to slow the progress of the British troops from the Royal Barracks. There was an intensive battle for the building with the British sustaining many casualties.

The British Army seized Egan’s public house in Smithfield which they used as a firing position to attack Church Street and North King Street massacre. The soldiers spent considerable time breaking through the wall of the houses and by the time they reached the rebel’s position the rebels had gone. In their frustration at not catching the rebels the soldiers turned their anger on the residents of North King Street. Fifteen men and boys were either shot or bayoneted to death. Included amongst the fatalities was Patrick Bealen, who had been employed as manager at Mary O'Rourke's licensed house, 177 North King street, Dublin, and James Healy employed at the nearby Jameson's Distillery. Their bullet riddled bodies had both been disinterred on 10th May in the cellar of O’Rourke’s pub at 177 North King Street by the sanitary authorities.

Lambe’s public house on Richmond Road now Meagher’s of Ballybough was seized by rebels attempting to halt the advance of British troops from a training camp on Bull Island towards the centre of the city. They held the pub until they were ordered to fall back to the GPO.

One of the few battles outside Dublin was Enniscorthy which was seized by the Rebels. The Athenaeum theatre was made the Republicans’ headquarters, over which they flew the green, white and orange tricolour. All the public houses in the town were closed down and as Father Patrick Murphy, a priest who publicly blessed the rebels, recalled,
“During the four days of Republican rule, not a single person was under the influence of drink”.

According to Volunteer Thomas Doyle of Enniscorthy
“There was an order given that no publicans were to supply anyone with drink. That evening two men were caught in Loftus Porter's publichouse in Templeshannon. Mike Murphy (Toby) and Bernard Neill were arrested and the keys of the publichouse taken from the owner. His shop was locked up and the keys brought to headquarters.

Some of the pubs completely destroyed or severely damaged as a result of fire from both sides included Mooney’s, McGreevy’s and Moore’s on Eden Quay, J Humphrey’s and Fee’s on Moore Street, Farrell’s of Malboro Street, on Ushers Kavanagh’s and on Lower Bridgefoot Street the famous Brazen Head
“Smart and others used home-made grenades to set the public house on fire, in the hope that this would end this activity, which it apparently did. The pub was burnt out, with the Dublin Fire Brigade arriving too late to do anything about it.”
The Oval on Abbey Street was destroyed by the end of the week. The pub had been purchased in 1902 by John Egan and after a major refurbishment reopened in 1903. It was very popular with both the local journalists and with rebels in the lead up to the Rising. The pub remained closed for six years.

Today there are other Rising sites that have been turned into pubs including the Schoolhouse on Mount Street which was at the heart of the battle of the nearby Bridge and a battlefield that saw the largest British casualties and The Grand Central on O’Connell Street which was the location of the rebels radio station during the Rising.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 1916 Rising and The Barman

The contribution of grocer’s assistants to the Easter Rising should not be underestimated. Like so many other professions they fought, died and were imprisoned for their actions. Their places of employment were at the heart of the action unfolding on the streets of Dublin in 1916.

Today a grocer’s assistant is better known as a bartender and their places of employment the public house. In the run up to April 1916 barmen, like many other professions felt the need to be part of the Volunteer movement. Due to their unsociable hours and work commitments barmen were unable to train with regular units of the Volunteers and so D Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Volunteers was formed and became known as ‘the Grocers Company’. They trained and drilled at Father Matthew Park under the leadership of Seamus Kavanagh and his adjutant Paddy Moran an employee in Doyle’s Bar, Phibsboro. At its height their were 200-300 members but after the Remondite Split within the National Volunteers, the Irish Volunteers who would plan for the Easter Rising maintained a company of 45 men. 

Michael O’Dea from Tulla in County Clare takes up the story in his Witness Statement,
“In Dublin, where I arrived in 1912, my employer was Con McCormack who owned a public house at 26, Moore St. He ran in conjunction with this a bookmaker's business, most of the transactions in connection with which were illegal. I joined the Irish Volunteers in Dublin on their formation towards the end of 1913 and in the spring of the following year I linked up with the "Grocers" Company which had been specially formed to suit the barmen in the city. I remained a member of the "Grocers" Company until the Redmondite split in the autumn of l9l4 when the vast majority of that unit went over to the National Volunteers. I remained with the Irish Volunteers after the split.”

Barmen were crucial to the planning as not only were they able to monitor movements of the British forces but they used their premises to purchase and hide weapons. Secret meetings were held in back rooms and snugs of bars while coded messages were passed from barman to rebel. Seamus Walsh who worked in Mooney’s of Parnell Street even managed to purchase a rifle from a drinking British soldier which was later used in the GPO against the British.

When rebels under Michael Mallin seized the Stephens Green/ College of Surgeons area seventeen year old barman James Fox was killed in action on the Tuesday of the Rising. From the Thomas Street area of the city, Fox was shot dead by British forces who had taken up sniping positions on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel.

Some of the barmen who saw action during that week included seventeen year old Thomas McEvoy. He lived at East Wall Road, in Dublin. He was employed as a grocer’s assistant when in February 1916 when he joined ‘G’ Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade, of the Irish Volunteers. During Easter Week Thomas saw active service in the G.P.O., Royal College of Surgeons and the Four Courts area of Dublin.

Jim Humphreys worked for his uncle Michael at Humphreys, 2 Moore Street. Limerick born in 1879, Jim was one of the prisoners moved from Richmond Barracks to Wandsworth on May 8th 1916. Perhaps to add insult to injury the pub where he worked was listed as being completely destroyed in the aftermath of the conflict

James Joyce was a barman in J.T. Davy’s at Portobello Bridge. Joyce joined the James Connolly led Irish Citizen’s Army but because training manoeuvres took place on Sunday’s, Davy refused to give the thirty five year old barman who worked twelve hours a day seven days a week time off to go training. Often Joyce would pretend to be ill or simply fail to turn up for work.

At noon on bank holiday Easter Monday, Joyce joined the rest of the rebels at Liberty Hall and set off with his battalion through the deserted city. Led by Sergeant John Doyle, Joyce was joined by fourteen other rebels as they marched up Grafton Street and onto St. Stephen’s Green. It was here that another detachment under Countess Markiewicz had seized the Royal College of Surgeons and began to dig trenches in the Green itself. Sergeant Doyle, Joyce and seven other rebels continued up Harcourt Street and narrowly avoiding capture when they met a group of mounted soldiers. As soon as the mounted patrol had turned a corner the Sergeant gave the order
            ‘At the double men’ as they headed for their outpost

It was because of his knowledge of the area and Davy’s Pub that Joyce was chosen to be part of this mission. The public house was to be seized because of its vantage point to pin down British troops leaving the Rathmines Barracks or troops using the Canal as other avenues into the city were sealed off by rebel forces.  Joyce entered the premises first, the handle of his gun slippery with the sweat of excitement in his shaking hands. He made his way to the dark wooden counter and confronted Davy. Davy is reported to have said
            ‘You have missed one too many Sunday’s. You can take it that you are on a weeks notice.’
To which Joyce replied
            ‘You can take it from me that you have one minute to get out. This premises is being seized in the name of the Irish Republic.’

Meanwhile as the Rising engulfed the city of Dublin, the police were raiding country pubs for serving afterhours. In midst of the rebellion John Sullivan of Dingle was charged with serving after hours at 1.35am and was fined £1 with the customers found on the premises fined 5s each.

One of the unforeseen consequences in the aftermath of the Easter Rising was the sudden lack of bar staff. Over 150 barmen, known also as wine porters and grocers assistants, were arrested and deported by the British to camps in England and Wales. Dublin publicans complained to British authorities but they fell on deaf ears and business continued. One newspaper advertisement for a ‘grocer’s assistant’ specified for prospectice candidates that ‘salary was no object’. Publicans were a strong lobby in Ireland, they had successfully resisted attempt to curtail trading hours which had been introduced in Britain during World War One. Unusually with the declaration of martial law in Dublin, public houses were allowed to stay open from 2pm to 5pm during the Rising.

These were difficult times for barmen as they saw their employers making ever larger profits during time of war as stocks ran low and prices wholesale and to the customer increased. Publicans were making as much profit on one barrel of porter in 1916 as they were on six before the outbreak of World War One. There was a glut of licensed premises in the country leading to complaints that in Ireland there were 17,000 pubs serving four million people, while in Scotland there were 7,000 pubs for five million of a population.

Barmen’s hours were long, often only a half day off per week. A senior man was paid between £20 and £24 depending on the length of his service and a meeting before the outbreak on April 21st 1916 in Kells there was a demand for shorter working hours. Industrial action was murmured at the meeting.

When the bulk of the barmen/prisoners were released in mid and late 1917 there was anger and ill tempered feelings as the publicans had replaced their errant staff especially in Dublin. Irish National Aid Association was launched in August 1916 to get jobs for Grocers Assistants who had not been reinstated. There was a mini riot in Dorset Street on Christmas Eve 1917 when a group of out of work barman attacked a number of pubs and their customers in that area. This can be compared with the reaction in Tralee, County Kerry when on June 20th 1917 thirty six Tralee publicans charged with displaying republican flags celebrating the release of Republican prisoners. They all got off on a technicality. 

To reinforce the notion that alcohol played a major part in one way or another in the Easter Rising, when the rebel prisoners were transferred to the Frongoch Internment camp in Wales they quickly realised the irony that the camp now being used as a prisoner of war camp was a former distillery.

Sympathetic publicans also assisted in the facilitation of Rising planning with publicans such as Sean O’Farrell who owned a bar at the corner of St Stephens Green and South King Street and thirty six year old Eamon Morkan who with his brother Michael ran a bar on Queen Street was a Captain in the Volunteers while future leader of the Free State W.T. Cosgrave was a publicans son from James Street who fought in the nearby South Dublin Union one of the last outposts to surrender.   

One of the few battles outside Dublin during Easter Week was Enniscorthy, Co Wexford which was seized by the Rebels. The Athenaeum theatre was made the Republicans’ headquarters, over which they flew the green, white and orange tricolour. All the public houses in the town were closed down and as Father Patrick Murphy, a priest who publicly blessed the rebels, recalled,
“During the four days of Republican rule, not a single person was under the influence of drink”.

Alcohol, the production, the service or the consumption thereof has played a key role in Irish affairs since the iconic and momentous events of The Easter Rising in 1916 to the end of the War of Independence and the creation of the Irish Free State.

Beer and spirits was at the heart of events in 1916. Proclamation signatory Sean McDermott once worked as a barman in Belfast before turning his attention to more pressing matters. The rebels failed to seize British Army barracks around the city or even the seat of The British Government in Ireland, Dublin Castle but they did capture The Watkins Brewery on Ardee Street, The Jameson Distillery, Roe’s Distillery, Dublin City Distillery, and the Barmack Brewery and many public houses..

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Dublin City Tram c 1916

Like most rebellious outbreaks the Dublin streets emptied of its citizens and normal day to day life was suspended in April 1916. Apart from the real and present danger of getting shot by either side, transports throughout the city was severely affected. Transport consisted mainly of the extensive tram system of William Murphy's Dublin Tram Company or jarvey's, taxis as they would be known today. Transport in and out of the capital was by train into the three main stations Amiens Street, Kingsbridge and Westland Row. All were hampered by the rebellion.

Trams aided the rebels as a number of them were seized either at gunpoint or in Andrew McDonnell's case on Pearse Street at the point of a six foot pike. He stood his ground in front of the oncoming tram, leveled his pike and hoped that the driver would stop. He shook nervously as the forty ton tram bore down on him. Once the tram halted he ordered all the passengers off and his volunteer comrades stepped on board and headed for the action of the city centre.
A cartoon on William Murphy's Tram Company who was at the centre of the 1913 Lockout
Captain George Plunkett and the Volunteers from the Kimmage Garrison seized two trams and demanded that the driver not stop until he reached O'Connell Bridge. Wishing to be seen to do the right thing as he alighted from the tram Plunkett handed an IOU to the conductor for the tickets they had used.  Frank DeBurca's number 17 tram that had been commandeered in Rathfarnham made it as far as Dame Street before the intensifying sound of gunfire saw the driver flee and abandoned the tram on the tracks. A line of abandoned trams snaked around College Green.

By 2pm on the first day of the Rising all trams had either been abandoned on the streets of the city or had returned with haste to their garages. The electrified transport system would not operate again until May 3rd offering a limited service with a full schedule resuming on Sunday May 13th. The limited service was due to a number of factors, the damage to tracks and overhead wires and extensive on certain routes especially through the Rathmines/Portobello area, the lack of staff as many had been arrested in the aftermath, the lack of electrical supply and military martial law.
From the Freeman's Journal
The headquarters of the company on O'Connell Street (Sackville Street) was lucky to survive. Fire almost reached the building and only for the insistence of the office manager that there were no Sinn Fein snipers in the building the British military held their cannon fire from the building.

The company lost three trams completely, destroyed during the Rising. One was burnt out at the foot of Lower Bridge Street and Usher's Quay and used as a barricade to supplement the defenses of the Volunteers at the Mendicity. The second Tram 308 was overturned on St Stephens Green by Michael Mallin's ICA forces and a third was eventually overturned on North Earl Street. This tram had been seized by the rebels and attempts to speed it off the rails at the Talbot Street turn failed. Homemade explosives under the tram also failed to fell the vehicle and when a hand grenade also failed to explode, Joesph Plunkett arrived from the GPO and using his Mauser weapon fired a number of shots at the grenade which exploded turning the tram on its side. Later in the week children were seen playing in the tram, ringing the bell and dancing on the leather seats.
The Burnt out remain of the Tram at Bridgefoot Street
The rebels were not the only one to seize trams, the British army also seized a tram to take troops to secure the port at Howth and the area around Portmarnock. William Murphy in his 1917 report on events a year earlier stated that the losses to the company were three cars and £15,000 lost revenue.

After the surrender of the rebels on May 1st, the authorities commandeered some of the trams to travel the safer parts of the city to collect some of the corpses and take them to the city morgue.

The only transport throughout the entire week in and out of the city was the Dublin to Lucan Electric Railway which operated from Parkgate Street to the suburban village. Many of the city's more affluent citizens used this system to retire to the relative safety and comfort of the Spa Hotel where they watching the fiery glow of the burning city later in Easter week.

The railway system was also greatly affected. Rebels seized two main railway stations Westland Row (now Pearse Street) and Harcourt Street with the intention of preventing the British using the stations to bring in reinforcements from the Curragh and Dun Laoghaire. Although Amiens Street remained in the hands of the Crown forces the last trains out of the station was the 2pm to Dundalk and the 2.45pm to Howth. Two excursions from Belfast arrived back at 3.30pm with military permission and protection. The station was utilised as a replacement for the telegraph services in the GPO to keep in touch with the war office in London.
Kingsbridge Station now known as Heuston Station
The rebels cut telegraph lines, dug up points and blew up railway tracks to prevent the rail system being used. Part of the line including railway bridges were used by the rebels as elevated vantage points to snipe on their enemy. Outside Dublin the rebels had seized Enniscorthy railway station in Wexford and had severely damaged the rail infrastructure in and around Galway.

The British did dispatch troops to Dublin from the Curragh but the trains stopped in the middle of nowhere ten miles from the city forcing the heavy laden troops to march the rest of the way. All rail services into and out of the city were suspended from April 24th to May 3rd.        

Losses for the railway companies were fair higher than for the tram company. The Dublin and South Eastern Railway company claimed £2000 in damages and £14,000 in lost revenue. The Midland and Great Western had £700 in damages and £20,000 in losses and according to its chairman Sir Joshua Goulding in 1917, the Great Southern railway company had revenue losses of £21,000.
Mullingar Railway Station

Some of the problems encountered by passengers was the suspension of services late on Easter Monday to get revellers back from the beaches, the sporting matches and the races in Fairyhouse. Another by product of Easter Rising was a refugee crisis at Mullingar Railway Station. With the cancellation of train services into the city or trains commandeered by the Military, hundreds were stranded at Mullingar station. The hotel beds in the town filled quickly and the numbers on the platform began to steadily increase. Included were a number of honeymoon couples making their way to Dublin or Dublin Port. The local clergy did their best to provide food and blankets for the stranded.

When services resumed passengers complained of the intrusive security both entering and again exiting railway stations throughout the country as the British searched for escaped and fleeing rebels. In the aftermath of the Rising and the round up of Volunteers and sympathizers many railway clerks, porters, guards, linesmen and telegraph operators were arrested and imprisoned. Nearly all of them upon release found that their jobs had been filled and were now unemployed. 

Jarvey's or taximen as they would be known today also stayed off the road, often declining large sums of cash fearing for their lives should they venture onto the streets of Dublin
The Irish Jarvey

The only traffic crossing the Irish Sea were transport ships bring military reinforcements from Holyhead and Liverpool.  

Once the railway system was operating again after the rebellion it was actually used by the British military to transport rebel prisoners from the country to Dublin to be transported across the Irish Sea to places like Frongoch prison camp in Wales
Transport Today on board the 1916 Easter Rising Coach Tour

Saturday, May 9, 2015

History Repeats Itself????

Ireland is promised Home Rule and more autonomy to be in charge of their affairs
Scotland is promised more autonomy to be in charge of their affairs
A UK General Election is called
A UK General Election is called
One party sweeps the seats in Ireland - Sinn Fein
One party sweeps the seats in Scotland - SNP
Sinn Fein wins 50% of the popular vote
SNP wins 50% of the popular vote
The Conservatives win just over 300 seats in the election and return to Government
The Conservatives win just over 300 seats in the election and return to Government
The new Sinn Fein members of Parliament decide to ignore rule from London and set up their own parliament
The new SNP members of Parliament decide to............................................

Ireland's Own

A new article I have penned for the Ireland's Own annual magazine out now based on the story of the efforts of barmen during the Easter Rising. Available in all good book shops now!!!!!!!

Friday, May 1, 2015

King of England Supports Sinn Fein

This article was published in the US seven days after the abdication of Edward VIII as King.
"Oh hell" said Edward "if I was Irish I'd be a Sinn Feiner myself" 
The article refers to a polo match in Argentina and an Irishman named 'Nelson'. This refered to Jack (Juan) Nelson, the son of Kildare born John Nelson who in 1906 founded the Nationalist leaning Hibernian Argentine Review in Buenos Aires. Jack was a member of the Hurlingham Polo Club. He and another Irish-Argentinian ex-pat Arturo Kenny were part of a four man Argentine Polo team who won the gold medal at the 1924 Olympic Games.

The polo match mentioned took place in 1925 during a visit by the then Prince of Wales to Argentina.
Whether there was any substance to the comments made by the 'diplomat' is hard to know but many of the facts line up.

According to Seamus Daly's Witness Statement

'I remember reading an account somewhere of the King, Edward VIII when he was Prince of Wales, and his visit to Kenya Colony where he made a speech about the British Empire, in which he mentioned that during his tour of the Colony he met a Sinn Feiner from Dublin with whom he had a long conversation. This Sinn Feiner was none other than Thomas O’Shea who at the time, was employed in Kenya colony.' 

and in Aine Ceannt's statement, the widow of the executed Eamonn Ceannt

'Miss O'Brennan also lectured to University women and to other gatherings on the literature, culture and music of Ireland. In this way she aroused the interest of the educated people of America in the cause of Ireland. She travelled from East to West on several occasions, giving these lectures. Miss O'Brennan told me that at one of these meetings she had met the lady who was afterwards Mrs. Simpson and who subsequently married Edward VIII and became Duchess of Windsor. This lady was deeply interested in Ireland and was, Miss O'Brennan said, a charming person.'

In a letter to Eamon DeValera regarding the crisis at Buckingham Palace, Joe Walsh the Secretary at The Department of External Affairs wrote,
'Just as the British have used political divisions here for their political advantage we are entitled and are bound to turn their present difficulty to our own account'

                                                      The Future King in Argentina in 1925

The brief King seemed to have leaning towards the Nationalists in Ireland and it is perhaps ironic that his abdication led to a crisis between the Free State and Great Britain as DeValera used the abdication to remove the King from his position as Head of State in the Free State,